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Richard Nixon’s Political Scandal: Researching Watergate in the Manuscript Collections at the Library of Congress

Members of Congress and Staff

Though the smallest of the Watergate guide's main sections, the Members of Congress and Staff portion includes leading Nixon critics Senator Edward William Brooke (R-MA) and Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI) as well as counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee, Samuel Dash.

Edward William Brooke Papers

"In November 1966, in one of the country's most intense senatorial races," writes historian Leah Wright-Rigueur, "Massachusetts attorney general Edward W. Brooke, stunned the nation when he soundly defeated his Democratic challenger, Endicott Peabody."1 The victory made Brooke the first African American politician elected to the Senate since Reconstruction and for Richard Nixon, a proverbial litmus test for his relationship with African American voters. In the 1960 campaign, Nixon had secured 32 percent of the African American vote, but only 10 percent in 1968, and 13 percent in 1972. Even before Brooke's 1966 senatorial and Nixon's 1968 presidential campaigns, Nixon had attempted to incorporate Brooke into the administration by identifying him as a prominent liaison between the party and the Black community. Throughout 1965, Brooke discussed the issue of race and its related connection to "urban disorder, housing, and health care," as part of a series of "Republican sponsored public service announcements."2 Despite his participation, Brooke's eventual relationship with Nixon could perhaps best be described an "enigmatic," and his response to Watergate further demonstrated Nixon's difficulties with the nation's Black electorate.3

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1919, Brooke, after serving in World War II, eventually settled in Massachusetts. During the 1950s, the state's Republican Party embraced a number of anti-discrimination measures while its Democratic counterpart clung to policies that upheld segregation, a dynamic that pushed Brooke toward the former. However, like many Black Republicans, he recoiled at the selection of Barry Goldwater in 1964, a candidate that only managed to earn six percent of the Black vote. "You can't say that the Negro left the Republican Party," he told journalists in 1966, "I'm convinced the Negro feels like he was evicted."4

"Centrism was the hallmark of Brooke's progressive conservatism," notes Wright-Rigueur and the Massachusetts senator's policy stances reflected such as he advocated for a reduction in nuclear arsenals, better relations with China, and repudiated political radicalism on the left while also championing civil rights, access to abortion, and fair housing.5 Brooke sometimes referred to himself as a “creative Republican.”6

Warren K. Leffler, photographer. Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke waves to the crowd at the 1968 Republican National Convention, Miami, Florida. August 5, 1968. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Race affected the 1968 election in other ways as well. "[T]he president-elect was nearly undone by Alabama politician and third party candiate, George Wallace," notes Wright Rigueur. The pro-segregation candidate won five states in the Deep South and secured over 13 percent of the vote. Still, Nixon edged out his opponent Hubert Humphrey by tallying 301 electoral votes and winning the popular vote by less than one percent, 43.4 to 42.7.7

Though an obvious minority within the African American electorate, of which 90 percent cast ballots for the Democratic candidate Humphrey, Black conservatives looked hopefully toward the Nixon administration. Civil rights activist and former leader of the Congress on Racial Equality, Floyd McKissick, had thrown his endorsement to Nixon and with an electoral victory 1968, believed Nixon would do "one Hell of a job." Cleveland's conservative Black newspaper, the Call and Post, embraced the president's "black capitalism" agenda. "Nixon will do more for [African Americans] than has been accomplished in the last hundred years, " publisher W.O. Walker wrote. "Sound economic gains and restoration of pride and dignity are in store for minority groups."8 Moreover, while he had appointed more Black officials to federal posts than any president before him, in his second term, few received appointments to policy making positions. As one African American newspaper put it: "There is nothing left but crumbs, and even the crumbs are being scooped up by second rate white Southerners and the hard hats who cast their ballots last November for Nixon, although some of them can hardly read."9 Watergate only intensified Black distrust of the administration generally but also within the GOP's African American membership. "A [B]lack Republican campaigning in a predominately black district," wrote one such member in March 1974, "is campaigning before people who are not surprised at all by ... Watergate."10 By 1975, less than four percent of the country's 3,800 elected black officials claimed membership in the GOP. The party did recover marginally from this apparent nadir with Black voters. Between 1976 and 1978, African Americans identifying as Republicans rose from five to eight percent, though the number of Black independents increased more sharply from 15 to 26 percent.11

