News Archives

Special Counsel Appointment

May 19, 2017

During assembly on Friday, May 19, juniors Olivia Benoit and Arianna Latuda spoke for the Current Events Club about the recent appointment of a Special Counsel. Their presentation follows:

As many of you know, on Wednesday, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States appointed a Special Counsel, a former Director of the FBI who served under Presidents Bush and Obama. The job of appointing a Special Counsel falls to the Attorney General, who is the head of the Justice Department. In this case, however, because the Attorney General worked for President Trump’s campaign, he removed himself from the investigation into these matters. The Deputy Attorney General granted the Special Counsel the power to oversee an investigation into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump…[and] any matters that arose or may directly arise from that investigation.” 

The law gives Special Counsels wide ranging powers to call witnesses, to collect documents, and to investigate anyone who attempts to impede the investigation. Ultimately, the Special Counsel must report back to the Justice Department, who may, or may not, release it to the public. The Special Counsel may conclude nothing illegal happened, may seek criminal charges or recommend impeachment proceedings. 

The mere appointment of a Special Counsel does not mean that the President or any member of the President’s staff has committed an illegal act. In fact, just after the appointment, President Trump stated, "a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity...I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.” History tells us, though, that these investigations do not generally conclude quickly. The Special Counsel will have to hire a staff, secure a budget from the Justice Department, and collect the data necessary to make a proper recommendation.  The Watergate investigations into President Nixon lasted almost two years.

The appointment of a Special Counsel does not mean that other investigations will cease. Two House committees and two Senate committees are already examining possible connections between the Trump administration and Russia. Those investigations could continue. 

While the appointment of a Special Counsel seems like an extraordinary step, it has happened before. Special Counsels or Special Prosecutors (there is a slight difference due to a change in the law) examined both President Clinton and President Nixon. They have also examined government policies and actions when high ranking government officials were involved. Once an investigation begins, it can often head in unexpected directions. 

As Dr. Smith says, “There will obviously be more news to come and much to digest in the coming months. We advise you to chew slowly.”  If you want a deeper dive into this and other issues, next Wednesday, we current eventers will meet at 7:45 in Dr. Smith’s room.