AP allowed Starr to dodge blame for going after Clinton on Lewinsky

On December 3, the Associated Press reported that "[former independent counsel] Kenneth Starr says he never should have led the investigation that resulted in the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton" -- but did not point out that Starr himself sought the authority to conduct that investigation. According to the AP, Starr told the Santa Barbara News-Press that "'the most fundamental thing that could have been done differently' was for somebody else to have investigated Clinton's statements under oath denying he had an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky." Starr also said, “There was a sense on the part of the country that my (Lewinsky) effort was an effort somehow to expand the (Whitewater) investigation, when it was separate.”

The AP failed to mention that: 1) Starr actively sought (and ultimately attained) authority to investigate the Lewinsky matter, and 2) evidence shows that Starr's Lewinsky investigation was in fact an effort on his part to expand the Whitewater investigation, since it had become apparent that Whitewater was not yielding sufficient evidence to bring any charges against Clinton. The independent counsel's investigation of the Clintons lasted seven years and cost approximately $70 million.

While Starr now claims that he never should have led the investigation into the Lewinsky matter, he was not the reluctant investigator that the AP article suggests he was. In January 1998, Starr actively sought jurisdiction to expand his Whitewater investigation to include the Lewinsky matter. New Yorker staff writer and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote in his book A Vast Conspiracy (Random House, December 1999) that Starr's chief Washington deputy, Jackie Bennett, and associate independent counsel Stephen Bates sent a letter to then Attorney General Janet Reno on January 15, 1998, “formally asking her to petition the court to expand Starr's mandate to include the Lewinsky matter.” Toobin then noted: “Politically there was little Reno and [Deputy Attorney General Eric] Holder could do except agree to Starr's request. Based on the sketchy, incomplete picture that Jackie Bennett had presented, the Justice Department could scarcely have refused to go to the three-judge court and ask to broaden the prosecutor's [Starr's] jurisdiction.” Later that day, Starr was granted jurisdiction.

Evidence contradicts Starr's recent claim that the Lewinsky probe “was separate” from the Whitewater investigation and was not an effort on his part to expand it. Toobin wrote that Starr's letter to Reno asking the court to expand his jurisdiction to include the Lewinsky matter “illustrated just how desperately the Starr team wanted to hold on to the nascent [Lewinsky] investigation.”

According to a June 25, 1997, Washington Post article, Starr had begun researching Clinton's personal life the previous year:

Agents also have questioned a number of women whose names have been mentioned in connection with President Clinton in the past, the sources said. ... [T]he extensive interviews were part of an effort by Starr's office to find close Clinton associates in whom he may have confided and who might be able to provide information about the veracity of sworn statements Clinton has made in the course of the Whitewater investigation.

When Starr demanded jurisdiction in the Lewinsky issue in January 1998, he did so on the basis that there were overlapping types of alleged crimes, witnesses, and possible targets in the Whitewater and Lewinsky matters. Starr noted that Lewinsky-related matters naturally fit within the Whitewater investigation -- and that was why he should be given jurisdiction, rather than someone else. In the January 15, 1998, letter to Reno, Starr justified his desire to expand his jurisdiction by stating, “Ms. Lewinsky's statements suggest that the very same individuals [that Starr was investigating in Whitewater] are using the very same tactics in the [Paula Jones] civil case. In particular, we are already investigating [Clinton friend and adviser] Vernon Jordan for having helped arrange employment for [former associate attorney general] Webster Hubbell.” Starr also wrote, “Mr. Jordan's and Ms. Lewinsky's alleged efforts to suborn perjury fall within our jurisdiction.”

Starr used Jordan as an excuse to link the Whitewater investigation with the Paula Jones case and Monica Lewinsky. As Toobin wrote, “the Vernon Jordan connection did serve as the narrow bridge to allow Starr to march his divisions from the failed land deal in Arkansas [Whitewater investigation] to the presidential boudoir [Lewinsky investigation].”