Monica ?Pay Back? Time on Stand in Tripp Hearing

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Monica Lewinsky, the former presidential paramour intern, testified on Thursday in a Maryland courthouse against Linda Tripp, who is charged with violating the state's wiretap law by secretly taping phone conversations with Lewinsky about President Clinton.

Taking the stand at a hearing that will determine whether Mrs. Tripp stands trial on the charges, Lewinsky said that she was frightened when she saw the first published report of her conversations with Tripp.

"It terrified me," the ex-White House intern testified. "I was concerned about the privacy of my relationship being revealed."
"It was very clear to me that it was from previous conversations I had with Linda Tripp," Ms. Lewinsky replied when asked by prosecutor Carmen Shepard how she felt when she saw her words printed in Newsweek magazine two years ago.

According to wire service reports, Ms. Lewinsky at times was poised and at other times close to tears during her hour and fifteen minutes on the stand. Although the tapes that revealed her relationship with Clinton and led to his impeachment effort were at the heart of her testimony, Ms. Lewinsky never mentioned the president during her time on the stand.

She became flustered as Tripp's attorneys grilled her over whether she knew the dates of key tape recordings only because Kenneth Starr's office had told them to her last year. Her head down, she sheepishly admitted that some dates were supplied by Starr's staff.

But she said she was sure a key conversation took place on December 22, 1997, as Newsweek said. "It was etched in my mind because it was a pretty frightening time for me," Ms. Lewinsky said.

She noted that she had met with Clinton's friend, Vernon Jordan, that day to discuss his help in finding her a job. She also remembered that the conversations with Jordan and Mrs. Tripp came three days after she was subpoenaed.

The date is crucial to the case against Mrs. Tripp. Although she recorded more than 20 hours of tapes, the charges she faces stem directly from the tape made on that date which she allowed to be played for Newsweek.

Mrs. Tripp's lawyers insist that Ms. Lewinsky was able to date the tapes only because of Mrs. Tripp's immunized testimony to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's office.

The Maryland case cannot be based, even indirectly, on information Mrs. Tripp provided to Starr under court-ordered immunity from prosecution.

Under cross-examination, Ms. Lewinsky admitted that her lawyers seemed uncertain about the date of the tape in August, 1998, when they responded to written questions from the Maryland state prosecutor's office.

Tripp lawyer Joseph Murtha presented the written answer from Ms. Lewinsky's lawyer stating that the taped conversation was on December 22nd or 23rd. Ms. Lewinsky said she was certain it was December 22nd.

Mrs. Tripp's tapes of Ms. Lewinsky's conversations with her about the intern's affair with Clinton were key evidence in Starr's investigation of the president. The probe led to Clinton's impeachment by the House. He was acquitted by the Senate.

Thursday's hearing was Ms. Lewinsky's opportunity to get back at her former friend, Mrs. Tripp. As Starr's investigation was wrapping up in 1998, a tearful Ms. Lewinsky ended two days of federal grand jury testimony by declaring, "I hate Linda Tripp."

Mrs. Tripp was not at the hearing Thursday but her son, Ryan Tripp, watched Ms. Lewinsky testify. Mrs. Tripp, a Pentagon employee, could not attend because "she's got to work for a living," he said.

"I hope it goes to trial so my Mom can be completely vindicated," Mr. Tripp said outside the courtroom.