Richard Nixon / Richard Nixon - Key Events

Richard Nixon - Key Events

Richard Nixon inaugurated

Nixon is sworn into office as the thirty-seventh President of the United States.

Nixon visits Brussels

Nixon begins an eight-day European visit in Brussels.

Warning to Viet Cong

Nixon warns that the United States will take action in the event of a new Viet Cong offensive.

Resuming North Korean reconnaissance

Following an attack on a U.S. plane on April 15, Nixon orders that reconnaissance flights off of North Korea be resumed.

Consolidating federal aid

Nixon asks that Congress be granted authority to consolidate federal assistance programs to states and cities, giving locals greater control over the use of federal funds.

Withdrawal from South Vietnam

Nixon proposes a plan whereby the United States and North Vietnam would agree to withdraw forces from South Vietnam.

Post Office goes public

Nixon asks that Congress make the Post Office department a public corporation.

Leaving Vietnam

Nixon announces a plan to withdraw 25,000 U.S. troops from South Vietnam by August 31.

Cutting government personnel

Nixon orders cuts in overseas government personnel by 10 percent.

Men land on the moon

The NASA Apollo 11 mission is a success with men landing on the moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins fulfilled the promise President Kennedy made, nearly ten years prior, of a lunar landing. They touch down on the moon’s surface four days after the launch.

The "Nixon Doctrine"

Nixon affirms his desire to withdraw U.S. troops from southeast Asia and declares that individual nations will bear a larger responsibility for their own security. Initially referred to as the “Guam Doctrine,” this statement later becomes known as the “Nixon Doctrine.”

Nixon proposes welfare reform

Nixon discloses his program for welfare reform, which includes the Family Assistance Plan.

Self sufficiency in Latin America

Nixon declares that Latin America must be responsible for its own social and economic progress.

North Vietnam rejects peace

Nixon reveals that North Vietnam has rejected the administration's secret peace offers. He proposes a plan for the gradual and secretive withdrawal of troops.

Nixon signs Selective Service Reform

Nixon signs the Selective Service Reform bill aimed at calming conscription anxieties; this bill ensured that draftees are selected by a lottery system, that the prime eligibility of draftees be reduced from seven years to one, and that draftees aged 19 would be selected at highest priority.

Aims to end segregation

The administration announces that it will seek to end de jure segregation, or segregation by law, though de facto segregation or segregation in practice is still common.

Nixon ends draft deferments

Nixon signs executive order ending occupational and parental deferments for the draft.

Request for wage and price restraint

Nixon addresses the nation through television, asking for wage and price restraint.

Creating the EPA

Nixon puts forth a plan to reorganize federal environmental agencies, leading to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Potential Vietnamese open election

Nixon states in a news conference that the United States would accept a coalition government in Vietnam if it was chosen in an open election.

Interagency Committee on Intelligence

Nixon approves a plan to form an Interagency Committee on Intelligence to coordinate operations against domestic targets, namely anti-war leftists and suspected communists.

Postal Service established

Nixon approves and signs the Postal Reorganization Act, which establishes an independent United States Postal Service.

Nixon meets Golda Meir

Nixon meets with Israeli Premier Golda Meir to talk about problems in the Middle East.

Five-point peace in Vietnam

In a televised address, Nixon proposes a five-point peace plan for Indochina. The plan includes a “cease-fire in place” and the negotiated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.

Nixon taunted in California

While at a campaign rally in California, demonstrators taunt Nixon and throw objects at him.

Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970

Nixon signs the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970, which gives the secretary of labor the responsibility of setting workplace safety standards for jobs in the United States.

Reducing pollution

Nixon signs a clean air bill which mandates that car manufacturers reduce certain pollutants by 90 percent.

Keynesian economics

Nixon tells an ABC news commentator that he is now a “Keynesian,” or one who subscribes to the ideal (of Keynesian economics) that government spending could break a recession. This was unusual for a Republican president.

Cross-Florida Canal hated

Nixon delays the construction of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal in order to stop environmental damage.

Nixon gives State of the Union

Nixon gives his State of the Union address.

Bugging the White House

Taping systems are activated in the White House. The Oval Office is outfitted with a voice-activated system and the Cabinet Room with a manual system.


Bugging the EOB

A voice-activated taping system in the Executive Office Building (EOB) becomes operational. Taping also begins on phone conversations held in the Oval Office, the EOB, and the Lincoln Sitting Room.

Wage-Price Controls Bil

Nixon signs a Wage-Price Controls Bill, extending his authority to impose restraints on wages, prices, salaries, and rents for another year.

The "Pentagon Papers"

The New York Times begins to publish secret internal documents referred to as the “Pentagon Papers,” a development which leads the White House to become increasingly fearful of further disclosures. Within a week, a special unit named the “Plumbers” is created to stop the leaks.

