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Sam Dash’s Letter Of Resignation

This is the text of Sam Dash’s resignation letter to the Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

In the 1970s, Dash had been Chief Counsel for the Senate Watergate Committee.

Dash resigned over Starr’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, describing him as an “aggressive advocate”.

Text of Sam Dash’s letter of resignation to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

Dear Ken,

I hereby submit my resignation as outside consultant and adviser to you and your Office of Independent Counsel, effective at noon today.

My decision to leave has nothing whatsoever to do with the many unfounded and misinformed attacks on your conduct as independent counsel. Through most of your tenure, I have been fully informed by you and your staff on all major decisions made by your office. I have advised you on these matters and have approved most of the decisions made. On some I agreed with you and your staff at the outset. As to others, where I disagreed, you showed your willingness to be open to my advice and you came to different decisions.

From my special vantage point, as an experienced professional outsider with no personal or professional stake in the outcome of your investigations, I found that you conducted yourself with integrity and professionalism, as did your staff of experienced federal prosecutors.

I resign for a fundamental reason. Against my strong advice, you decided to depart from your usual professional decision-making by accepting the invitation of the House Judiciary Committee to appear before the committee and serve as an aggressive advocate for the proposition that the evidence in your referral demonstrates that the president committed impeachable offenses.

In doing this you have violated your obligations under the independent counsel statute and have unlawfully intruded on the power of impeachment which the Constitution gives solely to the House. As independent counsel you have only one narrow duty under the statute relating to the House’s power of impeachment. That one duty, under Section 595(c) of the statute, is to objectively provide for the House substantial and credible information that may constitute grounds for impeachment.

The statute does not and could not constitutionally give the independent counsel any role in impeachment other than this single informing function. The House is not dependent on the independent counsel for information related to its impeachment role. It can get its information from many sources, including through its own process, and does not need a referral of information from the independent counsel before it can decide to have an impeachment inquiry. The referral you made to the House was proper under the statute.

But your role and authority as a provider of information to the House stopped there. You have no right or authority under the law, as independent counsel, to advocate for a particular position on the evidence before the Judiciary Committee or to argue that the evidence in your referral is strong enough to justify the decision by the committee to recommend impeachment. Constitutionally, as you have recognized, the House has the sole power of impeachment. As an executive branch independent prosecutor you may not intrude on that sole power, even if invited by the committee.

Your referral to the House under the statute presented all the evidence you had about the Lewinsky matter which you believed was substantial and credible. As I have said, that was your only lawful responsibility under the statute governing your office. The House committee has excellent lawyers advising it and did not need you to summarize your referral and to argue for impeachment. Indeed the committee does not have a right to impose upon you as independent counsel to be its prosecuting counsel for impeachment.

By your willingness to serve in this improper role you have seriously harmed the public confidence in the independence and objectivity of your office. Frequently you have publicly stated that you have sought my advice in major decisions and had my approval. I cannot allow that inference to continue regarding your present abuse of your office and have no other choice but to resign.


Samuel Dash

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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