Former independent counsel Ken Starr said Sunday that “we’re much closer to getting the truth than we were before” former campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to several federal crimes and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday.
Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” whether President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s changing statements on the implications of Manafort’s plea deal suggest that the President’s legal team will soon go after Manafort, Starr said that Manafort’s previous proximity to Trump could result in “more delicate” treatment than Giuliani’s previous attacks on Mueller.
“I think that the Trump White House and the lawyers are taking a page from the Clinton playbook: Attack the prosecutor,” Starr said. “This is more delicate because now you have someone very close to the President, at least for a while, the campaign manager. I think you’ve got to be very careful.
“The real significance of what’s happened is we’re much closer to getting the truth than we were before this plea,” Starr added. “It is so terrific for the investigation and, frankly, the American people that we’re moving forward, we’re getting someone who may be knowledgeable.”
Starr acknowledged that Trump has the right to pardon Manafort, which the President has reportedly discussed with his legal team, but said such a move would be “unwise.”
“I think it would be unwise … because the process of justice has occurred. I don’t know of any justification for pardoning an individual who just stands convicted of very serious crimes and who just pled guilty to serious crimes,” Starr said. “The President does have the power to do that, but I think it would be an imprudent decision.”
When Tapper asked whether Trump could face impeachment, Starr said that he hoped not because “impeachment is hell.”
“The country should not be taken through that,” he continued. “The founding generation wisely knew that it was such a serious action, it should require a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
“Unless there is a growing national consensus that impeachment is proper, it’s doomed to fail and it’s just the wrong way to go.”
But if the investigation brings charges against Trump from any actions he might have made long ago, the result could be similar to the Clinton investigation, when many senators felt that Clinton’s crimes were too removed from the office of the presidency to warrant impeachment, Starr added.
“That may happen here, we’ll see,” he said. “All of this that is related thus far has to do with things that happened before the President of the united states, Donald Trump, was sworn in.”
Starr also contrasted Clinton’s and Trump’s styles, saying, “Bill Clinton had a very different style – charismatic, attractive and so forth – whereas Donald Trump comes directly at you as a New York street fighter.”