Among his peers within the party, few Republicans bedeviled Richard M. Nixon like the former attorney general from Massachusetts. In his 2015 obituary, the New York Times correctly described him as “a thorn in the side of … Richard Nixon,” yet Brooke's relationship with the president proved a bit more complicated. On the one hand, Brooke told Time magazine in 1968 that if Nixon were nominated by the Republican Party for president “it wouldn’t be a contest … it would be a giveaway.”12 On the other, he openly campaigned for Nixon in the fall of 1968 and afterward the president offered him several positions within the administration including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and ambassador to the United Nations. Brooke declined each and chose to remain in the Senate.13 Nixon also considered Brooke for a Supreme Court appointment which proved ironic after the senator opposed three of the administration's nominations for the Court. Brooke's vocal antipathy toward each nominee helped to deny two court appointments: Clement F. Haynsworth Jr. and G. Harold Carswell. William H. Rehnquist, however, was able to weather Brooke’s opposition.14

When the Watergate Affair grew increasingly dire for the administration, Brooke appeared on Meet the Press in late April 1973, telling its audience that he found it “inconceivable” that the President had not been aware of G. Gordon Liddy’s plan to wiretap the telephones located in the Democratic National Committee Headquarters.15 Brooke became the first Republican senator to demand a special prosecutor to investigate events surrounding the 1972 break-in. Later that same year, he appeared on ABC’s Issues and Answers telling viewers the president no longer had the nation’s support and should resign.16 Even after his resignation, Brooke maintained a critical eye toward the president’s legacy, publicly criticizing Gerald Ford’s pardoning of Nixon as a serious error.17

Correspondence in the Senatorial Papers series are divided into six subseries though those that pertain most to the study of Watergate are the General Correspondence and Legislative Correspondence. The former contains communications between Spiro Agnew, Howard Baker, the Central Intelligence Agency, Sam Ervin, Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, George Romney, Maurice Stans, and Robert Taft, among several others. In the latter, researchers will find folders focusing on Watergate (under 1974) and Richard Nixon’s Pardon (under 1974). Four folders, three of which consist of memoranda and documents on the scandal spanning from February 1973 to September 1974 in the Subject File subseries can be found under the grouping Watergate. Finally, the Legislative Files subseries divided into two parts forms the historical record of Brooke's terms in the Senate and contains briefing books on his positions over several years, legislative summaries of his activities, and analyses and assessments of his voting record by his staff and various public interest groups. Much of the material pertaining to Watergate will be found in the second part of the subseries though the first part, composed of all bills, amendments, and resolutions that Brooke introduced or cosponsored in the Senate also contains folders on the subject such as “S. Res. 106, Special assistant regarding Watergate affair,” and “S. Con. Res. 107, Immunity for Richard M. Nixon.” These files often include draft and final copies of bills, memoranda by staff pertaining to contents and strategy for managing the bills through the Senate, letters from colleagues, and some background material.


  1. Leah Wright-Rigueur, The Loneliness of the Black Republican (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 95. Back to text
  2. Ibid., 103. Back to text
  3. Ibid., 140. Back to text
  4. Ibid., 98-99. Back to text
  5. Ibid., 106; Douglas Martin, "Edward W. Brooke III, 95, Senate Pioneer, Is Dead," New York Times, January 3, 2015. Back to text
  6. Martin, "Edward W. Brooke III, 95 Senate Pioneer is Dead." Back to text
  7. Wright-Rigueur, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, 138.Back to text
  8. Ibid., 137-138. Back to text
  9. Ibid., 198. Back to text
  10. Ibid., 205. Back to text
  11. Ibid., 217, 276. Back to text
  12. Martin, "Edward W. Brooke III, 95 Senate Pioneer is Dead."; Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008), 203. Back to text
  13. Wright-Rigueur, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, 140. Back to text
  14. Ibid., 198, 164.Back to text
  15. Keith W. Olson, Watergate: The Presidential Scandal that Shook America (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2003), 84. Back to text
  16. Ibid., 124. Back to text
  17. Harold M. Schmeck, Jr., "Divided, But. Not Entirely Along Party Lines," New York Times, September 9, 1974. Back to text

