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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Transcript: Linda Tripp on 'Larry King Live'

February 16, 1999
Web posted at: 4:07 p.m. EST (2107 GMT)

Aired February 15, 1999 - 9:00 p.m. ET

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Linda Tripp, for the full hour, and your phone calls -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Linda Tripp is our guest for the full hour tonight. We'll include your phone calls later. If we have to tell you who she is, you have serious problems on the planet earth.

Linda, let's go a little chronological -- back here.

By the way, are you still gainfully employed?

LINDA TRIPP: So far as I know, yes, Larry. Thanks for asking.

KING: What is your job?

TRIPP: I was the director of a program hosted by the secretary of defense at the Pentagon. Right at the moment, I'm not sure what my job is. My assignment is to write a manual.

KING: And they have you writing that at home.

TRIPP: Yes. We've asked repeatedly to come back, but they have not invited me back.

KING: Is that Secretary Cohen or is it below him, making this decision?

TRIPP: I would say it's probably at the White House level, quite frankly.

KING: They don't want you there because...

TRIPP: Perhaps now they'll make a decision one way or another whether to return me. But I think just for reasons of their own, they didn't choose to have me back.

KING: We are going to take some chronology here and go back. But it is fair to ask -- what kept you away from the media so long?

TRIPP: Oh, I really didn't feel it was appropriate for me to come forward at all. I felt that I had done my duty. I had brought evidence of potential crimes to Ken Starr. And I thought that he should take it from there. The system should have played out. It is over now. It's time to talk.

KING: All right, which we are going to do.

Let's go back. Where did you -- where did you in all this start? Where did you meet Monica?

TRIPP: Well, where I met Monica isn't really where it started. Where it started was my many years sort of with this administration. It started with kind of you wouldn't understand where I have been. It didn't happen in a vacuum, the Monica Lewinsky story.

KING: Did you come on as a civil service employee?

TRIPP: Well, I had been civil service...

KING: You took a test?

TRIPP: ... for years. Well, yes, many years ago.

KING: Yes. And then what?

TRIPP: As an Army wife, the jobs open to me were civil service, and so wherever we moved I was civil service. The White House was also civil service.

There came a time when the Clintons asked me to leave the White House, and they placed me in a promotion, but a political appointee with no protection at the Pentagon, and I took that.

KING: They both asked you to leave?

TRIPP: I'm sorry?

KING: They both -- the Clintons? You say the Clintons.

TRIPP: Well, the Clinton administration asked me to leave.

KING: All right. We are jumping ahead. OK, back. You meet Monica in what situation? And you say the story began before that.

TRIPP: Yes, I'm just trying to give you an idea of what I had seen prior to meeting Monica Lewinsky.

So by the time I met Monica I had my own sense of concerns about what I had seen at the White House -- severe concerns.

KING: Your job there was what?

TRIPP: Several. I had worked directly for President Clinton for three months in the first administration, and then worked for Vince Foster and Bernie Nussbaum. And it just happened to be a place where everything happened.

KING: Do you remember your meeting with President Clinton?


KING: What was that like?

TRIPP: Oh, heavens. It was the first week, I think, after the first inaugural.

KING: Did you like him?

TRIPP: Yes. I did.

He was so -- he was so charismatic and mesmerizing. And you can't be in his presence and not feel a sense of awe. He has a mesmerizing ability to draw you in.

KING: And that still comes through, right, to the public?

TRIPP: Clearly. Clearly. Despite whether what he happens to be saying at any given time is true or not, it comes through.

KING: So you liked him?

TRIPP: Absolutely.

KING: Did you vote for him?


KING: Did not -- you had voted for Bush.

TRIPP: I had.

KING: OK. Then your job generally in the White House -- how did you get to Vince Foster?

TRIPP: Well, I had worked for the president for three months, as I said, and there came a time when I was name requested to go upstairs and work for Vince. Actually, Vince asked me to work for Bernie in a job they were creating in the West Wing.

KING: Which was?

TRIPP: Executive assistant to Bernie to handle press liaison, senior staff liaison.

KING: When he was counsel?

TRIPP: He was. Yes, great guy

KING: You like Bernie.

TRIPP: A lot.

KING: Tell me about Vince.

TRIPP: He was a great man; he was a decent man. I remember thinking, because I had gotten to know him when I had worked in the immediate office of the president, that he seemed so ill-placed in this administration.

KING: He was unhappy?

TRIPP: No. Not at all. He just -- his kindness and he decency and his professionalism made him seem to me at any rate far more suited to what I had come to know in the Bush White House.

KING: Did you know he was troubled?

TRIPP: I don't know that I knew he was troubled.

KING: Were you shocked when he killed himself?

TRIPP: I was shocked that he was dead, yes.

KING: Are you saying you are not sure he killed himself?

TRIPP: You know, I don't know. To this day, I don't know. There are -- there are...

KING: Weren't you the last one to see him?

TRIPP: I may have been the last person known to have spoken to him. I don't know that I was the last person to see him.

