Starr to Testify on Independent Counsel Law
By Edward Walsh
Starr's appearance before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will bring him face to face with some Senate Democratic critics of his 4 1/2-year investigation, which led to President Clinton's impeachment and later acquittal by the Senate on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice stemming from his relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.
The committee will also hear testimony from federal judges Richard D. Cudahy, Peter T. Fay and David B. Sentelle. They make up the three-judge Special Division of the U.S. Court of Appeals here, which appoints independent counsels, although Cudahy was not a member of the panel when Starr was named in 1994.
Sharp criticism of Starr's investigation has bolstered congressional sentiment to do away with the 1978 independent counsel law, which is due to expire on June 30 unless reauthorized by Congress. Even many supporters of the concept of the law say it should undergo a major overhaul to limit the scope of independent counsel investigations and make them more accountable.
However, if the law is not renewed, Starr and the five other independent counsels in operation will continue in business after June 30 under a provision in the statute that permits existing investigations to continue.
Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) has said he wants the hearings to focus on the law, not Starr's investigation, but next week's hearing will give Senate Democrats their first opportunity to question and criticize Starr in person.
"It's fair to say, given some of the strong reactions that Mr. Starr's investigation provoked, that there will be some tough criticisms," said Dan Gerstein, spokesman for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), the committee's ranking Democrat.
Gerstein said Lieberman does not want to turn the hearing into "a referendum on Ken Starr" but to use the Starr investigation to "illuminate the flaws in the statute. . . . His criticism won't be focused on Ken Starr the person. He will be focusing on where the investigation of the president crossed some lines, went a little farther than it probably should have, and see what that tells us about the flaws in the statute."
A spokeswoman for Starr said he looked forward to testifying.
Starr has not commented publicly on the law, which was enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal to shield investigations of alleged wrongdoing by high-ranking government officials from political influence. But in 1982, when the law first came up for renewal and Starr was a counselor to Attorney General William French Smith, the Reagan administration Justice Department opposed its reauthorization.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company