Ken Starr, Who Led Clinton's Partisan Impeachment, Says Impeachment Should Be 'Powerfully Bipartisan'

He also likens impeachment to "domestic war."


Ken Starr, a member of President Donald Trump's impeachment legal defense team, argued during Trump's Senate trial today that the process must be "powerfully bipartisan" to be legitimate.

"Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war," he said. 

Starr didn't just live through Bill Clinton's impeachment. He was the independent counsel whose investigation led to the charges levied against the former president. The House impeached Clinton in December 1998 on two counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of abuse of power pertaining to his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

It was not bipartisan.

On the first three articles, just five Democratic House reps defected from party lines and voted alongside Republicans. On the last article, only one did. A heavier bipartisan consensus actually cut against impeachment, with five Republicans voting against article one, 28 against article two, 12 against article three, and 81 against article four.

So was Starr bringing up the Clinton case in a "lessons learned" manner, suggesting that it shouldn't have been pursued at all? Not really. At most, his arguments today seemed to oscillate between a defense of the Clinton impeachment and a repudiation of it.

"The nation's most recent experience, the Clinton impeachment, even though severely and roundly criticized, charged crimes," Starr said—and those crimes were committed "beyond any reasonable observer's doubt." Trump's impeachment, he said in contrast, risks being "dominated by partisan considerations" because his articles contain no formal accusations of criminal misconduct.

But later, in a puzzling pivot, he seemed to say that not even criminal allegations merit the boot: "The very divisive Clinton impeachment demonstrates that, while highly relevant, the commission of a crime is by no means sufficient to warrant the removal of our duly elected president."

Meanwhile, Starr's 2018 book Contempt declared that "Abuse of Power stood at the center of The President's behavior."

This confusion may explain why the former independent counsel chose to focus instead on President Richard Nixon's impeachment inquiry when he drove his point home. 

"In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 410–4, the House of Representatives authorized an impeachment inquiry" into Nixon, Starr noted. "It bears emphasis before this high court: This was the first presidential impeachment in over 100 years."

The next one would come two decades later, with Starr at the helm. 

Yet the removal of Richard Nixon was a fairly partisan affair too. "Contra Starr, presidential impeachments have always been partisan," notes the Cato Institute's Gene Healy. "Even in the Nixon near-impeachment, a majority of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted against every article."

Partisanship is a powerful drug. Whether Trump deserves a guilty verdict has nothing to do with the political animus surrounding the process—something Starr should be acutely aware of.

NEXT: What's Behind Bernie Sanders' Surge? The Same Discontent That Caused Trump's 2016 Rise.

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  1. You lost Binion. Get over it already…

    1. MoveOn…

    2. Watching the reason writers try and call put hypocrisy is fucking next level hilarious.

  2. “Those of us who lived through the Clinton impeachment, including members of this body, full well understand that a presidential impeachment is tantamount to domestic war,” he said.

    And like all wars, we hapless civilians stuck in the middle get the worst of it.

  3. Yes, Billy. Sometimes people, especially lawyers, say things that help their team and harm the other team.

  4. Ken Starr.

    Prudish yet prurient inquisitor of Pres. Clinton.

    President of Rape U. until even that institution couldn’t stand him anymore.

    Paid mouthpiece for Jeffrey Epstein.

    Lifelong advocate for Republican backwardness and intolerance.

    Apt fit for the Trump defense team.


      1. The Rev, being an admitted sexual assaulter himself, is very defensive when it comes to rapists.

    2. “Paid mouthpiece for Jeffrey Epstein.”

      You know who else was a very close associate of Jeffery Epstein? So close that Epstein hung picture of this mystery individual in a dress in his rape den?

      “shut up you rubes did not attend an elite college in a blue state you will lose the culture war”

      Sniff sniff why you gotta be swinging the hammer of truth so hard, dawg

      1. Democrats must live with the personal shabbiness of Bill Clinton.

        Republicans must bear the comprehensive ugliness of Donald Trump.

        Both sides have burdens.

        The Democrats get to win the culture war, and shove progress down Republicans’ bigoted, stale-thinking, superstitious throats, though.

        1. I’m not so sure that you are winning the culture war. You’ve been winning, for decades, no argument, but I suspect the pendulum may be starting its back stroke.

