Tripp Returns For More Grand Jury Testimony
Sources: Lewinsky ready to cooperate with Maryland prosecutor
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 9) -- Star witness Linda Tripp returned Thursday for a fourth day of testimony before the grand jury examining sex-and-perjury allegations against President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. And now Lewinsky may be ready to cooperate with a Maryland grand jury investigation of Tripp, sources say.
Tripp, whose tape recordings with former White House intern Lewinsky are central to the inquiry, made no comment to reporters as she left at the courthouse. But her spokesman, Philip Coughter, read a short statement on her behalf.
"Despite the events which have recently unfolded in Maryland, I continue to focus on my testimony before the federal grand jury," Tripp said.
Coughter also said that she will return for a fifth day of testimony next Tuesday.
Independent Counsel Ken Starr is looking into whether Clinton or other officials urged Lewinsky to lie in the Paula Jones case. Clinton has denied both having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky and urging her or anyone to lie.
Lewinsky might not yet be willing to join Tripp in front of Starr's grand jury, but two sources close to Lewinsky's legal defense team tell CNN Lewinsky is ready to cooperate fully with a Maryland state prosecutor who is investigating whether Tripp violated state law by secretly recording phone conversations with Lewinsky.
Lewinsky is prepared, if called to testify before a new Howard County, Md., grand jury or if asked to sign a sworn statement, to say she neither approved, nor knew, that Tripp was taping any of their phone conversations, the sources say.
Tripp is widely reported to have recorded some 20 hours of conversations with Lewinsky.
"She's ready to cooperate 100 percent," CNN was told.
Under Maryland law, all parties of a telephone conversation must approve of any tapings. It is a felony for one party to record conversations without the other's approval.
Maryland prosecutors must prove that the party secretly recording the conversation specifically knew it was illegal to do so. In other
words, in Maryland, ignorance of this law is a defense.
Lawyers familiar with the Maryland prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, say that helps explain why he is interested in obtaining other taped phone conversations between Tripp and New York literary agent Lucianne Goldberg.
Goldberg has publicly disclosed that she taped conversations with Tripp and may have mistakenly advised Tripp it was legal to tape calls with Lewinsky.
"Those tapes will reveal whether Linda Tripp had mental knowledge that her recordings may have been illegal," says one of those sources. "They could be the 'smoking gun' the prosecutor needs."
Specifically, Montanarelli wants to know whether Tripp continued taping her conversations with Lewinsky even after suspecting it may have been illegal for her to do so.
Tripp's lawyers, Anthony Zaccagnini and Joe Murtha, have maintained she did not know it was illegal to tape those conversations without Lewinsky's knowledge. Another source close to Tripp Thursday reaffirmed that position.
Goldberg says she, too, did not know it was illegal for Tripp to record her calls in Maryland because in New York state, only one party needs to authorize a recording.
Tripp has received immunity from prosecution for federal crimes from
Starr. But that immunity does not extend to any alleged state crimes.
On Tuesday, Lewinsky's legal team expressed support for the Maryland
prosecutor's decision to open an investigation, underscoring the bad blood between Lewinsky and Tripp, who once were friends.
"Every American has the right to and the expectation of privacy in their private conversations," says Lewinsky spokeswoman Judy Smith. "The decision by the state attorney to impanel a grand jury to investigate Linda Tripp and perhaps others concerning the recordings of private conversations will help establish that our cherished right of privacy cannot be trampled on."
Lewinsky is still in Los Angeles with her father, Dr. Bernard Lewinsky. There does not appear to be much movement in efforts by her
new lawyers, Plato Cacheris and Jacob Stein, to work out an immunity agreement for the former intern. But sources on both sides say the effort has not completely collapsed.