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Grand Jury Questions Tripp Confidante

Lucianne Goldberg and her son, Jonah, making a statement to the press after testifying before a grand jury. (Sarah L. Voisin — For the Washington Post)

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  • Key Players: Linda Tripp, Lucianne Goldberg

  • By Paul W. Valentine
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, November 13, 1998; Page A6

    Linda R. Tripp confidante Lucianne Goldberg said yesterday that a Maryland grand jury is focusing on when Tripp learned that her secretly taped telephone conversations with Monica S. Lewinsky were illegal – a key element in proving a wiretap violation in Maryland.

    Emerging from a two-hour appearance before the grand jury in Howard County, Goldberg told reporters that she testified that "to the best of my knowledge, [Tripp] knew in December [1997] when her then-lawyer told her they were illegal."

    Under Maryland's hard-to-enforce wiretap law, prosecutors must show that a defendant was aware of the law against recording people without their consent and violated it anyway. Tripp has acknowledged making two tapes in December after learning it was illegal, but that information may be beyond the Maryland prosecutor's reach because Tripp made the admission under an immunity grant from Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

    Tripp taped at least 27 conversations with Lewinsky between early October and late December 1997 and turned them over to Starr in January. In the tapes, Lewinsky, a former White House intern, described her sexual relationship with President Clinton and efforts by the White House to help her find a job. Tripp's account of the conversations led Starr to expand his investigation of Clinton to include the possibility of perjury and other offenses in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

    Goldberg reaffirmed that she urged Tripp to make the secret recordings of Lewinsky to protect herself. She said the tapes alone saved Tripp from White House retaliation of the sort that other women who have made allegations against Clinton have allegedly suffered.

    "Look what happened to any other women that came forward in this case," Goldberg said. "Look at what's happened to Kathleen Willey. Look at what's happened to Paula Jones. . . . I mean Jane Doe one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. They have been totally co-opted, slam-dunked and their reputations destroyed. The only thing that keeps [Tripp] hanging on by her thumbs is the fact that she had these tapes."

    Yesterday, Goldberg gave the Maryland grand jury taped copies of what she said were the earliest "five or six" Tripp-Lewinsky conversations, all recorded in October 1997, well before Tripp has said that lawyers warned her about the Maryland law.

    Goldberg, a New York literary agent to whom Tripp had entrusted the tapes, said earlier this week that she had to surrender the tapes under terms of a grand jury subpoena issued by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli. But she said the tapes are "absolutely useless" to Montanarelli because they were made before Tripp knew of the law.

    Montanarelli, who also spoke to reporters yesterday after the grand jury session with Goldberg and her son, Jonah, declined to discuss the legal value of the tapes.

    The Goldberg recordings represent the first time Montanarelli has obtained any Tripp-Lewinsky tapes and may give him evidence he needs to establish that the conversations in fact occurred and were taped in Maryland.

    But there may be other hurdles. Tripp's lawyers could challenge the authenticity of the tapes. Also, the lawyers could claim that Montanarelli's possession of the tapes amounts to impermissible "derivative use" of original evidence barred from Maryland prosecutors by Starr's grant of immunity to Tripp.

    After yesterday's grand jury session, both Lucianne and Jonah Goldberg said the investigation was politically motivated by Maryland Democratic legislators and other activists.

    "When a bunch of state Democratic lawmakers petition a prosecutor to do something," said Jonah Goldberg, 29, a contributing editor for the conservative magazine National Review, "it would be a reasonable conclusion that you could say there was a political element to it."

    Jonah Goldberg, who described himself as the "cute little boy sidekick of the vast right-wing conspirator," said the grand jury asked him about conversations he had with Tripp about the tapes. He did not give details.

    Montanarelli denied the investigation was politically motivated.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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