The former independent counsel who investigated former president Bill Clinton in the 1990s slammed President Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday for his “wildly inappropriate” public comments about Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Kenneth Starr, who also served as US solicitor general and a federal judge, urged Trump to “cut it out” and said his behavior is damaging to the presidency and inimical to the rule of law.
“An honorable man whom I have known since his days as a US attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions has recently become your piñata in one of the most outrageous — and profoundly misguided — courses of presidential conduct I have witnessed in five decades in and around the nation’s capital,” Starr said.
“The attorney general is not — and cannot be — the president’s ‘hockey goalie.'”
Starr’s op-ed follows Trump’s week-long public tirade against Sessions, during which he told The New York Times he would not have selected Sessions as attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
Trump has also called Sessions “VERY weak” and “beleaguered” in tweets, prompting speculation that Trump may be attempting to bully Sessions into resigning. Sessions has said he intends to remain in his position “as long as that is appropriate.”
“Mr. President, for the sake of the country, and for your own legacy, please listen to the growing chorus of voices who want you to succeed — by being faithful to the oath of office you took on Jan. 20 and by upholding the traditions of a nation of laws, not of men,” Starr wrote.
Although hostile relationships between presidents and their top law enforcement officials are not uncommon — Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno were at odds over Starr’s role investigating the Monica Lewinsky scandal, for instance — presidents tend to avoid taking their feuds public lest they give the appearance of interfering in independent investigations.
In his op-ed, Starr urged Trump not to view himself as a client of the attorney general.
“The attorney general’s client is ultimately “We the People,” and his fidelity has to be not to the president but to the Constitution and other laws of the United states,” Starr said. “Indeed, the attorney general’s job, at times, is tell the president ‘no’ because of the supervening demands of the law.”