Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Specially Investigated President

University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, Vol. 5, p. 143, 1998

63 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2009  

Charles Tiefer

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: 1998


This article argues that the new legal status - the "specially investigated President" - conferred upon recent presidents reflects an unprecedented change in the criminal investigation process of the President. Although recent presidents have experienced formal criminal investigations, each have used creative and legitimate ways to escape indictment, trial, or impeachment. By investigating President Bush and President Clinton's ability to successfully avoid prosecution, this article presents an analytical framework to explain the issues surrounding the "specially investigated President," and offers suggestions on how to reform the process.

In his analysis, the author illustrates the tension between opposing viewpoints regarding the president's vulnerability to legal prosecution. From one perspective, the president has no special immunity, privilege, or power to stop the prosecution process. From the opposite perspective, the president has the political right to protect his office. Tracing the development of the new politic-legal status of the "specially investigated president", the author uncovers the elements of Congress' new presidential investigation as well as its constitutional implications. Finally, recognizing that the new paradigm for presidential investigations is here to stay, the author advances several principles to guide a reformation of the process and reduce the stress the legal accusation process places on the president, the political-legal process, and the public.

Keywords: impeachment, Clinton, Bush, Iran-Contra, Independent Counsel, Department of Justice, Attorney General, Budget Accountability, Presidential Defense, separation of powers, specially investigated president, Morrison v. Olson, United States v. Nixon, committees, White House Counsel, National Security

JEL Classification: K39, K49, H19, H89

Suggested Citation

Tiefer, Charles, The Specially Investigated President (1998). University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, Vol. 5, p. 143, 1998. Available at SSRN:

Charles Tiefer (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views