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Rep. George Gekas Questions Starr

  • More Transcripts From the Hearings

  • By Federal News Service
    Thursday, November 19, 1998

    REP. HYDE: The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gekas.

    REP. GEORGE GEKAS (R-PA): I thank the chair.

    Isn't it true, Judge Starr, that you did release, before the election, months before the election, what amounts to the exoneration of the president with respect to the Vince Foster matter; is that correct?

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. GEKAS: Months before the election. And may I ask you this: In what form did you exonerate the president? What formal step did you take in the Vince Foster matter to end that case? Do you report back to the attorney general?

    MR. STARR: In that particular instance, we issued a report. We filed it with the Special Division, and then made the report public so that it could address what we saw as these lingering questions with respect to the cause of death. It was a suicide by Mr. Foster and we --

    REP. GEKAS: You felt comfortable in exonerating the president?

    MR. STARR: Oh yes.

    REP. GEKAS: Mr. Conyers, in his -- my friend John, from Michigan, went through a litany of tremendous clients that your law firm represents. In fact, when I finish my tour in Congress, I'd like to talk with you, if I could! (Laughter.)

    But may I ask you this: Was your law firm -- were you a part of that law firm that represented these clients when you exonerated the president in the Vince Foster matter?

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. GEKAS: Were these clients still on the books of your firm when you came to the conclusion that there was no connection in the Filegate matter to the president?

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. GEKAS: Was your law firm, and you, involved in these tremendous clients that were mentioned, at the time that you made a decision that there's probably no connection in Travelgate directly to the president?

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. GEKAS: I thought you'd answer that! (Laughter.)

    I am disturbed about something, though, that I found right from the first moment that I reviewed your referral, and that was the emphasis you put on with respect to the -- what you would characterize as the "misuse of executive privilege" by the president.

    MR. STARR: Yes.

    REP. GEKAS: On page 204 of this version of the referral, you make a separate allegation that the president's actions were inconsistent with his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. And you put in there that he did so, did fail in that regard because he continuously used executive privilege.

    The first thing that I thought was -- and I have not been disabused of it since then -- is that the mere assertion by the president of a right like that, even if he objectively could be said -- knew what the result would be ultimately by the Supreme Court or appellate courts, I do not find that automatically or prima facie or even now, at this latter stage of the proceedings, to be something that the president should be debited on this case.

    But then my mind was settled a little bit when you said in your testimony that even apart from the matters concerning executive privilege and the like, you did feel very strongly about the questions of perjury. And just like many of us, it is going to be very difficult for us to set aside that deep emotional feeling that we have about the construct of law enforcement and the judicial system in our country. I can set aside any abuses of power, if they are called that, with respect to the assertion of executive privilege. And I ask you now, didn't you sort of prioritize in that regard when you said, setting apart the questions of executive privilege, you too feel strongly about perjury as an element in your referral?

    MR. STARR: Yes. Congressman, I would say these things:

    One, we believe the issues with respect to false statements under oath and the like are very serious. And the facts are there for you to evaluate, and you are evaluating those.

    With respect to the abuse of power, it is a judgment call, and you have come to at least your tentative judgment. And obviously, as I said to Congressman Conyers, it is now your prerogative to come to your own considered judgment as to what is right or not.

    May I say very briefly, on executive privilege, I do think that it is an abuse of a very important constitutional principle for such a special principle, executive privilege, which I strongly believe in -- and I defend the concept of executive privilege -- to be invoked with respect to the non-official activities of the president of the United States. I think it's improper.

    But it is your judgment that controls and not mine.

    REP. GEKAS: But yeah. With one -- I ask unanimous consent for 30 seconds --

    REP. HYDE: Without objection -- much.

    REP. GEKAS: (Laughs.) Without much objection. (Laughter.)

    But can we not come to the conclusion in evaluating the executive privilege asserted by the president that he might have felt, on any one of them where he exerted it, that -- to give him the extreme benefit of the doubt -- that he felt that the Office of the Presidency had to be protected even in mundane or other matters, which you find could be a misuse of power?

    MR. STARR: I am sure that is the view of the president, and we came to a different view. But as I say, it's now your judgment.

    REP. GEKAS: I yield back the balance of my "nontime."

    REP. HYDE: Yes, I thank the gentleman.

    The chair will declare a very short recess till five minutes after 4:00, to give everyone a little stretch. And if you will please wait and let Judge Starr leave the room first. And then we'll be back at five after 4:00.


    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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