Watergate and the Decline of the Separation of Powers

  • Nancy Kassop
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Whether by conscious intent or by the unpredictable unfolding of events in office, the Nixon administration bears heavy responsibility for affecting the operation of the twin principles of separation of powers and checks and balances in the succeeding decades, right up to the present time. Separation of powers and checks and balances function as two opposite sides of a coin: the concept of “separation of powers” refers to the allocation of constitutional authority to each of the three coordinate branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—and the manifestation of “checks and balances” occurs either by the shared authority of two branches for certain, designated constitutional functions (e.g., the legislative, appointment, impeachment, and amendment processes) or in the monitoring of the actions of each branch by one or both of the others (e.g., judicial review of legislative or executive actions, or, conversely, legislative or executive reactions to judicial decisions).


Opposition Party American Civil Liberty Union Nixon Administration Counterterrorism Policy Federal Judiciary 
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© Michael A. Genovese and Iwan W. Morgan 2012

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  • Nancy Kassop

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