Kenneth Starr, a former United States Solicitor General who led the Whitewater Inquiry into the Clinton administration which began with inquiries into allegedly improper real estate transactions but expanded into broader investigations that led to impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the House, died Sept. 13 in Houston. He was 76 years old.

The death was due to complications from surgery at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston, according to a statement from his family.

Mr. Starr, a former solicitor general in the first Bush administration and a federal appeals court judge, was considered a reliable conservative Republican as America’s political divisions began to widen in the early 1990s. Federal appeal in 1994 named Mr. Starr to replace independent counsel in the Whitewater inquiry, Robert B. Fiske Jr., who was chosen by Attorney General Janet Reno.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist denied Reno’s request to reappoint Fiske, saying Reno should not have chosen independent counsel because Clinton appointed her to his position. The investigation into the Whitewater Development Corp. looked at the real estate investments of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their associates Jim McDougal and Susan McDougal.

The Clintons have not been charged with the Whitewater dealings, but Mr. Starr has significantly expanded his mandate. His team later revealed allegations against Clinton of sexual harassment by former Arkansas State employee Paula Jones (the matter was settled out of court). Mr. Starr’s investigation also uncovered Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and subsequent claims that Clinton lied under oath about the sexual nature of their encounters.

Clinton was impeached in December 1998 by the House of Representatives, but he was acquitted by the Senate.

Kenneth Starr, a former United States solicitor general who led the Whitewater investigation, testified at President Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearing on November 19, 1998. (Video: AP)

Excerpt from the Post archives: Clinton impeached

After Clinton’s impeachment, Mr. Starr would become president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. But in May 2016 Baylor removed Mr Starr from the university presidency after an investigation found the university had mishandled sexual assault charges against its footballers. Mr. Starr remained chancellor and professor of law. The university also fired its football coach, Art Briles.

A statement from Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone makes no mention of her firing. “Judge Starr was a dedicated public servant and a strong advocate for religious freedom that allows faith-based institutions such as Baylor to thrive,” she said.

For Clinton defenders, Whitewater has become a shorthand for an ever-broader effort by political opponents to find evidence of wrongdoing using the powers of independent counsel. But Mr Starr’s investigation has resulted in lower-level convictions, including jail time for Susan McDougal for contempt of court after refusing to answer questions about Whitewater-related investments.

The Whitewater investigation fueled a rift between the Clintons – who believed they needed to take special precautions to defend themselves against a hostile Washington establishment – and their critics, who saw Clinton’s defensiveness as clear evidence that something was wrong. was wrong.

Lewinsky, in a tweet on Tuesday, wrote that Mr Starr’s thoughts ‘evoke complicated feelings’, but acknowledged it was ‘a painful loss for those who love him’.

In 2010, Mr. Starr became Baylor’s 14th chairman. The university said that during his six years at the helm of the prominent Baptist institution, Mr Starr oversaw the establishment of the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, the renovation of three residence halls and the construction of the stadium McLane for football games. such as an equestrian centre, an athletics stadium and an indoor tennis centre.

But Mr Starr’s tenure ended abruptly in a scandal over the university’s response to sexual assault allegations involving football players and others. An independent law firm report concluded in May 2016 that the university showed too much deference to players accused of sexual assault and disregard or hostility towards their alleged victims.

The report found that football coaches and staff conducted ‘untrained internal investigations’ which denied victims the right to a fair and impartial investigation. He also found that in some cases, university athletic and football officials failed to report incidents of sexual violence to administrators outside the athletic department. There was a perception, according to the report, that “rules applicable to other students do not apply to football players”.

Along with the football coach’s dismissal, the board apologized to the school community and demoted Mr Starr, stripping him of the post of president but letting him remain as chancellor. Within days, Mr. Starr also resigned from that position.

Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents at the time, said the board was “shocked and outraged” by the mishandling of reports of sexual abuse.

Ken Starr quits Baylor amid scandal

Mr Starr at the time said he felt ‘sincere contrition for the tragedy and sadness that has unfolded’. He added: “To the victims who were not treated with the care, attention and support they deserve, I am deeply sorry.”

