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Ken Starr, prosecutor in Clinton Whitewater probe, dies at 76

CNBC 9/13/2022 Kevin Breuninger
  • Ken Starr, who led the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton, has died at 76, his family said.
  • Starr died in Houston of complications from surgery, the statement said.
  • Whitewater began as a probe of real estate investments by Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton, but branched out to encompass other areas, including the notorious Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
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Ken Starr, who led the Whitewater investigation into former President Bill Clinton, died Tuesday at 76, his family said in a statement.

Starr died in Houston of complications from surgery, the statement said.

Starr was nominated by former President Ronald Reagan for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit, and he served as U.S. solicitor general under then-President George H.W. Bush.

He also held roles as dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law and president of Baylor University, a tenure which ended in 2016 after an investigation into the school's mishandling of sexual assault cases.

Ken Starr, a member of U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. © Provided by CNBC Ken Starr, a member of U.S. President Donald Trump's legal team, leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.

But he is best known for leading Whitewater, the expansive investigation that began as a probe of real estate investments by then-President Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton, but branched out to encompass numerous other areas — including the notorious Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

That scandal involved the president's extramarital affair with Lewinsky, which started when she was a 24-year-old White House intern.

Clinton, who falsely denied the relationship, was impeached by the House on perjury and obstruction of justice charges that stemmed from the scandal. The Senate later acquitted Clinton of all charges.

Lewinsky tweeted out the following statement:

Starr in 1994 was appointed independent counsel to investigate Whitewater, which started as an investigation into the fallout from a failed Arkansas land development deal pursued by the Clintons and their associates years before Bill Clinton became president.

Starr's broad probe also touched on the death of Clinton deputy White House counsel Vince Foster, which sparked intrigue and bred conspiracy theories but was ultimately ruled a suicide.

Several people involved in the Whitewater scandal were convicted of charges related to the probe, but the Clintons themselves were never criminally charged.

Starr reportedly aided the defense team that cut a deal sparing Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy sex offender and accused sex trafficker, of serious federal charges. Critics called that non-prosecution agreement a "sweetheart deal." Epstein died by suicide in 2019, a month after being arrested and indicted in New York on charges of abusing dozens of underage girls.

More recently, Starr joined the legal team defending former President Donald Trump in his first Senate impeachment trial in early 2020. That trial revolved around Trump's efforts to have Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announce an investigation into President Joe Biden, who at the time was considered a likely Democratic presidential contender.

The Republican-majority Senate acquitted Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice. The chamber requires a two-thirds vote to convict a president and remove them from office.

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