KING: Well, he left after lunch, right?

TRIPP: Right.

KING: And said what? I'm be coming back? TRIPP: His words were I'll be back

KING: Because we were in the White House that night...

TRIPP: Right.

KING: ... doing Clinton.

TRIPP: Right.

KING: When you found out, did you know his wife well enough to go there? Did you call her?

TRIPP: Oh, I knew Lisa. But no, not well, not intimately. This was a time of such sorrow, such tragedy. We were all reeling.

It -- it began at that time, though, to feel as though things were changing in the White House.

KING: What did you notice first?

TRIPP: It wasn't his suicide or whether -- I have no idea what happened. I received a call from the president's secretary the night they found his body, at midnight, telling me what had happened. And immediately, it was called a suicide. And I remember thinking, well, how do you know that, how...

KING: Betty Currie said that?

TRIPP: This was actually a woman by the name of Deb Coil (ph), who is no longer at the White House.

KING: And she told you it was a suicide at midnight. Did you say right away then?

TRIPP: Well, I said: Well, how do you know? I mean, have they investigated? And in any event, I don't want to sound like a conspiratist; that is not why I'm here tonight. And it was the aftermath of that suicide that started to make me...

KING: Suspicious.

TRIPP: Well, just question things.

KING: Monica. Met her where?

TRIPP: At the Pentagon. She came relatively late in my tenure in the Pentagon and was hired to work for my boss.

KING: And did you like her right away?

TRIPP: I didn't know her right away. I saw her. She was very young I thought for the position -- traditionally held by older, more experienced personnel.

KING: She had a responsible job there, though.

TRIPP: She should have had a responsible job, yes -- based on the job description. Yes.

KING: And when you got to know her, did you like her? Was...

TRIPP: A lot.

KING: A lot.


KING: You liked her what? Effervescence?

TRIPP: She's clever. She's bright. She's warm, big heart -- misguided, in my opinion; different moral compass than mine. But I liked her, yes.

KING: When she went over to the White House, was that an exciting time for her?

TRIPP: Well, remember she came from the White House to the Pentagon.

KING: And then went back, right?

TRIPP: She never did go back. She went back on the infamous visits, but not to work.

KING: But when she was doing the visits she was no longer an intern.

TRIPP: Oh, absolutely not, no. She was working...

KING: Do you know why she confided in you?

TRIPP: Yes, I think I do. I directed a program, as I said, for the secretary of defense. I had big jumbos of the president all over my office -- to advance his agenda as commander in chief.

KING: Jumbos meaning pictures

TRIPP: I'm sorry. Big jumbo pictures of the president. And she would come back and chat and beg me for one of them. And I thought she was a groupie. It never occurred to me at that time that she had been the president's girlfriend, although I did say over time that I thought that had he known her level of crush, that certainly he would have acted upon it.

KING: Would you call it a major crush?


KING: We'll be right back with Linda Tripp on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: OK, Linda. The first time she tells you what's going on, your reaction?

TRIPP: Oh, God, a sense of deja vu all over again.

KING: Because?

TRIPP: Well, because this certainly wasn't the first of...

KING: You knew of other romances in the White House, definite romances?

TRIPP: Yes. I was shocked in a sense that -- that all along we had kind of thought, those of us who worked with Monica, that perhaps she was someone's what we call "pet rock." So well-connected young lady somehow. But in my wildest dreams, I really didn't think the president -- because she was too young -- generally his had been older. And so that was a little appalling to me.

KING: By the way did you still up to Vince Foster's death continue to like Clinton?

TRIPP: Yes. Actually I didn't start to dislike him, or to dislike his ethics until a little bit later.

KING: Before Monica?

TRIPP: Oh, yes. I had major concerns way prior to Monica.

KING: Were these all rumors or you had knowledge.

TRIPP: No these were not rumors.

KING: But you couldn't name people tonight -- you would be in trouble. Or would you?

TRIPP: Well the reality is look...

KING: What are they going do to you?

TRIPP: I felt that I had been complicit if not in cover-ups over the last five years at least in allowing the spin to perpetuate itself. So with all the different investigations I felt like I had been a team player. It bothered my sense of values -- it did -- it bothered me, but I was selfish. I wanted my job. I wanted my livelihood. So for security I shut up.

KING: Having to do that over you would not now?

TRIPP: I don't know. At the time it seemed the right thing to do -- I pulled back from a book deal simply because I was so afraid of losing my job.

KING: That brings us to Ms. Goldberg. How did that come about? Did you call her; she called you, what?

TRIPP: I had been talked -- well, certainly, I don't remember who made the first call -- but I had heard about Lucy for sometime from a mutual friend in the media.

KING: This pre-Monica?

TRIPP: Oh, way pre-Monica. And this individual in media with whom I had worked in the Bush White House kept saying you have to write a book. And I kept saying, no, no until Gary Aldrich, the FBI agent in the White House did write his book and he was vilified, destroyed, decimated by the White House. And I watched that and said, "He's telling the truth." He's telling the truth. They're killing him.

