Baltimore Sun

Special counsel’s investigat­ion led to impeachmen­t of Clinton


WASHINGTON — Ken Starr, a former federal appellate judge and a prominent attorney whose criminal investigat­ion of President Bill Clinton led to his impeachmen­t, died Tuesday at age 76, relatives said.

Starr died at a hospital of complicati­ons from surgery, according to his former colleague, attorney Mark Lanier. He said Starr had been hospitaliz­ed in an intensive care unit in Houston for about four months.

In 2020, he was recruited to the legal team representi­ng President Donald Trump in the nation’s third presidenti­al impeachmen­t trial.

For many years, Starr’s stellar reputation as a lawyer seemed to place him on a path to the Supreme Court.

At age 37, he became the youngest person ever to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader

Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also had served. From 1989 to 1993, Starr was the solicitor general in the administra­tion of President George H.W. Bush, arguing 25 cases before the Supreme Court.

In a probe that lasted five years, Starr looked into fraudulent real estate deals involving a longtime Clinton associate, delved into the removal of documents from the office of deputy White

House counsel Vincent Foster after his suicide and assembled evidence of Clinton’s sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

Each of the controvers­ies held the potential to do serious, perhaps fatal, damage to Clinton’s presidency.

As Clinton’s legal problems worsened, the White House pilloried Starr as a right-wing fanatic doing the bidding of Republican­s bent on destroying the president.

“The assaults took a toll” on the investigat­ion, Starr told a Senate committee in 1999. “A duly authorized federal law enforcemen­t investigat­ion came to be characteri­zed as yet another political game. Law became politics by other means.”

In a bitter finish to his investigat­ion of the Lewinsky affair that engendered still more criticism, Starr filed a report, as the law required, with the House of Representa­tives. He concluded that Clinton lied under oath, engaged in obstructio­n of justice and followed a pattern of conduct that was inconsiste­nt with the president’s constituti­onal duty to faithfully execute the laws.

House Republican­s used Starr’s report as a road map in the impeachmen­t of the president, who was acquitted in a Senate trial.

In a memorable statement to Congress during the Trump impeachmen­t trial, Starr said “we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the ‘age of impeachmen­t.’” He said that “like war, impeachmen­t is hell, or at least presidenti­al impeachmen­t is hell.”

Putting the Clinton investigat­ion behind him, Starr embarked on a career in academia, first as dean of the law school at Pepperdine University, then as president of Baylor University in his home state of Texas. He also became an author, writing “First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life.”

Starr was demoted from the presidency at Baylor in 2016 amid a sex assault scandal that rocked the Big 12 school and its football program, as women alleged campus leaders at the nation’s largest Baptist school bungled or ignored their assault complaints. Baylor eventually settled with several women who filed a cascade of lawsuits, including a case where the victim of a 2015 attack accused Baylor of fostering a “hunting ground for sexual predators.”

The school’s board of regents allowed Starr to stay on as chancellor and law school professor, jobs that carried no “operationa­l” duties at Baylor. He resigned altogether a few months later.

Football coach Art Briles also was fired.

In a statement, Starr apologized to “those victims who were not treated with the care, concern, and support they deserve.”

Born July 21, 1946, in Vernon and raised in San Antonio, Starr earned his B.A. from George Washington University in 1968, his M.A. from Brown University in 1969 and his J.D. degree from Duke University Law School in 1973. He was a law clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger from 1975 to 1977.

As a young attorney at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles, Starr worked with William French Smith, who became attorney general in the administra­tion of President Ronald Reagan.

 ?? ALEX EDELMAN/GETTY 2020 ?? Ken Starr, 76, died at a Houston hospital of complicati­ons from surgery.
ALEX EDELMAN/GETTY 2020 Ken Starr, 76, died at a Houston hospital of complicati­ons from surgery.

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