Watergate at 40: So many 'what ifs'

Four decades later, Watergate

Undate photograph of President Richard M. Nixon shaking hands with musician James Brown. (Rolling Stone)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four decades later, Watergate's "what ifs" are tantalizing.

What if a security guard hadn't noticed tape on a door latch outside Democratic headquarters at the Watergate office building.

What if a calculating president hadn't taped his private words for posterity?

And perhaps most intriguing: What if Richard Nixon had simply come clean about the break-in and cover-up and apologized?

Sunday is the 40th anniversary of the break-in in which burglars working for Nixon's re-election committee were caught red-handed inside the Democrats' Watergate offices.

But despite all the years since of investigation, reporting, trials and historical research, there's still no simple answer to the scandal's central riddle: How did a clumsy raid that Nixon's spokesman termed a "third-rate burglary" became a constitutional struggle that ultimately expelled him from office?

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