Agency backing tough draft rules for special counsel removal
By Terry Frieden/CNN
June 29, 1999
Web posted at: 12:47 p.m. EDT (1647 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 29) -- With the Independent Counsel Act
expiring Wednesday, the Justice Department is circulating new
draft regulations that promise the same high standard for
removal of a Justice-appointed special counsel as was
required for dismissal of a court-appointed independent
The nine-page draft document, obtained Monday by CNN, appears to satisfy the demands of House Republicans who had pressed the department to keep the "good cause" requirement for ousting a special counsel who is investigating administration officials.
The document says the provision "provides protection for a
special counsel in his or her position by providing that the
attorney general may not remove the special counsel except
for good cause."
A previous document indicated that the department had planned
to recommend a lower standard similar to that which allows
for removal of U.S. attorneys and some other Justice
"They seem to have listened to our concern. This was the
flash point," said one GOP aide involved in the
The act had come under criticism because of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's lengthy and political divisive investigation of President Clinton.
Justice Department officials met Monday with former Senate
majority leaders Bob Dole, a Republican, and George Mitchell,
a Democrat, to win their backing for the proposed guidelines,
which are similar to those previously recommended by the former senators.
The underlying purpose of any such law remains a vital one:
to make sure allegations of criminal wrongdoing by high-
ranking government officials are investigated and
Seeking bipartisan support
Justice officials scheduled briefings Tuesday with key House
and Senate staff members, hoping to win bipartisan backing
for the plan.
"We want to get as much support as we can from across the
political spectrum," a senior Justice official told CNN. The
official said the department hopes the new regulations can be
announced by Wednesday, when the controversial law expires.
The regulations place full responsibility for decision making
on the shoulders of the attorney general, but allow for
significant independence under Justice Department
Starr and Attorney General Janet Reno had joined a chorus of
voices opposed to renewing the Independent Counsel Act, which
failed to protect high-level probes from charges of political
Starr was one of 21 independent counsels appointed by a
three-judge federal appeals court panel during the life of the