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September 24, 2023 (San Diego)—Anat Tour, host of Bookshelf on the East County Magazine Radio Show, recently interviewed Bruce Givner. Givner is an attorney and the author of My Watergate Scandal Tell-All: How I Unwittingly Caused This Historic Event.
As a 21-year-old intern in June 1972, Givner stayed late at the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate offices until just after midnight, making free long-distance phone calls to friends and family. His presence substantially delayed the break-in and indirectly led to the eventual arrests of the burglars. The ensuing investigations exposed a criminal conspiracy, leading to multiple convictions and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Other staffers left around 7 p.m. Givner called friends and family on the free WATS line for the next several hours. Then he recalls, “I couldn’t leave the offices without a key to get back in,” adding that he walked outside to pee in the flowerboxes on the balcony—and was likely spotted by the burglars across the street at Howard Johnson’s.
He walked across the street with a guard to get milkshakes. That night, the guard, Frank Wills, discovered tape on the door and discovered the break-in.
Givner became known as the “mystery man.” He was later interviewed by the Senate Watergate Committee and by reporters before deciding to tell his story in his book, which was published decades later in 2019. At one point, he was accused of being a Republican operative.
“At the time, a President’s criminal acts had consequences,” he observes.
He also reflects on changes in the media landscape since the Watergate era, notably the decline in the number of newspapers investing in investigative journalism. In addition, he voices concern over the rise of autocrats around the world as “pretty scary,” noting that he did not receive threats to his safety, unlikely whistleblowers in recent times.
He went on to law school, where the school’s Law Review once ran an article titled “But for him, Nixon might still be president.” One of his professors was Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice.
The burglars had already tried three times before to break in, before trying again and getting caught. Givner wonders what might have occurred had they waited and tried another time, perhaps with a different guard on duty.
A lesson learned from Watergate? Givner now tells young lawyers to “always be on your best behavior.” In short, he advises others, “Do the right thing. You don’t know who might be listening or tape recording.”
Host Anat Tour calls the book a “page turner” which she found both entertaining and informative.
Learn more at Givner’s website, www.mywatergatescandal.com .