KING: Marriott Hotel.

TRIPP: Everything -- I mean I felt so sorry for Gary who we all knew to be a decent, honorable man.

KING: So you, Linda Goldberg or she to you and what happened with that?

TRIPP: I said look, "He's telling the truth." In fact he's telling it from an old executive office building perspective. I want to set the record straight from a west wing perspective which is far more telling than what Gary had to say." And we went forward. I ultimately pulled back from that deal out of sheer fear -- selfish. Well I knew I would lose my job, and I didn't think that it could be worth losing an 18 year, 17 at that time year government career.

KING: How did this friend know that you would have all this information for a book?

TRIPP: I talked to him, almost monthly, from the time he left the White House. He had been a speech writer for George Bush and a dear friend.

KING: Is he still a friend?

TRIPP: Oh, yes. And he absolutely...


TRIPP: I think it's out there in the public domain. It's not a secret.

KING: What's his name?

TRIPP: Tony Snow. But you know the...

KING: Tony Snow of FOX.

TRIPP: Yes. The interesting thing about Tony is that we were friends much before he was a talking head of any kind.

KING: He was a columnist, right? Well he wrote speeches.

TRIPP: Yes, he was a speech writer and he respected my confidences, every single time. It was not as me talking to a source. It was me talking to a friend.

KING: It has been printed -- many things are printed about you -- we'll clear some up here hopefully -- that you are by nature gossipy.

TRIPP: Yes, that's not true.

KING: Not true.

TRIPP: Well my mom is very upset because she keeps having to hear everything on LARRY KING or on any of the shows. She keeps saying if you were gossipy we haven't heard about it. And no the reality is -- what bothered me most in beginning of this was this equal opportunity scandalmonger. She was the one who made up these lies about George Bush. Well the reality was that hurt a great deal because...

KING: These were rumors about Bush having a relationship.

TRIPP: Which I think is probably ludicrous based on the marriage I witnessed in the White House.

KING: You never had anything to do...

TRIPP: No. And what's more the Clinton people are aware of that -- it's complete fabrication. But it painted me again as this equal opportunity mean-spirited gossip.

KING: But you, in retrospect had to put yourself, in this corner, too, didn't you?

TRIPP: In what way.

KING: By taping Monica. I want to lead to how that all happened.

TRIPP: OK. Let me just say that the word "tapping" is one that will never cross my lips because of the jeopardy I'm in, in the state of Maryland.

KING: There is a judge going to decide whether there is a case or not, right?

TRIPP: Well there's an investigation and grand jury going on right now to determine that very thing.

KING: OK. That's the Maryland law that says if you have a knowledge of it, it's a crime.

TRIPP: Correct.

KING: So what do I call it in lieu...

TRIPP: Forty states or something like 40 states, allow it.

KING: In lieu of taping for whatever you want to call it...

TRIPP: Let's call it documentation.

KING: OK. Securing your documentation, why? How did that start?

TRIPP: Well, I think it's real simple. The reality was I was being asked, in fact pressured to commit a crime -- to commit a felony.


TRIPP: By Monica -- and she passed things along to me from the president.

KING: The felony they wanted to commit was?

TRIPP: Perjury -- for him in the Paula Jones case which had nothing to do with Monica. It had all to do with Kathleen Willey. And what I would like to get across if nothing else is the fact that I became aware, in July of '97 when the Kathleen Willey story was just beginning to surface, that the president did call a meeting at the White House, summoned Monica late at night, to that meeting, to -- for one purpose, to get me to sign on to the lie -- to get -- about Kathleen, not about Monica.

KING: How did Clinton know about your involvement in any of this -- that he would need you to sign on?

TRIPP: Because apparently there had been some sort of blurb in "Drudge Report" saying that this case had sort of surfaced, and I had been talking to Mike Isikoff. And I was happy to talk to Mike Isikoff because when he confronted me -- I didn't want to get involved. I had minded my own business. I hadn't talked about Kathleen publicly for four years.

KING: Why did you break that? You hadn't done it with Kathleen.

TRIPP: Right.

KING: You hadn't done it at the time Vince Foster died.

TRIPP: Right

KING: You held it in.

TRIPP: Right.

KING: Why now?

TRIPP: Because now I'm being solicited to commit a crime. Remember, that I wasn't asked to commit a crime because of Monica Lewinsky. It was all about Kathleen Willey. And Monica to the extent that she was having an intimate relationship with the president was my friend, passing messages to me, from the president -- you must lie. You must lie. You must be a team player. You are a political appointee, this how you save your job.

KING: Do you know Kathleen Willey.

TRIPP: Of course.

KING: And...

TRIPP: She's an honest person. She's telling the truth.

KING: You have no question in you mind.

TRIPP: Absolutely not -- no.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Linda Tripp.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Linda Tripp.

How did you come to have anything to do with the Paula Jones side of the case? How did you even -- what was the relevance?

