Linda Tripp said Tuesday that a new grand jury investigation of whether she broke state law by secretly taping conversations with Monica Lewinsky was an attempt to intimidate her.
Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli announced the opening of the investigation Tuesday, saying that since Tripp has testified before the federal grand jury, there was no longer any reason to defer to the Office of Independent Counsel.
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Attorneys for Tripp read a prepared statement by their client expressing her belief that the latest investigation was "politically motivated" and "selective in nature."
"I believe today's announcement is the latest in a series of attempts to intimidate me. This is evidenced by the fact that this attempt occurs at the very moment I am testifying before the federal grand jury," Tripp said in her statement, read by Attorney Anthony Zaccaginini.
"I am not intimidated in any way. I will continue to testify truthfully and completely, and I urge everyone involved to do the same," the statement concluded.
Tripp, a Pentagon employee and Columbia, Md., resident, taped hours of conversations in which Lewinsky, her colleague, described a relationship with the president. Tripp is Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's most significant witness in the investigation of the president.
The investigation of an alleged cover-up by President Clinton was triggered by Tripp's 20 hours of secretly recorded phone calls with Lewinsky in which the former White House intern confided an alleged sexual relationship with the president. According to legal sources who have heard the tapes, Lewinsky and Tripp discussed whether to tell the truth in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against the president.
Mr. Clinton has denied any sexual involvement with the former White House intern.
In Maryland, it is illegal to tape a phone conversation without the consent of both parties, but the offender must have knowledge that the taping was illegal.
Another lawyer for Tripp, Joe Murtha, called the Maryland announcement "unprecedented." He said that her legal team "never indicated any fear" as to whether Tripp was guilty of knowingly recording Lewinsky.
Meanwhile, Tripp testified before the grand jury hearing evidence in the Monica Lewinsky case for a third day, CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante reports.
Tripp was to answer questions about her conversations with Lewinsky. Starr will again be looking for Tripp to bolster his case, which seems at least momentarily stalled.
In January, Trpp gave Starr the tapes. She made the recordings secretly at her home at the urging of her friend Lucianne Goldberg, a New York literary agent.
Montanerelli said he has placed the matter before the grand jury of Howard County.
Tripp's lawyers have maintained that their client wasn't aware of the wiretap law when she was taping the conversations.
Last week Tripp testified on Tuesday and Thursday, spending about six to seven hours on each of those days, giving her testimony in the investigation of possible perjury, obstruction and witness tampering.
Sporadic talks between Lewinsky's new attorneys and Starr's office have continued over whether she will testify before the grand jury. So far, there still appears to be no immunity deal in the offing, which Lewinsky demands. Click here for an explanation of immunity by CBS News Legal Correspondent Kristin Jeannette-Meyers.
The one point that does seem certain is that Starr will not present Congress with an interim report on his investigation before the lawmakers adjourn for the fall break. The decision likely pleased many on Capitol Hill who did not relish the idea of an impeachment controversy right before November elections.
"When Judge Starr believes that he has a duty to provide information to congress that reaches the threshold as laid out in the independent counsel
statute, then he's going to do it and that will be his report," said Starr spokesman Charles Bakaly.
As for Tripp, this will not be her last day before the grand jury. With almost 20 hours of tape-recorded conversations and three pages of talking points to go over, Starr's prosecutors most likely still have a lot of ground to cover.
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