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Grand Jury Hears From Tripp

Linda Tripp, the other woman on the Monica Lewinsky tapes, spent six hours Tuesday telling a grand jury what she knows about an alleged presidential affair and cover-up and trying to counter perceptions she manipulated the former White House intern.

``I find it very easy to truthfully answer the questions posed to me by the prosecutors and the grand jury,'' Mrs. Tripp's lawyer quoted her as saying as she left the grand jury room.

She was to return Thursday for additional testimony, said the lawyer, Anthony Zaccagnini.

Her appearance becomes a critical piece in the investigation, as prosecutor Kenneth Starr tries to press beyond proving a sexual relationship between Lewinsky and President Clinton to possible obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

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Tripp arrived wearing dark sunglasses, accompanied by her daughter, son, and three lawyers. Asked if she was nervous, she replied only with a smile.

Her chief lawyer, Anthony Zaccagnini, told reporters, "She's doing good. She's real strong." Tripp entered the grand jury room unaccompanied for questioning that could stretch over several days.

In a development in Little Rock that could have repercussions in the Lewinsky investigation, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber ordered most of the court filings in Paula Jones' sexual-harassment lawsuit against Mr. Clinton unsealed, lifting a gag order she had imposed last fall.

The judge kept her order from taking effect for 10 days to give the case's principals time to appeal. She said a transcript of President Clinton's sworn deposition would be among the documents made public.

Lawyers for Mr. Clinton had argued that the gag order should stay in place permanently because the materials could be used improperly.

It was the Jones cases that produced the disclosure of Mrs. Tripp's tapings as well as the allegations that Lewinsky had engaged in a sexual affair with the president. The Jones lawsuit, in which Mr. Clinton denied under oath having sex with Lewinsky, was dismissed.

In an interview reported in Tuesday's editions of The Washington Post, Tripp said she had been vilified unfairly. "I am so anxious to go before the grand jury and tell the truth," she told the newspaper.

Tripp and Lewinsky were once coworkers in the Pentagon and friends who exchanged confidences. Tripp, 48, played the role of older sister and confidante to the 24-year-old Lewinsky while secretly recording her.

CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante, who is following the president's China trip, reports that White House officials are publicly shruggig off Starr's decision to bring Tripp to testify while Mr. Clinton is out of the country.

But privately, Clinton aides are infuriated by what they see as an attempt by the independent counsel to humiliate the president - something Starr's office has denied. Plante reports that the White House plans to remain unruffled by the investigation at home and "just do the business at hand," as Mr. Clinton has often said.

Tripp's appearance will allow grand jurors to quiz her about the tapes and about a set of "talking points" she says Lewinsky gave her. That document suggested testimony Tripp could give that would be helpful to Mr. Clinton in the Jones lawsuit.

"Linda's looking forward to testifying truthfully," her spokesman Philip Coughter said Sunday. "She has no political agenda to advance, nor does she bear any personal or political animus toward anyone involved in this case."

Aside from a statement Tripp made in January, she has given no answers to such questions as to why she made the tapes or whether anyone put her up to it. She is expected to stress that she did not cultivate the former intern's confidence, but that in fact, Lewinsky herself did.

Meanwhile, New York book agent Luciane Goldberg says she urged Tripp to start taping after the president's lawyer cast doubt on Tripp's credibility about another woman linked to Mr. Clinton, former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey.

Much has changed since Tripp contacted prosecutors last January, who rushed to her house to meet with her. Tripp wore a wire for the FBI, making a tape that helped Starr get a formal expansion of his investigation.

Lewinsky has changed lawyers, though an immunity deal with prosecutors remains elusive.

Tripp contends she simply felt compelled to bring possible perjury and obstruction of justice to the attention of authorities. Her lawyers say she taped Lewinsky so that she would have evidence to support her sworn statement in the Jones case alleging a sexual relationship between the ex-intern and Mr. Clinton.

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