TRIPP: It goes back to March, of '97 when Mike Isikoff of "Newsweek" came to my office in the Pentagon. He said Kathleen Willey has named you as a contemporary (UNINTELLIGIBLE), corroborative witness in her sexual harassment claim against the president. I immediately phoned Bruce Lindsey at the White House to let them know what was going on and got no response. From that...

KING: You were being loyal at that point. You called Bruce. He didn't call you. And you liked him, right?

TRIPP: I like Bruce -- well I did like Bruce a great deal. Now I'm disappointed in him as you can well imagine. But at that time I paged him. I called him. I did everything I could imagine to make contact with him; it didn't work. And Mike Isikoff was tenacious. He kept coming after me. And over time, I started to realize that it was in my best interest to let him, investigative reporter that he was, find out things independent of me, because I knew once this surfaced that Kathleen Willey was making this claim and that I was essentially corroborating it, that she and I would both be witnesses in this case.

KING: And what took to you the Paula Jones lawyers?

TRIPP: Well, it was continued conversation with Mike Isikoff, and, ultimately, the idea that I would rather have not -- it was not in my best interests to be deposed with Bob Bennett, the president's lawyer, who had already -- let's not forget, to me this was a big deal -- called me a liar in a national newspaper. And I believe Bob Bennett spoke for the president....

KING: Did a big show (OFF-MIKE)

TRIPP: ... I needed to protect myself. That was horrifying to me.

KING: So you went to the Paula Jones lawyers.

TRIPP: No, but I allowed them to find me.

KING: By letting it be known that you could be found.

TRIPP: Well, I told Lucianne Goldberg that if they contacted me, I would be forthcoming with them.

KING: Now were you coming from the position here of an anti- Clinton zealot?

TRIPP: You know, no. I supported him just vigorously in op-eds when I worked for him, and they were being absolutely decimated by the press about Whitewater. I called Bruce Lindsey to give them a heads up. No, I'm not an anti-Clinton zealot, I was an independent.

KING: When they asked you to go along, this is the president, Monica is your friend, why didn't you?

TRIPP: It was never an option. KING: A lot of people might have -- never a question in your mind?

TRIPP: Absolutely not that -- that -- look, the Supreme Court in a nine to zero unanimous decision said this woman has a right to bring her case against the president of the United States while he is sitting. That's the law.

KING: But Monica wasn't being harassed. So you -- in coming to the Paula Jones people, they were not the same kind of case.

TRIPP: Well, it was my understanding that in discovery it was all about pattern of behavior, and knowing what I did about Kathleen and then, of course, during all this, of course, the most reckless behavior I could imagine was that he would continue this with an intern during the same time.

KING: The thing that got you in the most trouble for Linda Tripp's popularity is betraying a friend.

TRIPP: Right.

KING: How do you defend that?

TRIPP: Friends don't ask friends to commit a crime. I knew Monica -- let's remember this -- for a year and a half in the White House -- I'm sorry, in the Pentagon. We were colleagues. I thought she was troubled. She was a young girl I found over time I became more and more fond of, but the notion that I would bastardize my values, my sense of integrity for a young woman with whom I had worked for a year and a half and commit a crime was not ever an option.

KING: Why not just say, as some said when they knew you were coming here, they said if this were my friend, and I got a call, I would tell her, don't speak to me anymore because you're going be in trouble. Just don't talk to me, and if I ask you about this, just say you don't want to discuss it anymore.

TRIPP: Right, I...

KING: That's being loyal to a friend and it's not illegal.

TRIPP: You can't unring the bell, Larry. I had the information, I knew I was going to be deposed, I knew I was being set up by the president and his lawyer as a liar, had been already in the media.

KING: You're saying you had no choice but to do this?

TRIPP: Absolutely not, you -- look, let's not forget what I was facing: I'm going to lie, he's going to lie, we are all going to lie. If you don't lie, perjury, jail, or worse. There were threats.

KING: Didn't it pain, you, though, personally, to do it?

TRIPP: You know.

KING: Forgetting all the other things, to invade privacy -- did that pain you?

TRIPP: You know, what I would say was my first and my initial reaction to the notion of documenting this way was distasteful. That's just not something I was comfortable with. I didn't know where else to go. I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know how to get the evidence that said when I had to go testify, truthfully, and as I was told I was being set up for perjury, how did I prove that I was telling the truth? How?

KING: Did you call a lawyer?

TRIPP: I had a lawyer but it was a White House-appointed lawyer.

KING: But you never thought of a private lawyer?

TRIPP: I didn't have the money to go find a series of lawyers. I...

KING: By the way, how many legal -- what's your legal bills now?

TRIPP: I'm told they're upwards of $500,000, and it's interesting to me that had the president told the truth on day one, I would have zero legal bills right now. And...

KING: We'll be back with more -- more of Linda Tripp. She's with us all the way. We'll include your phone calls.

Don't go away.


KING: Was it Kenneth Starr that asked you to document?