Emergency Employment Act

Nixon signs an Emergency Employment Act, earmarking $2.25 billion for the creation of public service jobs at state and local levels.

Nixon plans to visit China

Nixon shocks the nation with the news that he plans to visit China within the next year, becoming the first president to do so; this visit helped to improve relations with China by ending 25 years of rivalry between the nations. 

Phase One price freeze

Nixon declares a 90-day freeze on wages and prices, known as Phase One of his economic program.

Phase Two price freeze

Nixon announces Phase Two of his economic plan, placing a ceiling on food prices.

National day-care system vetoed

Nixon vetoes legislation calling for the establishment of a national day-care system.

Economic Stabilization Act extended

Nixon signs an extension of the Economic Stabilization Act, allowing himself another year in which to right the economy.

Nixon seeks reelection

Nixon announces that he will seek another term in office.

Nixon delivers State of the Union

Nixon gives his second State of the Union message.

Nixon arrives in China

President and Mrs. Nixon arrive in China. A joint communique, later known as the Shanghai Communique, is released by the United States and China. It calls for both countries agree to increase their contacts, and for the United States to withdraw gradually from Taiwan.

President Richard Nixon Arrives in China

On February 21, 1972, President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing, China. It was the first time an American President had visited the country.

Nixon, his wife, Pat, and his entourage, including National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, visited China from February 21 to February 27. The eight-day visit included official meetings, cultural visits, and sightseeing in Beijing, Hangchow, and Shanghai. The media extensively covered the trip, televising many of the events. Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou En-Lai met with President Nixon and American officials, and the people of both nations saw the beginning of a diplomatic thaw most thought impossible only months earlier. At his farewell banquet, President Nixon remarked in his toast, “This was the week that changed the world.”

In late 1971, President Nixon had stunned the world by announcing that he would visit “Red China,” the first visit by an American President to the world's most populous country. It was a startling announcement from a politician who had built much of his political career championing anti-Communism and using the issue as a means to ascend through the higher reaches of American government. Nixon had long harbored great antipathy for Communism and its adherents from his work on the House Committee for Un-American Activities in the 1940s to his stands as vice president in the Eisenhower administration to his own pronouncements as President.

As President, Nixon reasoned that improving relations with China would allow him to inject more fluidity into the international environment and offset the growing power of the Soviet Union. But in order to improve relations with China, he had to resolve the Taiwan issue. Until 1971, Nixon had been a supporter of the pro-Taiwan lobby that had blocked any move to recognize the People's Republic of China.

At the end of the visit, China and the United States jointly issued the Shanghai Communiqué, which pledged that both countries wanted to strive toward normalizing relations. The United States also agreed that there was one China and Taiwan was part of it and that the United States would work toward the ultimate objective of removing U.S. forces from Taiwan. The most lasting contribution of the Nixon visit was a rapprochement with China itself, with the United States recognizing the People's Republic of China as the sole diplomatic voice of China.

European allies applauded the trip, but leaders in Japan and Taiwan viewed the diplomatic move with caution and concern. Nixon's secret diplomacy also concerned many who felt that matters of national interest ought to be debated publicly. Still, Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 opened the door to relations between two of the world's most powerful countries, China and the United States.


Nixon shares China trip

Nixon addresses the nation via television to discuss his trip to China.

Nixon against busing

Nixon dismisses the use of busing, or the transportation of students from different areas via school bus, as a means of achieving racial integration in schools and seeks legislation that would deny court-ordered busing.

Devaluing the dollar

Nixon enacts legislation devaluing the dollar in order to stabilize the economy.

Additional bombing in Vietnam

On national television, Nixon states that he has ordered the mining of North Vietnamese ports and the bombing of military targets in the North Vietnam.

Tapping table telephone

The taping system attached to the telephone on the Camp David study table becomes operational.

Bugging Aspen Lodge

A voice-activated taping system in Aspen Lodge at Camp David becomes operational.

Tapping desk telephone

The taping system attached to the telephone on the Camp David study desk becomes operational.

Nixon visits U.S.S.R.

Nixon arrives in the Soviet Union for a summit meeting. He is the first sitting President to visit the U.S.S.R.

Watergate scandal begins

Police seize James McCord, Frank Sturgis, and three accomplices inside Democratic Headquarters in Washington, D.C.'s Watergate Hotel. They confiscate cameras, wiretapping materials, and $2,300 in cash.

Nixon attempts to halt investigation

Nixon orders Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to tell the F.B.I. not to go any further with its Watergate investigation, justifying his actions on national security grounds.

Republicans nominate Nixon

Nixon accepts the Republican nomination for President.

