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Before Scandal, Tripp Wrote Book Proposal on Clinton Administration

Style Showcase By David Streitfeld
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 28, 1998; Page D01

More than a year before Linda Tripp secretly taped conversations in which her young friend Monica Lewinsky claimed to have had an affair with the president, she tried to sell a book about the Clinton White House for as much as $500,000, a publisher said yesterday.

"She wanted to write a book and she wanted a half-million for it," said Alfred Regnery, president of the conservative publisher Regnery. With the passage of time, he said he was unsure of the exact amount, but "it was way into six figures. It might have been only $400,000."

The book was offered to Regnery in mid-1996 by New York agent Lucianne Goldberg. That was two years after Tripp was forced out of her job at the White House counsel's office and began work at the Pentagon. Tripp started at the White House in 1990, as an aide to President Bush.

Tripp's motivations have been at issue since the scandal broke a week ago. The longtime civil servant is variously depicted as apolitical, disgusted with the Clinton White House, and a tool of Goldberg, a fierce critic of Clinton. Goldberg says it was her idea for Tripp to tape former White House intern Lewinsky, whose accounts of sexual escapades with President Clinton are at the heart of the scandal.

Regnery Vice President Richard Vigilante said he met with Tripp for "an extended conversation. I came away with the impression of a woman who valued her privacy and her professional career, and who was distinctly uninterested in writing a book."

Still, he said, "although Linda was very discreet, it was clear to me she was in the position to write a book with the potential to be a bestseller, a la Aldrich's book."

Vigilante was referring to former FBI agent Gary Aldrich's "Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House," which Regnery published in the summer of 1996 to considerable controversy but great popularity.

Tripp's lawyer, James Moody, has her proposal, a four-page draft titled "Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw Inside the Clinton White House." "It's three or four pages of notes," he said. "She calls them chapter headings; I would call them more ideas."

Moody confirmed that the material, which includes a chapter titled "The President's Women," is salacious -- enough so, he said, that he doesn't think Tripp wrote it. "It looks like something a sensationalist would write. Linda wanted to write a nerd policy book about changes from President Bush's White House to President Clinton's. These look way too sensational for the way Linda talks."

Moody said he had asked his client "many, many times" if she has any animus toward the Clinton administration. "She says 'no, no, no.' This was a project Lucianne was trying to push and get Linda involved in. Linda did not want to play."

But Goldberg angrily took issue with Moody: "I know what I know, and I don't lie." She rejected any implication that she had written the material herself. "I never, ever would write anything for a client," Goldberg insisted. "I would never touch it. If something goes sour, then they blame you."

She also disputed the $500,000 figure, saying, "I don't ask for a set figure until they've said, 'We would like to buy this.' " But she added that for a book like "Behind Closed Doors," "I'd probably ask more."

Since Regnery didn't want to deal, the project died. The trouble, the publisher said, was that Tripp "didn't really know very much. There wasn't enough there to pursue it." The money was "pie in the sky. Lots of people ask for lots of money for books. It doesn't mean they get it."

Regnery, who never met Tripp, says it was the first time he remembers being approached about an insider book written by someone who still worked for the government. "Usually," he said, "they quit first."


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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