As US president Donald Trump fends off a push to remove him from office, he is relying, in part, on a man who he once called a “lunatic” and a “wacko”.
In a move that surprised many, Trump has employed former judge and well known lawyer Ken Starr, who previously pushed for a slew of charges against former US president Bill Clinton culminating in his impeachment in 1998, stemming from sexual misconduct in the White House.
Given Starr’s prominent role in leading an investigation that led to the impeachment of a sitting president, it struck many as hypocritical as he decried moves against Trump on the floor of the senate on Tuesday, AEST.
As Trump’s defence team continued their rebuttal of the Democrat’s case against the president, Starr bemoaned what he said was an “age of impeachment” and asserted Trump had not committed a crime. There is no “genuine national consensus” that the president must go, he said.
The Democrats, however, claim the accusations of Trump’s abuse of power to coerce a foreign government to investigate a political rival are far worse than Clinton’s misdemeanours.
Ken Starr lamenting the “age of impeachment” is astounding. Next Bernie Madoff is going to speak out against financial fraud. Followed by Joseph hazelwood speaking on safely hauling oil. And then President trump advocating against bankruptcies and too many lawsuits.— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) January 27, 2020
Ken Starr, who pushed impeachment for Bill Clinton for lying about sex, now says impeachment is being used too often as Donald Trump is impeached for asking a foreign power to investigate a political rival.— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) January 27, 2020
Starr’s defence of the president comes after a video emerged of an interview Trump gave at the time of the Clinton impeachment in which he was highly critical of Ken Starr, using a string of pejoratives to describe him.
“I think Ken Starr is a lunatic, I really think Ken Starr is a disaster,” he said in the taped interview with MSNBC.
“I hated the way the president (Clinton) handled it ... I really think Ken Starr was terrible.”
He has also reportedly referred to Starr as a “wacko” and “freak”.
Bombshell book at centre of trial
President Trump's fellow Republicans in the US Senate came under fresh pressure this morning to allow witnesses in the impeachment trial.
In particular, the Democrats have honed in on Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton who has written an unpublished book manuscript that alleges Trump told him he wanted to freeze $US391 million in security aid to Ukraine until Kiev agreed to help investigate Joe Biden, the Democrat most likely to challenge Trump in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
Outside the Senate chamber, Republicans grappled with claims in the forthcoming book which have echoed around Washington after The New York Times reported on the manuscript.
The White House has reportedly had a copy of the book for the past month.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney, a sometime critic of Trump, said there was a growing likelihood that at least four Republican senators would choose to call for Bolton to testify, which would give Democrats the votes necessary to summon him.
“I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Romney told reporters.
Senate Republicans so far have refused to allow any witnesses or new evidence in the trial but reports of the book look set to change the expected nature of the trial.
Trump denied telling Bolton that he sought to use the aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens on unsubstantiated corruption allegations.
Another moderate Republican senator, Susan Collins, said the reports regarding Bolton's book “strengthen the case for witnesses.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsey Graham, a strong Republican ally of Trump, said he would support issuing a subpoena to obtain Bolton's manuscript, a CNN reporter said on Twitter.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a leading Democrat in the trial, said it was a test for the senators sitting as jurors in the trial which, however unlikely, could see the president thrown out of office.
“I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial, and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” he told CNN.
Trump continues to deny the claims of his alleged abuse of power. “I haven't seen the manuscript, but I can tell you nothing was ever said to John Bolton,” he told reporters.
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