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CLINTON UNDER FIRE

'Tell-All' Book Called Goal of Linda Tripp

Media: Magazine says woman's motivation to tape Lewinsky's talk of alleged affair may have been an expose with a 'President's Women' chapter.

January 25, 1998|JOSH GETLIN and MARC LACEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

NEW YORK — Long before Linda Tripp secretly tape-recorded Monica S. Lewinsky describing an alleged affair with President Clinton, the former White House staffer reportedly set out to write a tell-all book with a chapter titled "The President's Women."

Tripp has said that she taped Lewinsky's confessions because she was angry that Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's personal attorney, had called her a liar for suggesting that the president had an extramarital fling with another woman in the White House.

But a report in this week's New Yorker magazine suggests that a tell-all book project might have been a motivation behind the 20 hours of tape-recordings of the former White House intern.

Tripp's insider account of Clinton's presidency, which was first proposed two years ago, never developed. But Lewinsky's allegations might give the project new life.

A New York literary agent has said she persuaded Tripp to tape-record her conversations with Lewinsky but denied Saturday that she had any financial interest in doing so.

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Lucianne S. Goldberg, a veteran agent whose clients have included former Los Angeles Police Det. Mark Fuhrman, said at a press conference in front of her Manhattan apartment building that she talked with Tripp about taping Lewinsky's conversations "back in September."

Goldberg insists she has no interest in promoting the tapes, saying that the story is not about money but about the existence of "no controlling moral authority" in the White House.

The New Yorker article, however, quotes Goldberg as saying she may have a hand in a book on the matter, which either she or Tripp would write.

"I'd love to have a book out of her," Goldberg told the New Yorker. "But I think it's going to be a long time before she's free to write one."

At her press conference, Goldberg said Tripp, whom she had represented on an earlier, failed book deal, sought her out for advice after Bennett questioned her truthfulness.

She said Tripp, whom Goldberg called "a soccer mom with a mortgage," was "very concerned" and "despondent" about Bennett's comment. She recalled that Tripp seemed determined to come forward with the information she had about Clinton.

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"But you have no proof," Goldberg said. "I told her, 'You have no documents, no papers' " to verify what she was saying.

During their conversation, Goldberg added, the idea of taping Tripp's telephone discussions with Lewinsky came up as a way of proving what Tripp knew.

"I told her [Tripp] to sleep on it for a night, to think it over," Goldberg said. "I urged some caution. This is not something ladies do . . . to tape each other."

Subsequently, Goldberg says she came into possession of two separate tape recordings made by Tripp. Asked to characterize the material on the tapes, the agent said the substance of the conversations was "shocking." She added that it indicated a "romantic" relationship.

The agent said the tapes she had of Tripp and Lewinsky were subpoenaed by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, and she turned them over to "two very handsome FBI agents" in the last 48 hours. Goldberg said she also asked Starr's office not to require her to testify before a grand jury.

Asked if she had any concern about how her encouraging Tripp to make the tapes might be affecting the country or the presidency, Goldberg didn't appear too concerned.

"My main concern is for Linda Tripp," she said. "She is going to be greatly changed by all of this."

Goldberg has begun keeping a record of those changes, noting that, with Tripp's knowledge, she had recorded several of their conversations. That way, she said, "if someone asks me how to prove that Linda said something, I just have to push a button."

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Getlin reported from New York and Lacey from Washington. Times staff writer Edwin Chen also contributed to this story.

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