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Special Event

Tripp's Attorneys Hold News Conference

Aired January 25, 2001 - 12:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: The press conference with Linda Tripp's attorneys is beginning. We're going to take you there live.

MICHAEL KOHN, LINDA TRIPP ATTORNEY: Good afternoon. My name is Michael Kohn. And with me today are my two law partners, Stephen Kohn and David Colapinto. We represent Linda Tripp.

We begin by making the following statement.

Once again, Linda Tripp's rights under the Privacy Act have been willfully and grossly violated. Her attempt to find a new job has been sabotaged. In response to this unprecedented pattern of illegal and vindictive conduct, we've been authorized on behalf of Linda Tripp to file a new lawsuit in federal district court.

On January 20th, the Clinton administration ended Mr. -- Mrs. Tripp's 21-year career as an outstanding federal employee. At the time of her termination, Mrs. Tripp was on an approved leave so that she could attend -- go to Germany for a confidential appointment to obtain a position at the George Marshall Center.

Her application was confidential, the release of which constitutes a violation of the Privacy Act.

Having tossed Linda Tripp overboard, they have now yanked her life preserver.

David Colapinto will now address the Privacy Act lawsuit. And Steven Kohn will then read a statement by Linda Tripp.

Thank you.

DAVID COLAPINTO, LINDA TRIPP ATTORNEY: Good afternoon.

This morning, we filed a Privacy Act lawsuit on behalf of Mrs. Tripp in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

We have alleged violations of the Privacy Act, because it is illegal and unfair for the government to require Linda Tripp to compete for federal employment in a fish bowl.

It is clear that federal law requires that the names and qualifications of all applicants for federal employment must be kept secret and confidential. Even though it is illegal to disclose this type of information about job candidates, there are apparently those, or were those, at the Department of Defense who believe it is fair game to violate Linda Tripp's privacy rights under federal law.

On the very eve of Mrs. Tripp's interview at the Marshall Center, the Defense Department officials leaked confidential information about her application, her grade of position, and potential salary. This is a violation of federal law.

Most troubling is that this most recent leak was disclosed by the Defense Department to its own publications, "Stars and Stripes," and the Defense Department "Early Bird," which ends up on the computer of every Defense Department official in the government.

Both of these publications are officially managed under the direction of Mr. Clifford Bernath, who is the director of the Armed Forces Information Service.

Coincidentally, it was Mr. Bernath who violated the Privacy Act in March of 1998, when he illegally leaked information from Mrs. Tripp's confidential security file at the Pentagon.

Even though the inspector general found in May of last year, that Mr. Bernath violated the Privacy Act, the Defense Department did not take any meaningful action against him.

We are here today announcing the filing of another lawsuit, because it is clear. The Clinton administration declared open season on Linda Tripp in order to save Mr. Clinton's presidency. And that harassment campaign has not stopped.

Now, I would like to turn it over to Mr. Stephen Kohn.

STEPHEN KOHN, LINDA TRIPP ATTORNEY: I have spoken to Linda in Germany. She told me what happened.

She comes to a job interview. She meets with the director of personnel. And she's handed a newspaper. There's a banner headline, "Linda Tripp to be Interviewed at Marshall Center Today," and a series of disclosures all in violation of the Privacy Act. That's some way to get interviewed for your first job after being thrown off the federal ranks for the first time in 21 years.

Linda was shaken. She was upset, and devastated. She asked me first to personally thank all of the Americans and people who've shown their support for her, and are standing with her during this latest round of retaliation.

And this is her short statement, quote: "I am devastated that the price of coming forward as a whistle-blower has cost me not only my reputation, but my career. I feel helpless."

Thank you for attending the press conference. We are now able to answer your questions.

QUESTION: You mentioned you were going to file another lawsuit -- or on behalf of Ms. Tripp seeking her reinstatement to the DoD and backpay. What's happening with that?

S. KOHN: Well, we originally thought we would just amend the old one. But we didn't realize that, within hours, there would be a whole new violation. So we filed a new one, and we are requesting her reinstatement.

QUESTION: Would you please expand on the fact that the harassment hasn't stop since the Clinton administration, that there is no logger in power?

S. KOHN: Well, there are holder-overs, specifically, Mr. Bernath who we have no evidence was the person who leaked it. But he clearly had administrative responsibilities. Mr. Bernath started as a political appointee. But unlike some other political appointees, he was given a career job in the Pentagon. So he is still there. And there are many others.

Unfortunately, the attacks on Tripp were so vicious and over such a long period. There is a lot of people. I meet them often who just don't like her and want to see bad things happen to her.

QUESTION: Is there something that can be done short of resolution through the courts? Could the Bush...

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers for Linda Tripp holding a news conference saying that the -- alleging that her rights have been violated under the Privacy Act, over surrounding leaks about her job search, about her having been fired, about details of her employment.

In the words of one of her lawyers, the "national harassment campaign" has not stopped. In the words of another, having tossed Linda Tripp overboard, they have "yanked life preserver," that in reference to her being fired from her Pentagon job, and then these leaks, as she was looking to a new job.

To our national correspondent Bob Franken now for more on this -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the lawyers use strong languages as they do in these occasions, calling what occurred "illegal and vindictive comments,"saying her attempts to bring -- to find a job have been sabotaged.

And, of course, there was that statement from Linda Tripp, where she says, this entire controversy over her disclosure of the Monica Lewinsky tapes, quote, "has cost not only my reputation," she says, "but my career. I feel helpless." Those are the words of Linda Tripp.

Her attorneys are saying that, in fact, since this was a violation of the law in their minds, that there is a basis for a lawsuit.

Linda Tripp, as we all know, has been in the center of the controversy ever since the disclosures on Monica Lewinsky and her relationship with President Clinton. The disclosures that were made possible because Linda Tripp recorded conversations with Ms. Lewinsky, and then turned them over to the independent counsel. That was the controversy then.

She's now still involved in controversy over what she continues to believe is an effort to harass and intimidate her.

SESNO: And Bob, she's requesting reinstatement as well?

FRANKEN: She's requesting reinstatement, requesting an unspecified amount of money. It is a lawsuit, and it has those various standards to it.

SESNO: All right, Bob Franken, thanks very much.

We want to tell you that we're told the lawyers at the Pentagon are now studying these statements, are now studying the legal action by Linda Tripp's lawyers. And there is expected to be a statement from the Pentagon to that effect in some response, around 1:30 Eastern time.

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