Reno preparing rules to take over independent counsel's job
June 24, 1999
Web posted at: 3:13 p.m. EDT (1913 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 24) -- Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday she is preparing regulations to take over the authority to appoint special prosecutors when the independent counsel law expires next week.
"The attorney general should have the basic responsibility for determining when a special counsel should be appointed and the scope of the jurisdiction of the special counsel, and should be responsible for removing the special counsel if there is reason to do so." Reno said at a news conference Thursday.
Congress, with Democrats upset by Independent Counsel Ken Starr's long investigation of President Bill Clinton and Republicans disturbed by Lawrence Walsh's similarly long investigation of the Reagan Administration, refused to reauthorize the law this year. The June 30 expiration of the statute does not affect Starr's investigation, which can continue indefinitely.
Reno said she will issue regulations giving the attorney general the power to appoint the special prosecutors beginning July 1.
"We have spent three months drafting regulations that try to address the issues" surrounding the change, she said, include consulting Congress about high-level investigations. Reno also said she had discussed possible regulations at length with Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
The law, first passed by Congress in a wave of post-Watergate reforms in 1978, allows a three-judge federal court panel to appoint special counsels to investigate allegations of possible criminal behavior by top government officials. The counsels are given a great deal of latitude and freedom, with few limits on spending or the length of their investigations.
That freedom has led to criticism that the counsels were not accountable to any oversight or cost controls. Starr has spent more than $40 million over a five-year investigation of Clinton, the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas and the president's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.