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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 counsel.

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 officials.

graphic

"They seem to have listened to our concern. This was the flash point," said one GOP aide involved in the consultations.

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 prosecuted.

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 jurisdiction.

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 partisanship.

Starr was one of 21 independent counsels appointed by a three-judge federal appeals court panel during the life of the post-Watergate law.


INDEPENDENT COUNSEL ACT

Reno preparing rules to take over independent counsel's job (6-24-99)

Starr opposes Independent Counsel Act (4-14-99)

Reno backs scrapping 'structurally flawed' counsel law (3-17-99)

Senators predict end to Independent Counsel Act (3-1-99)

Senate panel spotlights independent counsel law (2-24-99)


Investigating the President

Independent probes of Clinton Administration cost nearly $80 million (4-1-99)

Court clears way for Justice to investigate Starr (3-18-99)

AllPolitics' in-depth look at the investigation into the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.


SPECIAL REPORTS

The Whitewater investigation

Watergate revisited


RELATED SITES

Justice Department

Office of Independent Counsel Web site

White House Web site


MESSAGE BOARD

The Independent Counsel



MORE STORIES:

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

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