Inside the hearings that captivated the world

In the summer of 1973, the Watergate hearings rocked Washington and captured the world's attention.
5:57 | 06/17/17

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Transcript for Inside the hearings that captivated the world
It was two young reporters who put together the first clues to the watergate scandal. And what the now-famous Woodward and Bernstein learned went all the way to Nixon's white house. Summer of 1973, the resulting watergate hearings rocked Washington and captured the world's attention, exposing president Nixon as the mastermind of a cover-up. Special report on the senate watergate hearings. Of this the O.J. Simpson trial of its era. The word crisis is perhaps too mild to apply to watergate. Everybody was in a frenzy around D.C. The famous caucus room, almost every day lines of people waiting outside. Will you tell us once again what you said about calling the president? I was the watergate correspondent for ABC news. I hear a gavel pounding, so let's go inside. Every day people were watching. Farmers, mechanics. You were keeping up with the story because it had everything in it. It had love, hate, greed, you name it. The greatest show on the Earth. Why didn't you throw Mr. Liddy out of your office? In hindsight I not only should have thrown him out of the office, I should have thrown him out of the window. It's not immediately clear you're on the funnyp farm of all-time. My job was to raise an unbelievable amount of money. Mr. Liddy said he would have a million dollars for his plan? Yes, sir. Since that's a rather handsome sum, did it pique your curiosity? This wasn't some boring senate hearing. This was about corruption and obstruction of justice. In E hot seat, Nixon's closest advisers. John Erlich man. H.R. Holden. It's an obscure question to me. It's a simple question. If the answer is no, say no. If the answer is yes, say yes. Would you -- would you restate the question for me, please. Richard Nixon told Holdeman to lie to the senate select committee. He said, just say you can't remember. Guess what? Holdeman said, gee, I can't remember. I don't know that I don't know anything about it, I don't know that I did, Mr. Chairman. You never knew what would be said. You never ka now who would be speaking. How do you know that? Because I can understand the English language. The chairman was Sam Irvin. A southerner from north Carolina. I'm just a country lawyer from way down in North Carolina. He's a country lawyer like I'm an astronaut. I don't believe there's anything in the constitution that says the powers of the presidency should be separated from the truth. When the details came out and people saw that this was almost like some kind of mafia story -- What was the altercation, if you could be a little more specific? Well, I simply put my hand on Mr. Liddy's shoulder, and he asked me to remove it. Can you be more specific? He indicated he'd kill me. It's the country's favorite soap opera. It's confusing. Mccord was a pretty good wire man. Complicated. I would say one of the best wire men in the business. Some of the characters are unforgettable. A retired man in the New York City police department would become involved in a thing like that, that's for sure. It seemed impossible. It seemed improbable. And yet it happened. And the next logical man to hear from would appear to be John Dean. John Dean. White house lawyer. Testifies about Nixon. And that changed everything about watergate. People were riveted by this young man they'd never heard of before. I sincerely wish I could say it's my pleasure to be here today, but I think you can understand why it's not. Good-looking guy, very conservative, well-dressed. He had a beautiful wife. Maureen Dean with her blond hair. She was sitting behind him and she was looking perfect every day. My wife had initially typed my handwritten notes. They told me I was going to have to read it, I would never have done 60,000 words. I began by telling the president there was a cancer growing on the presidency. He was reading this text about the president of the United States. And if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it. And the details were surprising. I subsequently met with Mr. Erlich man. I remember well his instructions. He told me to shred the documents and deep-six the brief case. And the picture was disturbing. The money was laundered so it could not be traced, and then there were secret deliveries. A crime. Followed by not crime, followed by another crime. Each more preposterous than the one before it. I proceeded to tell him person had been committed and for this cover-up to continue would require more perjury and more money. Until that point, the Nixon white house had successfully stonewalled investigations of the president's role in the cover-up. John Dean cut through that like a knife through butter. John Dean said, the president is involved in the cover-up. The central question at this point is simply put. What did the president know, and when did he know it? And from that moment on, watergate became Nixon versus Dean. I knew it was going to be my word against his word. And I knew he'd already called me a liar. So I slipped a couple of pages into my testimony that I thought that I had been record in one or more conversations. John Dean had mentioned tapes. That was the only time listening devices, tapes, had been mentioned to anyone. I had every reason to believe I would not be asked about tapes. When Alexander Butterfield acknowledged these tapes existed, it was like a bombshell going off. There was a certain innocence about the presidency. And when he said, no, the president is taping his most secret, most confidential conversations, it was like, oh my Dodd.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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