By: Kenneth Starr
Source: Starr, Kenneth. The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998, 19–20, 150–151, 153–155. Available online at ; website home page: http://www.access.gpo.gov (accessed May 5, 2003).
About the Author: Kenneth Starr (1946–) attended George Washington University for his bachelor's degree, Brown University for a master's degree, and Duke University for his law degree. He clerked for Chief Justice Warren Burger, and then joined a corporate law firm. In 1983, he was named to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; in 1989, he became solicitor general. Starr gained national prominence for his five-year investigation as special prosecutor into various matters concerning President Bill Clinton (served 1993–2001).
The Articles of Confederation, America's first government, was too weak, and the U.S. Constitution was created to form a more effective federal government. For the most part, the Constitution's three-branch system worked fairly well for the first century and a half of America's existence. The federal government was limited in size, but with the rise of the modern bureaucracy in the twentieth century, the executive branch ballooned. The larger size was supported by the public for a time, but in the 1960s doubts began to grow about government.
The Watergate scandal, under President Richard Nixon (served 1969–1974), shocked America. In that scandal, funds from Nixon's campaign were used to pay for a break-in into the Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate building. Nixon then authorized a cover-up of the break-in. Congress wanted to make sure that future presidents would and could not abuse justice, and so passed the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. This act created an appointment process for a special prosecutor, who could only be fired for "good cause." In several court cases, the Supreme Court upheld this act.
Sexual "misconduct" in political officials is nothing new. In the elections of 1796 and 1800, the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemmings affair was the subject of gossip. In the election of 1884, among others, Grover Cleveland's (served 1885–1889 and 1893–1897) illegitimate child became a campaign issue. Cleveland's opponents chanted "Ma, Ma, where's my pa?" (Cleveland's supporters answered "Off to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha.") Cleveland may have had the best answer when he allegedly said, "I support my bastards, what about you?"
Throughout the twentieth century, many presidents and presidential hopefuls had extramarital affairs. In the middle of the twentieth century (1933–1968), the only president without a rumored affair was Harry S. Truman (served 1945–1953). Until the 1970s, though, the private affairs of presidents were not generally covered in the press. In the 1980s, Gary Hart, a candidate for the Democratic nomination, was caught in an affair, on the boat Monkey Business, and was forced out of the presidential race. None of this became subject to a referral to an independent counsel, however.
In the 1990s, all this changed. Kenneth Starr was appointed independent counsel in 1994 to investigate President Clinton's land dealings in the Whitewater case. It eventually expanded into an investigation of several matters, including aspects of Clinton's sexual relationship with white house intern, Monica Lewinsky. Five years later, in 1999, Starr produced a report arguing for the impeachment of Clinton for lying about his sexual relations with Lewinsky during sworn deposition testimony in the lawsuit filed against him by Paula Jones for sexual harassment, among other allegations.
Clinton was eventually impeached by the House of Representatives, but was not removed by the Senate. Throughout this period, Clinton's presidential popularity ratings remained high. It seems clear that much of the public did not think that Clinton's affair and subsequent perjury should bring about his impeachment, and did not want him to resign. Part of this, of course, was due to the relative prosperity America enjoyed in the 1990s.
It remains to be seen if future sexual "misconduct" will bring about more investigations. The Independent Counsel Act lapsed, and is no longer in effect—there being little public support for reviving the statute at the present time. Whether future opposition parties will use investigations to harass the president remains to be seen. History, however, would suggest that many past presidents would have been removed if a similar standard of purity had been used. One might argue that cheating on one's wife could lead to cheating on one's country, but history suggests otherwise. President Nixon (served 1969–1974), as best we know, did not cheat on his wife. However, President Clinton was the first to lie about the relationship under oath in a civil deposition, as well as in testimony before a grand jury. Thus, the impact of "Monica-gate" remains to be seen. Politics will play a part in future investigations, and an open eye to history should be retained when evaluating them.
Primary Source: The Starr Report: The Findings of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr on President Clinton and the Lewinsky Affair [excerpt]
SYNOPSIS: Starr introduces the report by stating the various grounds upon which then-President Clinton could be impeached. He discusses Clinton's various denials, both to the press and to his own Cabinet. The report lists the background to this investigation and outlines why Starr finds a basis for the impeachment. In laying out the details for the impeachment proceedings, Starr defends the use of the explicit sexual testimony in his report.
As required by Section 595(c) of Title 28 of the United States Code, the Office of the Independent Counsel ("OIC" or "Office") hereby submits substantial and credible information that President William Jefferson Clinton committed acts that may constitute grounds for an impeachment.
The information reveals that President Clinton:
- lied under oath at a civil deposition while he was a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit;
- lied under oath to a grand jury;
- attempted to influence the testimony of a potential witness who had direct knowledge of facts that would reveal the falsity of his deposition testimony;
- attempted to obstruct justice by facilitating a witness's plan to refuse to comply with a subpoena;
- attempted to obstruct justice by encouraging a witness to file an affidavit that the President knew would be false, and then by making use of that false affidavit at his own deposition;
- lied to potential grand jury witnesses, knowing that they would repeat those lies before the grand jury; and
- engaged in a pattern of conduct that was inconsistent with his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
The evidence shows that these acts, and others, were part of a pattern that began as an effort to prevent the disclosure of information about the President's relationship with a former White House intern and employee, Monica S. Lewinsky, and continued as an effort to prevent the information from being disclosed in an ongoing criminal investigation.…
In the ensuing days, the President, through his Cabinet, issued a number of firm denials. On January 23, 1998, the President started a Cabinet meeting by saying the allegations were untrue. Afterward, several Cabinet members appeared outside the White House; Madeline Albright, Secretary of State, said: "I believe that the allegations are completely untrue." The others agreed. "I'll second that, definitely," Commerce Secretary William Daley said. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala concurred.
