On January 19, 2001, the last full day of the Clinton Administration, Linda Tripp was fired from her job in the Pentagon. She had unique access to the Clintons because her office was directly adjacent to Hillary’s second floor West Wing office for the entire time she served in the Clinton White House from 1993 to the summer of 1994 with the exception of the first three months of the Clinton administration, when she sat just outside the Oval Office. This unique access made her privy to information and knowledge of corruption that led her to become a whistleblower on the most powerful man in the world. It led to a vicious attack on her credibility and she lost everything, but admitted in 2018 as the keynote speaker at the National Whistleblower Day convention that if she had it all to do over again she would still do it.
Tripp became a close confidante of another former White House employee, Monica Lewinsky, while they both worked in the Pentagon’s public affairs office. According to Tripp, who is about 24 years older than Lewinsky, they knew one another for a year and a half before the scandal began to reach its critical stage. After Lewinsky revealed to Tripp that she had been in a physical relationship with President Clinton, Tripp, acting on the advice of literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, began to secretly record phone conversations with Lewinsky while encouraging Lewinsky to document details of her relationship with the president.
In August 1997, Michael Isikoff, from Newsweek, reported that Tripp said that she had encountered Kathleen Willey coming out of the Oval Office “disheveled,” with “her face red and her lipstick was off.” Willey alleged that Clinton groped her. Clinton’s lawyer, Robert S. Bennett said in the Newsweek article, “Linda Tripp is not to be believed.”
In January 1998, Tripp gave the surreptitiously recorded tapes to then-Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Tripp disclosed to Starr that she was aware of the relationship between Lewinsky and President Clinton, that Lewinsky had executed a false affidavit denying the relationship that was submitted to the federal court in Arkansas in the Jones v. Clinton lawsuit, and that Lewinsky had attempted to suborn Tripp’s perjury in the Jones v. Clinton suit to conceal the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship as well as Tripp’s claim regarding Kathleen Willey from the federal court. As Tripp explained, she was being solicited to commit a crime to conceal evidence in the Jones civil rights case.
Tripp also informed Starr of the existence of a navy blue dress that Lewinsky owned that was soiled with Clinton’s semen. During their friendship, Lewinsky had shown the dress to Tripp and said she intended to have it dry-cleaned; Tripp convinced her not to.
Based on Tripp’s tapes, Starr obtained approval from Attorney General Janet Reno and the special court overseeing the Independent Counsel to expand Starr’s investigation into the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship, looking for potential incidents of perjury, to investigate Lewinsky for perjury and suborning perjury as a witness in the lawsuit Paula Jones had brought against Clinton.
Tripp also told Starr that she had evidence directly linking the White House to the Travelgate, Filegate, and Chinagate affairs, but Starr chose not to act on that, preferring to pursue the sex-related allegations.
“All of the scandals that had come before and were so completely obliterated in the mind’s eye of the American people because of the way all of them were essentially discounted. So I watched a lying President and a lying First Lady present falsehoods to the American people.
“So my dismay predated the January 1998 period when the Monica Lewinsky scandal surfaced. To me it was very important that the American people see what I was seeing. My years with the Clintons were so disturbing on so many levels.
Tripp maintains she acted out of “patriotic duty.” Tripp has claimed that she taped Lewinsky out of self-defense, as she feared retaliation from the Clinton administration, also claiming Lewinsky had assured President Clinton that she had told only Tripp about their affair (which was untrue), thus making her a target since she refused to go along with perjuring herself to protect Lewinsky and the President.
Eventually both Clinton and Lewinsky had to appear before a Washington, D.C., grand jury to answer questions, although Clinton appeared via closed circuit television. After the round of interrogation, the jurors offered Lewinsky the chance to offer any last words. “I hate Linda Tripp,” she said.
In a press release, the National Whistleblower Center documented an alleged campaign launched by the Clinton administration in an attempt to damage Tripp’s credibility:
The White House and Pentagon launched a preemptory strike aimed at destroying Tripp’s credibility by unlawfully releasing harmful, confidential information about her. They also leaked to news outlets information from Tripp’s personnel and security clearance records in order to discredit her, causing her to file a lawsuit under the Privacy Act.
The United States Department of Defense eventually conceded it violated Tripp’s Privacy Act rights and was forced to settled with Tripp, granting her more than $595,000.
She told Klein in the Breitbart interview:
I say today and I will continue to say that I believe Monica Lewinsky is alive today because of choices I made and action I took. That may sound melodramatic to your listeners. I can only say that from my perspective I believe that she and I at the time were in danger, because nothing stands in the way of these people achieving their political ends.
I think that had it not become public when it did, particularly in light of the Paula Jones lawsuit, which was coming to a head with President Clinton’s deposition, that we may well have met with an accident. It’s a situation where unless you lived it as I did you would have no real framework of reference for this sort of situation.
Tripp said the young Lewinsky, 21-years-old when she entered the White House as an intern, was unaware of the danger that she faced. She described Lewinsky as a “young girl, smart, clever … but in this one area she was blinded and she fancied herself in love.”
He fancied himself entitled. It was nothing more than a servicing agreement. She romanticized that there was an affair. And when it didn’t pan out the way she had hoped it would – he had promised her he would bring her back to the White House as soon as the 1996 election campaign had finished. When he didn’t, she essentially lost her mind and started acting in erratic and frightening ways. Threatening the president.
There came a point in July of 1997 when she not only threatened to expose the affair, as she referred to it. But also she at that time informed him that I knew all about it. So at that time it became dangerous for Monica and for me. This was something that absolutely could never see the light of day. And she never realized the implications of threatening a president or her behavior. And I did.
Tripp also used the Breitbart interview to criticize what she says is the news media’s unwillingness to investigate the Clintons. She singled out and thanked Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report, declaring that without him “things would have been very, very different.”
Tripp told Klein that
“The biggest fallacy that most people believed is that this was a unique occurrence. Monica was somehow special. And regrettably that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Everyone knew within the West Wing, particularly those who spent years with him, of the thousands of women.
“Now most of your listeners might find that difficult if not impossible to believe. And I can tell you in the beginning I felt the same way. But let me be clear here. This is a pattern of behavior that has gone on for years. And the abuse of women for years.”
Listen to Klein’s interview with Tripp:
Linda Tripp at the National Whistleblowers Conference in 2018: