Video: Sen. Howard Baker asked: What did Nixon know and when did he know it?

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Sen. Howard Henry Baker Jr., the leading Republican on the committee investigating the Watergate scandal surrounding President Nixon, asked the seminal question at the hearings: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"

Above is a clip of Baker speaking at the hearings in June 1973.

The Watergate hearings were broadcast on television nationwide, and PBS stations played them during prime time -- "drawing audiences five and six times above normal," Los Angeles Times TV critic Cecil Smith said at the time. Smith called the hearings "the best thing that has happened to public television since 'Sesame Street.'"

While visiting his hometown in eastern Tennessee that July, Baker told a Times reporter his philosophy on the proceedings. "I'll dig for the facts, and I'll follow wherever they lead," he said.

"Some people are getting the idea that I'm trying to set myself up as the conscience of the nation," he added. "What I'm trying to do is identify the forces that caused this to happen. Is it the aura of the presidency, the desire for peer approval, presidential isolation or what?"

Baker has died, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday on the Senate floor.

Read more: Howard H. Baker Jr. dies at 88; respected Washington insider

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