From Clinton investigator to Trump impeachment defender: The life of controversial attorney Ken Starr

ken starr october 2018

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Ken Starr speaks at the Heritage Foundation in October 2018.

  • On Friday it was revealed that President Trump had hired controversial attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Kenneth Starr for his impeachment defense team.
  • Starr became a household name in the 1990s when he led an investigation into President Clinton's alleged misconduct in office.
  • In the years since he was fired as Baylor University's president following a sexual assault scandal and wrote a memoir of his time as special counsel.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

One of the biggest names in President Bill Clinton's impeachment just joined President Donald Trump's defense: Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

Author of the infamous "Starr Report," which included the sordid details of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, the Republican lawyer had lately become one of Trump's biggest defenders in television appearances on Fox News.

While Starr is best known for his work on the Clinton investigation, his legal career spans decades. There was once talk of him getting a coveted nomination to the Supreme Court.

But Clinton's controversial impeachment ended all talk of that, and Starr's reputation was further tarnished in recent years when he presided over Baylor University during a sexual assault crisis.

Continue to read more about Starr's background.

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Kenneth Winston Starr was born on July 21, 1946 in Vernon, Texas, a small town near the Oklahoma border. He was the son of a Christian minister and sold bibles door-to-door to pay for college.

Kenneth Winston Starr was born on July 21, 1946 in Vernon, Texas, a small town near the Oklahoma border. He was the son of a Christian minister and sold bibles door-to-door to pay for college.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Starr got his BA from George Washington University in 1968, his MA from Brown in 1969, and his law degree from Duke in 1973.

Starr got his BA from George Washington University in 1968, his MA from Brown in 1969, and his law degree from Duke in 1973.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

While initially identifying as a Kennedy Democrat, he changed parties after serving an internship on Capitol Hill, according to the Washington Post.

While initially identifying as a Kennedy Democrat, he changed parties after serving an internship on Capitol Hill, according to the Washington Post.

Source: Washington Post

In his early career, Starr clerked for both David W. Dyer, judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger. He later made partner at two prestigious law firms and served as solicitor general under the first President Bush.

In his early career, Starr clerked for both David W. Dyer, judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger. He later made partner at two prestigious law firms and served as solicitor general under the first President Bush.

Source: USA Today

In 1994, Starr was pulled out of private practice to take over the independent counsel Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton's business dealings as an Arkansas politician. The investigation later expanded to include the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

In 1994, Starr was pulled out of private practice to take over the independent counsel Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton's business dealings as an Arkansas politician. The investigation later expanded to include the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Source: USA Today

Starr's investigations into the affair caused some controversy. Republicans felt he was holding Clinton accountable. Democrats felt he was too influenced by his personal politics.

Starr's investigations into the affair caused some controversy. Republicans felt he was holding Clinton accountable. Democrats felt he was too influenced by his personal politics.

The New York Times summed up opinions about Starr at the time in a recent story:
"To his admirers, Mr. Starr was an upright pursuer of a lying, philandering president who had dishonored the Oval Office. To his critics, Mr. Starr was a moralistic, sex-obsessed Inspector Javert persecuting a president out of ideological animus."

Starr's report on Clinton caused the House of Representatives to vote to impeach the president on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. But he was acquitted in a Senate trial in 1999.

Starr's report on Clinton caused the House of Representatives to vote to impeach the president on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. But he was acquitted in a Senate trial in 1999.

While he was once considered a top candidate for the Supreme Court, that talk seemed to die down after Clinton's impeachment.

While he was once considered a top candidate for the Supreme Court, that talk seemed to die down after Clinton's impeachment.

Source: The New York Times

After resigning from the Clinton investigation in 1999, Starr returned to private practice and launched an academic career as well. In 2004, he was appointed dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law.

After resigning from the Clinton investigation in 1999, Starr returned to private practice and launched an academic career as well. In 2004, he was appointed dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, New York Times

It was also around this time that he was hired, along with his Trump co-counsel Alan Dershowitz, to represent Jeffrey Epstein in a sex abuse case in Florida. Epstein's lawyers saved him from going to court, and he served just a few months in county jail.

It was also around this time that he was hired, along with his Trump co-counsel Alan Dershowitz, to represent Jeffrey Epstein in a sex abuse case in Florida. Epstein's lawyers saved him from going to court, and he served just a few months in county jail.

Prosecutors believe Epstein went on to abuse more young women and girls. He was rearrested on new sex trafficking charges last year but died by suicide while awaiting trial in August.

Source: USA Today

Starr became the president of Baylor University in 2010 but was fired six years later amid a campus scandal involving sexual assault. A report found that the school didn't do enough to address serious rape allegations concerning football players.

Starr became the president of Baylor University in 2010 but was fired six years later amid a campus scandal involving sexual assault. A report found that the school didn't do enough to address serious rape allegations concerning football players.

Starr later resigned as chancellor of the school as well. He has always maintained that he wasn't involved in the handling of the sexual assault cases, which involved at least 17 women.

He later told ESPN that he accepted responsibility for what happened "as a matter of conscience."

"The captain goes down with the ship," he said in July 2016.

According to the Washington Post, leaving his job at Baylor allowed Starr the time to write "Contempt," his memoir of his time working on the Whitewater investigation.

According to the Washington Post, leaving his job at Baylor allowed Starr the time to write "Contempt," his memoir of his time working on the Whitewater investigation.

Source: Washington Post

In recent years, Starr returned to private practice, joining the Lanier Law Firm in 2018. He has also become one of President Trump's fiercest defenders in regular appearances on Fox News.

In recent years, Starr returned to private practice, joining the Lanier Law Firm in 2018. He has also become one of President Trump's fiercest defenders in regular appearances on Fox News.

Source: Lanier Law Firm

This is despite the fact that President Trump called Starr a "lunatic" and a "wacko" during and after the Clinton investigation.

This is despite the fact that President Trump called Starr a "lunatic" and a "wacko" during and after the Clinton investigation.

"Ken Starr's a lunatic. I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster," Trump told NBC at the time, according to USA Today. "I really think that Ken Starr was terrible."

And in another CNBC interview discussing Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate in 2001, Trump called Starr a "total wacko."

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