Tripp to return for day 3 before grand jury Her testimony takes on importance as Lewinsky remains on sidelines

July 07, 1998|By Susan Baer | Susan Baer,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Linda R. Tripp is expected to return to the federal grand jury today for a third day of questioning about her knowledge of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Tripp, who secretly tape-recorded conversations with Lewinsky in which the former White House intern described a sexual relationship with Clinton, is thought to be the linchpin of Kenneth W. Starr's investigation -- especially since the independent counsel has so far failed to win the cooperation of Lewinsky herself.

Tripp's appearance before the grand jury has been interpreted by sources close to the case as a sign that immunity talks between Starr and lawyers for Lewinsky have stalled. For the past month, the two sides have tried to reach a deal in which Lewinsky would be given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her full cooperation with Starr's investigation of Clinton and his associates.

Tripp, a Columbia resident and Pentagon employee, made her grand jury debut last week as hundreds of photographers and several dozen reporters staked out her every move at the courthouse. She made no public remarks and is not expected to do so today, either.

But after two days of testimony last week, Joseph Murtha, one of her lawyers, said Tripp was "encouraged" by the broad range of questions she received from both prosecutors and the grand jurors.

Although Tripp's tapes have been played for the grand jury in previous sessions, Tripp reportedly was not questioned about the tapes during her two full days at the courthouse last week. Starr's prosecutors instead spent much of the 14 hours establishing her background, her relationship with Lewinsky and her credibility.

Both Lewinsky and Clinton have denied that they had a sexual relationship. Starr is investigating whether the president lied under oath and whether he encouraged Lewinsky to lie, too.

Meanwhile, Charles G. Bakaly, a spokesman for Starr, said Sunday that the independent counsel had decided against giving Congress an interim report on his investigation. Bakaly said Starr will wait until he has completed his investigation and then, if he has found "substantial and credible information" that potential crimes of impeachment were committed, he would inform Congress.

House members had made it clear they were not eager to deal with an impeachment controversy during the fall election campaign.

Pub Date: 7/07/98

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