A Starr Turn?

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The impeachment process appears to be fragmenting still further. When House Judiciary chair Henry Hyde turned down a White House request to question Ken Starr for more than 30 minutes during the independent counsel's public appearance Thursday, he warned the President's lawyers not to probe Starr on "nongermane matters." In other words, Hyde said, no investigating the investigator: All questions must be restricted to his impeachment referral. But with spectacularly bad timing, Starr has dropped hints that he plans to step outside those bounds. His speech, aides told the New York Times, will roam beyond the Lewinsky matter before the House into areas where the prosecutor has provided no evidence: Whitewater, Travelgate and Filegate.

Special Report Not surprisingly, Judiciary Democrats were up in arms. "We have presumed that Mr. Starr would confine his testimony to the four corners of the referral himself," fumed spokesman Jim Jordan. "It would be unacceptable to our members to offer unproven allegations or innuendo in an effort to somehow rehabilitate a failed investigation." Dems are also disgruntled about Hyde's plan to call more witnesses to the inquiry without consulting them; so much so that Minority Leader Dick Gephardt threatened a boycott of the hearings Tuesday. That later turned out to be an empty threat. But it's further evidence that Hyde is failing to live up to the measured standard set by Peter Rodino's Watergate committee, which Hyde has tried to emulate. To bring both sides together now, Starr's performance would have to be nothing short of miraculous.