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Samuel Dash Papers

Joseph Papin, artist. Fred Thompson and other senators during the Senate Watergate hearings. 1973. Courtroom Illustration Drawing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Well before coming to national prominence during the Watergate investigation, Samuel Dash caught the attention of Attorney General Mitchell and the Department of Justice. In 1968, Mitchell and the DOJ engaged in wiretapping and bugging of anti-war protesters sans court order. When asked about the legality of such a maneuver, Mitchell justified the action as part of “presidential prerogative.” Dash, then a professor at Georgetown University and chairman of the Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association (ABA), did not agree. Speaking to an audience in New England, Dash rhetorically rapped Mitchell across the wrist: “There is no presidential prerogative. And any Attorney General that says that is a lawless Attorney General." 18

The Nixon administration did not take kindly to Dash’s critique. According to Dash, soon after, Mitchell contacted the ABA demanding an apology, the implied threat being a cessation of funds from the Department of Justice. Dash refused to apologize. “Look, I'll tell you how to handle that,” he told an ABA official. “Why don't you issue a statement that I'm a sour apple, you don't agree with me, and let it go. I'm not going to apologize. So remove yourself from me, and you play around with the Attorney General." Georgetown too received threats. The DOJ informed the university that grants to the university would only be approved for projects that were unaffiliated with Professor Dash. His refusal to apologize resulted in the National Association of Attorney Generals, on Dash’s advice, putting distance between Dash and the organization, for which he had been a paid consultant. Though he remained satisfied with his own actions, years later in an oral history, Dash admitted the experience had been unsettling. “I got a chill up my back that the Justice Department would do this just because I said what I said. At that time who knew about the enemies list?”19

Described as a “champion of legal ethics” by his obituary in the New York Times, Samuel Dash was a lawyer, law professor, and author who garnered national attention as chief counsel and staff director of the United States Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (known as the Watergate Committee) during the investigation of President Richard M. Nixon and his staff during the Watergate scandal.20 The Samuel Dash Papers document Watergate from the perspective of senators and Senate staff who conducted the inquiry for seven months in 1973 to 1974. The Watergate Committee investigated the 1972 break-in and bugging of the national headquarters of the Democratic Party, the cover-up of the burglary, and other illegal and improper campaign activities related to the 1972 presidential campaign. The committee’s findings led to the indictment and conviction of many of Nixon’s close advisers. The Senate probe contributed a significant amount of evidence leading to calls for Nixon’s impeachment and ultimately his resignation of the presidency in August 1974. The majority of the Watergate files are located in the Government Investigations series. The files include legal documents, reports, newspaper clippings, photographs, and interviews. A large body of correspondence mostly from the public also contains letters from committee members and attorneys.

The Dash Papers also feature material of two committees concerning various Watergate reforms. The committees are the Citizens' Committee on Watergate Reform and the Washington Council of Lawyers, Washington, D.C., Special Committee on Iran Contra and Watergate Reform. Files of both committees are located in the Organizations and Committees series. A small amount of additional material pertaining to the scandal is filed in the following series in the collection: the Teaching File, the General Office File, and the Writings File.

Access restrictions apply to portions of the Samuel Dash Papers. Consult the Ask-a-Librarian form or the Manuscript Division webpage for more information.


