Mr. Kavanaugh, for his part, prepared a report concluding that Mr. Foster had committed suicide, investigated whether documents had been unlawfully removed from Mr. Foster’s office, and litigated cases on attorney-client and executive privilege.
When he returned to the independent counsel’s fourth-floor offices at 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, just across the street from the F.B.I. headquarters, it was to a far different investigation.
News of the Lewinsky affair broke in January 1998, after Mr. Clinton testified in a sexual harassment suit that had been nurtured for years by a network of conservative lawyers. Paula Jones, an Arkansas state worker, said Mr. Clinton had made lewd advances in a hotel room when he was governor. In his deposition for the case, Mr. Clinton was provided a tortured definition of sexual relations — and denied engaging in such actions with Ms. Lewinsky.
Mr. Starr obtained permission from Janet Reno, the attorney general, and a three-judge panel to expand his investigation to include Ms. Lewinsky, and suddenly Mr. Kavanaugh’s former colleagues were under siege. An investigation that had begun by examining a complex real estate deal in Arkansas had become a tawdry exposé of the president’s sex life, complete with a semen-stained dress and a sex toy in the Oval Office.
“The moment they go into a different chapter, it becomes the most unprofessional investigation ever done,” Mr. Emanuel said. “They were not doing their job. They were leaking constantly, and they were trying to battle a presidency.”
Some members of Mr. Starr’s team, like Rod J. Rosenstein, now the deputy attorney general, and Alex M. Azar II, the current secretary of health and human services, were heading for the exits or keeping their distance. Neither returned to the Starr team after the Lewinsky scandal emerged.
But Mr. Kavanaugh was a Starr protégé — he started his legal career with a one-year fellowship in the office of the United States solicitor general when Mr. Starr held that office. And so when his old boss called on him in April 1998, Mr. Kavanaugh did not say no right away. His partners at Kirkland & Ellis thought he was crazy for even thinking about going back. In the end, loyalty prevailed.