As President Donald Trump continues to mouth off about the Russia investigation on Twitter—he recently admitted that he’s the target of an obstruction of justice probe—some have cracked wise on Twitter about what President Richard Nixon’s Twitter account might have looked like during Watergate, had social media existed in the 1970s. “The Jews,” surely—they’d show up a lot. Not to mention Teddy and that poor drowned girl, and those goddamn hippie bums.
Really, though? Nixon liked a drink, and he’d call people in the middle of the night for company and reassurance. I even believe Henry Kissinger’s account of him talking to paintings of his predecessors. But Nixon was once the Navy’s best poker player, and my sense is that he’d sooner die than show his cards like Trump does nearly every day.
Based on my years running the @dick_nixon Twitter account, I’ve imagined how Nixon might have tweeted during the scandal that brought him down. Some of the “tweets” below are imagined, but others adapt things Nixon actually said about Watergate, in public and in private.
You’ll see a president who is often angry and vindictive, full of absurd jealousies and justifications. But he’s also capable of introspection, and is never overmatched. Nixon’s temper flares worst at the time of the Pentagon Papers—but in his darkest days he’s cool, sometimes self-pitying, the boxer determined not to fall before the bell.
Of course, in the end, he did.
In June 1971, the New York Times and Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers, which revealed America’s political and military involvement in Vietnam 1945-67. They were leaked by military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon isn’t named in them; he simply hated leakers.
Several “Plumbers,” as members of Nixon’s political espionage team were called, break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, under orders by top domestic aide John Ehrlichman. This was not major news at the time.
Five “Plumbers” are caught attempting to wiretap the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. They are later indicted by a federal grand jury, along with their handlers, E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy. There is no evidence Nixon ordered the break-in or knew of it beforehand.
The Washington Post reveals Watergate burglar James McCord’s connection to the White House.
The Washington Post reveals former Attorney General and current Nixon campaign chief John Mitchell controls a secret fund devoted to political espionage.
The Washington Post reveals the Watergate break-in is part of a massive political espionage campaign.
Liddy and McCord are convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate incident. The five burglars plead guilty. Nixon schemes to buy their silence.
Nixon tells the nation that White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and domestic aide John Ehrlichman let him down over Watergate. But he alleges no wrongdoing by them, and they are allowed to resign. Attorney General Richard Kleindeinst resigns because he is close to many in the case. White House Counsel John Dean is fired.
An obviously upset Nixon—possibly drunk—said this in a late-night telephone call to Haldeman.
Attorney General-designate Eliot Richardson appoints former Solicitor General Archibald Cox as Watergate special prosecutor.
The Washington Post reports former White House Counsel John Dean told Senate investigators he discussed the Watergate cover-up with Nixon 35 times, and Nixon tried to buy his silence.
Deputy White House Chief of Staff Alexander Butterfield reveals the White House taping system to Senate investigators. He was not prepared to lie for Nixon—not least, as he revealed later, because Nixon was rude to him.
Nixon refuses to furnish the Senate Watergate Committee and special prosecutor with subpoenaed tapes.
In a hectoring speech to the nation, Nixon says the Watergate probe has gone on too long.
During the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Nixon orders Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus refuse, and are fired; Cox is fired by Solicitor General Robert Bork.
Still claiming executive privilege, Nixon proposes that infamously hard-of-hearing Mississippi Sen. John C. Stennis listen to the tapes and summarize them for Cox.
Nixon tells newspaper editors he is “not a crook.” The statement is largely concerned with charges that he profited from public life, which is not true. But he also claims he didn’t obstruct justice.
An 18 ½ minute gap is discovered on a subpoenaed tape. White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig can only explain that a “sinister force” is responsible.
Nixon’s personal secretary Rose Mary Woods takes blame for the erasure, claiming it accidentally occurred while she answered the phone during transcription. Woods later testifies she may have accidentally erased up to five minutes of tape, but examination reveals up to nine separate erasures.
Nixon releases edited tape transcripts to investigators, but not the tapes.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules 8-0 that Nixon must deliver tapes and other subpoenaed materials.
The House Judiciary Committee passes three Articles of Impeachment, charging Nixon with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress.
Sens. Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott visit the White House with House Minority Leader John Rhodes. They tell Nixon the Senate will vote to convict.
Nixon announced to the nation at 9 p.m. that he would resign at noon the following day.
Nixon leaves the White House.