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'Better Control' Was Needed for Tripp, Starr Says

November 25, 1998| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr says his office should have kept "better control" of witness Linda Tripp, whose secret recordings triggered the investigation of the Monica S. Lewinsky affair.

In an interview to be broadcast on ABC-TV's "20/20" tonight, Starr says his office didn't know that Tripp, while cooperating with prosecutors Jan. 16, provided a lawyer for Paula Corbin Jones information to use in questioning President Clinton the next day in Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit.

Starr was criticized by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee last week for not heading off such contacts.

At other points in the interview:

* Starr describes Clinton as "extraordinarily talented, wonderfully empathetic," a man who "inspires just tremendous affection and loyalty." But he also says that "lying under oath and encouraging lies under oath does go to the very heart and soul of what courts do . . . and I think any judge worth his or her salt would say, 'We cannot tolerate perjury.' "

* When asked by interviewer Diane Sawyer about his own sex life, he replies, "I have not been unfaithful to my spouse," though he adds, "I've got plenty of frailties."

Under Democratic criticism last week, Starr defended dealings with Tripp.

"You didn't tell Linda Tripp not to be talking . . . to anybody?" Democratic counsel Abbe Lowell asked him.

"I think that's an unfair characterization," Starr testified. "You can say you should have told her 'X, Y and Z,' and I would say that's Monday morning quarterbacking."

Starr said his office told Tripp not to talk to literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, a source for Newsweek magazine, which was preparing a story on Lewinsky's relationship with the president and the taped phone calls Tripp had been making.

Lowell noted there was a provision not to disclose information in Lewinsky's immunity agreement in July. No such clause was contained in Tripp's agreement to produce the tapes to prosecutors--a difference Starr attributed to the fact that in January the investigation was "moving so quickly."

However, asked in the ABC interview about Tripp's meeting with one of Jones' lawyers, Starr said, "I think we could have had better control of her."

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