          1. The electorate is becoming less white, less bigoted, less rural, less backward, less religious. What is positioning the clingers for becoming any more competitive in the culture war. Is creationism coming back to public schools? School prayer on the way back? What about gay-bashing? Social Security and Medicare on the way out? Abortion and contraception to be outlawed? Environmental protections eliminated? Consumer protections? Revival of the war on doobies? Segregated schools back in vogue? What gains by conservatives in the culture war should we expect?

            1. Funny you mention Medicare. The republicans did one of the biggest expansions with Part D which added prescription drugs coverage.

            2. And the result has been a more divided country, more racial tension, more urban crime and homelessness, an education system that is falling further behind the rest of the world, and a more secular country more concerned with identity politics, than right and wrong in a sane world. What evidence do you have that “clingers” are any less competitive in the “culture” war? That creationism isn’t given equal time in public schools, is a travesty in education. It’s an example of how it’s the ESTABLISHMENT that is afraid to compete. Give me one example of school prayer harming anyone? I haven’t seen any “gay” bashing in a long time. They will be when they run out of money, sooner than later. Abortion is murder. If your mother had aborted you, where would you be? Why outlaw contraception? The problem is too many women get pregnant, despite contraception being readily available! Then they turn to abortion to fix their “mistake”. Pot is being steadily legalized across the country? Segregated schools are unlikely, but the thought makes a good straw man, doesn’t it?Gains by conservatives depend on Trump’s fate. If he’s removed from office, or if he’s re-elected, will decide if conservatives, gain or lose in the culture “war”.

              1. “Harm” from prayer isn’t the fucking point; not forcing other people’s children to pray to your imaginary friend on the taxpayer’s dime in concordance with constitutional bylaws IS.

            3. “The electorate is becoming less white, less bigoted, less rural, less backward, less religious”

              And the result is that Democrats can’t even win elections they rig.

              What does that say about your and your fellow backwards bigots?

        2. “Democrats must live with the personal shabbiness of Bill Clinton.”

          Yes, you’ve all made it very clear that rape, war crimes, racism, abuse of power and unbridled corruption are okay when you do it.

    3. I attended an elite college in a blue city in a red state.
      What do I win?

      1. A bad education?

      2. Was it full of out-of-state Jewish girls who couldn’t get into an Ivy?

        1. You know it!

    4. Oh, look. The lying Regressive Dumbfuck is still trying to make everyone forget that Bill Clinton is a serial rapist with close ties to Jeffrey Epstein who was impeached for lying under oath about his sexual predations by projecting his deeds onto everyone else.

      Because that tactic worked so well for Hillary in 2016, right?

  5. “Whether Trump deserves a guilty verdict has nothing to do with the political animus surrounding the process—something Starr should be acutely aware of.”

    That’s assuming Starr isn’t a partisan hack- which he is so…

    1. Coming from the mouth breathing cum guzzling donkey cock who tell us every day that Clinton’s proven perjury was no big deal but that your imaginings about conversations that took place in Trump’s office are more than enough for removal.

      Kill yourself you stupid piece of subhuman shit.

  6. Number of Democrats who voted to impeach Bill Clinton: 5

    Number of Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump: 0

    Which impeachment proceedings were more bipartisan?

    Binion’s article, like Shikha’s earlier today, helps illustrate just how badly the Reason staff are afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome.


    “The Clinton impeachment wuz a partisan witch hunt! Uhhhh… remove Trump because I imagine he must have said something to the president of Ukraine even though all parties concede that he didn’t, we have a transcript of the phone call, and all of the aid was released with no subsequent favorable action by the Ukrainian government”

    Oh Billy…

  8. Billy is not familiar with the expression “necessary but not sufficient”.

    There is no conflict between the two parts of Starr’s arguments.
    The first is saying that a crime is a necessary requirement of impeachment proceedings (not saying I agree or disagree with him on this). The second part is that just having evidence of a crime is not sufficient. But, that the crime must be significant enough to warrant impeachment proceedings.

    Logic is hard, its a shame they don’t teach it at journalism schools.

    1. Yes. He’s not contradicting himself by saying that even though a crime was committed, which made it a BETTER impeachment case, it should be more serious. Clinton’s crime was mostly of a personal nature, rather than one that compromised the office. Trump’s isn’t even a crime.

