In the end -- after a wasteful 11 years and a misspent $21 million -- Special Prosecutor David M. Barnett today brought forth a mouse in the matter of whether former
There was no question that Cisneros had tax troubles and lied to FBI agents about them when he was being considered for the cabinet-level position, so the longest and most ridiculous independent counsel investigation ever was bound to end with a whimper and not a bang.
What is not so ridiculous is an important sidelight: Barnett’s scathing conclusion that the
Cisneros resigned his post, was indicted on 18 felony counts and eventually pleaded guilty to a measly misdemeanor charge of lying to investigators.
Barrett kept the pedal to the metal for more than six years after the law that created the special prosecutor system was allowed to die. The law was not renewed after both Democrats and Republicans agreed that the goal of keeping political influence out of criminal investigations of high-ranking officials had failed. Exhibit A in that regard was Kenneth Starr, whose tenure as a special prosecutor began in 1994 with an investigation of the so-called Whitewater scandal but when that didn't pan out morphed into a right-wing Republican-backed