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Whitewater Special Prosecutor Starr Says He'll Leave His Post

By Susan Schmidt
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who has overseen the long-running Whitewater investigation, announced unexpectedly Monday he will leave his post this summer to become dean of Pepperdine University Law School in California.

The news of Starr's upcoming departure was greeted happily by some in the White House last night. They saw it as a signal that Starr's investigation has not turned up the kind of evidence that would warrant criminal charges against President Clinton or first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"There's joy in Mudville," said one official. Democratic surrogates and even the president himself have publicly charged that they believe Starr's conservative Republican politics bias his investigation of the Clintons.

But Starr and lawyers close to him cautioned against reading too much into his upcoming departure. "The investigation is proceeding without interruption. Everything is full steam ahead," Starr said in a statement issued by his deputy, John Bates.

Bates said Starr will stay on as independent counsel until sometime this summer. On Aug. 1, he will take over as dean of the Pepperdine Law School as well as become the founding dean of the university's school of public policy. Starr also will continue some appeals court work for his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis.

"This was an opportunity that combined uniquely attractive participation in the law and public policy," Bates said.

Even if optimists in the White House are right in believing that Starr is leaving because he does not have a strong case against the Clintons, another independent counsel will almost certainly have to be appointed. Starr's office is slated in September to go to trial in a tax fraud case against former Arkansas Democratic governor Jim Guy Tucker and two co-defendants. Tucker was convicted along with the Clintons' former business partners, James B. and Susan McDougal, in a Whitewater-related fraud case brought by Starr last year.

The news comes as Starr's staff is evaluating evidence gathered in its three-year investigation.