America the Beautiful

Alan Zendell, May 10, 2017

In the coming weeks, we will no doubt hear hundreds of partisan views about whether the firing of James Comey is comparable to the infamous Saturday Night Massacre of October 20, 1973. Amid the growing storm over the Watergate break-in the previous year, it became clear that the House Judiciary Committee could not handle the investigation on its own, and Attorney General Eliot Richardson appointed a special prosecutor to pursue the matter independently. The terms of the appointment were specific: the special prosecutor could only be removed by Richardson (not the president) and then, only for cause.

The man he appointed was Archibald Cox, a Harvard Law professor of impeccable credentials, who the public immediately greeted as a folk hero. When Cox issued a subpoena to President Nixon over the Watergate tapes, Nixon refused to comply and ordered Richardson to fire him. One way in…

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