Nixon denies Watergate involvement

In a news conference, Nixon declares that no one on the White House staff, in the administration, or anyone “presently employed” was involved in the Watergate break-in.

Nixon endorses revenue bill

Nixon endorses a bill which calls for revenue sharing with the states and grants over $30 billion to state and local governments over the course of five years.

Pesticide regulation

Nixon enhances the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the sale and use of pesticides.

Bills, bills, bills

Nixon signs sixty bills, one of which provides more than $5 billion in benefits for the aged, blind, and disabled, while also increasing Social Security taxes.

Nixon wins reelection

Nixon wins the presidential election in a landslide, but Congress remains in Democratic hands.

Nixon clears entire administration

Nixon asks for the resignation of all agency directors, federal department heads, and presidential appointees.

Phase Three of price controls

Phase Three of the economic plan is announced, in which wages and price controls will be ended in all but a few industries.

Nixon inaugurated

President Nixon is inaugurated for his second term.

Paris Peace Accords signed

Paris Peace Accords are signed by all parties at war in Vietnam, officially ending the conflict.

Ceasing Camp David taping

The voice-activated taping system at Camp David ceases operation, as does the system attached to the desk telephone in the Camp David study.

Nixon takes responsibility for Watergate

Nixon admits responsibility for the Watergate affair on television, but continues to assert no prior knowledge of it.

Sixty-day price freeze

Nixon declares a freeze on all prices for sixty days, with the exception of raw agricultural products and rents.

Table telephone taping ends

The taping system attached to the table phone in the Camp David study ceases operation.

Oval Office taping ends

The voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office ceases operation.

Butterfield confirms taping

Testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee, Federal Aviation administrator Alexander Butterfield confirms the existence of an Oval Office taping system.

Phase Four of price controls

Phase Four of the economic program is revealed, in which the freeze is lifted on all foods except beef and health-care products.

Taping terminated

The manual taping system in the Cabinet Room ceases operation, as do those attached to telephones in the Oval Office, the EOB, and the Lincoln Sitting Room.

Nixon refuses tapes to Senate Watergate Committee

Claiming executive privilege, Nixon refuses to turn over subpoened tapes to the Senate Watergate Committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC).

VP Agnew under scrutiny

Vice President Agnew comes under scrutiny for charges stemming from campaign contributions he received while in office from persons who were later given government contracts. Agnew vehemently denies the charges in a press conference.

Nixon denies involvement in cover-up

Nixon denies involvement in the Watergate cover-up in a televised address.

Agnew resigns

Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns and pleads “no contest” to charges stemming from a kickback scheme he ran while Governor of Maryland. Agnew is fined $10,000 and sentenced to three years probation.

Gerald Ford gets VP nod

Gerald Ford is nominated as Vice President. After being confirmation by Congress, he is sworn in on December 6.

Saturday Night Massacre

President Richard Nixon kicked off the Saturday night massacre when he ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson had hired Cox to investigate the break-in at the Watergate hotel. When Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Cox, Richardson refused and instead resigned. The President then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fix Cox, but he too refused and resigned. Nixon turned to the third-most-senior official at the Justice Department, Solicitor General Robert Bork. Bork fired Cox. However, the firing of Cox backfired on President Nixon as public outrage about his actions led to the hiring of a new special prosecutor. 

Nixon addresses nation on energy crisis

Nixon addresses the nation regarding the energy crisis.

Nixon discloses personal finances

Nixon discloses his personal finances, which indicate he paid less than $1,000 in taxes in 1970 and 1971.

Nixon increases Social Security

Nixon increases Social Security benefits.

Senate Watergate Committee subpoenas tapes

The Senate Watergate Committee subpoenas more than 500 tapes, which Nixon refuses to hand over, stating that presidential communications must remain confidential.

Nixon gives State of the Union, refuses to resign

Nixon gives his State of the Union address, in which he refuses to resign and demands an end to the Watergate investigation.

Nixon forced to pay back taxes

As a result of an IRS investigation into Nixon's finances, the President is forced to pay $432,787 in back taxes and $33,000 interest.

Nixon increases minimum wage

Nixon increases the minimum wage to $2 with the likelihood of future increases and broader coverage.

Nixon discloses conversations

Nixon addresses the nation before disclosing more than 1,200 pages of his conversations regarding Watergate.

Nixon disregards Ford's advice

Despite Vice President Ford's advice to surrender the necessary evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, Nixon refuses to hand over Watergate-related tapes.

U.S. v Nixon

In an 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court orders that Nixon turn over sixty-four tapes to the Senate Watergate Committee. The tapes disclose Nixon's knowledge and participation in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary.

