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Starr: My Departure Won't Affect Probe

'The investigation is going forward,' he says

starr

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 18) -- Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr says his decision to step aside for a job in academia won't affect the continuing three-year-old probe.

Starr, who will become dean of California's Pepperdine University School of Law, said late Monday the exact timing of his departure from the investigation isn't settled. Earlier Monday, the university's president said it would be Aug. 1.

"I think it is inconsistent with the orderly conduct of this investigation for me to continue indefinitely as independent counsel once I have moved my family to Los Angeles, but the precise timing has yet to be determined," Starr said, after he arrived at the airport in Little Rock, Ark.

Starr said the Whitewater investigation would be not be affected.

"What we're trying to do is conclude this as promptly as possible, but consistent with a very comprehensive and thorough investigation," Starr said.

"The investigation is going forward," he added.

Clintons

The surprise announcement on Monday about Starr's new job set Washington abuzz. Officially, the White House had no comment. But Clinton partisans suggested it was a clear signal that there will be no indictments of Clinton or the first lady, because Starr would probably not take that historic step and then decamp for the West Coast.

One lawyer who has followed the case told The Associated Press: "If Starr were going to do anything to the president or first lady, he'd have to be here to see it through, he wouldn't be taking a full-time job elsewhere. I see this as great news (for the Clintons)."

A top-ranking member of the Whitewater investigating team, however, told CNN it "certainly would be wrong to read it one way or the other."

"We would continue with whatever presented itself," the source said, insisting no decision has been made on whether to take criminal action against the Clintons.

Starr could still release a damning report against the president and the first lady without filing formal indictments.

Another source familiar with the Whitewater investigation said that it would be "impossible" for the Whitewater investigation to be concluded by Aug. 1, but pointed out that Starr did not participate in the previous Whitewater trials anyway. He said he thought Starr could stay on as a consultant.

But Pepperdine Provost Steve Lemley, who led the search committee that chose Starr told CNN, "Our understanding will be he will lay down his responsibilities" on Aug. 1. That is when Pepperdine's "academic season" begins, and Lemley said Starr never asked for a later starting date.

tucker

Starr probably will be replaced by a third Whitewater independent counsel. Starr took over in August 1994 after Robert Fiske was pushed out.

Along with a decision on the Clintons, other pieces of the investigation still underway include:

  • The sentencing of James McDougal on 18 felony charges, set for April 14. McDougal, the president's former business partner, has recently been cooperating with prosecutors.
  • A second fraud trial for former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, accused of obscuring profits from a lucrative cable television deal. His trial has been delayed until September because of Tucker's recent liver transplant surgery.

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