Clinton Ignores Questions On Starr's New Job -- Feb. 18, 1997
Starr To Lead Pepperdine School Of Law -- Feb. 17, 1997
Starr: "Dangerous" To Conclude Probe Fading
FAIRFAX, Va. (AllPolitics, Feb. 19) -- Despite his decision to take a new job this August, independent Whitewater counsel Kenneth Starr said that important judgments in his investigation have not been made and that the Whitewater probe is fully capable of proceeding without him.
After Pepperdine University officials announced Starr would join their faculty effective Aug. 1, many wondered if Starr lacked hard evidence against President Bill Clinton and the first lady and had chosen to move on.
But in a pointed speech before the Fairfax Bar Association, Starr sought to quell that idea. He told a morning gathering he had decided to step aside after being offered a "unique" opportunity to become both dean of Pepperdine's law school and the founding dean of its new public policy school. "The timing was altogether outside my control," he said.
Moreover, in what seemed a veiled reference to the Clintons and top officials, Starr said crucial decisions are yet to be made.
"The fact, the reality is this: this investigation is active and it is at a sensitive stage, with ongoing evaluative judgments; those judgments have not been made," he said. And the investigation should not be affected by his departure, Starr said, since he had built a team of lawyers and an operation that can sustain itself without him, "an office prepared to complete its tasks."
It's "an office with institutional strength, and with continuity, and now with a culture, a culture of fidelity to Justice department norms and practice," he said.
At least one Capitol Hill Republican, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, disagreed. "There are many witnesses or potential witnesses who will be dissuaded by your departure as a sign that the issues will not be pursued with the same diligence," he wrote Starr, in a letter urging him to reconsider his resignation.
Starr's surprise announcement has set off a firestorm of speculation over the investigation, and has reignited his critics.
"The law says that the court should appoint someone who does [the job] quickly and stays with it 'til it's done," Democratic strategist James Carville told CNN. "It's a political process going here, this is not rooted in anything in the law. This is a Republican effort to harass the president, the first lady and their friends."
Starr this morning called proposals to put time limits on Whitewater-type investigations a "clear and present danger" to their orderly conduct. He also denied a report published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that his office had staged mock trials of the president and first lady. "It did not happen," he said.
In a related development, a Justice Department decision not to remove Starr from the Whitewater inquiry was made public Tuesday by a Francis T. Mandanici, a Connecticut public defender who had petitioned for his removal.
Mandanici had filed a complaint with Justice, citing Starr's involvement with Republican causes, and his investigation of the Resolution Trust Corporation at the same time the RTC was suing Starr's law firm.
But in a Feb. 7 letter to Mandanici, Justice wrote none of Starr's conduct "can be viewed as so `extreme' as to call for the attorney general's use of the extraordinary power of removal."
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