On Friday, anonymous sources told various news outlets that former independent counsel Ken Starr, who investigated former President Bill Clinton in the lead-up to his impeachment, would be joining President Donald Trump’s defense team for the Senate impeachment trial. The team will also include Robert Ray, who also investigated Clinton, and defense attorney and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. This led Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern whose affair with Clinton was the subject of the former president lying under oath, to respond in outrage.
“this is definitely an ‘are you f**king kidding me?’ kinda day,” Lewinsky tweeted.
After Clinton’s presidency, Lewinsky harbored some resentment toward him. She insisted that their relationship had been consensual, but she accused him of having desecrated her character. The impeachment made her an international celebrity, and in recent years she has fought against cyberbullying and joined the #MeToo movement.
She also harbored resentment against Starr. “This was the man who had turned my 24-year-old life into a living hell,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018.
Her anger at the news of Trump’s impeachment defense team including Starr and Dershowitz may have almost as much to do with the #MeToo movement as it does with Clinton’s impeachment.
As NBC News reported, both Dershowitz and Starr previously defended notorious sex offender and alleged rapist Jeffrey Epstein. They helped Epstein secure a sweetheart deal in 2008. The wealthy financier served 13 months in a county jail and was allowed to leave for work six days a week. Dershowitz also defended O.J. Simpson.
Even notorious criminals deserve a fair legal defense, so it is arguably unfair to attack Dershowitz and Starr for agreeing to represent Epstein. Yet this might explain Lewinsky’s response.
Starr previously served as president of Baylor University but he was ousted and then resigned as chancellor in 2016 amid an investigation into claims that he and other school officials mishandled allegations of sexual assault by football players.
After investigating Clinton for the Whitewater scandal and then in the matter of the Lewinsky affair, Starr recommended his impeachment, which garnered bipartisan support.
Both Starr and Dershowitz have defended Trump during the current partisan impeachment battle.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles of impeachment over to the Senate after the House voted to impeach Trump on December 18, Dershowitz argued that the move was unconstitutional.
“It is difficult to imagine anything more unconstitutional, more violative of the intention of the Framers, more of a denial of basic due process and civil liberties, more unfair to the president and more likely to increase the current divisiveness among the American people,” he wrote. “Denying President Trump and the American people a trial in the Senate would constitute a variation on the title of my new book, ‘Guilt by Accusation.'”
“President Trump would stand accused of two articles of impeachment without having an opportunity to be acquitted by the institution selected by the Framers to try all cases of impeachment. It would be as if a prosecutor deliberately decided to indict a criminal defendant but not to put him on trial,” Dershowitz argued.
He later accused Democrats of using Soviet tactics to take down Trump.
For his part, Starr condemned Pelosi’s efforts as “impeachment in search of a rationale.”
In addition to Dershowitz, Ray, and Starr, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is also expected to join the team.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.