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 Clinton Pleased With Jones Decision (04/02/98)



Ken Starr Discusses His Investigation

April 2, 1998

QUESTION: Good morning. How are you?

STARR: Sorry, running late.

QUESTION: How are you, sir?

STARR: Got to empty the trash. I'll be right back.

QUESTION: Are you going to have a hard time mustering support in Congress for bringing perjury charges against those who participated in Paula Jones?

STARR: Well, again, my task is to get the job done with my very able colleagues. Our job is distinct. And it's important to recognize the distinction between the civil case and the disposition of that and then whether there was in the course of that civil case -- which has now been resolved. I mean, there may be appeals and the like.

But the real issue is that we're examining, were there crimes committed? We hope for the sake of the nation that we would conclude that no crimes were committed. But that's our obligation, it's not whether a particular civil complaint filed by one individual has merit or has no merit. If a case has no merit, that's why judges sit, to resolve issues and to determine what the right legal answer is.

But the real question that we're examining is, were crimes committed? Now, what were those crimes that we've been charged with examining? Those crimes -- and, again, there is a presumption of innocence that attaches to each person -- but the crimes that we have been charged with investigating are subornation of perjury, intimidation of witnesses and obstruction of justice.

Those are very serious matters and that's what we've been given our charge to do and we're going to continue to do that. And we're trying to do it as quickly as we can because we do recognize there is a very keen and powerful interest in bringing all these matters to resolution as quickly as possible.

We're very sympathetic to that. We are seeking to gather the evidence, bring it before the grand jury. The grand jury is sitting, as you know, at a very hectic pace. These are citizens from the District of Columbia who are working very hard. They want information, they want evidence and the like.

QUESTION: Are you still working on the draft for the Congress?

STARR: No, we view our exercise as being -- here comes the truck. So, we go to the background noise. Welcome to the suburbs, sir. We are to do a job and that is a law job.

It's not a political job. It's a job of professionals gathering facts and putting them before citizens who are serving on the grand jury and then for the grand jury to make its assessment.

That's our task. That's not politics and I think it's so important for us to know that law and the legal process -- and what you saw yesterday was a legal process, not a political process.

That's what courts do. That's what grand juries do. That's not politics, that's law.

QUESTION: But there is a public relations aspect to this and the president certainly seems to have come out ahead on that. And your staff doesn't seem -- you and your staff don't seem -- at all worried about that. Why not?

STARR: You will see us sleeping very well at night because we know we are professionals who are doing a job.

And I have a great faith in facts. I have a great and enduring faith in the law. Facts and law. That's what we deal with. We don't deal in politics. We work in the realm of facts and law and not public relations.

QUESTION: Mr. Starr, are you still working on the draft for the Congress?

STARR: Well, I have not commented at all. We have an obligation to gather and assess facts and then to make a judgment as to whether we must provide information to Congress. But it's premature for me to comment on that.

QUESTION: Do you support Judge Wright's decision?

STARR: Well, it's not for me to say. I have the highest...

QUESTION: As a legal expert.

STARR: ... regard -- well, I've not read the opinion although I see that it's republished. But I've been on the phone this morning and also being reunited with my family who have been away. I've been working and they've been away.

But I have the greatest respect for Judge Wright. She is a very able judge. I'm not going to -- because I'm not in a position to comment for really two reasons. One, I have not read the opinion, and if that sounds like a dodge, it's a fact. I have not read the opinion. But even more importantly, I'm really not steeped in the law that she was dealing with. And I don't know the facts that she was dealing with.

Our facts are very different. Our scope is very different. What I do know is that there was a process and the process is a process of law, and I think we should all feel good about the process. That is, a judge has reviewed evidence and has come to her conclusion. And she set forth that conclusion in a very lengthy opinion.

I do know it's a long opinion. I just haven't had a chance to read it.

And now that process may continue. It's already said there will be an appeal. That's a process of law.

