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Prosecution among Friends

Presidents, Attorneys General, and Executive Branch Wrongdoing

David Alistair Yalof

Publication Year: 2012

Can Justice Department officials effectively investigate wrongdoing within their own administration without relying on an independent counsel?

In Prosecution among Friends political scientist David Alistair Yalof explores the operation of due process as it is navigated within the office of the attorney general and its various subdivisions. The attorney general holds a politically appointed position within the administration and yet, as the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer, is still charged with holding colleagues and superiors legally accountable. That duty extends to allegations against those who had a hand in appointing the attorney general in the first place: Even the President of the United States may be enmeshed in a Justice Department investigation overseen by the attorney general and other department officials.

To assess this fundamental problem, Yalof examines numerous cases of executive branch corruption—real or alleged—that occurred over the course of four decades beginning with the Nixon administration and extending up through the second Bush administration. All of these cases—Watergate, Whitewater, and others—were identified and reported to varying degrees in the press and elsewhere. Some garnered significant attention; others drew only limited interest at the time. In all such cases the attorney general and other officials within the executive branch were charged with initially assessing the matter and determining the proper road for moving forward. Only a handful of the cases resulted in the appointment of a statutorily protected independent counsel.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-xiii

Moments after taking the presidential oath of office on August 9, 1974, the thirty-eighth president of the United States offered the above words of assurance about a constitutional system that had just survived the ordeal of a twice-elected president’s being forced to resign in disgrace. In the case of the Watergate scandal that eventually paralyzed the White House and much of official...

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1. “Where There Is Smoke”: Investigating and Prosecuting Executive Branch Officials

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pp. 1-33

When the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee convened on January 15, 2009, to consider President-elect Barack Obama’s nomination of Eric Holder to be the nation’s eighty-second attorney general, those present in the Russell Building’s Senate Caucus Room braced for what figured to be an uncomfortable tour of the Justice Department’s recent troubles. True to form, Democratic senators questioned...

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2. Legal Regimes, Attorneys General, and Executive Accountability

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pp. 34-60

The position of US attorney general, like that of many other chief law enforcement officers holding parallel positions in state governments, presents a contradiction of interests and purposes. As a presidential appointee and member of the cabinet, the attorney general plays a critical role in helping an administration formulate and implement legal policy in line with the president’s overall goals. The attorney...

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3. When All Bets Are Off: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Their Family Members on Trial

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pp. 61-85

The 1870 statute that formally established the Department of Justice granted the new agency “control over all criminal prosecutions” in which the United States maintained an interest, and it vested its head officer with control over all “federal law enforcement.”1 In the case of misconduct by public officials, the operating presumption of the Justice Department...

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4. A Bit Too Familiar: When the Justice Department Investigates the Justice Department

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pp. 86-113

Perhaps the most obvious conflict of interest that arises in the investigation and prosecution of executive branch corruption occurs when the hunter becomes the hunted. Officials within the Department of Justice and its many law enforcement agencies sometimes find themselves in the cross hairs of one of their department’s investigations, whether as the primary targets of an inquiry or as individuals...

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5. More Political Considerations: Departing Officials, Looming Elections, and the Influence of Partisan Opposition

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pp. 114-133

An attorney general who is considering whether or not to appoint a special counsel or independent prosecutor is swimming in dangerous waters. The issues that he or she must sort out are many and complex, and the consequences of even one misstep along the way can be profoundly damaging. Three concerns are conspicuous among those that must...

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6. What’s a Little Prosecution among Friends? A Framework for Political Analysis

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pp. 134-148

On April 7, 1995, Independent Counsel Joseph DiGenova filed his final report in the case of Elizabeth Tamposi and the passport search scandal. DiGenova had spent more than two years investigating allegations that Bush administration officials had encouraged State Department officials to conduct an illegal search of Bill Clinton’s passport...


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pp. 149-169

Select Bibliography

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pp. 171-182


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pp. 183-196

Back Cover

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pp. 218-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781603447669
E-ISBN-10: 1603447660
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603447454

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 3 charts. 4 tables. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Joseph V. Hughes Jr. and Holly O. Hughes Series on the Presidency and Leadership
Series Editor Byline: Pfiffner, James P. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 811320539
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Prosecution among Friends