Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken Starr -- Feb. 5, 1998
(Joined in progress)
STARR: ... a hearing on pretrial motions. The judge
disposed of all motions at the hearing today.
I don't think I need to summarize that for you. If you have
questions about it, to the extent we can, we will answer those.
Let me introduce Tom Dawson (ph), who will be representing
the United States as first chair in the trial. Mr. Dawson (ph)
is a career prosecutor. He's an assistant United States
attorney from Oxford, Mississippi, for the District of
Mississippi, has tried many cases -- a variety of trials over
He has also served in the Justice Department in the criminal
division, is one of the Department of Justice's most experienced
senior career prosecutors.
Also, is Mark Bared (ph). Mark is, likewise, a career
assistant United States attorney from the District of Colorado
in Denver. Prior to that, he was in the Western District of
Texas. Many of you here know Ray Yon (ph), who was first chair
at trial, and Leroy Yon (ph), the husband-wife team in the first
Tucker case and the Jim and Susan McDougal case.
Mr. Bared (ph) served with Ray and Leroy Yon (ph) in the
Western District of Texas before moving on to a very responsible
position as a senior trial lawyer in that very distinguished
office in Denver, Colorado.
Also with me is Roger Heedon (ph). Roger is a career
assistant United States attorney. He is serving in the Southern
District of Illinois, in Springfield, Illinois, and has a very
distinguished background, including in public corruption cases
and successfully tried two jury verdicts -- a recent case
involving a very serious corruption matter in the state of
Illinois involving state government in Illinois, a very
experienced public corruption prosecutor.
Also Julie Meyers (ph) -- Julie is joining us not
from a United States attorney's office but from a very
distinguished law firm in Chicago, Illinois, not my own firm,
and is a very skilled lawyer, a former law clerk on the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and is handling
a number of our, shall I say, legal issues. You heard a number
of legal issues addressed in court today, those of you who were
there. And Julie has been assisting on that as well as just the
preparation of the government's case.
The United States is ready for trial. Do you have any
QUESTION: Judge, does Monica Lewinsky have a deadline of
tomorrow to cooperate or else?
STARR: I'm not going to comment. I know there's a lot of
public commentary. I was made aware earlier this morning of a
press report with respect to that. But I have adopted a policy,
which I think is sound. It is prudent that I should not discuss
negotiations and discussions when they're under way. I don't
think that's useful.
I will simply say this: We are going by the book. We want
the truth. We want all the truth. We want it completely,
accurately. And we will satisfy ourselves that we're getting the
And that is the absolute, bedrock point. We want the truth.
The attorney general of the United States gave this office
jurisdiction over very serious allegations.
Those allegations are a possible obstruction of
justice, intimidation of witnesses and subordination of perjury.
That is an extraordinary set of circumstances. We're
investigating those as promptly, as quickly as we can. But I'm
not going to comment...
QUESTION: Is it still open?
STARR: I just said -- and I'm trying to make it clear, the
reason -- I don't think it's helpful to discuss the state of
specific communications, discussions, negotiations.
QUESTION: Well, are you prepared to fight another executive
privilege claim by the White House to the Supreme Court?
STARR: Well, Mr. Jefferson, we have to do what we have to do
to get out the facts. I have the utmost respect for the
presidency and separation of powers. We will therefore of
course assess any such issue as it might arise. But I don't
anticipate it. We will see.
I have high regard for Mr. Roth. I think he's an
extraordinarily able lawyer, and beyond that, I'm not going to
comment at this time.
QUESTION: Is the White House stonewalling on giving you
STARR: Mr. Jefferson, I think I will not characterize any
course of action or conduct.
QUESTION: Are you still talking to Ms. Lewinsky's lawyers?
STARR: Well, again, I'm not going to comment on the status
of our negotiations. That again, if you ask specific facts,
Linda, which you're entitled to do, I just hope you understand,
especially when you ask a kind of question about the status of
someone who might be a witness, that goes to the heart of the
grand jury process.