And again, that's a process we should all feel good about as Americans, so instead of just a public relations and politics and spin and the rest, that's a process that, as Judge Howard during our trial of Governor Tucker and Jim McDougal and Susan McDougal, kept reminding the jury, don't pay attention to what goes on outside. Your job as citizens, you've taken an oath, is to understand, listen to the evidence that -- and he would draw with his hands in court a picture of the courtroom walls -- within these four walls. That's the key. And then to listen to the instructions of the court.

That's a process of law. We should feel good about that process whether we agree with a particular result or not. And I know that there will be differences of opinion as to whether a particular opinion was right or wrong. But we have been reminded recently that we are all under law. Law governs. Facts govern. And what we saw yesterday was a very considered judge coming to a conclusion, and now that process will go on.

What I have said all along is, our process is independent. We have been given a task by the attorney general of the United States and then by the Special Division of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Why did the attorney general give us that task? Because she came to a legal judgment based upon the facts that were at hand, that there should be an investigation of whether Monica Lewinsky and others engaged in certain criminal activity in connection with a civil case. That is our system. And my job is to do that part of the examination.

QUESTION: And one last -- just to follow up, how unusual is to investigate perjury in a case that didn't warrant going to trial?

Well, I have not done research in terms of what dispositions of civil cases and so forth. But I will say this, it's very important -- here comes our truck again. It is very important -- that the law and the legal process have complete integrity and that people be honest.

That's why we put people under oath. They don't just come and say, well, tell us whatever you think. They said, OK, you're taking an oath. You're affirming or swearing under God that you will, so help me God, that I will tell the truth.

That's awfully important. Now, that means we attach a special importance to it. There's no room for white lies.

There's no room for shading. There's only room for true. What happened? Now, what the attorney general determined, based upon the information that we had and brought promptly to her attention, was that there were -- they're allegations. There's a presumption of innocence that all of our citizens enjoy -- that in a civil case, and whatever happens in that civil case, someone will eventually be a winner; someone will eventually be a loser.

But in that civil case, you cannot defile the temple of justice. You can't -- through, and I hope it was not done -- subornation of perjury, intimidation of witnesses and obstruction of justice.

Rather, you must play by the rules. We all must play by the rules. There are rules. And just as in school there are rules, just as in most families there are rules, in court, there are a lot of rules. And you'd better play by them.

And if you don't play by those rules, if you lie under oath, if you intimidate a witness, if you seek otherwise to obstruct the process of justice, it doesn't matter who wins and who loses in the civil case. What matters from the criminal law's perspective is -- were crimes committed?

And for the sake of the nation, we hope for the best. But our job is to determine whether crimes were committed.

QUESTION: And part of your investigation was to question Monica Lewinsky in the hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton about -- without a lawyer present and the Justice Department could be investigating that. What's your reaction...?

STARR: Well, that is very much in litigation, and in fact the judge issues orders under seal and as an officer of the court -- and I would like to speak to that because I have some very strong things I would like to say, some very strong things I would like to say -- because I work with honorable career prosecutors and I feel very strongly that honorable career prosecutors should not have their reputations besmirched lightly, unfairly and the like.

But I can't comment about the specifics of any order. I am aware of a press report. I just can't comment because these matters are under seal.

But at the appropriate time, when the facts can come out -- and I hope and pray that the facts will come out -- I will convince any fair-minded person who is interested in facts as opposed to just bringing a preconceived set of notions, don't bother me with the facts, I have my mind already made up, some might say -- but I can convinced, I am confident, at the appropriate time any fair-minded person that my career prosecutors with whom I am proud to serve conduct themselves with complete honor and complete integrity and fully within the bounds of the law.

What about besmirching the reputation of a career politician?

STARR: Well, I have a job to do and you will never hear me besmirching anyone's reputation. Not once, never in all of this four years of activity, have I ever said anything to besmirch anyone's reputation. I think we owe one another as a part of basic human dignity treating one another with dignity and with respect and basic civility. It's the way I was trained in the law. And I think that's a great tradition that we can -- we can all profit from.

