Why were the Watergate burglars called plumbers?

The break-in of the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Washington "Watergate" hotel on June 17, 1972 plunged the United States of America into one of the worst constitutional crises in its history. After a large number of criminal machinations in the White House had been exposed, it was the first time that a US president had to resign to forestall his impeachment.: Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair


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Although his revelations rather discredited the previous administration of the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House was furious and tried to shake Ellsberg's credibility by all means, if necessary through illegally obtained information. The heads of the "plumbers", Hunt and Liddy, were also the people behind the Watergate break-in.

Whether Nixon himself ordered these activities, especially the break-in of the Democratic headquarters, knew about them or tacitly tolerated them, could never be clarified, any more than the exact motive for the Watergate action. As soon as he learned of the burglars' arrest and their connection to the electoral bureau (Creep), Nixon and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, had agreed to cover up the matter so as not to jeopardize the president's re-election.

John Dean, an ambitious young assistant, was given the task of channeling hush money to the defendants from private donations and, with the help of the CIA, to prevent the FBI from carrying out an investigation on the pretext that "national security" was under threat. As a precaution, the director of the Creep, ex-Justice Secretary John Mitchell, resigned; As it turned out later, he had approved of the break-in.

Dean's efforts were initially successful. The break-in appeared to be one of the typical "dirty tricks" that were the order of the day during the election campaign. If Watergate nonetheless turned into one of America's biggest political scandals, it was due to a combination of individual engagement, institutional safeguards and coincidences:

  • The Washington Post, their reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through persistent research and with the help of an anonymous informant from the White House, the connection to the burglars and others dirty tricks who uncovered Nixon also covered Watergate when other newspapers and the electronic media showed no interest.
  • The federal district judge John Sirica, called "Maximum John" because of his severity, did not enter into the usual bargain of shortening the proceedings and imposing mild sentences in exchange for a confession, but threatened the Watergate burglars with long imprisonment if they did not do the whole thing Telling the truth. Their leader, McCord, admitted that he had received hush money from the White House and a promise of an early pardon.

Hush money from the White House

  • Congress, too, returned to its oversight functions and in February 1973 formed a Senate investigative committee chaired by the Conservative Democrat Sam Ervin of North Carolina. Ervin became something of a folk hero during the televised hearings: matter-of-factly, but firmly, he demanded information about the machinations of their government on behalf of the Americans.
  • Eventually, and this was crucial, the "men of the president" began to get nervous. After all, it was about obstruction of punishment, perjury, inciting criminal offenses, i.e. offenses that were imprisoned. Above all, John Dean, as the organizer of the concealment maneuver, particularly burdened, did not want to play the scapegoat and accused Nixon and his closest collaborators of inciting and complicit.