TRIPP: No, actually I didn't go to Kenneth Starr until the 12th of January, and...

KING: So you had been documenting by whose say?

TRIPP: Well, there was no one who insisted I do so. I knew I had to document, and this was a suggestion -- I'm sorry -- a suggestion made to me by Lucianne Goldberg, and I started that in October.

KING: And Mr. Starr approved?

TRIPP: Well, he didn't have any choice. I sort of dumped this on him.

KING: Was he shocked?

TRIPP: You know, I think he wasn't eager to take it on. I think he probably saw it as his professional duty to at least investigate, yes.

KING: I was saying that I have friends since nine years old. I couldn't -- I couldn't, for want of better term, document a friend. No matter what it was, I would -- I'd rather die than betray a friend.

TRIPP: I agree. I agree.

KING: Why don't you feel the same way?

TRIPP: Oh, heavens. Well, I guess for number one, as I said before, we were colleagues of short duration in the Pentagon... KING: Not friends?

TRIPP: Well no. I do consider Monica -- did consider Monica a friend, but not lifelong friend with whom I had had a shared history over time. We weren't social friends. We were working colleagues. But that isn't the answer.

The answer is no, I would also find different ways to take care of it if it were a lifelong friend or someone whose emotional health was my tantamount concern. The reality is, though, I had no choice. I was faced with one option: Lie for me. You don't lie for me, you're going to jail.

KING: You said, I think to NBC and "The New York Times" that you did it for her. And you would have liked someone to do that for your daughter if that were the problem. You better elaborate.

TRIPP: Right. Yes, I think that was misconstrued as is -- seems to be most things I say. If it had only been about Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, I believe it still was the right thing to do, because I believe Monica's emotional fragile state needed everything to come to a head. I do believe that. However, I picture should my daughter ever be in a situation like that, I would want the adult to make it stop somehow.

KING: And -- and -- and documenting would help that?

TRIPP: It stopped it. It stopped it.

KING: You think you stopped that relationship?

TRIPP: Oh, I think I stopped -- well, I can't say that I stopped anything that he may or may not be doing right now, but I think he'll think twice about it.

KING: You think you changed this country?

TRIPP: Oh, heavens.

KING: Are you saying this presidency, do you think? (OFF-MIKE)

TRIPP: No. I mean, look, I'm sorry. I believe he tarnished the presidency. I believe the country at least realizes that much, that his behavior tarnished the presidency. It will recover, certainly, and I'm -- I don't flatter myself that I had anything to do with that, but certainly here they are On Presidents' Day. Think of the legacy that this leaves. We had Lincoln, Washington, duty, honor, country, statesmanship, leadership, honor, and I don't feel that with this president.

KING: How did you feel when Miss Lewinsky said she hates you? Last words to the grand jury.

TRIPP: I have shed many tears over Monica in the last year, and I think I don't want to talk about that right at this moment. I think that Monica will forever feel that this was a betrayal. It has resonated with the country....

KING: It has.

TRIPP: ... And all I can say is that Monica made choices, the president made choices, and I was forced to make choices.

KING: Would you do it again?

TRIPP: I have said I would. I certainly would love to have had an opportunity to do it in a different way. I'm not sure what that different way might have been. I didn't know how else to provide evidence.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Linda Tripp. We'll include your phone calls. Don't go away.

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, we have an incredible panel, and they'll tell us what's next for President Clinton. You'll meet The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Ben Bradlee, ABC News' Hugh Downs, U.S. News and World Report's David Gergen, and more.

Tomorrow night, catch us right in the middle of "CNN SPECIAL EVENT: CONVERSATION WITH AMERICA." That's LARRY KING LIVE, 9:00 Eastern, on CNN.


KING: We'll take your calls in a couple of minutes for Linda Tripp. A couple of other points. Lucianne Goldberg and you, what is that relationship now?

TRIPP: I like Lucianne. Lucianne has made no bones about the fact that she has a political agenda. And I don't fault her for that. It's not mine.

But I consider her a friend and I like Lucianne.

KING: You don't have a conservative political agenda, you are not part of a right-wing conspiracy?

TRIPP: I'm looking right now as to where I can sign up. I want a card.

KING: You want to be in the conspiracy?


KING: You want to join, jump in? (LAUGHTER)

The situation with regard to Lewinsky's mental health -- you said that she threatened to kill herself.

TRIPP: That's right.

KING: Was this because of a love spurned?

TRIPP: I think -- I think that Monica is an emotional girl. She had relayed to me over a period of time that she had had a therapist, and I encouraged her over time to get one in the Georgetown area. I even recommended one that -- I had done some research for her. She chose not to.

KING: We're going to show you a little clip here. It's probably the most famous clip in this whole thing, and I want your reaction to when you saw it, what you thought.




WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie -- not a single time, never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people.

Thank you.


KING: Where did you see that?

TRIPP: When?

KING: Where were you?

TRIPP: At home.

KING: What was your reaction?

TRIPP: It was chilling, chilling.

KING: Because?

