The Starr Chamber
and the Future of American Democracy The Starr Report
On June 30, 1994 Robert
Fiske, the original Whitewater Independent Counsel, filed a report
that Vincent Foster had committed suicide because he was depressed
over the "mean-spirited and factually baseless" editorials
about him in the Wall Street Journal---- and not because
of anything to do with Whitewater and no one had murdered him. On
August 5th Fiske was fired by the three-judge panel and replaced
by Kenneth Starr. (The panel had been selected by Chief Justice
Rehnquist, who was originally appointed by Nixon and promoted to
Chief Justice by Reagan.) Starr re-opened the Vincent Foster
inquiry (imagine how painful that must have been for his family)
and refrained from issuing his yes-it-was-suicide report until after
the 1996 election.
As described by Bruce
Shapiro in "Men
in Black (robes)", there's an important history behind
Starr's appointment. Rehnquist appointed Judge David Sentelle, a
big buddy of North Carolina's two senators, Jesse Helms and Launch
Faircloth. Sentelle lunched with Faircloth (who had been working
for a long time to get Fiske fired) and soon after appointed Starr.
Starr is a senior partner in the law firm of Kirkland and Ellis
whose principal client is the Tobacco giant, Brown and Williamson.
Starr continued to work for the firm (at around $1 million a year)
for most of his tenure as Independent Counsel. North Carolina is
a big tobacco growing state. In Clinton's six years much has been
accomplished to prevent kids from learning to smoke and to make
the tobacco companies liable for damages caused by their products.
Get the picture?
Starr had other conflicts
of interest that would have prevented a more honourable man from
accepting the position.
1---- As Joe
Conason and Murray Waas reported two and a half years ago in
The Nation, at the time of his appointment his law firm was
being sued for professional negligence by the Resolution Trust Corporation;
the Whitewater probe would involve Starr investigating the very
officials in the RTC responsible for bringing the suit against Kirkland
2---- Starr had advised
the attorneys for Paula Jones.
3---- Starr later accepted
an appointment to be the dean of a new school at Pepperdine University
which was funded by the super conservative billionaire Richard Mellon
Scaife who also funded the clandestine Arkansas project. The function
of this group was the promulgation of scurrilous rumors about Clinton----
murder, drug running, you name it. The Arkansas Project also paid
money to convicted felon ex-Judge David Hale, Starr's key witness
in Arkansas, the man whose testimony was needed to indict Jim McDougal
and Jim Guy Tucker. See Jonathan Broder and Murray Waas' "The
Road to Hale".
Starr made life miserable
for everyone in Arkansas with any remote connection to the Clintons,
yet turned a blind eye to the probable perjuries and other felonies
of four of his witnesses, as described by Gene Lyons in "See
Some Evil, Hear Some Evil". Recently on KPFK Lyons said
Starr has "power and ruthlessness instincts that are close
And yet there was NOTHING
about Whitewater in the report Starr sent to Congress! Nor Filegate.
Nor Travelgate. Despite the many, many people he subpoenaed to appear
before both the Arkansas and District of Columbia grand juries.
Despite the fact that he forced the Clintons to produce massive
quantities of documents and every canceled check for the last fifteen
years. (According to a Reuters dispatch he sent someone to search
the private quarters of the White House, including even Chelsea's
underwear drawer, looking for some allegedly missing document.)
He obtained and scrutinized their phone records for the same period.
So Starr was coming
up empty and possibly was close to giving up when he got that phone
call in December from Linda Tripp. He listened to the tapes she
had surreptitiously taped of her "friend" Monica's confidences,
then sent a wired Tripp to further interview Monica. At the end
of that Monica was confronted, held without counsel for several
hours by his investigators and threatened with prosecution and jail
time if she refused to wear a wire and go see Clinton. Isn't that