The Watergate Hotel burglary occurred in June 1972. From 1972 to October 1973 there were four unsuccessful resolutions to impeach Nixon (two were pre-Watergate). No traction could be found on the Nixon inquiry until the House Judiciary Committee took interest in late October 1973, after the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” in which Nixon’s order to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox led to the resignation of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. Solicitor General Robert Bork, as acting head of the Department of Justice, complied and fired Cox (but Bork got his comeuppance more than a decade later when the Senate refused to confirm him to a seat on the Supreme Court, largely over ideological extremism but with references to the Saturday Night Massacre.) Even with the Saturday Night Massacre the investigation barely skated through – the October 30, 1973 vote to begin consideration of possible impeachment was directly on party lines, 21-17 (debate centered largely around the investigation’s subpoena powers).
From October 1973 it took until February 1974 for the Judiciary Committee to get its act together at all. Substantive subpoenas weren’t issued until April 1974. Actual hearings didn’t begin until May, and the first Article of Impeachment (which was obstruction of justice) wasn’t voted on until the end of July. Three of five proposed articles of impeachment were approved for congressional hearings.
One of the most important fights was over Nixon’s secret recordings of conversations. The existence of the recordings was first made public July 13, 1973. Nixon ordered the taping system disconnected and refused to turn the tapes over to any investigation a few days later. The (new) special prosecutor didn’t subpoena the tapes until April 16, 1974 and Nixon instead turned over truncated transcripts. The Judiciary Committee demanded the full tapes two weeks later. It took a unanimous Supreme Court decision on July 24, 1974 for the tapes to be turned over. A previously unknown tape came to light on August 5, 1974 of a conversation with aide JR Haldeman from *June 23, 1972* in which they discuss means of blocking any investigations. This particular tape is often referred to as the “Smoking Gun Tape.”
Nixon met with Barry Goldwater shortly thereafter, who informed him that he had no congressional support. Nixon resigned August 8, 1974.
This is all to say: this will not happen in the timeline you want it to. The engines involved crank slowly and not necessarily at our leisure. That’s June 1972 for the initial act and August 1974 for the smoking gun and resignation. A majority of Americans did not think Nixon should be impeached until early August 1974 (57% – it had been 44 in favor/41 against in July). That public opinion change only came after the House Judiciary Committee’s July recommendation for impeachment and the July 24 Supreme Court tapes decision against Nixon.
There are very good arguments that the Trump impeachment path is totally different from the Nixon one – while I remain unconvinced of those that I’ve heard (“we live in an accelerated society” “things move faster” “social media and news media reach us much faster”) I’m not arguing that here, but rather providing a context for the people that find it applicable.
A two year process in which a majority of the public didn’t even roll over until days before the smoking gun and resignation. Party-line votes for the majority of the time, and multiple high-level party/candidate loyalists straight up through the end. We need to rearrange the timeline in our heads, prioritize the work to be done, and stop being so incredulous that, yes, this is going to take a herculean and longitudinal effort and it’s going to suck the entire time.