Prosecution among Friends: Presidents, Attorneys General, and Executive Branch Wrongdoing

Synopsis

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.