Book

Prosecuting the president (2019)

how special prosecutors hold presidents accountable and protect the rule of law

in: Oxford scholarship online

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Abstract

The first special prosecutor was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875. Ever since, presidents of both parties have appointed special prosecutors and empowered them to operate with unusual independence. In short order, such appointments became a standard method for neutralizing political scandals and demonstrating the president's commitment to the rule of law. This long, mostly forgotten history shows that special prosecutors can do much to protect the rule of law under the right circumstances. It also shows that they are fallible.