Ken Starr, the famous conservative lawyer and judge who led the investigation resulting in former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, died Tuesday at the age of 76.
His wife Alice said he died of complications from a surgery at a hospital in Houston, the New York Times reported.
Polarizing figure was respected on the right
While often portrayed by the left as a hatchet man, Starr was a well-respected figure on the right whose proteges included Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts.
Kavanaugh called Starr “fiercely devoted to the Constitution and to the United States,” while Roberts said he “loved our country and served it with dedication and distinction.” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described him as a “brilliant litigator, an impressive leader, and a devoted patriot.”
After receiving a law degree from Duke, Starr, a Texas native, rose up in conservative legal circles, serving on the D.C. Appeals Court under President Reagan and as solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush.
He was also briefly considered for a Supreme Court appointment before entering his career-defining role in 1994 as Independent Counsel investigating the Whitewater scandal, which dealt with a real estate venture involving Clinton and his wife Hillary.
The Lewinsky affair
Starr’s investigation became a highly publicized affair, especially after it uncovered in 1998 that President Clinton had a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and lied about it.
A report compiled by Starr became the basis of an impeachment against Clinton for lying under oath and obstruction of justice that ended in his acquittal. Later, Starr would write in a memoir that he had ambivalent feelings about his role in the political drama.
“I deeply regret that I took on the Lewinsky phase of the investigation,” he wrote. “But at the same time, as I still see it 20 years later, there was no practical alternative to my doing so.”
Defended Jeffrey Epstein, Trump
Starr’s controversial legal career also saw him defend Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and pedophile, and former President Trump during his first impeachment. In a statement, Starr’s wife called him a “brilliant, kind and loving” man who was dedicated to the rule of law.
“Ken felt compelled to always respond to the call to serve his country, even when it meant enduring harsh criticism for his service,” she said.
Starr is survived by his wife, a son, Randall P. Starr, two daughters, Carolyn S. Doolittle and Cynthia S. Roemer, a sister, Billie Jeayne Reynolds, and a brother, Jerry Starr.