  1. Sam Dash, oral history, 2003, Oral History Project, 94, The Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Back to text
  2. Ibid. Back to text
  3. Warren E. Leary, “Samuel Dash, Chief Counsel for Senate Watergate Committee, Dies at 79,” New York Times, May 30, 2004. Back to text

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Jack Kemp Papers

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Industrial canalside scene in Buffalo, New York. August 3, 2018. Carol M. Highsmith Archive. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Jack Kemp, former NFL quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, began his career as congressman for Buffalo and western New York in 1971 during Richard M. Nixon’s first term as president. The possible impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon soon became an issue with which Kemp and members of the Republican Party had to contend. The Congressional File series contains the majority of material pertaining to the Watergate Affair. The Congressional File is further arranged into four subseries Personal Office File, Legislative File, Constituent Services, and Press File. Issue mail about Richard M. Nixon and Watergate, located in the Constituent Services subseries, contains the most files with about twenty-seven folders. Most of the mail was unfavorable toward Nixon. The subject file of the Legislative File subseries, consisting of seven folders, also includes material on the topic “Watergate Affair.” For researchers wishing to put forth the time and effort to delve deeper into the Kemp Papers, there is correspondence from Nixon in the Scrapbook series. The scrapbooks are arranged chronologically.

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Harold S. Liebengood Papers

Joseph Papin, artist. Watergate hearings, dirty tricks inquiry, Senate Caucus Room, Washington, D.C., October 4, 1973. Courtroom Illustration Drawing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1973 Tennessee lawyer Howard S. Liebengood came to Washington, D.C., to begin a new job as part of the minority staff of the United States Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (known as the Watergate Committee). He would later serve as Sergeant of Arms of the Senate and work as staff director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The Howard S. Liebengood Papers provide an inside perspective of the work conducted by Watergate Committee members and its staff during their investigation of the scandal. The material relating to Watergate is located in the Watergate Files series. Liebengood worked closely with Senator Howard H. Baker, also from Tennessee and the ranking Republican on the committee. One of Liebengood’s duties was to interview potential witnesses, and the files include a large group of abstracts of interviews and testimony. Senator Baker also led an investigation into the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the break-in of the Democratic National headquarters and related events.

Access restrictions apply to portions of the Howard S. Liebengood Papers. Consult the Ask-a-Librarian form or the Manuscript Division webpage for more information.

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Patsy T. Mink Papers

Laura Patterson, photographer. Representative Patsy Mink announces the formation of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at a press conference with (left to right) Representatives Don Edwards and Norman Mineta, Guam Delegate Robert Underwood, and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Neil Abercrombie. May 20,1994. Roll Call portion of CQ Roll Call Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1964, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color and first Asian American woman to be elected to Congress. Mink served in the House of Representatives from 1964 to 1977 and again from 1990 until her death in 2002. Known for her advocacy on behalf of education, civil rights and labor unions, Mink might be best remembered for pioneering Title IX legislation which mandated that schools receiving federal money must have equal financing for women in both academics and athletics.

Mink spent much of the Richard M. Nixon presidency in opposition to the administration’s policies. She frequently battled the president on welfare issues. She denounced Nixon Supreme Court nominee G. Harrold Carswell as “an affront to the women of America” due to his ruling that employers could fire women having pre-school aged children.21 Mink even took the Nixon administration to the Supreme Court. In 1972, she and 32 other members of the House filed a request for nine documents regarding underground nuclear testing to be released under the Freedom of Information Act of 1966. Mink had requested them earlier due to her concern regarding such testing near Amchitka Island in the Aleutian Island chain. Nixon denied the request.

The ensuing case Environmental Protection Agency v. Mink would be the Court’s first ruling on the 1966 act. The Court decided in favor of the administration’s appeal to executive privilege, however, the decision also noted in future cases “in camera inspection [review within judge’s chambers] will be necessary and appropriate. But it need not be automatic...the burden is, of course, on the agency resisting disclosure, and if it fails to meet its burden without in camera inspection, the District Court may order such inspection…”22 The case would be cited in Nixon v. Sirica (1973), in which the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that a subpoena requesting Nixon turn over the Watergate tapes be followed.

