Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr plans to resign this weekend, and a three-judge panel has appointed one of his assistants, Robert W. Ray, to succeed him as independent counsel, sources close to Starr's office said late last night.
Ray, 40, was a deputy in the investigation of former agriculture secretary Mike Espy under independent counsel Donald Smaltz. Ray joined Starr's office earlier this year.
The formal announcement of Ray's appointment, first reported by ABC News, is expected early next week. Calls to Starr's office were not returned late last night. Starr's formal resignation is expected sometime between today and Monday, the source said.
The office of independent counsel has several matters to determine before issuing its final report on its six-year investigation into President Clinton that started with allegations concerning the Whitewater land deal and led to the impeachment and acquittal of Clinton on perjury charges related to former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky last year.
The office of the independent counsel is still actively considering whether indictments should be brought against the president, and if so, when, the source said. Starr's staff has not yet dismissed the concept of the indictment of the president for issues associated with the Lewinsky matter.
In addition, Starr's successor will be considering the alleged interference of Democratic fund-raiser Nathan Landow in the testimony of former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton. Questions about whether Clinton was involved with that interference remain, the source said.
Ray will also oversee the determination of whether there was any criminal wrongdoing associated with the White House Travel Office scandal, the source said.
Smaltz's investigation of Espy ended in the acquittal of the former agriculture secretary. But Ray successfully prosecuted two Tyson Foods officials, Archibald L. Schaffer III and Jack L. Williams, who were convicted in 1998 of making illegal gifts to Espy in 1993.
Ray, who lives in Alexandria and is in his late thirties, is a graduate of Princeton and earned his law degree from Washington & Lee University. Ray was a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York before joining Smaltz's staff.