THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS
Rep. Marty Meehan Questions Starr
Thursday, November 19, 1998
REP. MARTIN MEEHAN (D-MA): Mr. Starr, as a former judge and appellate litigator, I'm sure you know how important your own credibility is in the decisions that this committee must make. The key fact-finding in this investigation has been done exclusively by you and your deputies. All of the important grand jury testimony of Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp and President Clinton was elicited under your direction and never subject to cross-examination. You and you alone decided who to immunize and what to investigate.
So if your credibility is tainted by bias or poor judgment on your part, this committee and the American people must at the very least treat the many inferences that you draw in your referral with extreme caution and must question whether your referral is, indeed, the whole story.
What do we see, Mr. Starr, when we look at your personal involvement in the issues before us? Well, we've heard a lot of them this afternoon. Among other things, we see that you consulted with Paula Jones' attorneys at least a half a dozen times in the summer of 1994 about how to frame an argument against presidential immunity -- something you apparently failed to disclose at the Justice Department when you sought to expand your jurisdiction in January of 1998, and something that might have influenced the attorney general to appoint someone other than you to carry out this part of the investigation.
During the same summer you appeared on PBS's "NewsHour" to argue against the president's position in the Jones case.
For most of your tenure -- has been indicated here, as independent counsel, you remained a partner in a private law firm, receiving $1.2 million in salary per year, while at the same time one of your law partners was leaking an affidavit in the Jones case to the Chicago Tribune in November of 1997, as well as steering Linda Tripp to you, so that she could entrap the president without becoming entrapped herself in an illegal tape-recording charge.
You represented Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company in the 1995 class action litigation, a company that had a major stake in the failure of the Clinton administration of its initiatives to keep kids from smoking and the Justice Department criminal investigation of big tobacco.
You made a commitment in February of 1997 to become the dean of Pepperdine University's new School of Public Policy, a school whose creation owes in large part to a $250,000 donation from a newspaper publisher with a habit of funding anti-Clinton administration publications and also an Arkansas-based dirt-digging operation.
You made a $1,750 contribution to your firm's political action committee in January of 1995, a PAC that in turn contributed to four Republican candidates for president who were running against President Clinton in 1996.
You were hired as a consultant to the Bradley Foundation in the summer of 1995 on the issue of school vouchers, a foundation that provides funding to some of President Clinton's harshest critics.
And now, Mr. Starr, when we read your referral, we see that you found the time and the space to specifically mention that one of the days that the president and Monica Lewinsky got together was Easter Sunday. But you chose not to include the critical statement from Ms. Lewinsky's grand jury testimony, quote, "No one ever asked me to lie, and I was never promised a job for my silence."
Mr. Starr, your own ethics adviser, Sam Dash, is on the record stating that while your conduct in many of these respects violated no technical legal ethics rules, that conduct, and I quote, "does have an odor to it." Further, Mr. Dash said on another occasion, quote, "I can understand how responsible reporters and reasonable people could question Ken's judgment."
Mr. Starr, in light of these facts and opinions, is it your position that there is no basis whatsoever for the American people to question the credibility of your work?
MR. STARR: My answer is that credibility should be assessed by the evidence that is contained herein. This is an elaborately- documented --
REP. MEEHAN: Excuse me, Mr. Starr, but you've made inferences.
REP. : Order.
REP. MEEHAN: You're asking us to rely --
REP. HYDE: Mr. Meehan --
REP. MEEHAN: -- on the credibility of witnesses.
REP. HYDE: Mr. Meehan, your time has expired. Give the witness some time to answer the long --
REP. MEEHAN: But this isn't just about the evidence.
REP. : Regular order.
REP. MEEHAN: This is about the credibility. Wouldn't you agree?
REP. : Mr. Chairman, I make a point of order.
REP. HYDE: Would you let the witness answer? Please take such time as you need, Mr. Starr.
MR. STARR: Congressman, you may disagree. But what has been submitted to you is an elaborately-documented product of professional prosecutors. These are professional prosecutors from around the country, some of whom are on detail from the Justice Department, with respect --
REP. MEEHAN: I'm a former prosecutor myself.
MR. STARR: Yes, I'm aware of that -- with respect to the practice of law. I think that is a serious question. Should independent counsels do it? And I know my judgment has been called into question by some. And I think Sam was very honest. Sam said, "I just don't think you should be practicing law at all."
May I say this? The statute contemplates that independent counsels are going to be drawn out of private practice. And I've lost count, but at one time 17 of the 18 independent counsels did, in fact, carry on private practice. If I may say, that was part of the original understanding that I was going to continue with my private law practice while giving this, as I've always sought to do, the top priority.
With respect to issues about the firm, it's a very large firm with a large number of offices in several cities and with a number of lawyers.
REP. MEEHAN: But you have a duty under the Code of Professional Responsibility --
REP. HYDE: Mr. Meehan, please. Mr. Meehan, will you please.
REP. MEEHAN: (Inaudible) -- recognize that. It's not just the people in the firm.
REP. HYDE: Mr. Meehan, will you withhold, please.
REP. MEEHAN: Mr. Chairman, these are complicated issues. We can't just get it in five minutes.
REP. : Well, then you don't give a five-minute speech.
REP. : And let him answer.
MR. STARR: I think I concluded my answer, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HYDE: Have you finished? Thank you. The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr.
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