As Impeachment Trial Begins, CNN Tries to Indict Ken Starr for Contradicting Himself

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As the impeachment trial got underway on Tuesday, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig joined CNN Newsroom co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto to try and indict "controversial" members of President Trump's defense team. Naturally, the segment was full of hypocrisy, bungled facts, and faulty analogies.

Honig's less-than-factual analysis began when he tried to compare Ken Starr's record as special counsel on the Clintons' Whitewater scandal to his current spot on Trump's defense team. "Now look, he's a controversial figure and he took positions in the Whitewater-Clinton case that I think are going to be contradictory to some of the positions he took now on witnesses." After Harlow interjected to agree, he continued, "He turned over heaven and earth. He talked to not just the witnesses, but their hairdressers, their dentists, their boyfriends."

There's an obvious difference between needing witnesses in a criminal investigation as opposed to the option of calling witnesses an impeachment proceeding, so that's a bungled analogy. 

 

 

Speaking of hypocrisy on witnesses, the media actually have flipped on this issue. CNN in particular railed against the Clinton impeachment, arguing that it was Republicans who were disgracing themselves.

Honig then proceeded to engage in some revisionist history when he argued that Trump is worse than Clinton and it's not much of a debate, "Now he's going to be arguing for few or no witnesses and on impeachment itself he led the charge to remove Bill Clinton from office for lying under oath about sex. I think it’s a fair argument to say what Donald Trump has done here is a more serious threat to the presidency."

Honig conveniently left out the obstruction of justice charge against Clinton that detailed witness tampering. Another difference that would clear Starr, but not the media, of hypocrisy is that Starr defined actual crimes, whereas the Democrats came up with politically-defined offenses like "abuse of power." 

But when asked by Sciutto if there was any justification for such an alleged Starr "flip," Honig declared, "He's going to become a walking, talking exhibit for the House impeachment managers. They can say he right there, he wanted as many witnesses as we can count and now he wants none."

But, if Starr is "controversial" for Whitewater, what does that make Schiff and the rest of the Democrats? They're not exactly unifying figures. 

With that, the trio moved onto another "controversial" member of Trump's defense team: Alan Dershowitz. Honig declared," He's been involved in high-profile cases he’s defended from O.J. Simpson to more recently Jeffrey Epstein." So? Even the worst people are entitled to defense counsel. Honig went on to cite the Epstein-related sexual assault allegations against Dershowitz, that Dershowitz has denied.

The trio ended the Dershowitz profile by accusing him of being hypocritical on whether or not impeachment needs to be based on an actual crime and that he is "simply wrong" to say that it does.

Here is a transcript for the January 21 show:

CNN

CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto

9:16 AM ET

POPPY HARLOW: Ken Starr. 

ELIE HONIG: Even more controversial.

JIM SCIUTTO: Familiar names from 20 years ago. 

HONIG: Yes, Ken Starr, best known for being the independent counsel in what started as Whitewater then morphed over many years to become the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Now look, he's a controversial figure and he took positions in the Whitewater-Clinton case that I think are going to be contradictory to some of the positions he took now on witnesses. Ken Starr famously -- 

HARLOW: And evidence

HONIG: Evidence, witnesses. He turned over heaven and earth. He talked to not just the witnesses, but their hairdressers, their dentists, their boyfriends. Now he's going to be arguing for few or no witnesses and on impeachment itself he led the charge to remove Bill Clinton from office for lying under oath about sex. I think it’s a fair argument to say what Donald Trump has done here is a more serious threat to the presidency. 

SCIUTTO: As you see Starr flip like that, you’re a lawyer, is there a legal basis for the flip or is it politics? 

HONIG: You are allowed to. There’s plenty of people who start their career as a prosecutor then became defense –

SCIUTTO: Of course you’re allowed to, but do you have an argument? 

HONIG: It's going to hurt him here, right? He's going to become a walking, talking exhibit for the House impeachment managers. They can say he right there, he wanted as many witnesses as we can count and now he wants none. So, that's I think the risk in choosing Ken Starr. Speaking of high-profile and controversial, Alan Dershowitz. Well known Harvard law school professor. He's been involved in high-profile cases he’s defended from O.J. Simpson to more recently Jeffrey Epstein. There’s been high-profile accusations about Alan Dershowitz which he has denied. Now he is going to make the constitutional argument. We could see him lead off basically arguing that if it doesn't allege a crime, it's not impeachable. I think the vast majority legal scholars, I don’t consider myself a scholar, but as a lawyer, I think that is simply wrong.

SCIUTTO: One of those legal scholars was him 20 years ago, I mean Poppy referenced that in the last segment, we have the sound. He said the opposite in the Clinton impeachment. 

HONIG: Yeah, and he's trying to thread the needle there, but it doesn’t fly to me. He’s taken opposing views.

 
NB Daily Events Trump Impeachment CNN CNN Newsroom Video Ken Starr Jim Sciutto Poppy Harlow Donald Trump Bill Clinton Alan Dershowitz

 

 
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