Watch the full interview with Ken Starr on Vice News Tonight on HBO at 7:30 pm eastern time.
PALM BEACH, Florida — Special Counsel Bob Mueller has two pathways to proceed against President Trump if he uncovers serious wrongdoing by the President, former independent counsel Ken Starr told VICE News.
Mueller can either refer his findings to Congress for impeachment — as Starr did with former President Bill Clinton in 1998. Or Mueller can wait for Trump’s presidency to end, and indict Trump afterwards, Starr said.
“Those are the two avenues that I see,” Starr said. “As long as the President is in office, the Justice Department would not authorize an indictment.”
Starr said he believes that the law does permit a sitting president to face a criminal indictment. But longstanding DOJ policy against charging a sitting president will keep Mueller from charging Trump while in office, Starr predicted — no matter what the special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s links to Russia finds.
“My own view is that the president can be indicted, but that’s not the Justice Department’s view,” Starr said. “And I greatly respect that view. So I think it then becomes an issue for after the president leaves office, in terms of the possible criminal approach. And then a judgement of what, if anything, needs to be reported… to Congress.”
Unlike many observers, Starr himself has real-world experience in making such decisions. In 1998, he sent an explosive report to Congress, dubbed the Starr Report, that laid out 11 "grounds" for impeaching Clinton, including perjury, obstruction of justice, witness-tampering and abuse of power.
Starr has been publicly skeptical about the prospect for accusing Trump of obstruction of justice, however, arguing the charge is difficult to prove in the context of a president exercising his Constitutional authority. And he’s maintained that Trump’s controversial installation of Matt Whitaker falls under such authority.
But he’s hardly condoned Trump's hostile approach to legal authority, and says he strongly disapproves of the president’s public attacks on the Justice Department.
“I’ve condemned it,” he said. “The ‘it’ is assailing the rule of law, assailing Bob Mueller, attacking [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, belittling [former Attorney General] Jeff Sessions.”
Watch VICE News Tonight on HBO at 7:30 pm eastern time.
Cover image: Ken Starr testifies at the House Committee on Education and Workforce on college athletes forming unions, on May 8, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)