Ken Starr, the infamous independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, appeared on CNN Monday morning to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation of Donald Trump. Starr said that Mueller appears to be doing a good job with the Russia probe, but also indicated that so far, there’s no reason for President Trump to worry.
Host Chris Cuomo brought up the idea that Trump may have tried to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, so that he would have the president’s back. Cuomo asked if this–if true–would add to a case of obstruction of justice.
“Legally, it is not significant,” Starr said. “The president has any right, through his counsel, or whomever, to encourage the Attorney General, to say, “Hey, be on the job. You were nominated, you were confirmed to do your job.”
Still, Starr said that it wouldn’t be a wise move, because the Attorney General should follow the guidance of the Justice Department’s ethics requirements.
Starr also addressed the firing of James Comey, and that even if Trump terminated the former FBI Director for selfish reasons related to the Russia probe, that would still not be obstruction.
“It just doesn’t count, as long as it’s not a corrupt bargain,” Starr said, explaining that if Trump was just acting in order to defend himself, that doesn’t reach the level of corruption of, for example, “being bribed or otherwise being compromised.”
Starr explained that because firing Comey was within Trump’s power, it doesn’t matter what he reason was.
“As long as the president is operating within his domain, he may be using poor judgment or great judgment. He may be doing something for very self-interested reasons, but as long he’s exercising the power of the presidency, the criminal law should not be calling him into question.”
Starr qualified that by saying this doesn’t mean that Congress can’t call him into question by impeaching him.
As far as a case for collusion, Starr said, “It depends on what ‘collusion’ means,” saying that while there is evidence of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, when it comes to actual conspiracy, “I’ve seen no evidence.”
Cuomo also asked Starr, who was criticized for the extent of his investigation of Clinton, whether Mueller is overstepping his authority with his investigation. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort recently sued Mueller and the Justice Department, claiming Mueller has gone too far. Starr disagreed, saying everything appears to be appropriate. As far as where the investigation will go in the future? Starr said it’s likely that Mueller will, at some point, question Trump himself.
“He needs to look the president in the eye and ask the appropriate questions.”
[Image via CNN screengrab]