Linda Tripp
Linda Tripp during an interview on Feb. 11, 1999. Tripp, the former White House and Pentagon employee whose secret audiotapes of Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. She was 70. Image Credit: NYT

Washington: Linda Tripp, the former White House and Pentagon employee whose secret audiotapes of Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday. She was 70.

Joseph Murtha, a former lawyer for Tripp, confirmed the death. No other details were given.

When Lewinsky completed her testimony about the scandal, she was asked if she had any final comments. According to CNN, she answered, “I hate Linda Tripp.”

Tripp always contended that she had revealed Lewinsky’s private confession of a sexual relationship with Clinton out of “patriotic duty.” She had worked in the White House under President George H.W. Bush and stayed on to work briefly in the Clinton administration. She was transferred to the Pentagon and its public affairs office.

Lewinsky, who had been a White House intern, was transferred there, too, and the women, despite a 24-year age difference, became friends.

When Lewinsky confided in Tripp that she had a physical relationship with the president, Tripp got in touch with Lucianne Goldberg, a literary agent who had once reached out to her for information on Vincent Foster, the White House lawyer who committed suicide in 1993.

More recently, Tripp had been working on a book proposal tentatively titled “Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw Inside the Clinton White House.” Now she had a hook.

Conversations taped

Goldberg suggested, among other things, that Tripp tape her telephone conversations with Lewinsky. That was legal in the District of Columbia and in 39 states, but not in Maryland, where Tripp was living.

Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton has said he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky to help him deal with the stress of being president, as he opened up in a documentary released on March 6 about the scandal that led to his impeachment. Image Credit: AFP

More than 20 hours of audiotapes were turned over to Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor handling the Clinton investigation.

After four years and $30 million, Starr’s investigation had stalled, lost in stale allegations involving the Whitewater land deal in which the Clintons had lost money. Tripp’s tapes suddenly provided a fresh, rich avenue for exploration, galvanising the investigation almost overnight as they carried the potential to bring down the president.

The tapes revealed a complicated relationship between Tripp and Lewinsky. Lewinsky seemed grateful to be able to confide in the older woman, talking with her regularly and for hours at a time about everything from their diets and exercise routines to Lewinsky’s secret romance with the president - all while Tripp was milking her young friend for incriminating information against him.

During another of their lengthy phone calls, Tripp, fully aware of her betrayal, predicted the demise of their friendship.

“I feel like I’m sticking a knife in your back,” Tripp told Lewinsky on December 22, 1997, during a conversation that ran 68 pages when it was transcribed. “And I know at the end of this, if I have to go forward, you will never speak to me again.”

Tripp was later given immunity from wiretapping charges in exchange for her testimony.

Early years

Linda Rose Carotenuto was born Nov. 24, 1949, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her father, Albert Carotenuto, was a high school math and science teacher who met his wife, Inge, when he was a US soldier stationed in her native Germany. The Carotenutos divorced in 1968 after Linda’s mother learned that her husband was having an affair with a fellow teacher.

Linda graduated from high school in East Hanover, New Jersey, and went to work as a secretary in Army Intelligence in Fort Meade, Maryland. In 1971 she married Bruce Tripp, a military officer. In a 2003 interview, she described herself as “a suburban mom who was a military wife for 20 years.” The couple divorced in 1990.

Tripp married Dieter Rausch, a German architect, in 2004. In later years she worked with him in his family’s retail store, the Christmas Sleigh, in Middleburg, Virginia, a Washington suburb.

In addition to Rausch, her survivors include a son, Ryan Tripp, and a daughter, Allison Tripp Foley.