Starr memoir recounts Lewinsky role in Clinton investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) — Ken Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, writes in his upcoming book that if Monica Lewinsky had cooperated with his probe from the beginning, “the country would not have been dragged through an eight-month ordeal.”
Recounting his Clinton-era investigation, Starr contends that the former White House intern who had a sexual relationship with the president carried “fierce but misguided loyalty” and “allowed herself to become a tragic figure of late twentieth-century America.”
“She carries with her forever the living reality of the Clintons’ victim-strewn path to power, the most visible casualty of the Clintons’ contempt,” Starr writes in “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation.” The Associated Press obtained a copy of the book, which will be released Sept. 11.
Starr’s book recounts his reluctant yet duty-bound decision to serve as independent counsel in the Whitewater probe that ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House on charges he lied under oath and obstructed justice. The case cast the former solicitor general and appellate attorney as the archnemesis of the Clinton White House.
The memoir arrives two decades after Congress was presented with the Starr Report, the culmination of an investigation that captivated the nation and ultimately ended with Clinton’s acquittal by the Senate. He offers a scathing critique of Bill and Hillary Clinton, describing the former president as someone “who believed he was above the law.”
“The citizens of the United States deserved better. Talented they were, to be sure, but deeply flawed, fundamentally dishonest, contemptuous of law and process. That was a personal tragedy, but even more, a tragedy for our nation,” he writes.
David Kendall, Bill Clinton’s attorney, said in a statement to the AP: “The American people saw through Starr’s obsessive pursuit of President Clinton and will see through his attempt to rewrite history to vindicate his own sullied reputation.”
Lewinsky declined to comment through a spokesman.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who worked for Starr, is briefly recalled in the book as a key member of the investigative team and the “chief wordsmith” of the 445-page referral of charges to Congress.
The book describes how investigators first learned of Lewinsky’s role and recounts their talks at a Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton — dubbed “Prom Night” — in which Starr’s team tried to get Lewinsky to cooperate. Starr writes that Lewinsky used a mall payphone to call the White House in what he believed was an attempt to warn Clinton.
“She hissed ‘Hoover, Hoover’ into the phone, as if she were speaking in code, which she later explained meant the FBI, as in J. Edgar,” Starr writes. “She was trying to warn the president before his deposition in the Paula Jones lawsuit the following day,” but no one got the message.
Jones had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton in 1994, and during testimony in the case, Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.
Starr writes that during the marathon day of meetings, Lewinsky determined that she would “fall on her sword rather than implicate” the president. Starr said their hopes for a quick resolution diminished once Lewinsky “lawyered up. We could no longer communicate with her directly.”
Years later, Starr recounts meeting Lewinsky for the first time in 2017 during a chance encounter at a New York restaurant, writing that their “short exchange was pleasant and poignant.”
Starr notes his opposition to the now-expired independent counsel law, which he argues violated the separation of powers and put too much power in an unelected official. He also regrets pursuing the Lewinsky phase of the case but writes that there was “no practical alternative.” He writes about the hardship that the investigation caused his family and says he received death threats, requiring him to receive protection from U.S. marshals.
Starr also laments he was passed over for the Supreme Court during George H.W. Bush’s presidency in favor of David Souter, calling it a “bitter pill for me” and an opportunity that never returned.
Starr served as Baylor University’s president until 2016, when a scathing review found that under his leadership, the school did little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving members of its vaunted football program. Starr writes he wasn’t “personally implicated,” but his newly found professional freedoms and the re-emergence of questions over presidential obstruction and impeachment during Donald Trump’s presidency led to his decision to write the book.