During Barr’s tenure, the Justice Department handled a variety of investigations impacting Trump, from the Mueller probe to various investigations into the Trump organization and Trump advisers like Rudy Giuliani and his aides. None required special counsels; all continued without interference or manipulation under Barr’s leadership. There also is a reluctance to allow special counsels to proliferate unless there is little alternative. The potential to embarrass a president is generally not enough. After all, if everyone is a special counsel, they are no longer very special.

The biggest issue is that influence-peddling is legal. It is the favorite form of corruption in Washington. While you cannot give a politician like Biden an envelope of money, you can give his son or other relatives millions in dubious contracts, gifts and loans. The special counsel regulations involve “an investigation or prosecution” only into criminal acts. The Justice Department does not investigate politicians’ unethical conduct or simple lying. Otherwise, it would have little time to do anything else.

Notably, this argument against a special counsel appointment also is an argument for a congressional investigation. Various Democrats demanded investigations of Trump family dealings in foreign countries, including calls for a special counsel or other investigations. In 2018, Schiff wrotethat “the American people deserve to know that our president is acting in their interest and not his own financial self interest, or because he has been compromised by a foreign power.” The fear was that the Trump family was compromised or beholden to foreign interests. Those same fears exist with this scandal, and those same Democrats should support a full congressional investigation.