Tripp Seeks Donations for Legal Defense
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 8, 1999; Page A8
Linda R. Tripp needs money, "urgently." Although she now earns $90,767 a year in her Pentagon public affairs job, thanks to a recent "longevity" raise, she says there's just not enough left over to make a dent in her mounting legal bills.
So in a 12-page fund-raising letter now arriving in selected mailboxes across the country, the Maryland woman whose secret tapes led to the impeachment of President Clinton is asking for help in fighting off the assaults of his "henchmen" and "disciples."
"Their approach has always been to attack, discredit and destroy their opponents," Tripp says in the letter asking for contributions to Linda R. Tripp Legal Defense Fund. "Now they have me in their cross hairs and I feel like David up against Goliath."
Her legal bills are already more than $325,000 and "growing every day," Tripp says. She was compelled to give a deposition in an anti-Clinton civil suit this week after her lawyers were rebuffed in an effort to block the appearance. She is one of the witnesses who might be called to testify at Clinton's impeachment trial in the Senate. She is under investigation by a Maryland grand jury for taping her conversations with Monica S. Lewinsky about sex in the White House.
And she says, "I'm living in fear for my job and for the safety of my family and myself."
One of the trustees of the defense fund, Bill Parris, a retired insurance executive who has never met Tripp and was enlisted by one of her lawyers, said the letters starting going out Dec. 31 and he hopes they will raise $60,000 to $80,000. About 20,000 are being sent out, by a direct-mail operation in Virginia whose name he said he couldn't recall.
"I got a whole bunch of lawyers wanting money from me," Parris said this week. He joked, "After I take my wife to Bermuda, I might even have some left over for [them]."
The fund-raising letter, Tripp's first, gives a first-person account of Tripp's predicament that associates said she reviewed and edited. It also appears to contradict some things she has said in the past.
For instance, Tripp traces her troubles back to Nov. 29, 1993, when she said another White House aide, Kathleen E. Willey, "her lipstick smeared and her blouse untucked," came to see Tripp after an encounter in the Oval Office.
"Ms. Willey then volunteered to me that President Clinton had just sexually assaulted her while they were alone in his office," Tripp says in the letter.
In testimony before a federal grand jury last June 30, however, Tripp said the episode came after a series of flirtatious approaches on Willey's part and that "it just seemed to be as consenting adults."
Willey, Tripp testified, "was very excited, very flustered" as she told Tripp what happened and "she smiled from ear to ear the entire time. She seemed almost shocked, but happy shocked."
Tripp says in her letter that she knew her life would be changed forever when she decided last January to tell independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr of Lewinsky's affair with Clinton, but was not prepared "for the vicious personal onslaught" she has endured since then. She took particular issue with what she denounced as "a slanderous magazine article" based on details from her "illegally released" FBI background file "about a teenage prank which long ago found me in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The article in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer reported that Tripp was arrested when she was 19 in a New York resort town after police said stolen goods were found in her possession; the charge was later reduced to loitering. The New Yorker said Tripp answered no when asked in 1987 on a Defense Department security form whether she had ever been "arrested . . . . regardless of whether the citation was dropped or dismissed or you were found not guilty."
Tripp says in her letter that she was "completely exonerated" after the incident "and the Pentagon knew it and the author of the magazine article knew it, but the story was published anyway."
Asked about Tripp's remarks, New Yorker editor David Remnick said: "The story is far from slanderous. It is accurate. We stand by it."
Tripp, who works from her Columbia home, says she has been forced to do so because the Pentagon "has forbidden me from working at my desk and has given me a make-work assignment away from the office." She says her paychecks are largely consumed by "my mortgage, school expenses for my children, my car payment and personal living expenses."
In the letter, Tripp asks for donations of $20 to $100 or "even $1,000" to help her fend off the "politically motivated" Maryland investigation and "tell the truth about what I saw and heard . . . in Bill Clinton's administration." Contributors are expected to send their money to an Annapolis address tended by a Mail Boxes Etc. store that bundles it up and sends it on to Parris.
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