Transcript: Kenneth Starr on "Face the Nation," June 10, 2018

Kenneth Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton in the 1990s eventually led to the discovery of the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky and his impeachment for lying under oath. Starr joined us to discuss the similarities between the Whitewater probe and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The following is a transcript of the interview with Starr that aired Sunday, June 10, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back. And we turn now to Ken Starr who you probably remember very well from the Bill Clinton era. He has served as a circuit court judge and the U.S. solicitor general, and many Americans came to know him during that investigation into Whitewater and other controversies including Monica Lewinsky during Bill Clinton's presidency. And I think in many ways, thank you for coming on today, you are--

FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL KEN STARR: Thank you Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --so uniquely positioned to give us some perspective on what is playing out now in terms of the special counsel's probe of President Trump, his campaign, and these - Russian- interference allegations.

When you see the developments like we saw this week with the campaign chairman being indicted on another charge here of obstruction of justice. I mean, how should Americans understand what they are seeing? Is this the political witch hunt the president alleges? Is this a serious case?

KEN STARR: It's definitely a serious case. We know that from the indictments and guilty pleas that have already been obtained. So what we're seeing is the special counsel Bob Mueller whom I know and whom I greatly respect, just following the evidence as he sees it. Now these are charges. Presumption of innocence in the United States and that's a very precious right that we have.

These charges are going to have to be proven. But what this shows is that Bob Mueller is very seriously looking at a variety of - of issues and questions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well we also know that Bob Mueller's team is talking with the president's own attorneys about getting the chance to interview him. You face some of these questions when you were dealing with then President Clinton I think you went to something like six times you ended up having to subpoena before ultimately he agreed to sit down.

If you were consulting with President Trump's lawyers would you advise him to sit with counsel? And sit with Bob Mueller?

KEN STARR: I think they better be cautious and I think they are being cautious. First, we have to remember this is the president of the United States and this is an authorized law enforcement investigation. So that makes the situation unique. Looking at it simply from the perspective of a defense lawyer, you never want your client, unless you have an extraordinarily high level of confidence to be exposed in this way. So, there are only two perspectives here. The president, you're talking to the president of the United States, but he also is the - at least the subject of a serious investigation. So I think caution is the rule of thumb here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But an obligation, is there an obligation on his part to sit and answer these questions?

KEN STARR: I think there may be a moral obligation frankly- because he is the president of the United States -. And unless he takes very decisive- action, such as directing the firing of the special counsel (INAUDIBLE). And there's been no suggestion to my knowledge that that's in the offing at all-.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you--

KEN STARR: -then

MARGARET BRENNAN: --believe he could.

KEN STARR: Oh yes, the president clearly has the authority to direct the firing if not a direct firing himself.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would that signify to you?

KEN STARR: It would be, I think, but it's a political question, I don't think it's obstruction of justice. And I disagree with those who seem to find obstruction of justice in almost any thing that the president has done. But it certainly would be, I think, a political - firefight of - of the highest order because you have people in both parties saying 'this is an authorized investigation, let it run its course.'

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been supportive of the president's decision to hire Rudy Giuliani, who I know you - you have known for some time. But in terms of the work he's doing to defend the president, what do you make of his strategy?

KEN STARR: Well I- I'm not sure. I just have great confidence - in Rudy. But Rudy has access to facts that - that I don't have. Would I have said exactly the same way in the same way that Rudy has done it? Perhaps not. But he's - don't underestimate Rudy Giuliani. He is an extraordinary lawyer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You - when you were dealing with President Clinton and that very long investigation of him. He faced it. He faced charges of obstruction, perjury. There were questions of that. And his strategy seemed to be to try to convince the country that this was a political witch hunt.

KEN STARR: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds a lot like what we're seeing now. Do you see parallels?

STARR: Oh there's no question. Any time a president is under attack, the president, or at least the president's partisans and supporters, will likely go on the attack. 'Hey, he's my guy and you're attacking my guy -'

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it's an effective strategy.

KEN STARR: It can be. Happily in the - well I shouldn't say happily, but I think there was accountability. Whatever people think of the investigation during the Monica Lewinsky phase, the- the president had to eventually concede that he had not conducted himself as he should - in a very serious matter when he was under oath. That's the key. It was all about the rule of law.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Monica Lewinsky, who went public this past year saying she met you once—

KEN STARR: For the first time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in a restaurant. For the first time--

Ken Starr. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --And she said she kind of expected an apology for how things went for her, but you didn't offer one. Do you think one's needed?

KEN STARR:  No, with all due respect - Monica, and I wish her all the best. Her life has been disrupted. But the- the evidence is the evidence, and she was part, as we saw it, of an effort to obstruct justice and to commit perjury.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ken Starr, thank you very much for coming on Face the Nation.

KEN STARR:  My pleasure thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back.