Ken Starr: Witnesses Haven’t Accused Trump of Breaking the Law

'The idea it's an impeachable offense is to me quite extreme, it's extravagant'

• November 19, 2019 1:35 pm


Former independent counsel Ken Starr said Tuesday that the impeachment hearings have yet to produce any compelling testimony from witnesses accusing President Donald Trump of any unlawful acts.

Starr, who conducted the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment, said that impeaching Trump based on the evidence offered in the opening days of the hearing would be an "extravagant" move.

"What we hear is ‘improper,'" Starr said about witnesses' testimony so far. "I've never heard the suggestion ‘unlawful.' I think again the president's judgment is being called into question—whether this is wise or not, but not a crime."

Starr criticized House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) for acting as a prosecutor rather than an evenhanded leader of his committee.

"The chairman has chosen to be chief prosecutor," Starr said. "He long ago left the idea of being the fair and balanced chair of the committee, and he uses terms such as bribery and extortion. But we're not hearing that from the witnesses."

Fox News host Bill Hemmer asked Starr about ranking Republican Devin Nunes's (Calif.) approach at the hearings. "What he's driving at is there really is no crime," Starr replied. "This is in the nature, as we've been saying, of an oversight hearing. Do we like the president's style? Was it an appropriate thing for him to do? And reasonable people can say he should not have done that. Perfectly reasonable conclusion. But the idea that this is an impeachable offense is to me quite extreme, it's extravagant."

Starr said congressional Democrats were wielding their impeachment power as a political weapon.

"It's certainly not what the founding generation intended," he said. "Here we are 11 months and a few days away from a presidential election. It's extravagant, it's political."

During Starr's independent counsel investigation, President Clinton did commit a crime by lying under oath. The GOP-controlled House impeached him for perjury and obstruction of justice, but the Democrat-led Senate did not vote to convict him. The Senate was split 50-50 on whether Clinton obstructed justice, falling short of the needed 67 votes to convict.

Starr later said he regretted how his investigation turned to Clinton's sexual relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, although he said he still sees "no practical alternative." Clinton stridently denied the allegations but eventually admitted he had engaged in a relationship with Lewinsky.