Starr to issue a final report

Long-running probe of the Clintons to end before 2000 elections

August 10, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Kenneth W. Starr, the Whitewater independent counsel, said yesterday that he planned to conclude his long-running investigation of President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton before the November 2000 elections by filing a final report.

The timing of such a report could complicate Mrs. Clinton's likely campaign for a Senate seat from New York, but Starr said his office's report would be a dispassionate recitation of the facts and "would not engage in characterization."

"We are trying to move forward very, very rapidly in that respect, and we are doing so," Starr told reporters after addressing a group of lawyers at the American Bar Association convention in Atlanta. "I would anticipate that the final report will come at the earliest practicable moment."

But Starr refused to discuss whether he had closed out the possibility of seeking an indictment against either of the Clintons.

"On that, I'm not going to comment at all," he said. "It would be inappropriate for me to be commenting at all about the future of the investigation."

He also refused to tell reporters when he would release the final report that would effectively end his office's five-year inquiry.

The talk of Starr's final report comes days after the White House counsel who fought Clinton's impeachment, Charles F. C. Ruff, left that job to return to private practice. Ruff's top deputy, Cheryl Mills, was offered the job of counsel but declined it.

Associates of Starr have said that he has in recent months decided not to seek an indictment of the president or Mrs. Clinton, but that he had tentatively decided to issue a scathing final report about their behavior. One Starr associate said the report would be "blistering" in its description of Mrs. Clinton's actions, leaving open the possibility that its release could inflict political damage to her expected Senate campaign.

But Starr went out of his way yesterday to dismiss the conclusion that his final report would harshly criticize the Clintons' actions.

"It would need to be a comprehensive final report -- that is factually straightforward, that does not engage in characterization," Starr said. "It's clear that the Congress did not want a final report to be an avenue for alleging that one or more individuals had engaged in criminal conduct."

After Clinton friend Webster L. Hubbell pleaded guilty to a felony charge on June 29, one day before the expiration of the independent counsel law, Starr's office was left with one remaining chore: filing a final report with the federal appeals court here that summarized its many inquiries, from the Whitewater land deal to the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Starr's associates had said that the report would convey a critical view of Mrs. Clinton because it would raise unanswered questions about her behavior in several land transactions in Arkansas and her testimony under oath about her actions as a lawyer in those deals.

Besides speaking with reporters about his office's plans, Starr also granted an interview with NBC's "Today" show, a portion of which was broadcast yesterday.

In that interview, he applauded a federal judge's decision in April that stated the president had given false testimony in a deposition in the sexual misconduct case brought by Paula Corbin Jones.

"I thought it was very strong language," Starr said of the decision by Judge Susan Webber Wright.

The White House said this month that the president will pay the $90,000 fine ordered by Wright. In the ruling, the judge said she hoped that the fine might deter others "who might consider emulating the president's misconduct."

Starr refused to say that he or his prosecutors had taken a measure of vindication from her decision. But he added: "This is a very distinguished judge who looked at the facts and came to these conclusions. And I would just add that the system did, in fact, work."

Starr said that he was "horrified" when he learned that the Congress would quickly release the Starr report last September to the public. He said he regretted that a posting on the Internet did not do more to warn that the report contained "sensitive material."

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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