April 19, 1999
The Persecution of Ken Starr
By Mollie Dickenson
So, it turns out that Kenneth Starr sees himself as the victim.
Speaking in his talcum-powder voice on April 14, Starr complained to the Senate about the "calumnies," the "completely bogus allegations" and the "constant attacks" -- not those made by him and his staff against others, but those made by others against him and his staff.
In what sounded like a skit idea for Saturday Night Live, Starr fingered Attorney General Janet Reno for failing to protect him from his critics. He said she had "a solemn and weighty responsibility to rally quickly to the side of the independent counsel and to say, 'call off the attack dogs, and do it now'."
Renos failure to intervene left him open for abuse. "The assaults took a toll," Starr lamented to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "A duly authorized federal law-enforcement investigation came to be characterized as yet another political game. Law became politics by other means."
In Starr's view, of course, it was not his operation that had used the law for a political end, the reversal of two national elections. It was President Clinton and the Democrats who had been the bullies.
Starr concluded that his unhappy experience as special prosecutor convinced him that the independent counsel statute had been politicized beyond repair and should be allowed to die on June 30 -- although that expiration would not halt Starr's pending investigations.
Ironically, Starr's vented his feelings of victimhood just two days after a federal jury in Little Rock judged that he had gone overboard in prosecuting Susan McDougal for obstruction of justice and contempt of court. On April 12, the jury acquitted McDougal on the obstruction count and deadlocked -- seven to five for acquittal -- on what normally would have been open-and-shut contempt case.
Starr also made his national appeal for sympathy while his prosecutors were preparing to try Julie Hiatt Steele for perjury and obstruction of justice after she refused to implicate Clinton on a secondary sex-and-lies charge. The 52-year-old Republican single mother claimed that Starr indicted her for her refusal to give his prosecutors false evidence to use against the president.
And Starr's testimony coincided with his teams plans to press ahead with a trial of Clinton's friend, Webster Hubbell, and Hubbell's wife on tax charges. Hubbell had held a top job at the Justice Department before disclosures that he had over-charged legal clients on expenses, a case that landed Hubbell in prison.
Last year, after completing his jail term, Hubbell learned that he had been re-indicted apparently because Starr suspected that consulting contracts paid to Hubbell after he left the Justice Department amounted to hush money. Starr suspected that Hubbell might be holding back some evidence that would implicate the Clintons.
But Hubbell insisted that he knew nothing. A choked-up Hubbell told reporters that Starr's prosecutors "can indict my dog, they can indict my cat, but I'm not going to lie about the president."