No new special counsel

The special counsel is a pernicious institution that operates outside the procedures and discipline of a normal U.S. attorney’s office — where the merits of every case must be weighed against those of every other in the competition for limited investigative and prosecutorial resources. Special-counsel appointments should be resisted whenever possible. Indeed, with Robert Mueller already — and inevitably — straying far afield from his original “collusion” inquiry, we should be discussing how that investigation can be limited and brought to a just conclusion; we should not be encouraging the launch of yet another special-counsel extravaganza. Never again should a special-counsel investigation be commenced in the absence of concrete evidence that a crime has been committed — a crime that serves to cabin the special counsel’s investigation lest it become a fishing expedition without end.

Here is what should be done. Attorney General Sessions should assign a U.S. attorney from outside Washington to conduct a probe of how the Clinton-emails and Trump-Russia investigations were handled by the Justice Department and FBI. A good model would be John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut just confirmed by the Senate. In 2008, when he was that office’s deputy U.S. attorney, he was assigned by Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the Bush administration’s program for interrogating high-level terrorist detainees, specifically, the possible destruction of evidence of the CIA’s mistreatment of prisoners. Durham, a highly regarded career prosecutor, was permitted to continue in this capacity when the Obama Justice Department expanded his inquiry. The investigation was closed without charges in a credible, professional manner in 2011.