Mink was one of the first members of Congress to call for Nixon's removal. Later in 1973, Mink sponsored a resolution of impeachment against the president. “President Nixon has broken the people’s trust both in him and the office of the Presidency,” she remarked from the floor of the House of Representatives.23 The resolution never received a floor vote, rather Speaker of the House Carl Bert Albert directed the House Judiciary Committee to begin a formal inquiry into grounds for impeachment.

The Patsy T. Mink Papers contain several boxes of material related to Watergate. They can be found in the Congressional File I series under its Legislative Central File subseries. Grouped under Nixon, Richard M. (boxes 544-549) are files containing correspondence, memoranda, statements, notes, and other materials pertaining to Watergate. Additionally, the White House files in the subseries contain Mink’s response to the Watergate scandal that culminated in her resolution in October 1973 to impeach Richard M. Nixon. Researchers interested in Environmental Protection Agency v. Mink should consult the Amchitka Island files (boxes 47-52).

Access restrictions apply to portions of the Patsy T. Mink Papers. Consult the Ask-a-Librarian form or the Manuscript Division webpage for more information.


  1. Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008), 520. Back to text
  2. Patsy Mink, "The Mink Case: Restoring the Freedom of Information Act," Pepperdine Law Review, Vol 2, No.1 (1975): 8-27. Back to text
  3. Martin Well, "Rep. Patsy Mink Dies; Hawaiian Pushed Liberal Causes," Washington Post, September 29, 2002; James M. Cannon, Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 227. Back to text

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Robert Taft Jr. Papers

Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Cincinnati view and paddleboat, Cincinnati, Ohio. Between 1980 and 2006. Carol M. Highsmith Archive. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Robert Taft Jr, grandson of President William Howard Taft and son of Senator Robert A. Taft, personally experienced the impact of the Watergate scandal. A backlash against Watergate is often cited as one of the reasons Taft lost his reelection campaign for the United States Senate in 1976. It also probably did not help that Taft had served as an aide to Richard M. Nixon during the 1972 presidential campaign. Most of the files about the scandal are located in the United States Senate series of the Robert Taft Jr Papers. The Senate series is further divided into various subseries; the ones most relevant to Watergate are Legislative File, Personal Office File, and the Press File.

The legislative assistant’s file in the Legislative subseries contains the majority of material about Watergate. This file is arranged alphabetically by topic or type of material. The judiciary files in the legislative assistant’s file feature the topics “Watergate Affair, hearings and impeachment proceedings” (boxes 229-231) and “Watergate Reform Act” (box 231). In addition, the legislative assistant’s file contains a folder “Preservation of Watergate Affair Material” (box 215) under the heading government operations. Also present in the legislative assistant’s file is a folder relating to Richard M. Nixon (box 231). A legislative resolution relating to Nixon’s impeachment, “S. Con. Res. 107, re proceedings against Richard M. Nixon” (box 107) is located in the bill files of the Legislative File.

The Personal Office File of the Senate series also contains relevant material to the Watergate Affair with the bulk found in the administrative assistant’s file. These items are located in the topical files “Watergate Affair” (box 252) and “Nixon, Richard M.” (box 248). The caucus/political file of the Personal Office File also includes one folder “Democrats for Nixon” (box 254). The reference files in the Press File subseries of the Senate papers contain a folder about the Watergate Affair (box 296).

Another series of possible interest is the Political File. Although most of the series chronicles Taft’s campaigns for the House of Representative and the Senate, his participation in the 1972 presidential campaign of Nixon (boxes 312-316) and his experiences as a delegate to several Republican national conventions (boxes 317-319) are well documented.

The finding aid for the Taft Papers lists Richard M. Nixon as a frequent correspondent in the General Correspondence series, although these files do not contain Taft's correspondence for the years 1963-1964 and 1967-1976. Letters for these years were organized separately by Taft’s staff and may be found in the Personal Office File of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives series as they pertain primarily to his duties as an elected official.

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.