Linda Tripp, whose secretly recorded conversations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, has died at the age of 70.
Her death was confirmed to the Washington Post by her son, Ryan Tripp, and to the New York Post by her son-in-law, Thomas Foley, who said Ms Tripp’s unspecified illness was unrelated to coronavirus.
Ms Tripp was a secretary in the White House counsel’s office in the early years of Mr Clinton’s presidency before she was transferred to the Pentagon’s public affairs office and befriended Lewinsky, 24 years her junior.
As the two became close and Lewinsky revealed her past sexual relationship with Mr Clinton, Ms Tripp began recording their private telephone conversations in which Lewinsky documented her affair with the president in graphic detail.
Ms Tripp ultimately turned over hours of those tapes to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating
potential wrongdoing by Mr Clinton, the former Arkansas governor, stemming from the failed Whitewater real estate venture in the Ozarks.
She was granted immunity from illegal wiretapping charges in exchange for the recordings.
On the basis of the tapes, Mr Starr obtained permission to expand his probe into the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.
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Ms Tripp also brought to light one of the most notorious pieces of evidence in the scandal, the semen-stained blue dress that Lewinsky had told her she had worn during a sexual encounter in the White House with the president.
Ms Tripp recounted that Lewinsky had once shown her the dress, and that she persuaded the former intern not to get it dry-cleaned.
DNA analysis of the item forced Mr Clinton to recant his infamous, public denial of his affair with Lewinsky – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”.
The revelations also led the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives to impeach Mr Clinton for perjury and
obstruction of justice over statements he made denying the affair under oath as part of a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.
He was acquitted in the Senate.
Ms Tripp was vilified by Mr Clinton’s supporters as having betrayed a friend for partisan political motives, but she insisted she had done the right thing in exposing the president’s misconduct.
Ms Tripp was fired from her Pentagon job on Mr Clinton’s final day in office in January 2001, and later settled with her husband in Middleburg, Virginia, outside Washington.