I think from time to time one hears voices, well, why don't we just -- why don't we get the facts? And instead of using names and engaging in name calling and so forth, what's wrong with gathering the facts and then letting those facts speak for themselves? And that's what I'm trying to do.

Never would I seek to besmirch anyone's reputation. That's one of the reasons that I am anxious to say at all times that what we do is examine -- because that's our job -- allegations. But it's a wonderful country with a great tradition that we respect people's individuality and dignity and that we presume them to be innocent.

But I have a task to do and that task is to find out the facts and not to be engaging in scandal mongering or rumor mongering and the like. And you will never find us doing that. And when I say me, I'm not meaning to personalize that. I mean my colleagues with whom I'm very privileged to serve.

QUESTION: Do you believe the decision...

QUESTION: How much longer...

STARR: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, excuse me.

QUESTION: ... of the judge will affect the credibility of the investigation you're conducting?

STARR: It will affect -- I'm sorry, could you...

QUESTION: The credibility of the investigation.

STARR: Oh. Well, I think eventually, as I said before, it's the facts. As Jack Webb -- you all are too young to remember a wonderful program called "Dragnet" -- "Just the facts, ma'am," Jack Webb would say. And I had the pleasure of meeting Jack Webb after that show had long since left the air. And that's something that I always remembered, "Just the facts." And Justice Brandeis, one of our greatest justices, would rail and say, "Facts, facts, facts. I don't want to hear theories." And now I would say, let's don't have spin, let's don't have public relations, let's deal with the facts. What are the facts? Let's let those facts come out.

Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: It's reported that Linda Tripp is scheduled to testify during the week of April 13th. Is that a sign that your investigation is wrapping up?

STARR: Well, first of all, you are able to say things that if they come out of my mouth, I'm in trouble. Because you've asked a very specific, perfectly legitimate question about a specific witness and a potential appearance before the grand jury.

I really cannot comment on that because as an officer of the court I have to protect the grand jury's secrecy. That's a duty under which I am absolutely bound, just as I couldn't respond to the question with any specificity with respect to one of my prosecutors.

QUESTION: How much long...

QUESTION: Do you need to justify the incredible...

STARR: Sorry.

QUESTION: How much longer do you expect this to go on?

STARR: Well, we're moving very quickly. As I've said before, this grand jury is sitting more frequently, or more regularly, more days than I think any grand jury in the country and we're very appreciative and all of us should be appreciative. Because this isn't just some prosecutor operating in a conference room, this is going on in a United States courthouse. You all are there from time to time. You see witnesses coming in and coming out.

And we are moving as quickly as we can. Now let me say, it would be very helpful if all witnesses who were summoned before the grand jury would simply answer the questions.

I can't comment about specifics, but I have said and it is appropriate for me to say, that when a witness sees fit to say, "I decline to answer that question. I could give you that information but I'm not going to because I invoke a privilege. I enjoy a privilege that is going to keep me from giving you that answer, that information," the witness may be within his or her right in doing it.

Certainly, the witness has a right to invoke the privilege, and then, depending upon our assessment from a professional perspective as to whether the assertion of the privilege is well grounded or not or founded in law, we may accept that invocation or we may say, well, let's go to the judge. And then that adds to the burdens on the chief judge who very ably supervises the operation of the grand jury.

As the Supreme Court's recent decision to grant certiorari in the Vincent Foster notes case shows, the prosecution doesn't always control the calendar. We don't control the clock. It's out of our hands so frequently. But I want you to know we're doing everything that we can to move very, very quickly, and we are moving very quickly. I'm just not going to give you a specific here's the date.

QUESTION: Mr. Starr, can we ask you a couple of questions in Spanish? We know you speak Spanish.

QUESTION: But can we just finish one more question in English, please?

STARR: Si. Un poco, pero me Espanol es (LAUGHS).

Pero, Pablo, mi amigo, buen amigo, puedo ayudarme, por favor.

QUESTION: Mr. Starr, how important was the investigation of Paula Jones in the one you're conducting. I mean...

