Former President Bill Clinton acknowledged “remorse” for his role in the events that led to his impeachment and acquittal Wednesday, even as he renewed his attacks on his old nemesis, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
“I expressed my remorse at the time,” the former president told a Manhattan audience during a childhood obesity event Wednesday afternoon. “And my remorse does not have anything to do with whether what was done was legal or constitutional.”
Rather, Clinton went on to decry the alleged excesses of the independent counsel’s office that investigated him on a broad array of allegations, ranging from purported improprieties in Arkansas real estate transactions to allegations of perjury relating to his sexual indiscretions.
“No serious, objective observer doubts that there was rampant, flagrant abuse of power” in those probes, Clinton said, adding that “a lot of the people who should have been commenting on it were stunningly silent.”
The comments came after Clinton was asked about a new book revisiting his legal and constitutional battles against Starr in the complex of scandals that consumed the latter part of the Clinton presidency. The former president said he has not read "The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr," written by Ken Gormley and published Tuesday by Crown Books.
Nine years in the making and weighing in at 800 pages, the book is being widely hailed as the definitive account of the Clinton-era scandals. The author, an interim dean and professor at Duquesne University Law School, reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of public and declassified documents, and enjoyed access to virtually all of the surviving principals.
Clinton granted Gormley three interviews in 2004 and 2005. Starr, a former U.S. solicitor general named this week as president of Baylor University, granted 50 hours of interviews and unfettered access to his personal archives.
Others interviewed for the book include Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose secret affair with the president, which he at first denied and later admitted, triggered his impeachment trial, and acquittal, in the U.S. Senate; Paula Jones, the Arkansas woman whose sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton brought the Lewinsky affair to light; and Linda Tripp, the witness whose cooperation with federal prosecutors included her surreptitious recording of telephone calls with her friend, Lewinsky.
The book reveals the former president to be still indignant at the perceived injustices of his impeachment, which he called “a partisan hit job” driven by “right-wingers” on a “crusade” in which they believed God was on their side.
“Ken Starr was their errand boy, and he danced to their tune, just as hard as he could dance,” Clinton is quoted as having told Gormley.
"Yeah, I will always have an asterisk after my name, but I hope I'll have two asterisks: one is 'they impeached him,' and the other is 'He stood up to them and beat them. And he beat them like a yard dog.' "
On the day before he left the White House, Clinton reached a deal with Starr’s successor as independent counsel, Robert Ray, in which the president formally acknowledged having provided “evasive and misleading” testimony in connection with Lewinsky, and agreed to pay a $25,000 fine. He also paid Jones $850,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Gormley faults Starr for moving too slowly in the investigation, and for having previously provided legal counsel to Jones’s attorneys – a possible conflict of interest when Starr accepted the independent counsel position in August 1994.
Appearing on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” Tuesday night, Starr expressed high regard for Gormley but dismissed suggestions that he was a poor choice to lead the investigation.
“I think everyone should accept criticisms of their service, especially as a prosecutor, because, as you well know, Greta, prosecutors have power and they should be called to account for that power,” Starr said. “But that having been said, and mindful of criticisms, I think the investigation was conducted with honor and integrity.”
Among Gormley’s other revelations is an irony: that Lewinsky’s affair with the president may have spared then-first lady Hillary Clinton from being indicted, in connection the Whitewater real estate transactions that formed the prosecutors’ initial area of inquiry. Among the documents the author uncovered in his research was a draft indictment of the first lady, whom investigators concluded had lied to them and the grand jury, before which Hillary Clinton testified in January 1996.
“I was able to get that draft indictment,” Gormley told the hosts of “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning. “It was somewhere it wasn’t supposed to be; I was able to read it. It turned out to be a draft indictment of both Hillary Clinton and [former Justice Department official] Webster Hubbell, dealing with Whitewater matters.”
A former law partner of Hillary Clinton in Arkansas, Hubbell eventually pleaded guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges.