Starr hit as adviser walks out

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The Independent Online
ONLY HOURS after completing what was by common assent an effective 12-hour appearance before the House of Representatives judiciary committee, the independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, was once again forced on to the defensive, stung by the resignation of his ethics adviser, Sam Dash.

Mr Dash, chief counsel to the Senate committee on Watergate 25 years ago, said he was protesting against Mr Starr's decision to appear before the committee to argue for impeaching President Clinton.

Mr Dash, a Democrat who had kept a low profile through the months of political wrangling over Mr Starr's handling of the Monica Lewinsky investigation, said he had resigned "for a fundamental reason". In a two-page letter to Mr Starr, he said: "You have violated your obligations under the independent counsel statute and have unlawfully intruded on the power of impeachment."

In effect, Mr Dash was arguing that Mr Starr should have presented the report on his investigation and left all further argument to the House judiciary committee. "You have no right or authority under the law, as independent counsel," Mr Dash wrote, "to advocate for a particular position on the evidence before the judiciary committee or to argue that the evidence in your referral is strong enough to justify a decision by the committee to recommend impeachment."

Mr Starr said Mr Dash's departure reflected a genuine difference of opinion between lawyers, and he respected Mr Dash's decision.

Mr Dash's resignation removes one of the last vestiges of bipartisanship in the investigation into Mr Clinton and is bound to expose the impeachment process even more to the Democrats' accusations of political bias.

It also damages Mr Starr's standing, at the very time when the hostility towards his investigation and towards him personally was starting to dissipate. His methodical, quietly reasoned defence of the investigation into Mr Clinton on Thursday had drawn praise even from seasoned enemies.

The chief issue emerging from the hearing was not whether Mr Clinton had done what the Starr report charged, but whether his conduct justified impeachment. David Kendall, Mr Clinton's lawyer, argued: "The simple but powerful truth is that nothing in this overkill of investigation amounts to a justification for the impeachment of the President."

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