And I think it's important for me to say this at this time: I
know there is every public interest in knowing as many facts as
you possibly can. As I've said before, outside this courthouse,
unless we are talking in court, we as officers of the United
States have to be very careful, because we're under obligations.
Those are obligations of law; they're obligations of ethics.
The obligation of laws, I cannot answer some of the
questions that you understandably have. I'm sympathetic with
that. But I am under a legal obligation not to talk about facts
going before the grand jury. I think it is apparent to each of
you that there is a very active grand jury investigation under
way. I believe in that system.
I believe in having testimony and evidence put before 23 men
and women drawn at random. That's our system. That is
government by the people. It's not government by prosecutors.
It's putting evidence before a grand jury. That is our system.
It's a sound system. It's centuries old. It was ordained at
the founding of the American republic. Part of that is, guard
the confidentiality of that.
So, I'm sorry that I can't answer specific questions about
QUESTION: Do you not think the assertion of executive
privilege is applicable in this case?
STARR: I beg your pardon?
QUESTION: Do you not think the White House has a position to
exert, or assert executive privilege?
STARR: Well, I think everyone recognizes that it is a
serious matter indeed for their to be an invocation of executive
privilege. And so, we will simply see whether that privilege is
invoked. And then again, we will have to assess that. But I
have to again comment that when you say the invocation of the
privilege, that would be an invocation of the privilege that is
a recognized constitutional privilege.
But it would be what? -- it would be to prevent the grand
jury from getting specific information.
Now, there are privileges that are important. And that's why
the law recognizes the ability to keep a fact-finder, the grand
jury, from having access to it. But if I go beyond the comments
I made, I would be trenching on the grand jury's function.
QUESTION: Does your history with Mr. Rader (ph) in the Jones
case add to the speculation that there is...
I think that question has been asked and answered.
QUESTION: Are you frustrated that Monica Lewinsky has failed
to explain the Linda Tripp talking points?
STARR: Well, again, James, I really cannot comment on
specific aspects of the investigation. And that's a very
specific, legitimate question -- because I'm aware of published
reports as to the particular item that you've mentioned.
My interest and that of the career prosecutors in my office
is very simple: It is to talk facts. It's to talk merits. It's
not to talk about side issues. It is, what are the facts?l of the facts, and we
want people to be accurate
and truthful with us.
That is the bottom line. There must be truthfulness. There
must be accuracy. There must be completeness. We call it
Is that witness being transparent? Or is the witness not
being transparent? And professionals make that evaluation. We
do in human life. Is a person being completely honest and
transparent? Or does the person not have those qualities of
Those are the issues that we have to face, and I am fortunate
in saying I'm advised by some of the most able and experienced
career prosecutors in the United States.
Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) talked about how he's going to
cooperate with your counsel. Has the White House been
cooperating? Can you tell us that?
STARR: Well, I'm not going to characterize the state of
issues. I will just say this: From time to time, I have
discussions with the White House counsel. And those discussions
have always been cordial and professional.
QUESTION: But are they giving you all the documents that you
STARR: On that, I'm not going to characterize about the
state of the evidence. What we are looking for is all the
It is helpful to us. It's helpful to the country for
as much information as possible. If it exists, we would like
it. We would like to present it to the grand jury. We will be
transparent. We will say, here it is. Give it to us. We would
be delighted to have it. We will assess it. It goes before the
grand jury for the grand jury to evaluate.
QUESTION: Have you considered that Ms. Lewinsky has lied to
Ms. Tripp and you're sitting here holding the bag?
STARR: Well, I'm definitely not going to characterize a
particular witness and motivations.
QUESTION: Where would you -- how would you characterize
where your investigation stands right now, Judge?
STARR: Moving very quickly, and we have made very
QUESTION: Do you share Judge Wright's concerns about the
leaks? And if you do, what have you done to make sure they're
not coming from your office?
STARR: Well, I...
QUESTION: Or are they coming from your office?