United States v. Nixon Decided

On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court ruled in an 8-0 decision that President Richard Nixon had to turn over sixty-four tapes, which disclosed his knowledge and participation in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary. The conversations on the tapes implicated Nixon and led to his resignation, the first time in United States history a President had resigned.

The Watergate scandal began when five men were arrested for breaking into the office of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972. Initially it was unclear if there was any connection between the burglary and the Nixon administration but gradually it was revealed that the White House was involved.

Then on July 16, 1973, former White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield testified that since 1971 the White House routinely recorded conversations. The taping was undertaken ostensibly to provide a historical record of the Nixon Administration, but it soon emerged as a means to prove President Nixon's guilt or innocence.

When the existence of the tapes was revealed, the Senate Watergate Committee requested access to them. Unable to come to an agreement with Nixon on releasing the tapes, the Senate Committee called on the President to produce the tapes. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox also issued a subpoena for the tapes as part of his investigation. President Nixon responded by refusing to release the tapes, claiming that his conversations were private and hence protected from forced disclosure by the doctrine of executive privilege-a concept which permits officers of the executive branch to maintain a level of privacy to promote open and vigorous debate. In his refusal, Nixon stated unequivocally that the tapes were “entirely consistent with what I have stated to be the truth.”

This confrontation set the stage for the United States v. Nixon, in which the Court ruled unanimously that President Nixon must turn over the tapes. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the decision, in which the Court upheld the doctrine of executive privilege but said it was generally limited to areas of national security or diplomatic affairs. The Court went on to say that that the President is not above the law and Nixon must turn over the tapes.

Soon after the Court's decision, Nixon released the tapes. The tapes revealed that the President had participated in a cover-up of the burglary as early as June 23, 1972, just days after it occurred. The release of the tapes eroded what was left of Nixon's support. Beginning July 27, the House of Representatives adopted three Articles of Impeachment against the President.

In a televised speech on the night of August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon announced his intention to resign at noon the next day. Although he conceded he had made some wrong judgments, he did not admit to any wrongdoing. Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as President the next day, remarking in his inaugural address, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

Nixon's resignation marked the first such act by a President in U.S. history. Among its many implications, the resignation confirmed that no individual-regardless of rank or station-was above the law, and that there were real consequences for those who violated the law willfully. As for its political impact, the resignation chipped away at the aura of the presidency and the public's trust in government.


Articles of impeachment brought forth

Three articles of impeachment are brought against Nixon by the House Judiciary Committee: obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and the unconstitutional defiance of its subpoenas.

Tape transcripts released

Three new transcripts are released, showing that Nixon ordered a cover-up less than a week after the break-in. Nixon issues a statement with the transcripts indicating that he withheld this evidence from his lawyers and from those who support him on the Judiciary Committee.

Nixon refuses to resign

Nixon informs his cabinet that he will not resign despite the fact that even his closest advisors are suggesting that he should.

Nixon changes his mind

Nixon is told by a few of his supporters that he would not win an impeachment trial. Nixon tells Kissinger, Ford, and a few Congressional leaders that he plans to resign.

Nixon resigns

On August 8, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon announced to a national television audience that he was resigning from the office of the presidency. Nixon's resignation came less than a month after the House Judiciary Committee voted for three articles of impeachment relating to Nixon's illegal involvement in the Watergate scandal and his use of government agencies to cover up that involvement. In the weeks prior his announcement, many loyal supporters had confidentially advised Nixon that he ought to consider resignation in order to spare the country the political trauma of an ineffective President during a long House impeachment and Senate trial.

President Nixon admitted to making mistakes, but not to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” alleged in the impeachment articles. Nixon decided to resign when he realized that he “no longer had a strong enough political base in Congress” to make it possible for him to complete his term in office. He thanked his friends for their support, and asked all Americans to back the new President, Gerald R. Ford, himself in office due to the resignation of former Vice President Spiro Agnew. As for his foes, the President remarked that was leaving office “with no bitterness toward those who have opposed me.” Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, appointed after the dismissal of Archibald Cox, announced that his investigation would continue, possibly leading to the filing of criminal charges against the ex-President. On September 8, just a month after the resignation, President Ford granted Nixon a “full, free, and absolute pardon,” ruling out any criminal prosecution of the nation's 37th President.

Nixon's resignation marked the first such act by a President in U.S. history. Among its many implications, the resignation reinforced the powers of the Congress and the Supreme Court to insist that the law be followed. It confirmed that no individual-regardless or rank or station-was above the law, and that there were real consequences for those who violated the law willfully. As for its political impact, the resignation seemed to chip away at the aura of the presidency, making the office seem less important and powerful for its having been tarnished during the Nixon years.


Ford becomes President

Nixon leaves for California. His letter of resignation is sent to Kissinger, thus making Gerald Ford the thirty-eighth President of the United States.