Political News

Report on Starr Inquiry Leaks Is Released

Posted August 23, 2018 8:27 p.m. EDT

Prosecutors investigating President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern made “questionable decisions” in providing information to reporters, but a review found no evidence that they violated grand jury secrecy rules, according to a long-secret 1999 report released on Thursday by the National Archives.

Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, was among the lawyers investigating Clinton, and it was his nomination that led to the release of the report. But Kavanaugh, who now sits on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was not named in it.

American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group, went to court last week seeking the report, saying that “Judge Kavanaugh’s potential involvement” in misconduct “is a matter of great public importance and current national debate.”

Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said on Thursday that the request had reflected liberal desperation in opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination. “This report refutes the latest false accusation by Senate Democrats and fully exonerates Judge Kavanaugh,” he said.

Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said that the report examined only some disclosures and that Kavanaugh’s work on the investigation warrants further scrutiny. “That it took litigation by an outside watchdog to bring this report to light speaks volumes about the rush to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without fully vetting his record,” he said.

The report was prepared by a special master appointed in 1998 by Judge Norma Holloway Johnson of the U.S. District Court in Washington in response to complaints that Ken Starr, the independent counsel investigating Clinton, had violated the law by leaking grand jury materials.

The special master, Judge John W. Kern III of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, a local court, wrote that he had received sworn statements denying wrongdoing from all 141 people who worked in Starr’s office in 1998, which would have included Kavanaugh.

In his 62-page report, Kern said Starr’s office had faced a deluge of inquiries from reporters after news of Clinton’s relationship with the intern, Monica Lewinsky, was posted on The Drudge Report. “The mainstream media shortly picked up the story,” Kern wrote, “and the press frenzy was on.”

The office, he wrote, “was overwhelmed by, and unprepared for, the onslaught.” Its responses, he said, “were at times ad hoc, clumsy, unwise and inconsistent with” its own policies. In particular, Kern questioned the office’s practice of talking with reporters off the record.

But his examination of 24 press reports found that Starr’s office had not been shown to have committed wrongdoing in connection with any of them. Much of the information in the reports probably came from sources outside Starr’s office, Kern wrote; much of it was not covered by grand jury secrecy; and some was inaccurate.

Kern died in January, and Johnson in 2011.

The name of one prosecutor criticized by Kern was redacted from the report. The Justice Department had asked for the redaction, saying it was needed “to protect the privacy of one individual discussed in the report — an individual who is not Judge Brett Kavanaugh.”