Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Clinton, has died.
On September 18, 2018, in Washington, DC, at the American Enterprise Institute, former independent counsel Ken Starr responded to inquiries.
Kenneth Winston Starr, a former United States Attorney General who rose to international prominence in the 1990s as an independent counsel who relentlessly probed President Bill Clinton through a string of political scandals, has died. He was 76 years old at the time.
Starr died as a result of surgical complications, according to his family.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our dear father and grandfather, whom we admired for his amazing work ethic but who always put his family first. The love, energy, endearing sense of humor, and fun-loving interest Dad showed each of us were truly special, and we cherish the many wonderful memories we were privileged to experience with him," Starr's son Randall said on behalf of his children.
Starr, who was a member of the defense team during former President Donald Trump's first impeachment hearing, was also president of Baylor College from 2010 to 2016. "Judge Starr was a committed public servant and an enthusiastic defender for religious freedom, which permits faith-based universities like Baylor to thrive," said Baylor President Linda Livingstone in a statement Tuesday.
Starr, a conservative Republican, began his investigation of Clinton in 1994, when he was appointed as an independent counsel in the investigation of the then-president and Hillary Clinton's participation in the Whitewater real estate controversy by a federal appeals court. The Clintons were not convicted in that case, but Starr's inquiry into the Clintons' financial transactions subsequently grew to include sexual harassment charges by Paula Jones, leading Starr to oversee the investigation into the president's romance with Monica Lewinsky.
Clinton was subsequently charged for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstruction of justice as a result of the Lewinsky scandal, but he was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999 and served out the remainder of his term.
For more than a year, the controversy consumed Washington and much of the media, and both Starr and Clinton were voted Time's Men of the Year in 1998. Starr's probe was viewed as reflecting an era of more acrimonious politics paired with a tabloid interest in politicians' private lives. Starr's report to Congress on the affair was heavily condemned for exposing various gruesome details about Clinton and Lewinsky's sexual interaction.
Starr denied that his study on Clinton was political in nature.
"I was engaged by the attorney general to investigate whether or not there were any crimes committed in this sexual harassment claim (Paula Jones)," Starr explained at the time. "The concept of equal justice before the law implies that you must follow the rules; it has nothing to do with the underlying facts; you just speak the truth."
In October 1999, he resigned as independent counsel, citing the "severe politicization of the independent counsel process."
Starr is survived by his wife, Alice, and three children, whom he married in 1970.
A lengthy legal career
Starr was born in Vernon, Texas on July 21, 1946, and attended Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, before transferring to George Washington University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in history in 1968. He received a master's degree in political science from Brown University in 1969 and a law degree from Duke University Law School in 1973. Starr clerked for Fifth Circuit Judge David W. Dyer and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger after law school before joining the Los Angeles law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.
He became counsel to the United States after working on President Ronald Reagan's transition team. In 1981, Attorney General William French Smith. In 1983, Reagan nominated him and the Senate approved him to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals After serving as a federal judge, he was appointed as U.S. Attorney General by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, where he argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court, according to the Justice Department. In 1993, he returned to the private sector to work for the Chicago legal firm Kirkland & Ellis.
"Ken loved our nation and served it with passion and distinction," Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday, referring to Starr's time on Smith's staff and as his deputy while he was attorney general.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Starr as "a great jurist, a forceful leader, and a loyal American" in McConnell v. FEC.
"Through his illustrious tenure on the D.C. Ken has dedicated his incredible energy and intellect to promoting justice, defending the Constitution, and preserving the rule of law in the Fifth Circuit, as Solicitor General, as an independent counsel, and beyond," the Kentucky Republican stated.
Starr was also a member of Jeffrey Epstein's legal team when the accused paedophile accepted a plea deal in 2008 that kept him out of federal prison. He also defended Blackwater USA personnel accused with war crimes in Fallujah during the Iraq War. Four former Blackwater contractors were found guilty and sentenced to harsh jail terms in 2014, but Trump pardoned them in 2020.
In addition to his professional practice, Starr was dean and professor at Pepperdine University Law School from 2004 to 2010. He was also the president of Baylor University until being ousted after an independent review discovered a "fundamental failure" to effectively react to student complaints of sexual assault.
When Trump requested Starr to join his legal team in his first Senate impeachment trial to fight for his acquittal in 2020, he brought him back into the public glare. The selection of Starr undoubtedly brought up memories of another period when Washington was preoccupied with impeachment procedures, when politics became more difficult on the belt, and a president with a tumultuous personal life and a desire to dominate the media was in office.
This report was updated on Tuesday with new information.