After a nearly two-year investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, the results of Robert Mueller's report are in: No collusion. US Attorney General William Barr released his principal conclusions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report Sunday. The President expressed exoneration, repeating the phrase he's said for more than a year: No obstruction, No collusion. But Democrats, led by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) aren't convinced and want Attorney General Barr to testify before Congress. Fox News Contributor & Independent Counsel in the Whitewater investigation, Ken W. Starr, joined FOX News Talk's Benson & Harf to discuss the Mueller report.
Guy Benson: A very strategic and sort of appropriate guess given his background. Kenneth Starr who is a Fox News contributor former U.S. solicitor general and federal judge. He also served as independent counsel in the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations. And Judge Starr is great to have you back. Thanks for doing this.
Ken Starr: My great pleasure. Thank you for having me on.
Guy Benson: So I'll just start with a broad opening question for you. Now that we have the letter from the attorney general about this long process coming to an end what is your what is your reaction.
Ken Starr: My reaction is is that we've got a great attorney general in William Barr whose letter on Friday and now his letter yesterday Sunday really show this is the way professional people of integrity act he's going by the book. So I'm thankful that the investigation is over. It was so divisive it was so controversial and so it's now behind us the investigation. Now obviously the action is switching over he already has to the political arena into the people's house the House of Representatives. So let the debates begin and so forth. But this long I don't recall the national nightmare but this long ordeal this national ordeal is over. God bless them that Bob Mueller said no charges are brought in this whole arena of collusion. This is of course what this was all about then with respect to obstruction. I think he should have made the hard call and decided one way or the other what his view was with respect to obstruction. I have mine. But his is much more important than mine. But he did essentially kicked it over to the attorney general. And God bless him. Bill Barr did it the right way according to his letter. He consulted widely within the Department of Justice was very informed by the traditions of the Justice Department including the principles of federal prosecution. He consulted I think this should say a lot about how we view the process with Rod Rosenstein has been under enormous criticism for having launched this to begin with the entire investigation. But Rod Rosenstein the Deputy attorney general is an enormously experienced federal prosecutor. He came out of the public integrity section. He was United States attorney forever and a day and he agrees with the attorney general's determination that there was no obstruction here. And so I'm thankful it's over. Now let the politics begin.
Marie Harf: Well Judge you're right that it's over but none of us have seen it. We've seen a four page summary from the attorney general which has a lot of information in it. But as you know better than most people a lot of the devil's in the details and I do think that the American people and Congress at the conclusion of this process one to see how all of these questions were answered. A do you think that that's appropriate and B do you think that will happen.
Ken Starr: It is appropriate subject to the kinds of possibilities and limitations that Bill Barr identified. You know when people say we want and duly elected members of Congress have been saying we want that report and we want it right now. Well you can't have it because you're asking Bill Barr to commit literally a crime. I was accused of committing crimes by quote leaking grand jury information. The allegations were false. Wrong disproof. But anyway if I had and if Bill barr did to provide just OK here it is. He has no immunity none whatsoever. The members of Congress enjoy the show that they cause. So he's got to go through this process. He said he's going to do it promptly and he's going to consult again. He's doing it the right way with the special counsel. There are lots of really able people in the DOJ who assist in this process. So once we have this gets frustrating for people a redacted version of the report then I agree. Let it go to the public. That's totally consistent with what Bill Barr said. Now that having been said this still represents a compromise a departure from the grand traditions of the Justice Department. I served two tours of duty there. I have the greatest respect for the department and its traditions their traditions rooted in fairness human dignity liberty etc. including the protection of reputations. And that's why we continue to say when Jim Comey do what he did during the presidential campaign castigating Hillary Clinton let's say but she no prosecutor would charge this as a crime but because that's not the job of a prosecutor to go around criticizing people. But OK Bill has already said Bill Barr has already said we're going to have as much transparency as possible because of what the public interest.
Guy Benson: And as you say he's bound by the law about what he can do right and in terms of the timeline of this and what he can release and we know that he is consulting closely with Robert Mueller and his team on those exact points necessary redactions as required by law and that sort of thing. Mr. Starr I want to go back to a point that you just made briefly talking about the decision by Mueller not to recommend one way or another on obstruction just saying here's all my information on it I'm not going to make a prosecutorial judgment on it and basically handing the football off to to the attorney general on that point you said you wished he had made the tough call or the hard call himself on that. Why do you say that. And why do you think maybe he chose not to.
Ken Starr: I say it because that was his duty. He was the special counsel appointed to investigate the collusion issue was there a conspiracy with their crimes. He also was charged with looking into whether there was obstruction and perjury if he's brought those kinds of charges at least perjury and lying to the FBI et cetera. So let me speculate I'm going to speculate that he chose not to come to rest on that because it would be very hard for him to be dispassionate and disinterested. What is the investigation was being allegedly obstructed the Mueller probe. So I'm going to charge you with obstructing my probe and of course part of the possible Graus moves traction was Mr. President you brought the investigation into or sought to into ill repute disrepute I should say because lawyer name calling and so on and so forth. I don't know. I am speculating. He had the authority to do it. I think he has a responsibility to do it but he may have just felt as a very experienced. And look he's a Marine. He's Semper Fi. He fought in Vietnam that it may not be appropriate. All Things Considered. The judgment of history that be Meuller especially given who you had is your assistance. You really were on a vendetta. You couldn't get the right on collusion. He didn't collude. It just wasn't there. So you got him on obstructing your investigation with you know as Rudy Giuliani would say oh you got in the way of the 13 angry Democrats. I don't use those kinds of terms. But the point is there is a public perception you can say well it's all just a partisan divide. Well guess what. Partisan divides count in terms of confidence in the orderly and honest administration of justice. But that's speculation.
