Media Reports: Trump Hires Old Wise Men Unconnected to Sexual Abuse Scandals For Impeachment Team

Is there anything Ken Starr and Alan Dershowitz have done in recent years that would cast doubt on the soundness of their judgement?
January 17, 2020, 6:06pm
Alan Dershowitz talks

Donald Trump has added two notorious lawyers to his impeachment team: disgraced former Baylor president Ken Starr, who was demoted and then resigned in 2016 when it was revealed that he and the university grossly mishandled widespread allegations of rampant sexual assault on campus, and Jeffrey Epstein pal Alan Dershowitz, who said in 2018 he continued to counsel the convicted sex offender and alleged human trafficker.

Starr also led the impeachment proceedings of Bill Clinton, while Dershowitz is a constitutional lawyer, or least plays one on television.

Which of these descriptions made it into agenda-setting media reports about the two men?

The Associated Press wrote:

“President Donald Trump’s legal team will include former Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, the former independent counsel who led the Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton, according to a person familiar with the matter.”

The story does not mention Baylor or Epstein at all.

Here’s CNN’s story, written by Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown:

“President Donald Trump is adding three seasoned lawyers to his impeachment legal defense team, people familiar with the matter said, including Kenneth Starr, the hard-charging prosecutor whose work led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Alan Dershowitz, the constitutional lawyer, and Robert Ray, Starr's successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, are also joining the team, the people said.”

It does not mention Baylor at all. After its initial publication it was updated to voice the concerns of Trump aides that Dershowitz's presence could be "distracting" given his ties to Epstein.

Do you work at the Times, the Post, CNN, AP, or Politico? We'd love to talk to you. Contact the writer at laura.wagner@vice.com or laura.wags@protonmail.com.

Here’s the New York Times’ story, written by Maggie Haberman:

“Mr. Starr, whose investigation into President Bill Clinton’s sexual relationships led to his impeachment, will be joined by Robert Ray, who succeeded Mr. Starr as independent counsel and wrote the final report on Mr. Clinton, the person said. Rounding out the team will be Mr. Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus who became famous as a defense counsel for high-profile defendants like O.J. Simpson.”

The Times report does not mention Baylor at all. The final line of the story acknowledges that Dershowitz, who just cannot stop talking about lowering the "age of consent," has “faced questions” about his ties to Epstein.

The Washington Post story headlined “Trump expands legal team to include Dershowtiz, Starr and Ray” reads:

“President Trump has expanded his legal team to include three well-known lawyers, Harvard emeritus law professor Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsels Kenneth W. Starr and Robert Ray, according to person familiar with the development.”

It does not mention Epstein or Baylor at all.

The Politico story, written by Darren Samuelsohn, read:

"President Donald Trump will be represented by former Bill Clinton special prosecutors Kenneth Starr and Robert Ray, plus retired Harvard constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz, at his Senate impeachment trial.”

It does not mention Baylor or Epstein at all.

Update, 1:39 p.m: As has been pointed out to us, Starr has his own ties to Epstein.

Update, 3:10 p.m: Since this post was published, the AP, New York Times, and Politico have updated their stories to reflect Starr's disgraced tenure at Baylor and/or Dershowitz's involvement with Epstein.

The AP added the following paragraphs:

He was removed as president of Baylor University and then resigned as chancellor of the school in the wake of a review critical of the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations against football players. Starr said his resignation was the result of the university’s board of regents seeking to place the school under new leadership following the scandal, not because he was accused of hiding or failing to act on information.

Dershowitz’s reputation has been damaged in recent years by his association with Jeffrey Epstein, the millionaire who killed himself in jail last summer while awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused multiple underage girls.

One of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has accused Dershowitz of participating in her abuse. Dershowitz has denied it and has been battling in court for years with Giuffre and her lawyers. He recently wrote a book rejecting her allegations, called “Guilt by Accusation.” Giuffre and Dershowtiz are also suing each other for defamation, each saying the other is lying.

The New York Times updated its story to include the following:

Mr. Starr, who helped Mr. Dershowitz on the Epstein defense in 2007, was forced from his job as president of Baylor University amid accusations he did not respond to allegations of sexual assault made by women against members of the school’s football team.

Politico added two bylines and these five paragraphs:

After a career defending notorious figures, Dershowitz has faced questions about his association with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who apparently killed himself in a Manhattan federal prison last August. Dershowitz often socialized with Epstein beginning in 1996 and had even spent time at his private island in the Caribbean.

When Epstein came under state and federal investigation in the mid-2000s for procuring underage girls for sex, Dershowitz joined Epstein’s defense team, which also included other big names, such as Starr. They helped negotiate what critics later blasted as a sweetheart deal for Epstein that led to him serving 13 months in lax conditions in a county jail.

Dershowitz has claimed he had no knowledge of Epstein’s sexual involvement with underage girls until the investigation arose, but two women who claim they were trafficked by Epstein have said Epstein forced them to have sex with Dershowitz. He adamantly denies the claims and is currently facing a libel suit filed against him by one of his accusers.

Starr became a lightning rod of sorts during his tenure as independent counsel, but settled into a much quieter academic life for several years as dean of Pepperdine University’s law school and later as president of Baylor University. He was forced out of that post in 2016 after an internal investigation found he mishandled rape and assault allegations against star football players at the school.

Starr later apologized for the incidents and acknowledged that school officials who looked into and resolved such complaints were poorly trained.