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US test authority of order for debategate prosecutor

The Justice Department said Wednesday that US District Judge Harold H. Greene lacked authority to order Attorney General William French Smith to request appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate how the 1980 Reagan campaign obtained briefing papers from the Carter White House.

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The department, in a petition to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, asked for a delay until the appellate court could hear and rule on an appeal by the government.