How a Watergate blunder became G. Gordon Liddy’s downfall

How a Watergate blunder became G. Gordon Liddy’s downfall
G. Gordon Liddy, Wikimedia Commons

Long before there was Donald Trump and Mark Meadows or Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, there was G. Gordon Liddy — who led the notorious White House Plumbers Unit during the Nixon Administration and the Watergate era.

Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks and journalist Carl Bernstein, famous for his legendary Watergate reporting with Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, have both said that Watergate pales in comparison to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. But Watergate was a real shocker in its day, leading to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. And an excerpt from journalist/author Garrett M. Graff’s forthcoming book “Watergate: A New History,” published by Politico on February 11, examines some Watergate-era mistakes that led to Liddy’s downfall.

In his book, Graff — a former Politico editor who now serves as executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Cybersecurity and Technology Program — explains, “Even now, 50 years later, it’s hard to identify the moment when the burglary and arrests at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate on June 17, 1972, tipped from an odd sideshow to the main event. As inevitable and foregone as President Richard Nixon’s fall might seem in hindsight, what’s remarkable looking back at the events of 1972 to 1974 is how close he came to getting away with the whole thing — how well the cover-up held for so long and how narrowly he came to barreling right past the embarrassment of what his press secretary called a ‘third-rate burglary.’ Months later, after all, he was reelected by the largest presidential landslide in American history.”

G. Gordon Liddy Describes GEMSTONE, the Plan He Presents to John Mitchell in 1972 youtu.be

Liddy, who died on March 30, 2021 at the age of 90, organized the break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters inside the Watergate Building in Washington, D.C. The Republican attorney was eventually convicted of illegal wiretapping, burglary and conspiracy and spent over four years in federal prison, which didn’t prevent him from becoming a major talk radio host after his release.

“Liddy, a reelection campaign operative, started out with a series of proposals, from which the plan that would lead to the Watergate was selected,” Graff notes in his book. “Those plans involved specially equipped surveillance planes, kidnappings, illegal, laundered campaign donations, sex workers sent to lure Democratic powerbrokers back to a king-sized bed on a houseboat and wiretaps and spies galore — not just at the Watergate, but inside the Democratic presidential campaign’s headquarters as well.”

Liddy, for all his extremism and corruption, was no dummy. But as Graff explains in his book, Liddy didn’t cover his tracks well enough. And it was an easel, according to Graff, that “tied, for the first time, Liddy’s screwball antics to the highest ranks of the Nixon Administration” and became “the link that established that Liddy wasn’t some rogue operator.”

“He’d been operating with the full knowledge of the U.S. attorney general and head of the reelection campaign himself,” Graff writes. “Washington would never be the same.”

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