Former Independent Counsel Ken Starr said Thursday that witnesses who appeared in the House Intelligence Committee hearings this month haven’t come close to laying out impeachable offenses.
Starr, who served as lead investigator in the impeachment inquiry into former President Bill Clinton, said the testimony has come “nowhere close” to the bar set in the U.S. Constitution.
The testimony doesn’t “reach the level of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” Starr remarked on Fox News on Thursday.
“My assessment of the evidence [thus] far? Nowhere close. The evidence is conflicting and ambiguous,” he noted.
Starr said that European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony was conflicting.
“Clearly in his opening statement, a quid pro quo. And then, he says later, ‘Well, the president said, ‘I don’t want anything. Right? President Zelensky should just do the right thing.’ [Those are] the words from the president himself,” he continued.
“So, the record at the end of the day is likely to be ambiguous at best, conflicting at best … and you shouldn’t charge and you cannot convict a sitting president on the basis of conflicting and ambiguous evidence and destabilize the American government,” Starr claimed.
The current loser in the impeachment inquiry has been the American people, he suggested.
“During the Clinton years and during the Clinton impeachment, voices such as Dianne Feinstein—she’s still in the Senate—said, ‘This is serious…misconduct, but do we really want to remove a sitting president from office? Let’s censure him,'” Starr pointed out, adding that the current inquiry is “so terrible for the country.”
“So, at least, I hope the Democrats will have that conversation about we don’t like the way foreign policy was conducted here, the delay [in providing aid] and so forth. That’s debatable, but it is not the stuff of impeachment,” he told Fox.
The investigation is focused on the president’s request in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” two cases of alleged corruption in Ukraine that could harm Trump’s political adversaries. Trump, who released a transcript of the call, Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials, and White House officials have denied the allegations from Democrats of quid pro quo or blackmail. Ukrainian officials have also said they were not aware of the holding of the aid for review at the time of the call, negating any possibility of pressure from Trump.
The impeachment inquiry could lead the Democratic-controlled House to approve formal charges against Trump—called articles of impeachment—that would be sent to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial on whether to remove him from office. No Republican senators, have indicated they would vote in favor of removing the president.