With Special Counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election now complete, what does the controversy surrounding the Mueller probe mean for the future of special counsels looking into the actions of the president?
“I do think this will be the last special counsel we see operating under these rules,” Pierce Bainbridge criminal defense attorney Caroline Polisi told FOX Business' Gerry Baker. “Specifically because there is this sort of opaque nature in that there is no disclosure requirement by [Attorney General William] Barr to the public.”
Polisi, who represents George Papodopoulos, explained that the current law requires the special counsel to turn over a report to the attorney general. Papadopoulos, the the former aide to then-presidential candidate Trump, pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. in the Russia probe.
The previous law governing independent counsels -- such as the Ken Starr investigation of former President Bill Clinton -- was criticized for being too forthcoming.
“It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Polisi said. “You know, people were up in arms at sort of the level of detail that they were reading in the Starr report. It seemed a bit much.”
But she does feel, at the very least, the current disclosure rules are going to change, she said.
“I think Democrats would say there definitely needs to be a mechanism by which the public and/or the Congress will get the ultimate findings, not simply a summary...but really go to all of the underlying information that was obtained throughout the entirety of the prosecution," she said.
Robert Ray, who followed Starr as the Whitewater independent counsel, told Baker that can't happen under the current law governing special counsels.
“That’s a regulatory environment which is the [Justice] Department’s prerogative,” he said. “If Congress wants to change that, they would have to pass a law in order to have that occur.”
Ray is not sure if this is the end of special or independent counsels, but he noted the whole concept raised some big concerns.
“There are significant constitutional questions that remain by virtue of experience as to whether or not the independent counsel statute was even constitutional,” he says. “It severely circumscribes the president’s executive authority in order to set up an independent counsel that is independent from everybody, the Congress, the court system by and large, and more – most importantly, the executive branch.”