An attorney from outside of the government selected by the attorney general or congress to investigate and possibly prosecute a federal government official for wrongdoing in office. the theory behind appointing a special prosecutor is that there is a built-in conflict of interest between the department of justice and officials who may have political or governmental connections with that department. the most famous special pros- ecutor was law professor archibald cox, originally chosen to inves-tigate white house (and president richard nixon’s) involvement in the watergate scandal. president nixon demanded that attorney general elliot richardson fire cox, who was being aggressive in his investigation, and richardson resigned rather than comply, as did assistant attorney general william ruckelshaus. deputy attorney general robert bork finally discharged cox.