Ken Starr, who led the impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, died Tuesday. He was 76 years old.
His family said in a statement that the star died in Houston, Texas, due to complications from the surgery.
A former judge and conservative legal veteran, Starr was best known for leading the investigation that resulted in Clinton’s impeachment in December 1998 by the then Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The Democratic president was acquitted by the Senate the following year.
Starr’s involvement with Clinton began when he was appointed special counsel in 1994 to investigate the land deal known as Whitewater involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.
This expanded into an investigation into the president’s affair with 24-year-old Lewinsky, which Clinton initially denied.
The so-called Star Report documented the president’s sexual relationship with White House interns in graphic detail and resulted in Clinton being accused of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Starr, once known as a potential Supreme Court judge, later wrote a book about the investigation – “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation.”
Time magazine named Clinton and Starr “Men of the Year” in 1998.
Named a judge by President Ronald Reagan at the age of 37, Starr served as solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, arguing 25 cases before the Supreme Court.
Starr served as president of Baylor University from 2010 to 2016, when he left his job handling sexual harassment complaints against American football players at the Baptist school.
– ‘Impeachment is hell’ –
In January 2020, Starr joined the legal team that defended Republican President Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial before the Senate.
Starr lamented that the Senate was being called “all over again” to try for impeachment.
“Indeed we are living in what I think can be aptly described as the era of impeachment,” he said.
“Like war, impeachment is hell,” Starr said. “At least the impeachment of the president is hell.”
Like Clinton, Trump was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Starr as “a brilliant litigant, an influential leader, and a devoted patriot”.
“Kane used his remarkable energy and talent to promote justice, defend the Constitution, and uphold the rule of law,” McConnell said in a statement.
Lewinsky, in a February 2018 article in Vanity Fair, criticized the special counsel’s investigation that put him at the center of a political firestorm.
She said that she had a chance meeting with the star in December 2017 at a restaurant in New York.
“I felt determined then and there, to remind him that, 20 years ago, he and his team of prosecutors had harassed and terrorized not only me but my family as well,” she said.
Seeking an apology, Lewinsky said she told Starr that while she had made “different choices” she wanted her office to do the same.
Lewinsky said, the star gave a “vague smile”, and replied “I know. It was unfortunate.”
On Tuesday, Lewinsky tweeted that “his thoughts about Ken Starr bring up complex emotions.”
“But more importantly, I think it’s a painful loss for the people who love him,” she said.