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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
QUESTION: How much long...
QUESTION: Do you need to justify the incredible...
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
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
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
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: ... 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
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?
STARR: Si. (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,
QUESTION: Are you going to New York tonight or tomorrow