Ken Starr is best known as the independent counsel whose 1998 investigation led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton. While the so-called "Starr Report" is practically synonymous with "impeachment" today, Starr hasn't been warm to the current Democrat-led inquiry against Donald Trump. In an interview in October, he said, "It just seems we need to ratchet the conversation down because of the evils of impeachment. Impeachment has become a terrible, terrible thorn in the side of the American democracy and the conduct of American government since Watergate." He added, "Let’s at least have a reasoned and deliberate conversation about some lesser kind of response."
Strangely, Starr never seemed interested in that "reasoned and deliberate conversation" back in 1998, moving his investigation of Clinton from some real estate investments to whether or not he lied under oath about a marital indiscretion, but a lot has changed since then, including the party in control of the White House. Ahead of Wednesday's testimony by European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland, Starr appeared on Fox News, calling the hearings "extravagant" and "political." He also said they "do not reveal a crime." But he stressed that the hearings had implications beyond the House: "The real issue is the senators are watching. Are senators going to now say in light of what we hear today, it’s going to be a long day even with the ambassador alone, in light of what we have heard, 'We need to make a trip down to the White House'? That historic example set during the Nixon presidency. From what I’ve been able to glean I don’t think that’s going to happen. But obviously what happens today could—has the potential to be a game-changer."
Sondland's testimony turned out to be that game changer. He stressed that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, tried to extract a quid pro quo from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and he went on to implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, vice president Mike Pence, and, of course, Trump himself.
That testimony radically changed Starr's appraisal. In another Fox News appearance after Sondland spoke, he said, "It doesn’t look good for the president, substantively."
He added, "The third article of impeachment, in the Richard Nixon situation, is very clear, it’s very succinct, it’s very well done. That just got drawn up today, thanks to Ambassador Sondland." This testimony, he said, completely undermined Republican defenses so far. "It’s not a complaint now by the House chairman or anyone else on this committee. It is from the witness himself."
He continued: "What we heard from the chairman just now is, it's over. We now know—this is his position—we now know that the president in fact committed the crime of bribery. That's something of value, that's litigable. But I think the articles of impeachment are being drawn up if they haven't already been drawn up. And so it depends—will it be bipartisan and so forth. This, obviously, has been one of those bombshell days."
Originally Appeared on GQ