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Tripp: Pentagon settlement wasn't 'financial victory'

Tripp's hair grew back in a dark brown color after she lost it during chemotherapy.
Tripp's hair grew back in a dark brown color after she lost it during chemotherapy.

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Linda Tripp breaks her silence and discusses her Pentagon settlement and her struggle with breast cancer with CNN's Larry King (December 1)
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Linda Tripp
Monica Lewinsky

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- After enduring a lumpectomy and eight rounds of chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, Linda Tripp -- the woman whose revelations about Monica Lewinsky rocked the Clinton presidency -- says she now "feels great" and plans to marry her childhood sweetheart in the spring.

Tripp, in an exclusive interview Monday on CNN's "Larry King Live," also said she did not profit from her recent settlement with the Pentagon over the leaking of details in her personnel file because the $595,000 she received was more than eaten up by four years of legal bills.

"It was a moral victory. It was not a financial victory," she said.

Tripp also said that she has no regrets about disclosing information about Lewinsky's sexual affair with Clinton, which set off a string of events that eventually led to his impeachment by the House.

"I would do it again," she said. "I think the country needed to know the arrogance -- the reckless arrogance -- that was going on in the Oval Office."

Assessing Clinton five years after the impeachment imbroglio, Tripp, who served as an aide in the White House during both the Clinton and first Bush administrations, said there is no question Clinton was "brilliant." But she also said that there was "a lack of a moral compass in that White House."

"A fish rots from the top, as they say, and there was a sense of, 'The rules don't apply to us. Anything goes,' " she said.

Trip said she felt it was her duty to come forward, once Lewinsky tried to enlist her help in covering up the affair from lawyers for Paula Jones, an Arkansas woman who had sued Clinton for sexual harassment.

"There seems to be the sense that I was a vast right-wing conspirator, yet, five years later, I think it should be clear I never took a cent, I never made a cent on the notoriety. I didn't write a book. It wasn't for self-enrichment," she said.

After Tripp came forward to give the recordings of her phone calls with Lewinsky to investigators for Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, details from her security file were leaked to the media, including an arrest as a teenager. Tripp, who by then had left the White House to work at the Pentagon, sued under the Privacy Act, which prohibits such disclosure.

The Justice Department and Defense Department have not commented on the settlement, but Tripp said the Pentagon admitted liability.

Under terms of the settlement, Tripp, 52, who worked for the federal government for 22 years, has the right to return to the civil service. She said she plans to do so, in order to put in the 30 years necessary to qualify for retirement benefits.

She is also now the executive director of the Integrity and Accountability in Government Foundation, a bipartisan group "designed to educate and inform the public and to, essentially, help whistleblowers."

Critics of Tripp's settlement have accused her of hypocrisy for suing under the Privacy Act, when she herself surreptitiously taped phone calls with Lewinsky and then turned them over to Starr's investigators. But Tripp insists that she only began to make recordings after Lewinsky tried to entangle her in the Jones case.

"Where is the expectation of privacy in the commission of a crime?" she said. "I told [Lewinsky] I would not fix a court case ... I knew the president of the United States and Monica were intending to do that."

Two years ago, Tripp was diagnosed with breast cancer, which had spread to her lymph nodes. Her treatment included a lumpectomy, radiation and eight rounds of chemotherapy that she described as "pretty debilitating."

"The terror was emotionally difficult because I was so afraid that I'd put my children through so much with this Clinton thing, I didn't want to now leave them without a mom," she told King, in her first interview since being diagnosed. "I didn't think my kids were prepared not to have a mom on top of everything else."

The chemotherapy caused Tripp to lose her hair, which has now grown back in a dark brown color she was sporting on "Larry King Live," rather than the blonde locks familiar to Americans.

"I had frosted my hair for 30 years, so I didn't know what it looked like underneath," she said.

With her cancer now in check, Tripp told King that she plans to marry her childhood sweetheart, Dieter Rausch, in the spring. The couple, who first met when they were 10, reunited in Germany about three years ago, she said.

During the Clinton impeachment controversy, Tripp, whose looks were frequently lampooned by comedians, underwent a makeover that included plastic surgery. Tripp told King that she is now "not allowed to talk" about her plastic surgery because her first surgeon is the subject of an investigation by California's medical board.

A second surgeon had to perform additional work, she said.

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