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Clinton Accuser Ends 2nd Day With Starr Grand Jury

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Linda Tripp, a major witness for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation, Thursday finished a second day of “comprehensive” grand jury testimony but still must undergo additional questioning, said her lawyer, Joe Murtha.

He described her as “very encouraged” by the “quality and content” of questions that she told him came from both jurors and prosecutors in the daylong session.

And he said her testimony “is actually so comprehensive that to release any of Linda’s testimony in a piecemeal fashion really would serve no purpose.”

Murtha indicated that Tripp had expressed relief that she finally could tell her story.

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“If there is any truth in the adage that an honest person’s pillow is her peace of mind, I assure you that Linda Tripp will sleep very well tonight,” he said.

Murtha and other defenders of Tripp have worked to counteract portrayals of her as a vindictive foe of the Clinton White House who manipulated a young friend to obtain damaging evidence against the president. Clad in an understated brown pants suit, Tripp Thursday wore her hair in a twist.

The attorney declined to provide specifics of her testimony. But prosecutors planned to question Tripp about her secret taping of phone conversations in which Lewinsky, then her friend, allegedly described an intimate relationship with President Clinton.

Tripp also was to be asked about other comments Lewinsky made to her that were not taped.

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After Tripp completes her testimony when she returns at a yet-unspecified date, attention will shift to Starr’s plans for Lewinsky. Attempts by lawyers for Lewinsky to reach an agreement with Starr’s team that would give her immunity from prosecution in return for her testimony still are deadlocked.

If Starr does not obtain firsthand testimony from Lewinsky, Tripp’s recordings of Lewinsky will be even more important to his case.

In addition to the telephone recordings, made without Lewinsky’s knowledge, Tripp also recorded Lewinsky by wearing a hidden device and asking questions proposed by prosecutors during a session at a hotel near Pentagon City in Virginia.

It was after this government-assisted recording that Starr sought and obtained Atty. Gen. Janet Reno’s permission to broaden his Whitewater investigation of Clinton to include the president’s alleged relationship with the former White House intern. Clinton and Lewinsky provided sworn statements in an unrelated civil suit denying having any sexual relationship.

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In addition to possible perjury, Starr is investigating whether Clinton or any others obstructed justice in attempts to keep the relationship secret.

Tripp’s testimony could open the door for Starr to seek an indictment of Lewinsky, but legal sources discounted the likelihood of such a move without another attempt to reach agreement.

In addition to the question of Lewinsky testifying, the Starr investigation is awaiting decisions by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here on two key legal questions: whether Secret Service employees must testify on what they saw and heard about Clinton’s activities involving Lewinsky and whether longtime Clinton aide Bruce R. Lindsey is exempted by attorney-client privilege from having to answer grand jury questions.

Times staff writer Robert L. Jackson contributed to this story.

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