TRIPP: Because I knew without evidence that that's precisely what Monica would become -- that woman with an unstable background and a stalker reputation.

KING: So the reputation was not hers but given her.

TRIPP: Oh, certainly wasn't hers. Of course not.

KING: But she -- she was certainly adventuresome with men in her life, right? I mean, it was nothing new for her to have a relationship with someone.

TRIPP: Look, Monica and I -- I -- I could be Monica's mom in age. We have different moral compasses, and I am not sitting here in judgment of Monica today.

KING: Do you still like her?

TRIPP: A lot.

KING: Still do?

TRIPP: Yes. I don't like her choices. I'm upset with Monica. I wish she would continue -- I wish she would stop protecting him. I wish he would tell the truth.

KING: What's this done to you? What's it done to your family? You have two kids, right?

TRIPP: I have two great kids.

KING: Two great kids -- a teenager and above, right?

TRIPP: They're both in college.

KING: Divorced, so you have been raising them.

TRIPP: Well, their dad is very involved, yes.

KING: What's the effect on them?

TRIPP: Oh, I think they were horrified in the beginning, but remember both my children were fully aware of Monica Lewinsky. We -- I had to share with them Monica Lewinsky's situation Christmas of '96.

I lost my dad, lost my grandfather in a period of months. We wanted to do Christmas somewhere else -- not at home, no tradition, get away. And we went to Lake Placid, stayed at a great place -- the Mirror (ph) Lake Inn. Monica found me there and called us nonstop, and was angry that -- in the midst of my mourning with my family, that I wouldn't take the time to take her incessant phone calls.

KING: And what was she calling about?

TRIPP: All about this. It was always about this. About his mean-spirited treatment of her, the callous behavior, the suicide threats -- I had to tell my children.

KING: Why you, and not her mother, her aunt, her friends, her father? TRIPP: Well, she didn't tell her dad, although her dad suspected. But she most certainly told her mom and her aunt, and apparently, according to Monica, they thought this was OK. I did not. And...

KING: Her mother thought it was OK to have a relationship with a married man, no less the president?

TRIPP: More than OK.

KING: Did you counsel her on how could her mother feel that way?

TRIPP: It was interesting, because I felt that Monica is so very close to her mother that it was inappropriate for me to comment to any great degree on her mom's advice. But I let her know that I didn't agree.

KING: Are you shocked at how negative they made you?

TRIPP: No. I knew I would be destroyed.

KING: But wiped out almost?

TRIPP: You know what? My family and my friends know that I'm a truth-teller, that I don't fabricate, that I'm not a zealot. And so to that extent, I did the right thing.

The rest of the country has -- I can't blame them. The White House has defined me over the last year and I have not spoken out.

KING: Did you watch Letterman and Leno nightly when they were...

TRIPP: No. Oh, I did see Leno a couple of times. It hurt my feelings.

KING: How about John Goodman on "Saturday Night Live."

TRIPP: You know, the first few, I laughed hysterically. In fact, every time I see the flower one, I crack up. But this last one, it hurt my feelings.

KING: Saturday night.

TRIPP: That hurt my -- I saw that today on one of the cable news show, and that one hurt my feelings. To me, that was -- that was not funny anymore to me.

KING: Let's take some calls for Linda Tripp. New York City, hello.



CALLER: I would like to know why, when Ms. Tripp realized that Monica was hysterical, fragile, agitated and suicidal -- to coin her own words -- she didn't feel it was her responsibility to inform her parents rather than Lucianne Goldberg.

TRIPP: And that is a good question. I didn't inform Luciann e Goldberg at that time. What I did was try to find her a therapist.

And also people need to know why she was suicidal. She wasn't suicidal because, God forbid -- it wasn't just that he was dumping her. Her biggest fear in life was that he would find out she had shared this story with other people.

So at the same time that I was urging her to tell him the truth, tell him that other people know -- when we are faced with a deposition situation, that we are going to tell the truth; we are going to tell the truth about the president and you; you must warn him; don't allow him to walk into a deposition -- that was part of the suicide threat. So to the extent that once it became public, there was no longer a need to kill herself.

KING: Did you think of calling her mother? Do you know her mother?

TRIPP: I have never met her mother. I can only tell you that in the year-plus that Monica confided in me, her mom and I are so completely diametrically opposed to how we view this, there was no point.

I did not think this was cool. I didn't -- I thought it was sick. This was a sick relationship. It wasn't an affair.

KING: Something's a little -- when Monica says to you in a phone conversation that oral sex is not sex, we haven't had sex, and the president said the same thing, and apparently 55 to 45 they said that was not perjury because of the way it was explained, were you shocked?

TRIPP: Well, was I shocked that it wasn't sex?

KING: That she felt it wasn't sex either.

TRIPP: Heavens, I don't know. I mean...

KING: Did she convince you it wasn't sex?

TRIPP: No, no, no. I mean, look, the reality is that this is a word game to understand that the affidavit was either false or not. I can tell you at the time the affidavit was written, however you define "sex" -- "standing on your head in Central Park with noses this way -- didn't matter. She thought it was a false affidavit.

