In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post Nov. 24, 1998 (explaining his resignation from the staff of Kenneth Starr), Sam Dash made several statements, which, to my personal knowledge, are false — and which I believe he knew to be false. In addition, Mr. Dash has in my view failed to publicize the “whole truth” about both his role on the Senate Watergate
Committee and his questionable role as ethics adviser to the office of the independent counsel, and Kenneth Starr. In his letter Mr. Dash refers to the 1974 impeachment proceedings of the Rodino Committee, to which I then served as chief counsel — Dash, in my view, is now a knowing purveyor of false information, stating:
Even there, John Doar, chief counsel of the Nixon
impeachment inquiry, held that because of the
Constitution’s “sole power” language, and the political
nature of the impeachment process, even committee
counsel should refrain from drawing conclusions but
should present only facts and leave it to the committee
The simple truth, as reflected in my diary as well as the official publications of the House Judiciary Committee, and a book published by me in 1996 based on my diary, is that Doar did in fact become an outspoken public advocate for the impeachment of President Nixon as follows:
July 18, 1974: Doar summed up his presentation this
morning at 10:00. To my surprise, at about 9:00 Rodino
came up behind me in the hallway outside my office and
gave me a very friendly pat on the shoulder. He asked
me to come with him to a meeting with Doar. At the
meeting he referred to a copy of the summary that Doar
had previously given him. I have never before seen
Rodino express so much anger at Doar. I wonder whether
it wasn’t a show for my benefit.
Rodino said he was looking for a hard-hitting,
succinct summary of what the whole case was about, and
that Doar’s summary “didn’t cut the mustard.” Doar
stormed out of the room.
When Doar delivered the statement about a half
hour later, he began by introducing about four pounds
of documents that he had handed out to the members.
Then he read his prepared summary and added, “Members
of the committee, for me to speak like this, I can
hardly believe I am speaking as I do or thinking as I
do … I realize that most people would understand an
effort to conceal a mistake. But this was not done by a
private citizen and the people who are working for the
President are not private citizens. This was the
President of the United States. What he decided should
be done following the Watergate break-in caused action
not only by his own servants, but by agencies of the
United States, including the Department of Justice, the
FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service.
“It required perjury, obstruction of justice, all
crimes. But most important, it required deliberate,
continued, and continuing deception of the American
“It is that evidence that we want to present to
you in detail and to help and reason with you, and this
summary of information is the basis, or a work-product,
to help you.”
Another truth known to both Doar and Dash ever since 1974 is
that I, and not Doar, (whose title was “special counsel”) was then
the committee’s chief counsel. I gave my professional advice to
all members who sought it. I gave all members the same advice.
I advocated that President Nixon be impeached long before Doar
did. So much so that I was treated somewhat unfairly by
journalist Jimmy Breslin who wrote that I was out to impeach
Nixon from the outset and that “every time Zeifman thought of the
word ‘impeachment’ the blood rose to his mouth.” Instead, I was
simply giving the committee members (all of whom were themselves
lawyers) the benefit of my professional opinion, which I, like all
committee counsels in our history, had been hired to do. In my
view, which differs radically from that of Mr. Dash, Ken Starr
was properly performing his professional duties to the committee
– as I and later John Doar did in advocating the impeachment of
Indeed, Mr. Starr was directed by a federal statute to perform such duties for the Congress. As Mr. Dash knows full well that statute was not in effect at the time of Watergate. As Mr. Dash well knows the constitutionality of that statute was also upheld by the Supreme Court. Yet in resigning
from the Starr staff immediately after Starr testified, Mr. Dash now somewhat immodestly appears to be holding himself out as a higher authority than the Supreme Court on the “sole responsibility” language of the Constitution.
Let me also add that Mr. Dash and his White House supporters are currently not publicizing the “whole truth” regarding Mr. Dash’s ethically questionable career. The truth is that at the time of Watergate, Dash appointed the now famous Terry Lenzner to be Dash’s chief investigator of Watergate — and has maintained a relationship with Lenzner ever since. These days Lenzner has become renown as a private investigator who has been helpful to the White House in digging up dirt on Clinton’s opponents. These questionable associations have been dealt with in detail in the Dec. 21 issue of Insight Magazine.
During the recent testimony of Ken Starr before the House Judiciary Committee, the President’s counsel and his Democratic defenders on the committee attempted to vilify Ken Starr for alleged ethical violations, including leaks from “undisclosed sources close to Starr.”
In my view, the House Judiciary Committee should now question Sam Dash under oath, and require him to disclose all off-the-record briefings he has given to the media while employed as ethics adviser to Ken Starr. In addition, I am especially saddened that Mr. Dash has also given at least one “on-the-record” interview with the New Yorker — in which he is quoted as
stating that even though Starr had done noting illegal there is a “strong odor” about Starr’s associations with a private law firm.
In my view, Mr. Dash’s interview with the New Yorker was at best a violation of the legal profession’s code of ethics, which prohibits attorneys from publicly disparaging their own clients. I know of no other lawyer in American history who has publicly characterized his own client as having a “strong odor” of impropriety.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I now see Mr. Dash as a lawyer who knows that the truth is very precious — and therefore uses it very sparingly.