In the wake of President Donald Trump hiring Ken Starr to defend him against impeachment — despite Starr's famous history of conducting a fishing expedition against President Bill Clinton that ended with him impeached for lying about a sexual encounter — The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky penned a scathing column reminding people who exactly Ken Starr is.
"It seems so inconsistent on its face! But for Starr, it’s 1,000 percent consistent. It’s who he is," wrote Tomasky. "He’s a political hack. A total partisan hatchet man. One of the most poisonous political figures of our time."
"Let’s just go back to the pivotal moment, when Starr became known by the nation at large," wrote Tomasky. "In January of 1994, Clinton reluctantly agreed to let Attorney General Janet Reno name a special prosecutor to look into the Whitewater affair, a land deal in Arkansas that he had invested in while governor there," wrote Tomasky. "He did nothing wrong, as subsequent investigations made clear, but the right-wing noise machine, then just gestating into a thing that mattered, was declaring Clinton guilty of swindling his co-investor (the opposite was the truth) and duping regulators. Aides told him, 'If you did nothing wrong, a special prosecutor will give you a clean bill of health, and your opponents will have to shut up about this.' Which was true, in theory."
"Reno appointed Fiske. He had a strong reputation. He was a Republican," wrote Tomasky. "But he was not a movement conservative, and this was his real crime. He sniffed around for about six months, didn’t find much, and issued the first part of his report, about the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. Some right-wingers were literally going around saying the Clintons had Foster iced because he knew too much. Fiske found he committed suicide. No conspiracy."
"At this exact time, the independent counsel law was expiring," wrote Tomasky. "Congress passed a law renewing it, which awaited Clinton’s signature ... Clinton signed the law, which had one fateful impact. It shifted the oversight of the independent counsel from the Justice Department (the attorney general) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Specifically, to a three-judge panel that consisted of two movement conservatives. They fired Fiske. They claimed he had a conflict because his firm had once represented International Paper, which years before had done business with Clinton’s Whitewater partner. They replaced him with Starr. Starr’s firm represented International Paper at the time of Starr’s appointment! But somehow, that wasn’t a conflict. And that’s how we came to be saddled with Ken Starr as a household name."
"From there, you know what happened," wrote Tomasky. "The judges knew that Starr had something Fiske didn’t: zero scruples. Starr would go to any length to pin anything he could on the Clintons. The whole thing was a set-up by hard-right judges, working with hard-right activists to install a hard-right prosecutor who threatened witnesses and leaked grand-jury information and held one witness in a plexiglass cell as if she were some kind of war criminal."
"That’s who Starr is, in addition to the good Christian man who spent years waving away a wave of sexual assaults at the university of which he was president," wrote Tomasky. "And now, of course, he’s defending Trump. Starr’s perverted the law for rancid partisan purposes and ruined a major university, but I guess he feels hasn’t done enough damage to America yet, so now he’s going to help exonerate a president who tried to get a foreign government to help him rig the next election."
"Maybe he’s just attracted to sleazy, disgusting men," concluded Tomasky. "Takes one to know one."
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