Marie Harf: Judge. The challenge is and I take your point on why you think Mueller didn't. The challenge is on the flip side a lot of Democrats say wait a second. The impartial Special Counsel couldn't come to a decision on obstruction. It's the attorney general that was appointed by President Trump that made that decision. I'm not saying I agree with that one way or the other but the political chips fall on both sides right.
Ken Starr: Right. Absolutely. No it's a fair point. It won't wait a second. How can the attorney general who answers to the president can be fired. The pros make that judgment. And you know the law has a very basic common sense concept. It's called the rule of necessity. Somebody has got to decide. And so the special counsel knew that when he bucked it upstairs. I think it also explains why again Rod Rosenstein name is there. Yes. He gives you that extra measure of comfort for those who want comfort for those who Rod Rosenstein but for those well I don't think anyone is seriously accusing Rod Rosenstein of being in the pocket of anyone the.
Marie Harf: although his letter was part of the possible obstruction. His letter firing Comey to his name was on. I'm not again not making that case myself but he's involved here too.
Ken Starr: There's no question and so that raised issues. Should he have been the one to launch all of this etc. So no there is shall I say no immaculate solution and that's what the rule of necessity calls it. Here's the thing what Bill Barr said in this letter is that he consulted after consulting after the so and I've been part of this process. And so that gives me as a citizen but as an alumnus of the department it's not just the here's what I think in my unfettered discretion. I will. I'm going to consult with. And I know who will be consulting. Mean the kinds of people the categories of people I mean these are career prosecutors civil servants many of whom probably did not vote for the President of the United States but there are honest public servants and patriots and they're going to do their very best to do their honest judgment and give that to the attorney general. And I'll bet you a nickel that The view was overwhelming within the department. No this is not obstruction. Firing James Comey. Absolutely not. That was totally within the president's power to do it. Even if he wanted to say and let me touch what I think is a really powerful point he was actually in the Friday afternoon in a letter. There were no instances in this investigation where the judgment of the special counsel Robert Mueller was overridden vetoed stocks right by anyone who served as attorney general. There is no funding cut off. Bob Mueller was not fired no Archibald Cox. So James Comey in my view deserved to be fired on the merits. But that's one person's view is pretty widely shared in the FBI and he deserves to be fired for the various things that he did. But without obstruction I use to know there are other issues and so forth. I understand but the key thing is the president could have fired Rosenstein because of the firing of Mueller. He never did. And no funding etc was cut off so the investigation has run and we know it was a very elaborate investigation very comprehensive investigation.
Guy Benson: And Judge Starr something that was reported today is that apparently the decision by Mueller to kick it upstairs to use your phrase to the attorney general was made a number of weeks ago. And Mueller reached out to a Barr and said hey I'm kicking this over to you. Start the consultations which is what then took place. Last question for me briefly just rapid fire number one yes. Do you think that Mueller should testify before Congress about the process that he just went through this investigation over 22 months and secondly having now watched this play out again and this is a personal question to you given your history. Are there additional reform is perhaps that are necessary for special prosecutors. Have we reached a comfortable comfortable point on that question.
Ken Starr: I don't think Bob Mueller should be called upon to testify and it's entirely appropriate for the House Judiciary Committee called Bill Barr to testify. And then if there are lingering the only that's because he's a subordinate official of the Justice Department to report to the attorney general.
Marie Harf: I'm not sure Guy and I are both looking in each other I understand there's a chain of command but he's the one who conducted the interviews and the investigation in their reports and I think there's information that he would have in testimony that Barr doesn't have that would be valuable.
Ken Starr: No I'm just saying you go with the person who made these ultimate decisions. Bill. He's the attorney general. You don't call subordinate officers to testify when the cabinet officials there unless the cabinet official says hey I don't know I have my subordinate. For all of his importance Bob Mueller is simply an appointee and a special project a very special project for the attorney general.
Guy Benson: So true although it came on board came in at the very end of this process.
Marie Harf: And the collusion the collusion investigation Barr didn't undertake Bob Mueller did.
Ken Starr: That's right. But he can familiarize himself with it tend to stand on ceremony and say this is the way you should in fact the. You have Bill Barr you come up you testify you see where where you are but it seems to me that they have the report that's it and Mueller should be allowed to now go into a retirement t it's going to speak for itself they can have additional documents that the Justice Department feels free. But it's you said let me just quickly say I think we are in a good place with these regulations these Reno regulations I think work. There does need perhaps greater clarity in terms of the reporting requirements as you're fudging a little bit. The whole idea of a confidential report which is the other day mention of why I recoil against the Congress saying we want Bob Mueller is not only a subordinate official. He his duty was to provide goes to the grand jury to provide a confidential report right to the attorney general would destroy all the deaths in the regulation for 20 years.
Guy Benson:Judge sorry to jump in here we're just up on a hard break. I would love to continue this conversation in depth another time. But for now the wealth of information. Thank you so much for your time this evening.
Ken Starr: [00:15:59] OK. You bet.
Guy Benson: Thanks. That's Kenneth Starr on Benson & Harf. Fascinating stuff all right. We'll be right back.