Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declined, for now, to appoint a special counselor to investigate DoJ and FBI handling of the Hillary Clinton email “investigation” and other matters.
Instead, Sessions has gone one better. He’s appointed John Huber, US Attorney for the District of Utah, and so not a denizen of the Beltway (like Special Counselor Robert Mueller is) to investigate the nature of the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page and connections, if any, between the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One, and to work with the DoJ IG to look into the FBI’s handling of Clinton’s email fiasco and the FBI’s interaction with the FISA star chamber court.
In essence, Huber’s appointment is equivalent to a special counselor appointment, but without the political baggage (although some will try to create baggage on the basis of his not being formally a special counselor).
While the IG has the expertise it needs to look into these matters, he can’t compel testimony, and he can’t prosecute, although his findings certainly can be used by an Attorney General to conduct prosecutions. Huber, though, can compel testimony as part of his investigation and his work with the IG, and he can prosecute miscreants. The two investigations—his own and his work with the IG—will produce all the results of a special counselor without serious political baggage.
The downside of special prosecutor assignments, whether explicit as with Robert Mueller, or tacit as with this appointment, is the lack of specificity of the assignment. Sessions needs to lay out clearly the scope of Huber’s new assignment, including, especially, sharp boundaries for that scope, with no gray areas or penumbras surrounding it.