When did Richard Nixon resign? Date, speech, reason for leaving office explained.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Just less than 50 years ago a scandal like never before rocked the office of the presidency, leading to the resignation of the 37th president, Richard M. Nixon.

Nixon resigned the presidency in August 1974.

Here we unpack the reasons behind Nixon's historic resignation, including the involvement of the U.S. attorney general and recall the famed speech he gave upon exiting the Oval Office.

FBI searches Mar-A-Lago for records: Trump Mar-a-Lago home in Florida searched by FBI in probe into handling of classified documents

Mar-A-Lago raid explained: What's happening at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home? Was the FBI there? Answers to your questions

What date did Nixon resign?

Nixon announced his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974. He spoke via televised public address from the Oval Office to the American people.

His speech read out, "I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first."

Nixon did not officially end his presidency until noon the following day, Aug. 9, 1974. He then famously waved and boarded a plane with his family, leaving the office of the president to the charge of Gerald R. Ford, his vice president.

Nixon is the only American president to resign.

Who was president after Nixon?

Ford served as the 38th president of the United States. He, like Nixon, was a Republican.

He served less than one term, losing the general election in 1976 to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Historical parallels: Proof that Donald Trump IS Richard Nixon and Joe Biden IS Gerald Ford

Was Richard Nixon impeached?

No, though the impeachment process was already underway when Nixon addressed the public, his resignation made the issue moot.

The House Judiciary Committee, which deals with impeachment processes had approved the articles of impeachment in connection with Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal, but before the House was able to vote, the 37th president resigned, knowing he had lost the support of his party and would likely be convicted.

Why did Nixon actually resign?

Nixon's resignation came as the result of a scheme to spy on Democratic opponents throughout the 1972 campaign process, and subsequently a cover-up of a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in connection with the scheme.

The affair became known as "Watergate," as the DNC headquarters was located at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.

Though he vehemently denied involvement in the months preceding his resignation, Nixon was eventually forced to abandon his post, after an investigation uncovered tapes linking him to the Watergate affair and party leadership signaled they would not support him in an impeachment vote. The charges could have ultimately been obstruction of justice, abuse of power, criminal cover-up and several violations of the Constitution.

Nixon's legacy lives on in politics: Donald Trump said he 'learned a lot' from Richard Nixon

What was the Watergate scandal?

In the aftermath of the burglary — which involved attempted wire-tapping and document seizure — evidence emerged tying the perpetrators to Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President, or CREEP, as it was popularly known.

The Watergate break-in, as it turned out, was only part of a mass conspiracy to sabotage Democratic opponents. Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward eventually untangled the web, serving as a famous example of watchdog journalism. As part of their reporting, it was revealed that Nixon and his highest-level aides had willfully intervened to cover-up the break-in, attempting to stop the FBI from investigating the burglary; and keeping the burglars silent with hush money.

This discovery was ultimately corroborated by tapes of Nixon's conversations. John Dean, the White House counsel, revealed to a grand jury that Nixon had a recorder set up in the Oval Office, breaking the investigation wide open. Though the president fought to keep the tapes from investigators, they were eventually turned over, despite a famed 18 1/2 minute gap, and, backed into a corner, Nixon was forced to face the impeachment process.

What was the Saturday Night Massacre?

The Saturday Night Massacre refers to Nixon's firing of the attorney general, deputy attorney general and special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

The men — Elliot Richardson, William Ruckelshaus and Archibald Cox — were all fired in connection with attempts to get their hands on the Nixon tapes. Cox, the prosecutor, wanted the tapes, and had subpoenaed them. Nixon, unwilling to give them up, had ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. They refused and resigned — thus, Nixon had taken aim at his own Justice Department.

News on current US Attorney General: Merrick Garland: Nothing to prevent investigating Trump or anyone else for Jan. 6 attack

What is the Presidential Records Act?

In the wake of Watergate, Congress hoped to avoid another instance of debate over executive privilege. As a result, it passed the Presidential Records Act in 1978, which made the official records of both the president and vice president legally a matter of public ownership.

The battle to get Nixon to turn over his tapes, which was so fierce it landed in the hands of the Supreme Court, was something the legislative branch was not interested in repeating. This act has made its way back into the headlines recently over an alleged destruction of presidential records by the Trump administration.

Read about Trump vs. Nixon: Donald Trump is much worse than Richard Nixon. He may even have committed treason.

Did Nixon get a presidential funeral?

A state funeral, which involves lowered flags and a 21 aircraft fighter flyover, is customary for an American president who has died.

Nixon was given the option of this dramatic salute, but his family opted instead for a smaller service at the Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California. Upon his passing in April of 1994, he was buried next to his wife, Patricia "Pat" Nixon who has already died .

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nixon resignation anniversary: What to know about date, impeachment.