Taking fire from Donald Trump on trade policy, Hillary Clinton proposed during Monday's night's presidential debate creating a "special prosecutor" to pursue cases against countries that cheat on trade deals. But it wasn't that long ago that Clinton and her husband weren't so fond of special prosecutors.
Special prosecutors or special counsels are outside, independent lawyers usually appointed by the Justice Department or Congress to investigate cases outside the normal system when perceived conflicts of interest are raised. They've been appointed
in scandals from Watergate to Whitewater.
During her husband's presidency, special prosecutors investigated a plethora of scandals ranging from Travelgate (the firing of White House travel office officials) to the death of a presidential lawyer named Vince Foster (one of Mrs. Clinton's former law partners).
The most famous special prosecutor investigations from that era eventually rolled up into a single probe known as Whitewater headed by former solicitor general Ken Starr, who was named an independent
The Clintons and their allies relentlessly attacked Starr, accusing him of political bias, strong-arm tactics and intimidation.
But in the end, Starr successfully prosecuted numerous people close to the Clintons for crimes ranging from fraud to fleecing a savings and loan.
And the evidence he gathered led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton for a sex scandal during his presidency involving intern Monica Lewinsky.
The Whitewater prosecutors also drafted an indictment against Hillary Clinton for lying and obstructing justice during the probe but in the end decided not to bring charges,
After he left office, Bill Clinton assailed the special prosecutors, suggesting they used their legal powers to impact political power.
"This was not about evidence. This was about a struggle for power. I think they really saw us as usurpers," Clinton said, referring to the Starr probe. "They honestly believe that the most important thing is that
people that espouse conservative values and antigovernment policies and their economic philosophy be in power."
Starr always denied any political motives and recently praised Clinton as a gifted politician.
But the Clinton team's disdain for the special prosecutor system led it in 1999 to send then-Attorney General Janet Reno to Congress and urge that the Independent Counsel law that empowered Starr and others prosecutors like him be allowed to expire.
"The Act has failed to live up to its promise. In the first place, it has failed to instill confidence among the public that politics has been removed from the process," Reno testified during a hearing just a few short weeks after Bill Clinton was acquitted in a Senate trial on his impeachment charges.
More recently, Republicans from Trump to Congress have suggested a special prosecutor be named to investigate the Clinton Foundation and its fundraising during Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.
The Clinton campaign hasn't
addressed those requests, instead saying any issues will be resolved if Mrs. Clinton becomes president because the foundation will stop accepting foreign donations.
Under Hillary Clinton's new proposal, a special trade prosecutor independent of the normal federal trade agencies and reporting to the White House would review the impact of trade deals and bring cases in international venues against policies or practices that were unfair to Americans.