Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Watergate Crisis

Clark Youngblood
Santa Rosa District Schools


This lesson will explain how the Watergate crisis called attention to how the power of the President of the United States can be abused.


The student uses chronology, sequencing, patterns, and periodization to examine interpretations of an event.

The student knows significant political events and issues that have shaped domestic policy decisions in contemporary America.


-THE AMERICANS by McDougal,Littel & Company,published in 1994.Pages 891-896.
-A copy of the Articles of Impeachment used in 1974.


Prepare background information on Watergate and the Articles of Impeachment.
2) Define the key people involved.
3) Read the pages in THE AMERICANS, by McDougal,Littell,& Company published in 1994.Pages 891-896. Personal review of the video -All the President's Men-.


This lesson is designed to help students better understand how the -Watergate Crisis- (from 1972 till 1974) affected and changed politics in America forever.
1. First, explain to students the events of -Watergate-, the events are detailed concerning to events that led to the break-in and the cover up that followed. In the early morning hours of Saturday June 17,1972, five burglars were caught inside the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate office building in Washington D.C. The burglars who had been attempting to tap the headquarters' phones,were linked to President Richard Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President later referred to as (CREEP). Over the next few months, what had started out as a minor break-in quickly escalated into a full blown political scandal. It was the cover-up, not the break in, which eventually led to the resignation of the President and the distrust of a nation.
2. The major players of the Watergate crisis are as follows, place these on the board for the students to write down. John Mitchell-Attorney General and close friend of the President, Henry Kissinger & John Ehrlichman-advisors of domestic affairs, H.R. Haldeman-Chief of Staff, Daniel Ellsburg-employee of the Defense Department, James McCord-former CIA agent and an official of CREEP, G. Gordon Liddy-White House staff member and counsel for CREEP, John Dean-personal counsel to the President, PLUMBERS- the group that broke into the headquarters, Sam Ervin-Senator in charge of the hearings on the charges, Judge John Sirica-oversaw the proceedings and Archibald Cox-Special prosecutor of the White House personnel. The events that led up to the -break-in- actually began on June 13,1971 with the release of the -Pentagon Paper- by Daniel Ellsburg, this was a report on how the U.S. got involved in Vietman, and was very damaging to the White House due to many inaccuracies that appeared in the papers, other than what was told to the public. This is what started the President and his men,
plotting to know what was being written and said about the administration before it became public knowledge.
3. Students should be given a full review of the events using a timeline to examine the events of -Watergate- that eventually led to the resignation of the President on August 9,1974. Once the timeline has been established, review the -Articles of Impeachment- as they pertain to the President.


Have students construct a Watergate time line that depicts how the events unfolded. Review the case of United States vs. Nixon(1974), the Articles of Impeachment, and then have students answer the following questions.
A) Under what cirumstances might executive privilege have been properly asserted?
B) What rights did the Court see as being in opposition to other presidential claims?
C) Did the President violate the rights of the individuals whose conversations he taped? If so, what rights were violated and how?
D) What might be the long term effects of the Watergate Crisis?
The answers will be in no more than 2 paragraphs,explaining the answers. Grades will be given as -acceptable- or -unacceptable- based on the direct answers for the questions.
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