SHARE
Ken Starr, former U.S. solicitor general, ana­lyzed the current Mueller inves­ti­gation in light of his involvement with the inves­ti­gation that impeached former Pres­ident Bill Clinton. Vic­toria Mar­shall | Col­legian

Hillsdale stu­dents will be studying the case law that emerges from the aftermath of the Mueller inves­ti­gation, Ken Starr said in a lecture hosted by The Fed­er­alist Society on Thursday.

The former Solicitor General gave a lecture titled “Inves­ti­gating the Pres­ident: From Ulysses S. Grant to Robert Mueller,” where he drew from his own expe­rience to give context to the Mueller inves­ti­gation. The talk was hosted by the Fed­er­alist Society on Feb. 28.

Starr is best known as the head lawyer of the inde­pendent counsel that directed the inves­ti­gation that led to the impeachment of Pres­ident Bill Clinton. He was most recently the pres­ident of Baylor Uni­versity in Texas.

After recounting the story of the Sat­urday Night Mas­sacre, which occurred during the throes of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s, Starr brought up the Ethics and Gov­ernment Act, which was passed by Con­gress in 1978 in reaction to the Nixon administration’s conduct.

“Part of the Ethics and Gov­ernment Act was the cre­ation of what became known as the inde­pendent counsel pro­vision, and I stand before you as someone who was a veteran of having served under that statute,” Starr said.

Part of the act requires the attorney general of the U.S. to inves­tigate alle­ga­tions against the exec­utive branch by appointing a special pros­e­cutor.

“The appointment of an officer to carry out very important func­tions: That’s the job of the pres­ident of the United States and those who report to him,” Starr said. “And so, not sur­pris­ingly, there was a con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenge to the special prosecutor/independent counsel statute.”

The statute was upheld in a 7 – 1 decision, with Justice Anthony Kennedy recusing himself. Justice Antonin Scalia was the only dis­senting vote.

Starr men­tioned that one of the things Scalia had issue with was the part of the statute that required the inde­pendent counsel to report to Con­gress.

“One of the things that he said in his opinion that directly relates to what we are expe­ri­encing right now in eager antic­i­pation of the Mueller Report is that this statute is ‘acrid with the smell of impeachment,’” Starr said. “Let that sink in. What this tool is, this inde­pendent counsel statute, sup­posedly an instrument of reform, is actually a mighty weapon that Con­gress is wielding against the pres­i­dency.”

That very statute that Scalia con­demned made Starr’s name syn­onymous with the Lewinsky scandal.

“You know there was this thing called the Starr Report — that was the report sent out to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives — because there was a spe­cific statutory command to all inde­pendent counsels,” Starr said. “So it fell to our lot in the office to prepare this much-crit­i­cized report, not for its factual inac­cu­racies — its factual accuracy has stood the test of time. It was just ugly and unpleasant and sala­cious. People didn’t like that, and I didn’t like that either. You think it’s unpleasant to read; imagine what it was like to have to write the non­sense, but it was truthful.”

Fast-for­warding to 1999, Starr men­tioned a set of new reg­u­la­tions made under former Attorney General Janet Reno that cur­tailed the power of the inde­pendent counsel. Under these reg­u­la­tions, the special counsel had to seek and accept the Justice Department’s guidance on any inves­ti­gation.

“These reg­u­la­tions are still in place. And it’s under them that Rod Rosen­stein appointed Bob Mueller to the special counsel,” Starr said. “When you read the reg­u­la­tions, the reg­u­la­tions say Bob Mueller is to provide a con­fi­dential report to the attorney general of the United States. Then the attorney general, under the reg­u­la­tions, is not to send that report to Con­gress. He’s sup­posed to notify Con­gress, but it is not pro­vided in the reg­u­la­tions that he send a fulsome report to Con­gress.”

Starr then men­tioned that Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mittee, in direct vio­lation of the Reno reg­u­la­tions, said just two weeks ago that if Con­gress is not granted  infor­mation from the Attorney General regarding the Mueller Inves­ti­gation, they will use their sub­poena power and lit­igate if need be.

“I guess you can say, ‘Well, Con­gress has that power,’ but there are priv­i­leges enjoyed by the exec­utive branch in dealing with the Con­gress,” Starr said. “My dear friends, by the time you’re in law school, you’ll be studying the lit­i­gation and the case law that emerges out of this.”

Starr fin­ished his talk by saying he wanted stu­dents to think of these events not in terms of news breaking, but in how they will be handled under our con­sti­tu­tional structure, which was created to prevent the aggre­gation of too much power in a single branch.

“Stay tuned. We’re told that the Mueller report may be available next week, so fasten your seat­belts,” Starr said.

Stu­dents who attended the talk responded favorably to Starr and his message.

“You hear a lot of people talking about the inves­ti­gation, and they all have their own opinion, but you don’t often have someone as qual­ified as him, having been the actual person who’s done it before — he’s got a unique per­spective,” said freshman Joseph Hoppe.

Sophomore Emma Eisenman said she liked that Starr implied that cor­ruption in gov­ernment is fueled by the exploitation and per­version of con­sti­tu­tional prin­ciples.

“I thought it was very important not just how he out­lined the cor­ruption within so many pres­i­dential terms, but how he linked it back to our con­sti­tu­tional structure, and how our gov­ernment has fought that con­sti­tu­tional structure throughout history.” Eisenman said. “The con­sti­tution lays out the fun­da­mental prin­ciples of our country, and we haven’t always fol­lowed the rules. These are things we should think about espe­cially moving forward because they will determine where this country is going.”