Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who spent four years investigating President Bill Clinton, went on Fox News Friday to defend President Donald Trump and accidentally admitted that the president had engaged in the same behavior of which Starr once accused Clinton in his 1998 report.
Asked about the allegations in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that Trump may have obstructed justice by urging then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to lie, Starr acknowledged, “That’s a fair point.”
“You shouldn’t be coaching a witness. That’s exactly what Bill Clinton did with Betty Currie long ago and so forth. And we put that in [the 1998 Starr report]. It can be part of obstruction of justice,” he said, speaking on Fox & Friends.
Starr was referring to one of the 10 possible episodes of obstruction of justice documented by Mueller in the report, one of which detailed an instance in which Trump told McGahn to get rid of the special counsel — orders that McGahn did not carry out. After these efforts became public, Mueller wrote, Trump allegedly demanded that McGahn put in writing that this never happened — even after McGahn made clear that it did.
Starr mounted a passionate defense of Trump, arguing that because McGahn didn’t actually carry out the order, Trump had come to “the brink” but had not crossed a “red line.”
Starr also argued on Friday that this single act was not enough to prove obstruction, “especially when you counter that with what we’ve been trying to emphasize, the full cooperation” by the Trump administration Attorney General William Barr talked about in a press conference Thursday, ahead of the report’s release.
However Barr’s description of the Trump White House as cooperative has been roundly criticized, given Trump’s prior refusal to be interviewed by Mueller’s team during the course of the investigation. In his report Thursday, Mueller also called Trump’s partial responses to written questions sent by Mueller’s team “inadequate” and insufficient.
Starr’s own report in 1998 included a lengthy section in which he alleged that Clinton had met with his executive secretary Betty Currie after his deposition about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and encouraged her to cover up their encounters. Clinton denied that he tried to get Currie to say anything untruthful.
Based on Starr’s report, the House of Representatives charged Clinton with obstruction of justice, citing his alleged attempts to tamper with possible testimony by Currie in one of its articles of impeachment. Clinton was later acquitted by the U.S. Senate.