Last month, Attorney General William Barr announced that a special counsel would conduct a probe of the House of Representatives' bank. This removed the investigation from the control of Jay Stephens, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. Mr. Stephens is well known for his sting, indictment and conviction of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. Some critics of that operation thought Mr. Stephens, a Republican, may have been motivated in part by political considerations in going after the Democratic mayor. So in the unusual and explosive political circumstances involving the Democratic-controlled House bank, a special counsel is definitely indicated.
The statute establishing truly independent special counsels does not apply to investigations of congressional misdeeds. But Mr. Barr seems to have given his choice to conduct the bank probe, Malcolm Wilkey, a retired Republican federal judge for whom he once clerked, a free hand. He better have. If this investigation were ever exposed as a political fishing expedition manipulated in any way of, by or for the administration, it would backfire to the detriment of President Bush and the Justice Department.
Some Democrats suspect Mr. Wilkey of just that, now that he has subpoenaed all the House bank's records for the period under investigation. By "all," he means every check, deposit slip and monthly statement recorded by the bank. Thus the records -- and finances and life styles -- of numerous members of the House who have in no way been implicated in the bank scandals will potentially be subjected to outside scrutiny.