NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * “Do we need still another Watergate book? The answer turns out to be yes—this one.” —The Washington Post * “Dazzling.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Plane in the Sky, comes the first definitive narrative history of Watergate—“the best and fullest account of the crisis, one unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)—exploring the full scope of the scandal through the politicians, investigators, journalists, and informants who made it the most influential political event of the modern era.
In the early hours of June 17, 1972, a security guard named Frank Wills enters six words into the log book of the Watergate office complex that will change the course of history: 1:47 AM Found tape on doors; call police.
The subsequent arrests of five men seeking to bug and burgle the Democratic National Committee offices—three of them Cuban exiles, two of them former intelligence operatives—quickly unravels a web of scandal that ultimately ends a presidency and forever alters views of moral authority and leadership. Watergate, as the event is called, becomes a shorthand for corruption, deceit, and unanswered questions.
Now, award-winning journalist and bestselling author Garrett M. Graff explores the full scope of this unprecedented moment from start to finish, in the first comprehensive, single-volume account in decades.
The story begins in 1971, with the publication of thousands of military and government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which reveal dishonesty about the decades-long American presence in Vietnam and spark public outrage. Furious that the leak might expose his administration’s own duplicity during a crucial reelection season, President Richard M. Nixon gathers his closest advisors and gives them implicit instructions: Win by any means necessary.
Within a few months, an unsteady line of political dominoes are positioned, from the creation of a series of covert operations code-named GEMSTONE to campaign-trail dirty tricks, possible hostage situations, and questionable fundraising efforts—much of it caught on the White House’s own taping system. One by one they fall, until the thwarted June burglary attracts the attention of intrepid journalists, congressional investigators, and embattled intelligence officers, one of whom will spend decades concealing his identity behind the alias “Deep Throat.” As each faction slowly begins to uncover the truth, a conspiracy deeper and more corrupt than anyone thought possible emerges, and the nation is thrown into a state of crisis as its government—and its leader—unravels.
Using newly public documents, transcripts, and revelations, Graff recounts every twist with remarkable detail and page-turning drama, bringing readers into the backrooms of Washington, chaotic daily newsrooms, crowded Senate hearings, and even the Oval Office itself during one of the darkest chapters in American history.
Grippingly told and meticulously researched, Watergate is the defining account of the moment that has haunted our nation’s past—and still holds the power to shape its present and future.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you think you already know all the facts about the Watergate scandal, get ready for this extraordinary piece of historical journalism to blow your mind. Journalist Garrett M. Graff takes a scrutinizing look at the entire event and cover-up, reevaluating Richard Nixon’s role in everything from the bombing of Cambodia to the leak of the Pentagon Papers. The result is a comprehensive and utterly fascinating story—full of both hard political facts and shockingly salacious anecdotes about the Nixon administration (including the president’s temper tantrums). Seriously, the story Graff recounts is packed full of dirty tricks, from setting illegal wiretaps to intentionally spreading false rumors. This book is a master class in making history feel up close and outrageous.
Journalist Graff (The Only Plane in the Sky) sheds new light on the Watergate scandal in this exhaustive history. Drawing on memoirs, tape recordings, court transcripts, and recently declassified FBI documents, Graff highlights the paranoia and ambition that ran through the Nixon administration, from the distrust between the president and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, to disagreements between chief of staff H.R. Haldeman, White House counsel John Dean, and campaign chairman John Mitchell. Though Nixon's campaigns had always involved "a certain abnormal level of dirty tricks," according to Graff, a series of leaks and scandals including the release of the Pentagon Papers helped push his aides to new heights of "skullduggery," orchestrating break-ins at the Brookings Institution in 1971 and the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate building in 1972. Graff skillfully interweaves the perspectives of journalists and law enforcement officials investigating the Watergate break-in with the Nixon team's attempts to "use the organs of government to cover up their own rogue operation," and incisively analyzes how the congressional inquiry into the scandal resulted in Democrats and Republicans coming together to uphold the Constitution and limit the powers of the president. Expertly researched and assembled, this is a valuable introduction to one of history's greatest political scandals. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon Agency.
A true eye opener
I am an avid student of Watergate and had thought to have a decent grasp of the scandal. Then I read this book. I am truly amazed at the author’s mastery of the material and his ability to explain such a complex incident. Cannot recommend it more to anyone that wants a full grasp of the event that brought down one of the most popular US president in history.
An authoritative and beautifully written history
It’s wonderful to see this saga, which I had read about in bits and pieces on the front pages, finally brought together in a gripping yet balanced and well researched book.
I have read all or most of the books on Watergate but I find this book the most objective on the watergate scandal, found it most interesting to read. Kevin