Kenneth W. Starr
Republican attorney Ken Starr, who took over the Whitewater probe in August 1994, possesses an all-star Washington resume that includes stints as Solicitor General under George Bush, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and clerk to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger.
Though viewed by some as too partisan, Starr's inquiry was energized in May 1996 by the convictions of three Whitewater defendants -- former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and former Clinton business partners Jim and Susan McDougal. Since then, Attorney General Janet Reno has expanded the scope of Starr's probe to consider whether laws were broken with regard to Travelgate (the firing of seven longtime White House travel workers) and the FBI files flap (the White House's improper collection of background files).
Starr's momentum slowed in July, when the jury in the second Whitewater trial acquitted Whitewater defendants Herby Branscum Jr. and Robert Hill on several counts of bank fraud, and deadlocked on the other counts. Though some had predicted an "October Surprise" of campaign season indictments, Starr kept a low profile throughout the fall.
Since then, a vocal band of detractors, including Democratic strategist James Carville and Whitewater defendant Susan McDougal, have sought to portray the independent prosecutor as bent on a politically motivated effort to destroy the Clintons. Though Starr has retained a prominent Democratic lawyer for ethics advice, his decisions to speak at a law school founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, and to maintain private clients with interests opposed to the Clinton Administration, have given his critics ammunition.
More damaging, however, may have been Starr's February 1997 flip-flop. After word leaked he planned to resign from the Whitewater probe effective Aug. 1, 1997, to accept a position as dean of Pepperdine University's law school, Starr reversed himself in the face of intense criticism. Even defenders questioned his judgment and he admitted his error.
Starr has assembled small armies of lawyers in Little Rock and Washington for an investigation that, by various accounts, is fast approaching its moment of truth -- namely, the decision whether to issue indictments against the president, the first lady, or any of their associates.
Updated Mar. 3, 1997
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