Democrats Pushed for Tripp Wiretap Probe, Lawyers Say

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A Maryland prosecutor and lawyers for former White House aide Linda Tripp squabbled Thursday over whether Democratic pressure may have prompted an investigation of Tripp in that state.

Tripp, meanwhile, testified for a fourth day before a grand jury investigating whether President Clinton had an affair with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and then tried to cover it up.

Tripp’s lawyers said Maryland prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli told them Democratic state lawmakers had urged him to investigate Tripp for secretly making the tapes that launched an investigation of Clinton.


A spokesman for Tripp, Philip Coughter, said her lawyers kept notes of their meeting that back up their account.

But Gavin Patashnick, a spokesman for Montanarelli, denied any contact by legislators and insisted that the probe is not politically motivated.

Tripp’s tapes of her conversations with Lewinsky are central to the allegations.

“Despite the events which have recently unfolded in Maryland, I continue to focus on my testimony before the federal grand jury,” Tripp said in a statement read by Coughter outside the courthouse.

She expects to return Tuesday for more testimony, he said.

One of her attorneys, Anthony Zaccagnini, said Montanarelli “advised us” that he had been “directly contacted” by Democrats in the General Assembly, which controls the prosecutor’s budget, with requests “that Linda be investigated and prosecuted.”

Speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, Zaccagnini said such conduct “speaks of political motivation.”

Patashnick said: “That’s absolutely untrue.”

He declined to characterize what was said in discussions between Tripp’s lawyers and the state prosecutor.