In this important new study, political scientists Charles A. Johnson and Danette Brickman offer a comprehensive and nonpartisan overview of the origins, evolution, functions, and eventual demise, in 1999, of the office of independent counsel.
The authors begin with a survey of the methods used to deal with charges of high-level misconduct in the years preceding the Watergate scandal that drove President Nixon from office in 1974. They examine the Watergate investigation, which involved the most serious abuses of executive power in U.S. history and led to the enactment of independent counsel legislation by Congress. The authors then survey the various remedies proposed in Congress after Watergate to handle cases of alleged executive misconduct, the legislation ultimately enacted in 1978, and subsequent changes in the law. Johnson and Brickman review in detail the twenty independent counsel inquiries conducted from 1978 through 2000, and they conclude with a chapter assessing the independent counsel experience, discussing the regulations that replaced the expired law, and examining other ways that alleged executive improprieties might be handled in the future.