Co-written by Quin Hillyer and James Robertson at the Washington Examiner

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday exceeded its bounds in issuing a subpoena for the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian skullduggery concerning the 2016 elections.

Attorney General William Barr should release as much of the Mueller report as possible, as soon as possible, because the public has a right to see what all the fuss was about. Yet if he determines that some information within it is either classified or subject to grand jury secrecy rules, he is duty-bound to redact it. Unless Congress passes, and President Trump signs, a new law waiving grand jury secrecy rules, then existing laws protecting that secrecy should take legal precedence over Congress’ subpoena authority.

This is decidedly not a similar situation to the 1998 investigation of, and eventual impeachment of, then-President Bill Clinton. That investigation was led not by a special counsel, which is what Robert Mueller was, but by an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr. The difference is significant.

Under the independent counsel statute, which has since lapsed (and always was of dubious constitutionality anyway), such counsels were creatures of, and reported to, Congress. They existed independent of, and separate from, the ordinary lines of authority within the Justice Department and the executive branch. When House Speaker Newt Gingrich and company made the foolish decision to post the full Starr report immediately on the Internet, they had full power to do so because Starr’s report was specifically theirs to use as they saw fit.

Special counsels are different. Special counsels, while enjoying a modicum of separation from ordinary lines of authority in the Justice Department, are nonetheless still ultimately part of the department and the executive branch as a whole. They report to the attorney general (or his designee), and they must follow all ordinary rules of civil and criminal procedure….

[The full column is here.]

Note: James Robertson is a lawyer in Mobile, AL.