Lewinsky to sue Tripp over tapes

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MONICA LEWINSKY, the former White House trainee who may or may not have had an affair with President Bill Clinton and been prevailed upon to lie about it, is suing her one-time colleague and confidante, Linda Tripp, for violating her privacy, according to her lawyer, William Ginsburg.

The disclosure, made by the publicity conscious lawyer in an interview with the doyen of United States television talk-show hosts, CNN's Larry King, brought back to centre stage the question of Ms Tripp's secretly recorded tapes.

With both Ms Lewinsky and Mr Clinton denying under oath that they had a sexual relationship, the tapes are so far the only evidence to the contrary. In more than 30 hours of talk, Ms Lewinsky apprises her friend of intimate details relating to what she says was an 18-month affair with the President.

She reportedly tells Ms Tripp, a former member of the White House staff who now works for the Pentagon, about presents she received from Mr Clinton, trysts in the Oval Office, her prowess in performing oral sex, her unhappiness on being transferred to the Pentagon and her disappointment when the relationship ended. The tapes were played this week for the benefit of the grand jury hearing testimony in the Lewinsky case.

The route by which the tapes emerged as legal evidence is one of the most controversial aspects of the saga. Ms Tripp is said to have taken them personally to the independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, who was then investigating the Clintons' involvement in the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas. After hearing them, he received permission to extend his inquiry to encompass the allegation that Mr Clinton may have perjured himself by denying an affair with Ms Lewinsky and inducing her to deny it.

Mr Starr then helped Ms Tripp to be "wired up" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to record a further conversation. It was at the end of this clandestine recording session that Ms Tripp's stratagem was exposed and a distressed Ms Lewinsky was confronted with the contradiction between her sworn denial and what she told her friend on tape.

Ms Tripp, from whom little had been heard until yesterday when she gave an interview to the newspaper USA Today says she wanted people to know the truth about the Clinton White House. But she has become a figure of popular opprobrium for betraying the trust of her friend. A resident of Maryland, she could also face legal charges because clandestine recording is a crime in that state. She also appears to be encountering difficulties at work, claiming to have been deprived of some of her duties. A Pentagon spokesman denied her title or $80,000-plus (pounds 50,000) salary would change and said there was no move to end her employment.