The next day, Ann Lewis, White House Communications Director, publicly announced that "those of us who have wanted to go out and speak on behalf of the president" had been given the green light by the President's legal team. She reported that the President answered the allegations "directly" by denying any improper relationship. She believed that, in issuing his public denials, the President was not "splitting hairs, defining what is a sexual relationship, talking about 'is' rather than was. You know, I always thought, perhaps I was naive, since I've come to Washington when you said a sexual relationship, everybody knew what that meant." Ms. Lewis expressly said that the term includes "oral sex."
On Monday, January 26, 1998, in remarks in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, President Clinton gave his last public statement for several months on the Lewinsky matter. At an event promoting after-school health care, the President denied the allegations in the strongest terms: "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time. Never. These allegations are false." …
Pursuant to Section 595(c) of Title 28, the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) hereby submits substantial and credible information that President Clinton obstructed justice during the Jones v. Clinton sexual harassment lawsuit by lying under oath and concealing evidence of his relationship with a young White House intern and federal employee, Monica Lewinsky. After a federal criminal investigation of the President's actions began in January 1998, the President lied under oath to the grand jury and obstructed justice during the grand jury investigation. There also is substantial and credible information that the President's actions with respect to Monica Lewinsky constitute an abuse of authority inconsistent with the President's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.
There is substantial and credible information supporting the following eleven possible grounds for impeachment:
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil case when he denied a sexual affair, a sexual relationship, or sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
- President Clinton lied under oath to the grand jury about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
- In his civil deposition, to support his false statement about the sexual relationship, President Clinton also lied under oath about being alone with Ms. Lewinsky and about the many gifts exchanged between Ms. Lewinsky and him.
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Ms. Lewinsky concerning her involvement in the Jones case.
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth about their relationship by concealing gifts subpoenaed by Ms. Jones's attorneys.
- During the Jones case, the President obstructed justice and had an understanding with Ms. Lewinsky to jointly conceal the truth of their relationship from the judicial process by a scheme that included the following means: (i) Both the President and Ms. Lewinsky understood that they would lie under oath in the Jones case about their sexual relationship; (ii) the President suggested to Ms. Lewinsky that she prepare an affidavit that, for the President's purposes, would memorialize her testimony under oath and could be used to prevent questioning of both of them about their relationship; (iii) Ms. Lewinsky signed and filed the false affidavit; (iv) the President used Ms. Lewinsky's false affidavit at his deposition in an attempt to head off questions about Ms. Lewinsky; and (v) when that failed, the President lied under oath at his civil deposition about the relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.
- President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice by helping Ms. Lewinsky obtain a job in New York at a time when she would have been a witness harmful to him were she to tell the truth in the Jones case.
- President Clinton lied under oath in his civil deposition about his discussions with Vernon Jordan concerning Ms. Lewinsky's involvement in the Jones case.
- The President improperly tampered with a potential witness by attempting to corruptly influence the testimony of his personal secretary, Betty Currie, in the days after his civil deposition.
- President Clinton endeavored to obstruct justice during the grand jury investigation by refusing to testify for seven months and lying to senior White House aides with knowledge that they would relay the President's false statements to the grand jury—and did thereby deceive, obstruct, and impede the grand jury.
- President Clinton abused his constitutional authority by (i) lying to the public and the Congress in January 1998 about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky; (ii) promising at that time to cooperate fully with the grand jury investigation; (iii) later refusing six invitations to testify voluntarily to the grand jury; (iv) invoking Executive Privilege; (v) lying to the grand jury in August 1998; and (vi) lying again to the public and Congress on August 17, 1998—all as part of an effort to hinder, impede, and deflect possible inquiry by the Congress of the United States.
The first two possible grounds for impeachment concern the President's lying under oath about the nature of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. The details associated with those grounds are, by their nature, explicit. The President's testimony unfortunately has rendered the details essential with respect to those two grounds, as will be explained in those grounds.
Dershowitz, Alan M. Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr, and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis. New York: Basic Books, 1998.
Posner, Richard A. An Affair of State: the Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Starr, Kenneth. First Among Equals: the Supreme Court in American Life. New York: Warner Books, 2002.
Tassel, Van, Emily Field, and Paul Finkelman. Impeachable Offenses: a Documentary History from 1787 to the Present. Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1999.
"Scandal and Government: Current and Future Implications of the Clinton Presidency." PS 32, no. 3, September 1999, 538–561.
AUDIO AND VISUAL MEDIA
Grand Jury Testimony of William Jefferson Clinton, August 17, 1998. MPI Home Video, 1998, VHS.
Rhetorical Highlights From the Impeachment of Bill Clinton. Directed by Roger A. Cook. Educational Video Group, 2000, VHS.