A Democrat, Cox was a member of the late John Kennedy’s brain trust in the 1960 presidential campaign against then Vice president Nixon. He served as Solicitor General, the third ranking post in the Justice Department, from 1961 to 1965 when he joined the faculty at Harvard Law School.
At a separate news conference in Cambridge, Cox said any implication of President Nixon would be reported.
“This is a take of tremendous importance,” he said. “Somehow, we must restore confidence, honor and integrity in government.”
Besides last June’s break-in at Democratic National Headquarters, the investigation will cover all alleged offenses rising out of the 1972 presidential campaign and any other allegations involving President Nixon, his White House employees or appointees.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Richardson, who is still Secretary of Defense, said he was confident that Cox’s appointment would help counter any public suspicions that the White House might try to influence the investigation.
“There wasn’t going to be any influence from the White House anyway,” Richardson declared.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not been entirely convinced of that, set a hearing for Monday to question both men on how much of a free hand Cox will actually have.
Richardson said the former Solicitor General found Richardson’s proposed guidelines completely acceptable, “word for word.”
Senate Democrats dissatisfied with the charter are still expected to press for a change in one key provision that subordinates the prosecutor’s independence to “the Attorney General’s statutory accountability for all matters, falling with the Department of Justice.”
Richardson indicated that he has no intention of yielding on that point. But he did say he plans one major change in guidelines, suggested by several senators, to exempt the prosecutors from any duty of keeping the Attorney General informed of the progress of the investigation.”
Cox’s selection ended a sometimes frantic search by Richardson that lasted more than two weeks.
His first choice, Federal judge Harold Tyler, Jr. of New York City, turned down the job Monday citing his reluctance to step down from the bench, particularly when the ground rules for the prosecutor’s post had not yet been settled.
Another of the four “finalists” for the job, former Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher, took himself out of the running Wednesday, saying that he saw no “reasonable probability” of securing “the requisite independence.”
The withdrawals served to reinforce doubts about the independence Richardson said the prosecutor would have. They also raised questions abut Richardson’s own prospects for Senate confirmation.
Richardson offered the job to Cox Wednesday evening in a phone call to the West Coast where Cox was giving a University of California lecture.