Timeline of Watergate scandal revelations, from burglary to Nixon’s resignation


April 27

Los Angeles judge reveals origin of ‘plumbers’, previous burglary

The next explosive news comes from the Los Angeles courtroom where former Department of Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg is on trial for leaking Pentagon papers, and it explains the origin story of the burglary team.

Ellsberg trial presiding judge W. Matthew Byrne Jr. announces that Watergate prosecutors told him that Hunt and Liddy committed another burglary the year before the Watergate break-in, hoping to find information that would discredit Ellsberg.

Revelations about how Nixon’s rage over the Pentagon Papers leak led to the birth of the “Plumbers”, a special unit that operated out of the basement of the Executive Office and was tasked with sealing leaks in the administration. Charles W. Colsonwas officially the President’s special adviser and unofficially the White House “Axe Man” and “Dirty Stuff Artist”, ran the plumbers.

He recruited his former classmate from Brown University, Hunt, and Hunt teamed up with Liddy. The plumbers were supervised by Egil “Bud” Krogh Jr. and David R. Young, assistants to Nixon’s Home Affairs Advisor, John D. Ehrlichman. Young regularly provided Ehrlichman with updates.

On September 3, 1971, Hunt, Liddy and a handful of anti-Castro Cuban Americans under the auspices of the Plumbers staged a burglary at the office of Ellsberg psychiatrist Lewis Fielding, hoping to find some dirt they could use to smear Ellsberg. Ehrlichman authorized the break-in and arranged for CIA assistance, including a spy camera and fake IDs.

The break-in yielded nothing useful, but many perpetrators would reunite at Watergate the following year, including burglars Barker and Martinez.

In light of the vast White House plot to discredit him, the charges against Ellsberg are dropped.

The same day the judge exposes the burglary at Fielding’s office, Acting FBI Director Gray resigns after revealing that he had destroyed files containing evidence of political sabotage from Hunt’s safe. He says that Dean and Ehrlichman convinced him to destroy the papers, telling him that the material was unrelated to Watergate.


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