Tripp Spends Day Before Starr's Grand Jury
Woman who taped ex-intern says she did not trick her onetime friend
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 30) -- Linda Tripp, the one-time friend and co-worker of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, spent Tuesday testifying before the grand jury as a key witness for Independent Counsel Ken Starr.
Tripp responded to reporters as she departed the U.S. District Court following her first day of testimony. She was asked if it was easy telling the truth and she nodded her head affirmatively. When asked if it was good having her children with her, she said, "It's great," and subsequently squeezed her daughter's hand.
Her attorneys, Joe Murtha and Anthony Zaccaginini, spoke to reporters shortly after 4:30 p.m. Zaccaginini said that his client told him: "I find it very easy to truthfully answer the questions posed to me by the prosecutor and the grand jury."
The lawyers also introduced Tripp's children, Allison and Ryan, but did not take questions. They expect Tripp to be recalled Thursday for another full day of questioning.
It was Tripp who secretly recorded her phone conversations with Lewinsky, for 20 hours in all, about Lewinsky's alleged relationship with President Bill Clinton.
More than six months after she turned those tapes over to Starr, Tripp arrived at the federal courthouse shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday morning to tell her story to his grand jury for the first time.
In an interview reported in The Washington Post Tuesday, Tripp said she had been vilified unfairly. "I am so anxious to go before the grand jury and tell the truth," she told the newspaper.
Why is Tripp important?
Tripp's testimony is critical to several avenues of Starr's investigation of allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice by Lewinsky or Clinton.
On the tapes, sources say Lewinsky talks of a sexual relationship with Clinton. But both Lewinsky and the president have given sworn statements denying that.
Tripp also says Lewinsky gave her written talking points outlining how she could protect the president if questioned as part of the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.
But the independent counsel's star witness is a mysterious figure in this far-reaching scandal and it is unclear what motivated Tripp.
Why did she secretly record 20 hours of conversations with a friend and co-worker? Why did she take those tapes to Starr? Why, according to some excerpts of those tapes, did she appear to be urging a reluctant Lewinsky to talk more and more about the president, while secretly recording every word?
Critics call her a greedy, manipulative gossip while supporters paint her as a woman appalled by what she heard about the president who was just doing her duty by reporting a possible crime.
The president's supporters question Tripp's credibility, and her motives.
Former White House special counsel Lanny Davis said, "Fact number one is that she secretly taped a young woman who considered her a friend. Fact number two is that she secretly contacted and debriefed the Paula Jones attorneys the night before the president was deposed essentially setting up a trap for the president of the United States. Fact number three is that Lucianne Goldberg, her literary agent, said that she advised Ms. Tripp to do the taping in order to enhance the prospects of a book contract."
Tripp says the Jones lawyers called her, and she just told the truth. And she says she began taping Lewinsky to protect herself, after the former White House intern asked her to lie in the Jones case.
'Monica is a very worldly person. She educated me'
Tripp, 48, dismissed allegations that she had betrayed Lewinsky and had cynically tried to use their friendship as Pentagon co-workers against Clinton. "I did not cultivate Monica -- she cultivated me," Tripp told the Post. "Monica is a very worldly person. She educated me."
During a 20-minute telephone interview Sunday, Tripp refused to discuss Starr's investigation, her taping of Lewinsky or what she will tell the grand jury, the Post said.
"Linda Tripp ... believes the public will have a better understanding of the events that led to this investigation when all of the facts are revealed," said her lawyers Zaccagnini and Murtha.
As the investigation took this dramatic turn Lewinsky was in California and Clinton was in China. White House aides deliberately said little about Tripp's appearance. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said, "It hasn't had any impact on our work here."
Tripp's testimony raises the stakes for Lewinsky and her lawyers. When asked on Monday if Tripp's appearance puts pressure on his client, attorney Plato Cacheris answered, "No, no pressure at all."
But sources tell CNN immunity talks with Starr's office are going nowhere, and say that Lewinsky's lawyers believe that if a deal isn't struck soon, that Starr will indict the former White House intern.
CNN's John King, Mark Allen and Sally Holland contributed to this report.