I guess our destiny is to have to address this nonsense every few months, no matter which party is in charge of the government. OK, all together now: There is no good reason to appoint a special counsel.
This time, it’s President Trump and his most strident supporters pushing for it — yes, you heard that right: A president is taking the position that the Justice Department he runs is not up to the job and needs to bring in someone from outside. Sigh . . .
The president wants Attorney General Bill Barr to name a special counsel to investigate possibly actionable Biden family corruption, arising out of the habit Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, made of cashing in on the former vice president’s political influence — a habit Hunter shared with several other associates, including “Middle Class Joe’s” younger brother, Jim.
Obviously, such an investigation would pursue the reasonable suspicion that Joe Biden, the president’s rival in the imminent election, was well aware of what was going on, encouraged it, and profited from it.
In reality, whether the apparent corruption is actionable (in the criminal-prosecution sense) is a second-order issue, for reasons I will come to.
True, it is rational to suspect that there is criminality here. After all, two of Hunter Biden’s partners, Devon Archer and Bevan Cooney, have already been convicted of fraud by the Justice Department — in connection with transactions that only scratch the surface of patterns of conduct that stretch back decades. (See, e.g., this Politico exposé of Biden family self-dealing, going back to Joe Biden’s election to the Senate nearly a half-century ago.)
But that does not and should not trigger the appointment of a special counsel. As we have seen time and again, the special counsel is a pernicious institution — aping all the defects of its predecessors, the special prosecutor and the independent counsel (the latter a product of a statute to which both parties, having been scorched by it, were happy to say good riddance when it thankfully lapsed in the late Nineties).
In fact, the perniciousness of a special counsel appointment is illustrated by the warped rationale under which President Trump and his retinue are now calling for it.