(AP) Ken Starr, a former federal appellate judge and a prominent attorney whose criminal investigation of Bill Clinton led to the president’s impeachment and put Starr at the center of one of the country’s most polarizing debates of the 1990s, has died at age 76, his family said Tuesday.
Starr died at a hospital Tuesday of complications from surgery, according to his former colleague, attorney Mark Lanier. He said Starr had been hospitalized in an intensive care unit in Houston for about four months.
For many years, Starr’s stellar reputation as a lawyer seemed to place him on a path to the Supreme Court. At age 37, he became the youngest person ever to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia also had served. From 1989-93, Starr was the solicitor general in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, arguing 25 cases before the Supreme Court.
Roberts said Tuesday: “Ken loved our country and served it with dedication and distinction. He led by example, in the legal profession, public service, and the community.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remembered Starr Tuesday as “a brilliant litigator, an impressive leader, and a devoted patriot.”
Despite his impressive legal credentials, nothing could have prepared him for the task of investigating a sitting president.
In a probe that lasted five years, Starr looked into fraudulent real estate deals involving a long-time Clinton associate, delved into the removal of documents from the office of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster after his suicide and assembled evidence of Clinton’s sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern. Each of the controversies held the potential to do serious, perhaps fatal, damage to Clinton’s presidency.
In a Tuesday tweet, Lewinsky expressed mixed emotions on the news of Starr’s death. “As I’m sure many can understand, my thoughts about ken starr bring up complicated feelings,” she tweeted. “But of more importance, is that i imagine it’s a painful loss for those who love him.”
As Clinton’s legal problems worsened, the White House pilloried Starr as a right-wing fanatic doing the bidding of Republicans bent on destroying the president.
“The assaults took a toll” on the investigation, Starr told a Senate committee in 1999. “A duly authorized federal law enforcement investigation came to be characterized as yet another political game. Law became politics by other means.”
In a bitter finish to his investigation of the Lewinsky affair that engendered still more criticism, Starr filed a report, as the law required, with the U.S. House of Representatives. He concluded that Clinton lied under oath, engaged in obstruction of justice and followed a pattern of conduct that was inconsistent with the president’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. House Republicans used Starr’s report as a roadmap in the impeachment of the president, who was acquitted in a Senate trial.
FILE – Baylor University President Ken Starr testifies at the House Committee on Education and Workforce on college athletes forming unions on May 8, 2014, in Washington. Starr, whose criminal investigation of Bill Clinton led to the president’s impeachment, died Sept. 13, 2022. He was 76. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)