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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Starr Vows Probe Will Continue

WASHINGTON -- Independent counsel Kenneth Starr tried Wednesday to quell the controversy that has erupted over his impending departure, insisting "no decisions or resolutions have been made'' about who may be indicted in the coming months of his Whitewater probe.


Yet prominent defense lawyers continued to predict that Starr's plans to leave office this summer to become dean of Pepperdine University Law School in Malibu, California, signaled he had failed to ensnare his prime quarry.


"I can't see Ken jumping ship at this point if he was about to prosecute either of the Clintons,'' said one defense attorney who knows him.


Some supporters said Starr should reconsider his decision because of its likely adverse impact on cooperating witnesses.


Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a longtime friend and backer of Starr, wrote him to say "your departure will have a very serious, if not devastating, effect on the investigation.


"There are many witnesses or potential witnesses who will be dissuaded by your departure as a sign that the issues will not be pursued with the same diligence,'' Specter continued. "I share that concern.''


In a breakfast address to a suburban Virginia lawyers' group, Starr said sufficient time remains to determine whether more than the dozen convictions or guilty pleas obtained so far in the Whitewater investigation should be sought.


"No decisions or resolutions have been made by this office,'' Starr insisted, adding "we have set up an indictment review process.'' He apparently was referring to a confidential document more than 200 pages long being studied by his staff. It reportedly discusses the strength of evidence obtained against U.S. President Bill Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and several present and former White House staff members.


Starr said his review procedure parallels "that of the Justice Department, which entails detailed memos and extensive deliberations. By the time a final decision is made, all attorneys on the staff have weighed in.''


Starr did not mention any Whitewater figures by name, and he declined to directly answer a lawyer's question on whether he would want to remain in office if there was "any chance'' that charges might be brought against the Clintons.


"My talent is in the exercise of judgment,'' Starr replied, explaining he would evaluate the evidence but allow experienced courtroom lawyers on his staff to try any case that might develop. "Those who argue that the investigation is over are wrong,'' he said. "It is wrong, indeed it is dangerous, to draw any conclusions based upon my personal situation.''


He added "I very much wish ... I could report to the country that the work of the Whitewater investigation is complete. But that is not the case.''


Although conservatives have looked fondly upon Starr during his nearly three-year inquiry, his announcement Monday of his planned departure by Aug. 1 was a bitter pill to many.


David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in an interview that Starr's decision was a blow to conservatives in a symbolic sense because of their intense hostility toward Clinton.


"Bill Clinton is to conservatives what Richard Nixon was to the left,'' Keene said. "So any time anybody eases up on Clinton, it's a disappointment.''


But Keene also believes that from a practical standpoint, the apparent collapse of right-wing hopes for legal action against the president or first lady could be a useful reminder of political reality.