Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, has died at the age of 76, his family says.
Starr, a former judge and US solicitor general, died at a Houston hospital on Tuesday of complications from surgery.
As the independent counsel investigating Mr Clinton, Starr became a household name across the US. More recently he served on the team defending former President Donald Trump from impeachment in 2020.
A native of Texas, Starr was appointed by the US Department of Justice in 1994 to investigate Whitewater, a scandal-plagued 1980s land venture that involved both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
While conducting the investigation, Starr found evidence that Mr Clinton had been having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
It resulted in Mr Clinton being impeached by the US House of Representatives in 1998. He was later acquitted by the Senate. Starr wrote about the inquiry in a bestselling book, Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation. He said while promoting the book in a CBS interview in 2018 that he regretted “the pain that resulted to so many, including to the nation” from the Lewinsky phase of the probe.
But he maintained “it had to be done” and declined to apologise to Ms Lewinsky for the bullying and harassment she endured after the affair came to light.
For her part, Ms Lewinsky wrote in a Vanity Fair magazine article that Starr had turned her life into a “living hell”, and described him as “creepy” after bumping into him at a Manhattan restaurant.
Her reaction to news of his death was more measured.
Ms Lewinsky tweeted: “as i’m sure many can understand, my thoughts about ken starr bring up complicated feelings… but of more importance, is that i imagine it’s a painful loss for those who love him.”
Years after the Clinton investigation in 2016, Starr was forced to leave a position as President of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, after an inquiry determined that the school had mishandled rape accusations involving members of its football team. The scandal also led to his resignation as the university’s chancellor and as a law professor.
Starr continued to practise law after leaving the university. He also taught constitutional law, penned several books and was a legal pundit for Fox News.
In early 2020, he again returned to the national spotlight by joining a team defending Mr Trump against impeachment proceedings. That inquiry stemmed from claims the then-president had withheld military aid to Ukraine in a bid to force the country to dig up dirt on his political rivals. Mr Trump was acquitted of the charges.
Impeachment, Starr said at the time, was a “matter of last resort”, arguing that the charges against Mr Trump paled in comparison to those faced by Mr Clinton.
Starr is survived by his wife Alice and three children.
“We are deeply saddened with the loss of our dear and loving father and grandfather, whom we admired for his prodigious work ethic, but who always put his family first,” one of his sons, Randall Starr, said in a statement.
Robert Vagley, the former head of the American Insurance Association, was quoted in the family’s statement as saying that Starr will always be remembered for his “willingness to serve for the greater good without regard for his own plans and wishes”.