I recently heard the
following from a noted prosecutor facing off against the President of the U.S.: “The President’s lawyers were saying that the President was violating the oath because he was deliberately
misleading people [and that was proper]… It’s utterly improper. The system collapses if people are just going to be playing games with facts…’”
If you think that’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller talking about the Trump administration, guess again. It’s actually Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr (seen above) talking about the Clinton administration back in 1999.
That quote, included in the trailer for a 13-hour opus called “The Prosecutor & The Presidency,” convinced me to check out a new SVOD service called The News Behind the News, also the name of nonprofit public affairs shows produced by the Full Disclosure Network since 1992 — first for cable and then online.
“TP&TP,” as I’ll call it, turned out to be the service’s only offering (for now, at least), but that seemed OK, since I wasn’t charged anything nor required to enter credit card info to start my five-day trial.
That still gave me plenty of time to look into “TP&TP,” not that I ever had any intention of spending 13 hours watching what is mostly interviews with 11 former Attorneys General and independent/special prosecutors involved in investigations from Watergate to Whitewater and beyond.
Happily, the 13 hours are divided not only into five shows but also into individual sections, making it easy to pinpoint one’s own needs. And I needed to watch the Starr interview, probably because Mueller isn’t giving any!
I found Starr kicking off Part Four, titled “Lessons Learned.” By the end of the segment, I was wondering if anyone has learned any lessons between then and now.
Asked by host Leslie Dutton (whose American Association of Women founded the Full Disclosure Network 26 years ago) what happens when the President violates “the oath of office and the oath to tell the truth,” Starr responds, “It mocks the system and the system is injured, regardless of whether there is any specific sanction which attaches. But the law does take perjury — lying under oath — very very seriously, including simply making statements to federal officers.”
His advice to any POTUS? “If one can’t deal with the truth in litigation, one should settle the case, get it behind them and just say, ‘I’m going to go on from there, but I’m not going to lie under oath.’” Starr then stresses how such truth-telling is “more important… for someone who holds high office — and, indeed, the highest office in the land.”
Then there was Dutton’s interview with Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had to confront Richard Nixon. Presidents, Cox said, “must be governed by law and not by the personal whim or judgment of the individual.”
He also noted the importance of public outrage when Nixon “chose to challenge the rule of law… When the rule [of law] is applied to an executive figure who has the power, public support is the only sanction there is. Happily, the public did rise up and forced him to comply.”
Other names of note in “TP&TP” include Elliot Richardson and Edwin Meese, attorneys general respectively for Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and Lawrence Walsh, independent counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation during the Reagan administration.
With Mueller’s current investigation continuing and possible impeachment looming, what better time than now to hunt for additional lessons in this historical treasure trove?