Kenneth Winston Starr, the youngest of three children, was born in Vernon, North Texas on July 21, 1946, deriving his middle name from his parents’ admiration for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. His father was a minister in the Church of Christ and a part-time barber. His parents were farm children, and family life centered on church and Sunday school teachings.

Mr. Starr, whose childhood nickname was Joe-boy, grew up mostly in San Antonio. Widely described as a serious right-arrow who carried himself with understated confidence, he excelled in all high school endeavors except athletics and was elected president of his class.

He said he was first electrified by national politics during the 1960 presidential campaign and identified in particular with Richard M. Nixon because of their shared hardscrabble experience, although he had says he later became a member of the Young Democrats and a supporter of Hubert H. Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election.

He sold Bibles door-to-door to pay for his tuition at what is now Harding University, a Church of Christ school in Searcy, Ark., and engaged in student activities before transfer to George Washington University after two years.

He recalled the transition as a shock, seeing students protesting the war in Vietnam which he supported (even though he would have missed his physical for the draft). He stood out on campus in other ways, preferring suit and tie as class dress, in an institution where blue jeans prevailed as the dress choice of his peers.

He graduated in 1968, then earned a master’s degree in political science the following year at Brown University. He graduated from Duke University in 1973 and began his rapid rise in legal apprenticeships, eventually becoming a law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.

He married Alice Mendell Starr in 1970. Besides his wife, survivors include three children; a sister and a brother; and nine grandchildren, the family said.

In 1977, he joined the Los Angeles firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to practice corporate law and impressed one of the partners, William French Smith, who became attorney general after Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. His protected follows him to the Ministry of Justice. and has distinguished himself on high-profile issues that have shaped conservative policy on social issues, including overturning federal opposition to organized school prayer and seeking voluntary avenues other than the bus to promote school desegregation.

His trajectory was amazing. At 37, he became the youngest person ever appointed as a judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a bench considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

Making the 400-plus-page Starr Report public in 1998—an early attempt to use the Internet for widespread access—was not easy. Mr. Starr’s team wrote the document in WordPerfect, but congressional officials converted it to HTML, “the format used on the Internet,” The Washington Post reported at the time. This process resulted in a series of “mostly insubstantial” errors that “did not change the meaning of Starr’s report”.

But the report also became must-read for other reasons: its unusually grim departure from the normally dry bureaucratic language of the Capitol. “The prose, far from being dry, factual recitation, contained rich, erotic detail of the kind we expect from a book club romance,” wrote Daniel M. Filler, a prominent law professor, in a California Law Review article.

How the Starr Report Became a Torn Bodice and a Capitol Hill Bestseller

“On her way to the toilets around 8 p.m., she passed George Stephanopoulos’ office. The president was alone inside and he waved him in,” said a passage about Lewinsky from the Starr report.

“She told him she had a crush on him. He laughed, then asked if she’d like to see his private office. Through a connecting door in Mr. Stephanopoulos’ office, they walked through the president’s private dining room. towards the desk next to the Oval Office. Ms Lewinsky testified: “We spoke briefly and kind of acknowledged that there had been a chemistry that was there before and that we were both attracted to each other. another, and then he asked if he could kiss me,” he continued. “Mrs. Lewinsky said yes.

In January 2020, Mr. Starr was back on the Hill – this time on the legal team defending President Donald Trump in impeachment proceedings. During Clinton’s impeachment, Trump mocked Mr Starr as “totally wacky” and “totally crazy”.

On January 28, 2020, President Trump’s attorney Ken Starr, who led the Whitewater inquiry into the Clinton administration, called the process “hell.” (Video: The Washington Post)

Mr. Starr’s bottom line on the Clinton investigation?

“Much of the drama was tragically unnecessary, a self-inflicted wound by a talented but deeply flawed president who believed he was above the law,” Mr. Starr wrote. “Yet, in the end, the president got lucky. A forgiving and prosperous nation easily forgave Bill Clinton and blamed the prosecutor instead. It would be me.

Azi Paybarah, Nick Anderson and Fred A. Bernstein contributed to this report.

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