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.