Magazine article Insight on the News

More Than Just Girl Talk

Magazine article Insight on the News

More Than Just Girl Talk

Article excerpt

Although Linda Tripp is not expected to be called as a witness in the Senate trial of President Clinton, her recent testimony about Filegate is having an impact of its own.

As CNN correspondent Candy Crowley focused on Capitol Hill, and colleague Wolf Blitzer staked out the White House awaiting the latest spin on the Senate impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton, a breakthrough occurred the week of Jan. 4 in the Filegate scandal. For the second time in a month, Linda R. Tripp marched briskly into an unassuming office building in Southwest Washington to deliver testimony in a lawsuit arising from the White House-FBI files scandal without producing so much as a blink from the national press corps.

Almost a month after Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr told Congress that he had found no evidence implicating the president in the improper gathering by the Clinton White House staff of more than 900 FBI files on key Republicans credentialed for the Bush and Reagan administrations, Tripp was under oath before a camera delivering answers to questions Starr did not ask. Subpoenaed by Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group representing several former Bush and Reagan administration officials in a $90 million lawsuit against the FBI, the White House, the Department of Defense, former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum -- and Hillary Rodham Clinton -- Tripp offered both damning and enlightening testimony. The lawsuit is Cara Leslie Alexander et al. vs. Federal Bureau of Investigation et al.

When it was discovered that his personnel-security people illegally had obtained more than 400 privileged FBI files, Clinton called the seizure "a completely honest bureaucratic snafu [that developed] when we were trying to straighten out who would get security clearances to come to the White House." During the next few months, it was learned that two former Democratic campaign operatives, Anthony Marceca and/or Craig Livingstone, had obtained for the Clinton white House more than 900 FBI files in late 1993 and early 1994. The news is that from her front-row seat in the White House counsel's office, Tripp saw much more than she or the administration wished she had.

Flanked at the Judicial Watch deposition by her attorney, Anthony Zaccagnini, and by lawyers representing the government, Nussbaum and Hillary Clinton, Tripp dropped a bombshell. While she had testified at length to what she later would come to believe were FBI files in Vince Foster's safe, Tripp also revealed that she saw "what I now believe to be the infamous billing records in that safe." The records to which Tripp was referring were the first lady's Rose Law Firm billing records which were subpoenaed by investigators in 1994 but not produced until January 1996 when presidential assistant Carolyn Huber discovered them on a table in the White House family residence. Tripp revealed that this was not a line of questioning the independent counsel had pursued with her.

Not surprisingly, the legal ground shook once more as Klayman inquired about Monica Lewinsky. When he began a line of questioning about whether there were detailed Filegate discussions recorded on the infamous Tripp-Lewinsky tapes, Tripp consulted her lawyer and then invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. She confirmed that she had conversations with Lewinsky about her time in the White House and the Filegate matter. But it was a document produced under subpoena which is most notable. The document, bearing the handwritten notation, "Linda, just thought you might find this of interest" allegedly was placed by Lewinsky on Tripp's office chair at the Pentagon shortly before October 1997. It was a list of people with connections to the Clinton administration who had died of unnatural or unexplained causes during the last two decades.

Tripp testified that Lewinsky also left on her chair a longer, more detailed list of suddenly deceased Clinton "troublemakers. …

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