The relationship between Donald Trump and adult video star Stormy Daniels, and the $130,000 payoff by Trump’s personal lawyer made to Daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump, should be investigated by the United States Justice Department and may even require a new special prosecutor, according to Kenneth Starr, who more than 20 years ago acted as special prosecutor against President Bill Clinton.
Starr was originally appointed to investigate Clinton’s alleged involvement in a real estate deal gone bad known as “Whitewater.” But Starr soon expanded his investigation of Clinton when he learned of allegations that starting in 1995, the then-president engaged in a sexual relationship with a 22-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. In September of 1998, Starr issued a report listing what he said were 11 grounds on which Clinton should be impeached, including perjury for denying in a sworn deposition that he, indeed, had sexual contact with Lewinsky.
Later that year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve Starr’s recommendations and impeach Clinton. But when the impeachment went to the Senate for a trial, Clinton survived the impeachment with only 45 of the required 67 senators voting to convict. Clinton remained in office to finish his second term as president.
Now, almost 20 years after Clinton’s impeachment proceedings began, Starr says that the exchange of money between Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer as self-described “fix-it guy,” and Daniels raises “difficult and serious issues” that only a Justice Department probe may be able to resolve, according to an interview with Starr by Yahoo News.
Appearing on the Yahoo News podcast Skullduggery, Starr was asked whether he believed that Russia collusion scandal special counsel Robert Mueller ought to expand his investigation to include the affair between Trump and Daniels (whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford), just as Starr did in the 1990s with the Whitewater investigation and the Lewinsky scandal.
“What did the president know? Did he authorize (the payment)? All those things have to be sorted out,” Starr said in the interview.
But Starr said that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversees the Russia investigation, may prefer to appoint a second special counsel to focus solely on the payoff to Daniels.
“Rod may very well say [to Mueller], ‘You need to stick to the issue. Let’s get through with this issue of collusion. You stick to that and lets now appoint [somebody else] as special counsel,'” Starr told the podcast.
The issues in the Daniels case would need to first be assessed by Rosenstein together with his direct superior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as part of a “preliminary investigation,” Starr said.
But Starr — who also investigated an alleged sexual encounter between Clinton and former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones, who claimed that Clinton had made an aggressive sexual advance toward her when he was governor of that state — added that the multiple reports and accusations of sexual misconduct by Trump also pose disturbing questions.
“I think questions of presidential character are always important,” Starr told Yahoo News. “They are endurably important. To say this is disappointing behavior — if true — is an understatement. It’s very upsetting.”
On Wednesday, Daniels’ lawyer filed a motion in federal court to put Trump under oath in the Daniels lawsuit, just as Clinton had been deposed in the Paula Jones case two decades earlier. In her suit, Daniels seeks to be released from a non-disclosure agreement she signed about the Trump affair, in exchange for the $130,000 payment. But on Thursday, a judge denied the motion to depose Trump, saying that it was premature.