KING: Who wrote the affidavit?

TRIPP: Monica and Frank Carter, I believe -- her...

KING: Her lawyer.

TRIPP: ... attorney at the time.

KING: So Frank knowing -- did he write it with knowledge or without knowledge?

TRIPP: It is my belief that he didn't have knowledge.

KING: We'll be back with more and more calls for Linda Tripp. Don't go away.


KING: We'll tie up loose ends, include some more phone calls. Lynnwood, Washington, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Linda.


CALLER: Considering.

KING: Oh, I'm Larry. That's Linda. Go ahead.

CALLER: Considering all the suspicious stuff surrounding the Clinton White House and the threats made personally against you, what are you doing to protect your safety?

TRIPP: You know, I -- I -- there came a point in time where I felt that the biggest safety net for me was to become visible. I felt my greatest danger was in December, and I feel today that, while I don't feel completely at ease, I feel I'm less likely to be anyone's target. I'm going to be afraid to leave right at the moment.

KING: You have a fear of your life.

TRIPP: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Based on what? I mean...

TRIPP: I know these people are -- no, I'm not paranoid, I'm not delusional. I'm just normal, believe it or not, and I have reason to believe that I should at least be somewhat concerned.

KING: These people meaning?

TRIPP: This administration, the people who surround themselves or who are in president's inner circle are not...

KING: Would do you physical harm?

TRIPP: They are not honorable people.

KING: But there, you know, there are -- there are -- not honorable people and not honorable people. There are people who skim people out of money and there are people who lie, but they don't necessarily harm people.

TRIPP: You know, I don't think that the president or one of his henchmen is going to be behind a bush with an Uzi. Do I think it's possible that I may, down the road, walk in front of a Mack truck and have an unfortunate accident, I think it's possible.

KING: Pittsburgh, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Linda.


CALLER: How do you feel about the outrage toward you for betrayal of a friend and the lack of outrage towards the president for not only betraying his friends, his wife, his vice president, and the American people?

KING: You feel double standard?

TRIPP: You know, in the beginning, I kept saying to myself -- and what sustained me was -- once the public knows, they're not going to feel this way. Once the public understands and sees that he's lying and sees it was all a cover up, they'll understand why I did what I did. That has not proven to be true, and so, yes, it hurts.

KING: Have you ever had a direct threat?

TRIPP: I have. I believe I've had a direct threat.

KING: By phone or...

TRIPP: In July, when the president had his Linda Tripp meeting with Monica, she carried what I believe to be threats from the president. And later in that month, when I spoke with Bruce Lindsey, I believe I received implied threats.

KING: You liked Bruce?

TRIPP: I loved Bruce. He was one of my favorites at that White House, yes. I worked with him very closely.

KING: Monica, you said, knowingly lied, right? You can ascertain that she told lies?

TRIPP: Well, Monica certainly is not the only one, but yes, the lies continue to protect the president.

KING: We'll be back with some more calls and the famous semen dress after this.


KING: How did the semen on the dress even come up?

TRIPP: Oh, well that's a question you'd have to ask Monica.

KING: No, I mean, I've had millions of conversations in my life, not once did anyone say: You know, I got semen on my dress.


KING: I mean, how did that -- where did that come from?

TRIPP: The two times that I was in Monica Lewinsky's apartment, which, by the way, was very telling for me, being in her apartment. It sort of made understand Monica more.

KING: Why?

TRIPP: It wasn't a home. She had said to me so many occasions...

KING: This is at the Watergate?

TRIPP: Yes -- your home is like a safe haven. Your kids are so lucky, and it's just very homey.

KING: What was hers?

TRIPP: It was a place to hang your hat. Lots of makeup, clothes, but it wasn't this haven. In any event, the two times I had been there were -- both times were for reasons of convenience, having to stay late in town -- and at that time, she want me try on some jackets that she thought I would fit into. And I did. And at that time, she pulled out this semen-stained dress and showed it to me. And that was first time.

KING: And said that's the president's semen. What did she say?

TRIPP: Well, I certainly -- well, I knew every outfit she had ever worn with them he him because there had been so much thought that went into which dress to wear and so forth, and I recognized it as a dress from a visit. And it was quite obviously stained all over the front, and she explained what it was.

KING: Wasn't one little stain?

TRIPP: No. It was everywhere.

KING: And did you say keep it?


KING: Because?

TRIPP: Not at that time. Later, later.

KING: And -- but what led you to say that?

TRIPP: Well, when I saw it, I realized that this was her insurance policy, much as my documentation later would be mine. And..

KING: Are you saying that no dress there never would have been an admission by the president of any relationship?

TRIPP: You're asking me that seriously?

KING: No, I'm asking you -- yes.

TRIPP: Well, I think -- I think the facts are clear on that.

KING: Did you -- what -- did Lucianne suggest she keep it or was it all your idea?

