Willey says Tripp vowed to get even after transfer But Tripp disputes account of ex-White House aide

March 16, 1998|By Carl M. Cannon | Carl M. Cannon,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Linda R. Tripp vowed to get even with "everybody in this place" after she was transferred out of the White House, according to former White House aide Kathleen Willey.

In her CBS "60 Minutes" interview last night, in which she told of being groped by Clinton in November 1993, Willey also discussed Tripp, the woman who jump-started the current sex scandal by bringing tape-recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

The day that Willey emerged from her alleged encounter with Clinton, it was Tripp whom she ran into. "I remember saying to her, 'You are just not going to believe this.' And we went outside, and I told her what had happened."

The next year, after Willey received a part-time White House job and Tripp was told she was being transferred to the Pentagon, the two ran into each other again.

" 'Don't you think for one minute that I don't know what's going on around here,' " Willey quoted Tripp as saying. " 'I know you're here because the president wants you here. And they want me out of here because I know what happened.' "

Willey continued:

"She was very angry; very upset; very bitter. And she ended the conversation by saying, 'I'm going to get you and everyone else in this place before this is all over.' "

Last night, in response to questions from The Sun, Tripp disputed this recollection.

"At no time did I threaten to 'get' her, or anyone at the White House," Tripp said through one of her lawyers, Joseph Murtha of Baltimore. "Through this entire affair, I have never had a personal or political agenda. Nor any animus toward Kathleen or the president."

But Tripp also took pains not to criticize Willey, who she said she considers "a friend" and a "person of goodwill."

One of the ironies in this complex tale of White House intrigue is that Tripp was prompted to secretly tape Lewinsky in part because Clinton lawyer Robert S. Bennett said publicly Tripp was "not to be believed" when she reported seeing Willey come out of the Oval Office with her blouse askew and her lipstick smudged.

But now, Bennett seems to be touting Tripp's truthfulness and her powers of observation, reminding reporters yesterday that Tripp has said that Willey appeared "joyous" when she emerged from her session with Clinton.

"In defense of her, I think -- when I get into a very tense situation -- I try to fall back on my sense of humor," Willey said last night. "I think when I said, 'You are not going to believe this one,' maybe she took that as joyful."

Pub Date: 3/16/98

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