STARR: Well, we have various aspects of our investigation. As my last comment just indicates, we have the White House travel office matter that was given to us by the attorney general in 1996, and we have been working very hard on that, but we have had some issues, litigation issues, that have caused us delays, over which we have no control. And now a matter is going to the Supreme Court of the United States.

We have the FBI files matter, and that's going along very, very well.

We also have the Little Rock phase of the investigation, and I've been down in Little Rock, and am down there virtually every week. I've been not able to get down with quite as much regularity because of the demands here in Washington. But that is also coming to a very important juncture as well.

But this is an additional branch of our jurisdiction that was added to us very recently in January by the attorney general. But it is simply one branch of the investigation. The attorney general could have appointed another independent counsel to investigate these matters. It was her judgment that it should be investigated not by the Department of Justice but by an independent counsel, and because one was already in place -- there are several independent counsels in place -- she would give that one to us as well.

So it is as if we are four or five -- excuse me, I'm sorry -- four or five independent counsels kind of rolled into one with different branches of our jurisdiction.

QUESTION: Why did...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) taxpayers dollars have been invested well? And do you feel you need to justify the cost of this tremendous investigation?

Well, I have to do my job and I have to do it in the right way. And it is eventually for, you know, the General Accounting Office, which issues frequent reports and we work very closely with them to make sure that we are using resources very, very efficiently. Just so you know, I ride coach when I go to Little Rock. In other words, we do not abuse the public trust.

We don't abuse the public trust (ph). We are very judicious in the way that we go about our work, but we do have to go about our work. How do we do that? We are working, again, with career people, and so when I get into the office in just a few minutes, I'll be working with FBI colleagues who are working with us on this case now, but who would be working on another case were they across the street at the FBI.

So it's the government's work that's being done. And that's the key. Is it work that should be done? And it's not for me to say. It's for the attorney general of the United States and the special division to say, this is a job that needs to be done. And they've made that determination. It's our job to get it done as promptly as we can, and we are doing that.

QUESTION: The judge has given you access to Frank Carter's records. What do you plan to do with that information?

STARR: Well, again, that's a specific matter that goes to a ruling that is under seal. So I just -- I just can't comment with respect to anything that's under seal.

QUESTION: Then why did you summon Frank Carter and Vernon Jordan to Virginia?

STARR: Oh...


STARR: ... well, first -- well, actually again, you're using -- the questions are still going to the grand jury. I want to answer that, but I'm hesitant even with respect to that because there is more than one grand jury and I think it's better for me not to answer that. I'm going to err on the side of caution. But one of these days I look forward to answering any question and...

QUESTION: Are you going to go to Little Rock, Arkansas?

STARR: Yes, I will go again, probably early next week.

QUESTION: Will you be in New York tomorrow?

STARR: Yes. OK. Thank you all.

QUESTION: You summoned some records...

STARR: I don't -- I think I've answered -- yes, si?

QUESTION: Do you think you can answer something in Spanish?


QUESTION: We can translate for you, but we wanted to find out if you could give us a fluent answer.

STARR: Oh, oh, I see. I see. No, I can't give you a fluent answer. It's been too long since I've tried to use my Spanish. But I lived (SPANISH) San Antonio.

QUESTION: And also have you lived in San Diego?

STARR: And in Los Angeles.

QUESTION: Los Angeles.

STARR: Si. But I lived (SPANISH) in San Antonio. Adios, (SPANISH).

QUESTION: Are you going to New York tonight or tomorrow morning?

STARR: Tonight.

In Other News

Thursday April 2, 1998

Clinton Welcomes Jones Decision; Appeal Likely
Bowles Testifies Before Grand Jury
Reno Reviewing Allegations Hale Was Paid By Conservative Group
Lawyer: Jones Appeal 99 Percent Likely
Specter Urges Caution On Impeachment
Women Have Mixed Reactions To Dismissal Of Jones' Case

Ken Starr Discusses His Investigation

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