TRIPP: It was -- you know it was my idea and I'm sure Lucianne concurred. I spoke to her about it at the time. She in fact told me ways to conserve evidence and so forth, and I had spoken to my attorney about it at the time whose advice to me was not to do that and I didn't.

KING: What reason did Monica keep it?

TRIPP: Well I think I know why Monica kept it. I testified before the grand jury, that it was my opinion -- this was before it was known that it was still kept -- that Monica would hold on to it for reasons of security.

KING: So she was afraid?

TRIPP: I think so. Monica maintained to me all along that she was afraid for her life as well. She is now -- trivializing that concern -- I can tell you at the time she was very concerned.

KING: Do you think she still loves the president?

TRIPP: She does -- I'm sure.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Linda Tripp after this.


KING: We're in our remaining moments with Linda Tripp.

What did you make of Vernon Jordan's testimony?

TRIPP: Oh, heavens. I think I would prefer not to comment on Mr. Jordan's version of events.

KING: Does that mean you tend not to believe him.

TRIPP: It means that I -- based on what I know to be true, I -- I think I would rather not comment.

KING: How about Betty Currie in all of this?

TRIPP: Well, I was very fond of Betty when I worked at the White House.

KING: Everyone is.

TRIPP: Yes. I liked her a great deal -- warm, nice lady. Over time I came to resent her terribly.

KING: Resent.


KING: Because?

TRIPP: I called Betty the facilitator. Without Betty this very odd relationship could not have continued. I believe a lot of this could have been avoided had Betty just not been implicit in arranging it.

KING: So you -- was she acting as a good secretary? Would most secretaries in America do that?

TRIPP: Hey, I was a Catherine Gibbs graduate. I can tell you that's not part of the job description.

KING: St. Louis, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi there.


CALLER: My question for Ms. Tripp is this: isn't it really true, Ms. Tripp that you decided to write a book, while you were working at the White House, then you lost your job -- the only way you could continue this book was to get inside information about the White House and then you used and manipulated Lewinsky with your tape recorder to get this information, to finish your book?

TRIPP: Well, that's a long one. That seems to be the conventional wisdom though.

KING: He has expressed the wisdom that most people think.

TRIPP: Right. Let me just say this. If it had been about a book I would be a millionaire right now. Events over the last year have proven that this was a story of some interest. I could have gone to any publisher. I could have gone to any tabloid in this country and any other. The reality was...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) tabloid you would have gotten a lot of money.

TRIPP: Oh, I would be set for life and I certainly wouldn't be wondering how I was going to pay these massive legal bills. I went to Ken Starr who was offering no money. But let me just say this about this book deal -- I seem to be the only one who is not writing a book. In 1996, there was a book. I felt that I had been somewhat cowardly in pulling out of that book and I regret that.

KING: No book, though, coming?

TRIPP: There is no book coming. Let me say this. From what I'm seeing, the truth is just never going to get out there. So to the extent that I may decide to let the truth come out -- I may show what really happened.

KING: You may write a book?

TRIPP: I sure may.

KING: Really -- so now you're seriously thinking about it.

TRIPP: I am seriously thinking...

KING: Will Lucianne be the agent.

TRIPP: I don't know. She may not want me.

KING: A couple quick things. If you ran into Monica.


KING: ... would there be any apology?

TRIPP: I would want to give Monica a hug. I would want to give Monica hug.

KING: But you wouldn't say I'm sorry.

TRIPP: To the extent you mean, I'm sorry what we've all endured -- of course I'm sorry.

KING: No I'm sorry for what has been the impression of...

TRIPP: She knows better. She knows I genuinely cared about her. What the country believes is secondary to the fact that I know in my heart Monica knows better and she will never admit that.

KING: What did you think of the vote in Senate?

TRIPP: Oh, I thought there was never a trial in the Senate -- political expediency and polls, seem to be the watchword of the day.

KING: Does it annoy you that he the president remains so popular as a president? Not as an individual ...

TRIPP: He is a very successful president, and I hold no malice toward his record, as a successful president. I think, though, that based on what I know to be true, the chilling perjury and the obstruction, I wish that had at least been identified as being true.

KING: Do you think this made him a better man?


KING: Wouldn't trust him tomorrow?

TRIPP: Oh, heaven's no. I believe -- I have reason to believe this behavior is ongoing.

KING: Right now.


KING: Thanks Linda.

TRIPP: Thank you.

KING: Linda Tripp. I'm Larry King in Washington. In a little while we'll be letting you know about what's coming up tomorrow. Thanks for joining us and good night.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE join us -- we're right in the middle of the CNN special: "CONVERSATION WITH AMERICA" -- that starts at 8:00. We'll come on at 9:00. We go back to that at 10:00. We'll discuss the fallout from the impeachment trial with Hugh Downs of ABC's "20/20"; Bob Woodward; and Ben Bradlee of the "Washington Post"; and David Gergen of "U.S. News and World Report."

Investigating the President


Tuesday, February 16, 1999

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