      1. Huh. Billy both committed perjury himself, and suborned perjury from others. Further, (and I personally remember this), he appeared on national TV, looked directly into the camera, and lied to the American peoples’ face. A bald face, no wiggle room, lie.
        I submit that is impeachable conduct.

        1. Ooh before anyone can say it: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
          SEPT 13, 19989:14 PM

      2. You ave fallen for the spin that made Bill’s impeachment about the sex. It was never about the sex. It was about Bill trying to use the power of the Office to cover-up the sex IN the Oval Office. Kinda like how they’re trying to say Trump is trying to cover-up something, “quid pro quo”? That never happened, and isn’t impeachable, even if it did, because it is a matter of foreign policy, that is done all the time!

  9. Oh also Billy, you imbecilic son of a syphilitic chimpanzee, Ken Starr didn’t “lead” the Clinton impeachment — anymore than Robert Mueller is leading Trump’s.

  10. Triumph is indeed on the wind, luck siding with him ….

  11. Dear Mr Binion,

    Ken Starr did not lead the Clinton impeachment.

    Ken Starr conducted an investigation under the Independent Counsel statute, which positively required him to report any crimes he discovered to Congress. Having found crimes in his investigation, he reported them to Congress.

    Everything else was outside his purview. Kenneth Starr did not make his report public (he indeed advised against it), he had no role in the decision to impeach, and he did not take part in the impeachment. Those were all actions of the House majority, completely outside Starr’s purview.

  12. In Clinton’s trial, the Senate ruled that his crimes did not warrant removal. That is not confusion, that is a true appraisal of the objective decision of the Senate.

  13. If the impeachment is not “powerfully bipartisan”, it is not worth the effort or trouble. We have seen that three times in our history, yet have not learned.

    1. The truth is that if the remedy can be solved with an election, you should let the voters affect that remedy. If there’s corruption of such a serious nature that it’s unlikely to be solved by the voters (perhaps through a direct manipulation of election processes, or an attempt to become an autarch) then you shelve the impeachment.

    2. If the impeachment is purely partisan, as this one is, it is a coup d’etat, where one party is using their power in the House, to weaponize impeachment, to remove a President from the opposing party, just a few months before he can be reelected. That makes this whole process unconstitutional from the get go.

  14. Billy the fucktard thinks Starr was an impeachment manager.

    1. Look, research is hard. Why you gotta be a hater, player?

  15. How is it “partisan” to impeach a man who lied under oath in order to escape prosecution for sexual assault?

    1. I believe it was a civil suit, not criminal.

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  18. Say what you will about Ken Starr, but the fact is, when the House impeached Clinton, there were both Republicans and Democrats who voted to impeach, and there were both Republicans and Democrats who voted not to. This leads me to believe that (1) this effort to impeach was bipartisan, and (2) there was bipartisan disagreement about whether or not impeachment was warranted.

    Then, when the impeachment went to the Senate, there was bipartisan agreement that Clinton should be removed from office over the charges. How bipartisan? Clinton avoided removal by one vote, in a Senate that wasn’t 2/3 Republican.

    Say what you will about whether or not Bill Clinton deserved to be impeached, or if he even deserved to be removed from office. But the fact is, there was bipartisan support for both impeachment and removal. So to call Ken Starr a hypocrite on this is ridiculous.

    As for President Trump’s impeachment? It’s been clearly partisan from the get-go, with the House forbidding Republican involvement. How in the world can such a process convince the nation that President Trump should, indeed, be removed from office? The answer, of course, is that it hadn’t.

    To further add insult to injury, Adam Schiff, in trying to make the case that President Trump should be removed, has only alienated the Republicans in the Senate, by claiming that President Trump is going to put the heads of Republican Senators on pikes — with even moderate Republicans objecting that President Trump hasn’t threatened anyone concerning impeachment.

    Was Bill Clinton’s impeachment partisan? Perhaps — indeed, it’s easy to see that more Republicans than Democrats favored it. But even if it were, it’s certainly the case that this current Impeachment circus is making the last Impeachment almost look like it had unanimous support!

  19. Keep bunching that impotent rage into a ball, Billy. History will magically rewrite itself to exonerate Democrats and project their wrongdoings onto everyone else, just like Saul Alinsky promised.

  20. Hah! All I had to see was the headline to be able to correctly guess that it was a Binion post.

    Maybe THIS one will finally get Vox’s attention, Billy!

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