Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel whose recommendations led to the 1998 impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton, tells NPR that "eerie echoes" of his probe two decades ago can be heard in the current investigation of President Trump.
Starr, who is promoting a new book about his 4 1/2-year investigation of Clinton titled Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation — also told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that he doesn't approve of Trump's public disparagement of special counsel Robert Mueller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
"The comparisons will be intriguing as we proceed because there are eerie echoes to what happened 20 years ago," Starr says, referring to Mueller's investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Starr's investigation was charged initially with looking into a failed Arkansas real-estate deal known as Whitewater, on which the Clintons lost money, as well as the collapse of a savings-and-loan in the state. However, the investigation expanded before ultimately focusing on an affair between the president and a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
It was charges relating to the Lewinsky affair — including lying under oath and obstruction of justice --- on which Clinton was impeached by the House but later acquitted by the Senate.
However, Starr is quick to draw distinctions between his investigation of Clinton and Mueller's investigation of Trump.
"[At] least as far as we know Donald Trump has not lied under oath, as far as we know, he's not intimidated witnesses, [and] as far as we know — in my view — he has not obstructed justice," Starr says.
Asked about the president's numerous tweets that "publicly run down the special counsel," Starr says he thinks they are "inconsistent with the rule of law."
In Contempt, Starr describes the Clintons as "fundamentally dishonest." Asked about Trump's track record of honesty, Starr says he's "not going to opine on the president."
"Let's get all the facts in. I have all the facts in with respect to Bill and Hillary and that's what Contempt is all about," he says. "But I do think that there are echoes. We want our president to be honest, and we especially want the president to be honest under oath.
"We're not talking about the morality of truth telling, we're talking about the rule of law."
Starr writes that Clinton-era Attorney General Janet Reno failed to publicly support his work as independent counsel, but as Inskeep points out, she didn't "publicly trash" his work, as Trump has with Sessions.
"I think it's wrong. The president shouldn't be doing that, and I have condemned it in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post," Starr says.