President Clinton’s lawyer and political allies questioned the objectivity of Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr on Wednesday following reports that Starr is investigating the president’s past sex life.
“No one’s personal life should be subject to a desperate dragnet by a prosecutor with unlimited resources,” said David Kendall, the Clintons’ Whitewater lawyer. “It is intolerable and it is wrong.”
Kendall’s comments capped a day of attacks on Starr after the Washington Post reported that Whitewater investigators recently questioned Arkansas state troopers about possible extramarital affairs by Clinton.
“I think as a matter of common sense and decency, most Americans would feel outraged by the depth of the personal focus that this investigation into a land transaction is now taking,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a former prosecutor, said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
“This kind of crass invasion of individual privacy, if true, is indefensible,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., another former prosecutor. “It is outrageous. It is sickening. It is character assassination, not a criminal investigation, and it is wrong.”
In a statement late Wednesday afternoon, Starr labeled as “incorrect” reports that he is investigating aspects of the president’s personal life. Rather, he said, he is following traditional law enforcement techniques in identifying and interviewing witnesses “with whom the subjects of this investigation have been associated, and who therefore may possess relevant factual information. We have no control over who those persons might or might not be.”
Two troopers anonymously told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Whitewater investigators were gathering information about Clinton’s private life before Starr replaced Robert Fiske in 1994.
Former Clinton campaign adviser James Carville, appearing on CNN’s “Politics Today,” said Starr’s actions indicate he is under pressure from conservatives to inflict political harm on the president.
“It’s desperation or weirdness,” said Carville, describing Starr’s investigation of land transactions dating back to 1981 as being conducted in a “Pee Wee Herman atmosphere.”
Former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, appearing on CNN with Carville, said it is not unusual to question “disgruntled former employees” or “spurned lovers” in a criminal investigation.
But diGenova said Starr also has an obligation to explain “the specific reasons, not just the general ones … why he determined that such questions were probative and proper.”
A Republican, diGenova acknowledged that there have been “certain appearances” that Starr has been influenced by “right-wing ideologues.” And that, he added, “undercuts public confidence.”
For example, diGenova called Starr’s cooperation for an article that recently appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine “a serious, serious mistake.”
Carville, in his criticism of Starr, has also frequently cited the prosecutor’s speeches before political organizations and his continued representation of Clinton political foes in his private law practice.