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Ken Starr, whose probe led to Bill Clinton impeachment, dies aged 76. Doug Mills/AP
United States

Ken Starr, whose investigation led to Bill Clinton impeachment, dies aged 76

Starr died at a hospital of complications from surgery.

KEN STARR, A former US federal appellate judge and lawyer whose criminal investigation of Bill Clinton led to the president’s impeachment, has died aged 76.

Starr died at a hospital yesterday of complications from surgery, according to his former colleague, lawyer Mark Lanier. He said Starr had been hospitalised in an intensive care unit in Houston for about four months.

For many years, Starr’s stellar reputation as a lawyer seemed to place him on a path to the Supreme Court.

At age 37, he became the youngest person to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also had served.

From 1989-93, Mr Starr was the solicitor general in the administration of president George HW Bush, arguing 25 cases before the Supreme Court.

Roberts said: “Ken loved our country and served it with dedication and distinction. He led by example, in the legal profession, public service, and the community.”

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell remembered Starr as “a brilliant litigator, an impressive leader, and a devoted patriot”.

In a probe that lasted five years, Starr looked into fraudulent real estate deals involving a long-time Clinton associate, delved into the removal of documents from the office of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster after his suicide and assembled evidence of Clinton’s sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.

Each of the controversies held the potential to do serious, perhaps fatal, damage to Clinton’s presidency.

In a tweet yesterday, Lewinsky expressed mixed emotions on the news of Starr’s death. “As I’m sure many can understand, my thoughts about Ken Starr bring up complicated feelings,” she tweeted.

“But of more importance, is that I imagine it’s a painful loss for those who love him.”

presidential-portraits Bill Clinton lied under oath, engaged in obstruction of justice and followed a pattern of conduct that was inconsistent with the president’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws, according to the investigation. Ron Edmonds / AP Ron Edmonds / AP / AP

As Clinton’s legal problems worsened, the White House pilloried Starr as a right-wing fanatic doing the bidding of Republicans bent on destroying the president.

“The assaults took a toll” on the investigation, Starr told a Senate committee in 1999. “A duly authorised federal law enforcement investigation came to be characterised as yet another political game.

“Law became politics by other means.”

In a bitter finish to his investigation of the Lewinsky affair that engendered still more criticism, Starr filed a report, as the law required, with the US House of Representatives.

He concluded that Clinton lied under oath, engaged in obstruction of justice and followed a pattern of conduct that was inconsistent with the president’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws.

House Republicans used Starr’s report as a roadmap in the impeachment of the president, who was acquitted in a Senate trial.

In 2020, he was recruited to help represent Trump in his first impeachment trial. In a memorable statement to Congress, Starr said “we are living in what I think can aptly be described as the ‘age of impeachment’”.

He said that “like war, impeachment is hell, or at least presidential impeachment is hell”.

In a post to his Truth Social account, Trump paid tribute to Starr as “a true American Patriot who loved our country and the law”.

“I so appreciated his support and his thoughts that our cause against fascists and other mentally sick people in our country is just.”

Lewinsky had a tempered, compassionate response to the death of Starr, whose investigation of Bill Clinton helped reveal her affair with the president and, she once wrote, made her life a “living hell”.

She tweeted: “As I’m sure many can understand, my thoughts about ken starr bring up complicated feelings. But of more importance, is that i imagine it’s a painful loss for those who love him.”

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