By Allan J. Favish
Kenneth Starr has written a new book about his work as independent counsel entitled “Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation.” Starr’s work included an investigation of the death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, who was found dead in Virginia’s Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993. Starr concluded the death was a suicide.
As WND reported, Assistant United States Attorney Miguel Rodriguez, who was the attorney at Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel in charge of the day-to-day investigation of Foster’s death, wrote that there was an active coverup of the Foster death going on in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the OIC, and he explained how numerous specific pieces of evidence did not support a suicide theory. Despite the fact that current United States Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh worked on the Foster investigation for Starr, and was the primary author of that OIC report, virtually no one in the media has reported the specific allegations made by Rodriguez in his 30-page memorandum and resignation letter.
In his book, Starr repeats his conclusion of suicide-in-the-park, but does so without any useful discussion of the facts. Starr describes the last time Foster left his office: “Shortly after lunch on July 20, Foster grabbed his coat; bade farewell to his executive assistant in the White House Counsel’s office, Linda Tripp; gave her some mints from the White House Mess; and left.” Starr omits the final phrase Foster is reported to have said. It is a simple phrase one would not expect from somebody who is planning to commit suicide.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed several of the assistants and secretaries in the Office of White House Counsel. According to Deborah Gorham, an executive assistant to Foster at the time, another secretary told her that as he left his office after eating lunch on the day of his death, Foster said: “I’ll be back.” Tripp, who worked in the same office suite as Foster, told the FBI the same thing.
Starr accuses Rodriguez of improper conduct before the grand jury that was investigating the Foster death:
Miguel began bringing witnesses before a Washington grand jury, but raised eyebrows by his accusatory questioning of U.S. Park Police officers and other witnesses. He seemed to believe – before hearing all the evidence – that Foster had been murdered in a different location, then dumped at Fort Marcy Park. This was the stuff of the conspiracy theories that flourished immediately after the reports of Foster’s death. We were after the truth and only the truth, yet there was no justification for browbeating or mistreating any grand jury witness.
My D.C. deputy, Mark Tuohey, was outraged by some of the stories he heard about Miguel’s strange demeanor and off-the-wall questions in the grand jury room. Even grand jurors were complaining.
One day in early 1995, I spent several hours with Miguel walking around the Mall and talking, trying to understand his viewpoint and strategy. But his answers made little sense, as if he were listening predominantly to pundits, not to the witnesses.
Hickman went with Miguel out to Fort Marcy Park to check out the scene, which Miguel said he knew like the back of his hand. It was icy. Miguel couldn’t find the location. Hickman slipped and fell, seriously injuring his back. It was a disaster.
Angry that he was being challenged by his supervisors, on January 17, 1995, Miguel announced that he quit. His irresponsible comments were later spread as “proof” there was a coverup of a conspiracy reaching to the White House. All nonsense. But some took his stories at face value. Hickman began to receive preprinted anonymous postcards – over 300 of them – with the words: “Bring back Miguel.”
I rolled my eyes in disbelief when I saw the postcards, which seemed to have been promoted by an advocacy group based in Southern California. This was madness, yet another illustration of the paranoid strain in American politics. It was a grim reminder that this investigation had to be comprehensive and complete. We could not afford to leave any stone unturned, but the investigation also had to be conducted professionally, consistent with DOJ policy.
Honest differences of opinions often occur in investigations. That was one reason I stressed the deliberative process, the roundtable discussions that some prosecutors and investigators thought slowed things down. But a rogue prosecutor given free rein in a grand jury can do serious damage to the integrity of the process. I was thankful that of the dozens of prosecutors and agents who worked with the OIC under my supervision, I experienced many differences of opinions, but few serious problems.
It is odd that Starr states that he “stressed the deliberative process, the roundtable discussions that some prosecutors and investigators thought slowed things down.” Rodriguez clearly valued the “deliberative process” and “roundtable discussions.” His memorandum memorialized such a discussion he had with his colleagues, including Kavanaugh. Starr does not mention this memorandum in his book, or provide any detailed response to the points made by Rodriguez in his memorandum or resignation letter.
Whether or not Starr’s description of Rodriguez’s questioning of witnesses is accurate, it is disingenuous given what a grand jury witness has said occurred to him under questioning from Kavanaugh before the grand jury. Starr complains about Rodriguez causing “raised eyebrows by his accusatory questioning of U.S. Park Police officers and other witnesses,” and Rodriguez “browbeating or mistreating” grand jury witnesses, and causing Starr’s deputy, Mark Tuohey, to be “outraged by some of the stories he heard about Miguel’s strange demeanor and off-the-wall questions in the grand jury room,” which allegedly caused grand jurors to complain.
Foster grand jury witness Patrick Knowlton describes a much more harrowing experience after being subpoenaed. Knowlton was in Fort Marcy Park on the day Foster died. Knowlton was a very inconvenient witness for Starr because he credibly reported, as did others, a description of the Honda Accord in the parking lot at Fort Marcy when Foster was dead, that did not match Foster’s Honda Accord. Also, as alleged in his 1997 lawsuit, a copy of which is at fbicover-up.com, the website he maintains with his attorney John Clark and researcher Hugh Turley, Knowlton also saw a man, who has never been officially acknowledged, in another car in the parking lot who gave him menacing stares. Knowlton has been stating for years that Kavanaugh tried to discredit him before the grand jury by improperly raising the possibility that Knowlton was in the park for a homosexual liaison, which was false. According to Knowlton, Kavanaugh did this with the assistance of now U.S. District Court Judge John Bates.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the British journalist who reported Knowlton’s story in the 1990s, has recently written about Knowlton, Kavanaugh and Rodriguez.
Starr does not discuss Knowlton in his book, despite the fact that Starr filed motions unsuccessfully opposing an order by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that a letter drafted by Clark and Knowlton, with exhibits, be made part of an appendix to Starr’s report on the Foster death. The letter and exhibits cited official government documents showing that Starr’s report was not credible, and was made part of the appendix to Starr’s report.
It is reasonable to ask whether Starr has defamed alleged “rogue prosecutor” Rodriguez, thereby providing an opportunity for a court to re-examine the Foster case in the context of a libel suit.
Allan J. Favish is an attorney in Los Angeles. His website is allanfavish.com. James Fernald and Favish have co-authored a book about what might happen if the government ran Disneyland, entitled “Fireworks! If the Government Ran the Fairest Kingdom of Them All (A Very Unauthorized Fantasy).”