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Rep. Barney Frank Questions Starr

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank.

    REP. BARNEY FRANK (D-MA): Mr. Starr, Judge Johnson has found 24 instances of prima facie violations by your office of Rule 6(e). Now that's not determinative of whether or not they happened, but -- so I'd like to ask you: Are you aware of any member of your staff who in fact committed a violation, as defined by Judge Johnson? Are you --

    MR. STARR: Oh, as defined -- sorry.

    REP. FRANK: -- aware in any of those 24 instances whether or not a member of your staff in fact was guilty of what Judge Johnson has found to be a prima facie violation?

    MR. STARR: We do not think that we have violated 6(e) at all --

    REP. FRANK: No, specifically on the 24 instances, because you may differ with her in part about how you define 6(e). But as she defines 6(e), are you aware of any member of your staff who committed a violation as she defined it?

    MR. STARR: Well, with all respect, I think that is an unfair question, and the reason I do --

    REP. FRANK: All right, then I'll withdraw it, Mr. Starr. You're the expert on unfair questions! If you're telling me it's an unfair question, I'll withdraw it. (Laughter.)

    So let me ask again, did anybody on your staff, to your knowledge, do the things which Judge Johnson has included in her list of the 24, understanding that you may think that if they did them they weren't violations. But did anybody in your staff give out that information on any of those 24 instances?

    MR. STARR: There are a couple of issues or instances in which we issued a press release where we do have -- you know, we clearly issued a press release with respect to certain matters.

    But may I say this? I am operating under a sealed litigation proceeding. And what I'm trying to suggest is I'm happy to answer as fully as I can, except with respect --

    REP. FRANK: But, Mr. Starr, if you are suggesting that you can't answer under this particular proceeding, it's sealed at your request to the extent that it's sealed at all.

    So you could waive it; that is, Judge Johnson granted a motion for an open procedure. You appealed this to the circuit court, and they closed it up. So if you didn't object, nobody else will.

    So -- I mean, if you didn't do any of the leaking, why don't you just tell us, if it's wrong factually? And if, on the other hand, you are going to say, "Well, you successfully got the Circuit Court to seal it," I suppose I can't do much. But I don't understand why you wouldn't just tell us?

    MR. STARR: Let me make very briefly these points: We believe that we have completely complied with our obligations --

    REP. FRANK: But that wasn't my question, Mr. --

    MR. STARR: -- under 6(e).

    REP. HYDE: (Off mike) -- Mr. Frank.

    REP. FRANK: It wasn't my question, Mr. Chairman, and I only have five minutes. My question was whether, as Judge Johnson set it forward, they did this. They can differ with her as to the law. I am not debating the law here. I was trying to elicit a factual response.

    MR. STARR: The second point that I was trying to make is that I am operating under a sealed proceeding.

    REP. FRANK: Sealed at your request, correct?

    MR. STARR: No, Mr. Frank. It is sealed by the chief judge based upon her determination of --

    REP. FRANK: But, Mr. Starr, isn't it the case that she granted a much more open proceeding and you appealed that and got the Circuit Court to severely restrict the procedure on the grounds that hers was too open? Isn't that true?

    MR. STARR: Congressman Frank, what she did was to provide for a procedure that didn't provide, quote, "openness"; it provided for an adversarial process, and this is all in the public domain.

    REP. FRANK: Right.

    MR. STARR: But from this point forward, no, she is the custodian and the guide with respect --

    REP. FRANK: Would you ask her to release that? I mean, I think there is a severe important public interest in dealing with this leak question. It goes to the credibility of a lot of what you have done. Would you then join -- and maybe everybody would join; maybe the White House would join and others -- in asking Judge Johnson to relax that so we could get the answers publicly, because I think there is a lot of public interest, legitimate interest, in this?

    MR. STARR: I am happy to consider that, but I am not going to make -- with all respect -- a legal judgment right on the spot with respect to a proceeding that is --

    REP. FRANK: Well, then let me -- you have a right now, too. But now, I just want a couple other questions:

    You say in page nine of the referral that 595 says -- suggests that you send us information based on a referral as soon as it becomes clear to you. That's what bothers me about the FBI file and Travel Office issues. You say on page 47 of the testimony: "Our investigation, which has been thorough, found no evidence that anyone higher than Mr. Livingstone or Mr. Marceca was involved."

    When did you investigation determine that?

    MR. STARR: Well, under 595(c) --

    REP. FRANK: Excuse me. That's a simple factual question, Mr. Starr: When did you determine that?

    MR. STARR: Determine that -- ?

    REP. FRANK: That nobody higher than Mr. Livingstone or Mr. Marceca was involved.

    MR. STARR: We determined that some months ago.

    REP. FRANK: Okay. Well before the election. You also have, with regard to the Travel Office, a statement that the president's not involved. When did you determine with regard to the Travel Office that the president was not involved?

    MR. STARR: We had --

    REP. FRANK: This is factual, Mr. Starr. When?

    MR. STARR: We -- it is not a date certain. We have no information with respect to --

    REP. FRANK: I'll take a date ambiguous. (Laughter.) Give me an approximate.

    MR. STARR: We have -- first of all, there is an investigation that is continuing. And as of this date of reporting, we do not have any information that the president is involved.

    REP. FRANK: Let me just say this. And here's what disturbs me greatly. You say on page 9 that, yes, you should send us this information. Before the election, you sent us a lot of information about the president that was to his discredit in some cases, and you found it very derogatory in other cases. You also had been studying for far longer than the Lewinsky case the FBI and the Travel Office. You tell us that months ago you concluded that the president was not involved in the FBI files, and you've never had any evidence he was involved in the Travel Office; yet now, several weeks after the election, is the first time you're saying that. Why did you withhold that before the election, when you were sending us the referral with a lot of negative stuff about the president, and only now, despite your saying that the statute suggests you tell us as soon as possible, you give us this exoneration of the president several weeks after the election?

    MR. STARR: Mr. Frank, what we have tried to do is be responsive to Congress, which has said, "Provide us with information. Is there any other additional information that would be useful?"

    REP. FRANK: But why didn't you tell us before the election about this, according to your reading of the statute?

    MR. STARR: Congressman Frank, the reason is because what we provided you in the referral is substantial and credible information of possible potential offenses. The silence with respect to anything else means necessarily that we had not concluded --

    REP. FRANK: In other words, don't have anything to say unless you have something bad to say. You've concluded in the FBI files --

    REP. : Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman.

    REP. FRANK: -- you said you concluded in the FBI files --

    REP. : Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, point of order.

    REP. FRANK: -- that there was nothing involving the president. Why didn't you tell us?

    REP. : Mr. Chairman, point of order.

    REP. HYDE: The gentleman's time has expired. However, I would yield to the witness such time as you need to answer the many questions Mr. Frank has put to you.

    MR. STARR: Well again, there is a process question. The purpose of this referral was to provide you with what we had found substantial and credible information. That's point one. And the FBI files in the Travel Office matter were not relevant to the 595(c) "substantial and credible information" in terms of providing this to you for you then to determine do you want any additional information.

    The final point I would say is we still have an investigation, as I indicated, under way and -- with respect to both FBI files, we have indicated that, and the Travel Office. I've drawn a distinction between the two matters. But I am reporting to you, so you know, that as of this time, we do not believe that there is any information in either of those matters, Congressman Frank, that would be relevant to you.

    Copyright © 1998 by Federal News Service, Inc. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person's original duties. Transcripts of other events may be found at the Federal News Service Web site, located at

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