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The Starr Report —officially known as Referral From Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr in Conformity with the Requirement of Title 28, United States Code, Section 595(c)— was an investigative account of United States President Bill Clinton by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and released on September 11, 1998.
Originally dealing with the failed land deal years earlier known as Whitewater in 1994, Starr, with the approval of Attorney General of the United States Janet Reno, conducted a wide-ranging investigation of alleged abuses including the firing of White House travel agents, the alleged misuse of FBI files, and Clinton's conduct during the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former Arkansas government employee, Paula Jones. In the course of the investigation, Linda Tripp provided Starr with taped phone conversations in which Monica Lewinsky, a former White House Intern, discussed having oral sex with Clinton. At the deposition, the judge ordered a precise legal definition of the term "sexual relations" that Clinton claims to have construed to mean only vaginal intercourse. A much-quoted statement from Clinton's grand jury testimony showed him questioning the precise use of the word "is." Clinton said, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not—that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement".
After the four year investigation of Clinton, the Office of the Independent Counsel delivered its 445-page report to Congress on September 9, 1998.
For two days, the report sat unread in the Ford House Office Building as Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives debated what to do with it. On September 11, the House voted 363–63 to release the report to the public. When the report was uploaded to the internet, it became a sensation, with twelve percent of adult Americans — 20 million people — browsing the web at once to browse the document. "It's probably the single highest number of people who have ever used the computer to access a single document," David Webber of the Frank Lutz polling company told CNN.
In the report, which contained graphic details of Clinton and Lewinsky's sexual relationship, Starr claimed Clinton performed actions that were "inconsistent with the president's constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws" and outlined a case for impeaching him on 11 possible grounds, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and abuse of power.
In the introduction of his report, Starr claimed Clinton had lied under oath during a sworn deposition on January 17, 1998, while he was a "defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit" and "to a grand jury."
He additionally alleged in the report that Clinton had "attempted to influence the testimony of a grand jury witness who had direct knowledge of facts that would reveal the falsity of his deposition testimony; attempted to obstruct justice by facilitating a witness' plan to refuse to comply with a subpoena; attempted to obstruct justice by encouraging a witness to file an affidavit that the president knew would be false ... ; lied to potential grand jury witnesses, knowing that then they would repeat those lies before the grand jury; and engaged in a pattern on conduct that was inconsistent with his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws."
Starr included a detailed timeline of Lewinsky's various sexual encounters with Clinton during her White House internship.
He concluded the report with a section entitled "Grounds," where he provided supporting evidence to each of the 11 grounds for potential impeachment of Clinton—including physical evidence such as the DNA test results of a semen stain on a dress owned by Lewinsky which matched Clinton's blood sample.
Starr also alleged that Clinton had conversations with witnesses during his investigation which he ascribed as "witness-tampering and obstruction of justice by hiding evidence and giving misleading accounts to lawyers for Paula Jones."
Response to report
At the time it was released, the report was criticized for making accusations about exactly what Clinton did. The report claimed "the details are crucial to an informed evaluation of the testimony, the credibility of witnesses, and the reliability of other evidence. Many of the details reveal highly personal information; many are sexually explicit. This is unfortunate, but it is essential." Because Starr regularly leaked portions to press about sexual details that were mentioned in his report, he was criticized for using the scandal as a political maneuver and was charged for violating legal ethics by presenting information irrelevant to an investigation as evidence of legal wrongdoing. Also, it is unclear whether Starr had the legal authority to ask Clinton questions about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, as the OIC was convened solely to investigate Whitewater and Paula Jones' claim that Clinton sexually assaulted her. Questioning about a sexual relationship void of assault appears to be both irrelevant under the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) as a whole and under Rule 413, which allows questioning about separate allegations of sexual assault (which was never asserted about Lewinsky's relationship with Clinton).
The report was also criticized for exaggerating what the legal definition of perjury is, accusing Clinton of committing perjury after only one witness claimed he did so and saying that Clinton lied when he said he did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky in terms described by Paula Jones' attorneys. Two of the three parts of the definition of "sexual relations" described by Jones' attorneys during her lawsuit had been ruled out by presiding Judge Susan Webber Wright as "too broad" and legally unacceptable.
The report alleged that Clinton considered oral sex to be a form of sexual relations and that the relationship between him and Lewinsky lasted longer than the date he described, but presented nothing relevant to back its claims. The report also claimed that Clinton falsely denied under oath ever meeting with Lewinsky alone at times, despite the fact that Clinton did admit to this when he testified, and that Clinton obstructed justice by concealing gifts he gave to Lewinsky and destroying an intimate note that was left in a book he claimed Lewinsky gave him when she visited the White House on January 4, 1998. Lewinsky's testimony that Clinton concealed gifts was contradicted by both Clinton's testimony and that of his personal secretary Betty Currie, who each said that it was Lewinsky who asked him for some gifts and that he tended to give a number of his staff gifts as an act of courtesy. Betty Currie also produced some the gifts Clinton gave to Lewinsky before the grand jury. Clinton also denied ever seeing such an intimate note and the Secret Service WAVES records showed Lewinsky did not visit the White House on any given date in 1998. Starr also presented nothing credible to back his claim that Clinton obstructed justice by asking Lewinsky to file an affidavit denying there was ever a relationship between the two or that both Lewinsky and Clinton denied what had truly happened during the relationship under oath. The report also alleged Clinton's job offer to Lewinsky was an attempt to keep her from admitting the relationship to the public and thus obstruct justice, but had nothing relevant to back this claim either.
Starr also accused Clinton of denying under oath that he ever had a conversation with Vernon Jordan about Lewinsky's involvement in the Paula Jones lawsuit. Clinton, however, was never asked this when he testified during the Jones case. Starr also accused Clinton of witness tampering by influencing Currie to testify in favor of him. Currie, however, was not called as a witness when stated what she saw had happened during the relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky and it was demonstrated that Lewinsky was a friend of Currie's who had exchanged some of the gifts Clinton gave Lewinsky during a visit. While Starr did acknowledge that Currie did visit Lewinsky's apartment and exchanged the gifts with her, he also claimed that the fact that Currie drove to Lewinsky's apartment proved Lewinsky's testimony that Clinton concealed the gifts was correct and Currie's and Clinton's were both false. This claim about was denounced as without any basis or logic.
Starr also claimed that Clinton simultaneously delayed testimony for seven months and lied to potential grand jury witnesses by publicly denying the relationship, and thus committed a criminal felony by refusing to testify. When Clinton made his claim about his relationship with Lewinsky to the public, however, he was not under oath and thus it legally was not a felony. There was also no evidence that Clinton committed witness tampering by privately denying the relationship to these witnesses and asking them to testify in his favor.
Starr also argued that Clinton abused power by: denying the relationship with Lewinsky ever occurred; using executive privilege to both pursue an appeal against the case without Starr's knowledge; using executive privilege to cover up the relationship; delaying his grand jury testimony until August, and by getting the Secret Service to agree to assist in covering up the relationship in an acquiescing matter. However, a letter was discovered that showed Clinton's legal team had informed Starr before the appeals took place. The report was also misleading when it reflected the Supreme Court's ruling that the President could not use the Secret Service to assist in whatever they wanted help with. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote the majority opinion, had also stated that any case with merit, the prospect of an appeal would be granted. When Clinton pursued the appeal before the DC District Court, the court's Chief Justice Norma Holloway Johnson acknowledged that Clinton was cooperating with Starr and did not use executive privilege to cover up the relationship. Abuse of power had also been defined in The Federalist Papers as "corrupt use of the office for personal gain or some other improper purpose," which was not demonstrated in this case.
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