STARR: No. But I share the concern with any assault on the
rule of law. It is something that we learn as school children
in this country that we are governed not by human will -- we say
a government of laws, and not of men and women. It has to be
that we abide by the rules. And the judge imposes rules. And
we should, as officers of the court, scrupulously abide by that.
I regret that there have been instances, so it would appear,
when that rule has not been abided by. I also understand full
well the media's interest in issues in litigation, and they
would like to know as much as possible. But the judge has
reached her judgment that for the protection of the integrity of
that litigation, there should be an order of confidentiality
I respect that. I respect it scrupulously and so does my
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the grand jury now in Little Rock is
due to expire I think fairly soon. Does the OIC believe another
grand jury will be warranted indicating...
STARR: I don't want to comment on that, Steve, other than to
say we have every interest in bringing our work to a conclusion
as rapidly as possible.
QUESTION: Are criminal contempt charges against Susan
McDougal in the offing?
STARR: I'm not going to comment on that, Joan.
QUESTION: Even though the 8th Circuit is still sitting on
Mr. Tucker's appeal from the first trial, are you nervous about
trying him a second time?
STARR: No. Our state is not -- as you perhaps ascertained
in our hearing today, the United States is ready. We're ready
for trial. Obviously, I hope that we don't have to have
retrials. There are people here on this at this point right now
who sat through many weeks of trial.
I think we had an honest and honorable jury that listened to
all the evidence and came to its determination. In contrast
here, the evidence hasn't been put before the jury.
And I do want to reiterate, there is a presumption of
innocence that anyone charged with an offense in our system.
That's a very vital protection that we all have.
QUESTION: Why do you think the 8th Circuit hasn't made the
decision? They've been sitting on it almost a year.
STARR: Well, there were a number of issues with real
tribute. And let me pay tribute to the lawyers for Governor
Tucker and Mrs. McDougal. They are exceptionally able and
skilled lawyers. And the 8th Circuit was presented with a whole
host of issues. It was a very lengthy trial.
So I don't -- having been privileged to serve for a time on
the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., I never speculate
unduly, let's say, about why a particular case might take more
time than obviously any of us would like. We would like to have
as much certainty as possible.
But it's in the court's hands. It was argued on April 17 of
last year. Many of us were here two days before that for the
sentencing of Mr. McDougal. I got on an airplane. I flew to
St. Louis. I was privileged to stand at the podium to argue for
the United States at that time. The matter is under submission,
and I look forward to the result, whatever it may be.
QUESTION: You've had a lot on your plate the last couple of
weeks. Has it had any negative impact as you prepare for this
trial, this month?
STARR: No, because as you can tell from today -- those of
you who were in there today. In fact, let me just say about our
office that we have been charged by the attorney general of the
United States with a variety of responsibilities. It is a
misconception to believe that we're only looking at one specific
matter called Whitewater. That has not been the case from the
outset. It was not the case when Mr. Fiske was here. It was
not the case that I inherited.
And today, we are looking ahead to trial in a matter that Mr.
Fiske began the investigation of. These are allegations. There
is a presumption of innocence.
But those of you in court, who were there in court
today, saw that the United States is ready for trial. And we --
if we are called upon -- are prepared to put on our case, again,
consistent with the presumption of innocence.
QUESTION: Judge, your investigation has been characterized
as sort of being at war with the White House. I wonder what
your reaction to that characterization is?
STARR: Our job is to really be professionals, and I don't
use any characterization of that at all. You know, our -- as
you can tell by the people who are with me, we try to be
professionals. We are professional, and we always try to do
that -- to try our cases in court, to present evidence to grand
juries, and then for grand juries to come to determinations.
And we've had a very conscientious grand jury sitting in this
district. Before that...
If I may. Before that, another very conscientious
grand jury, and a grand jury that returned serious indictments.
And then we've had trials in this district. And we've
enjoyed some success and we've had setbacks. That happens in
But throughout, our job is to do our job. It is not to
engage in politics.
I think there are those who view law as simply politics by
another means. We do not. The law is the law. The law is
sacred. The facts have integrity, and we're going to go about
Thanks very much.