Smoking guns?

A literary agent who claims to have heard the tapes of the former White House intern who allegedly had an affair with President Clinton says her descriptions of the sexual activities and being in love with the president are shocking.

Published January 22, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

WASHINGTON -- The secretly recorded audio tapes of 24-year-old Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who allegedly had an affair in the White House with President Clinton, describe a young woman "deeply in love with a married man ... the president," and the sexual relationship that they had, according to a literary agent who says she has heard the tapes.

New York literary agent Lucy Goldberg, a close friend of Linda Tripp, the Pentagon official who surreptitiously recorded Lewinsky's allegations of her affair with Clinton, told Salon that what she had heard "was pretty damned shocking."

Lewinsky has denied under oath having the affair with the president and has also denied allegations, also purportedly on the tapes, that she was pressured by President Clinton and an advisor, Vernon Jordan, to deny the allegations.

Goldberg says there is a "possibility" that Tripp would submit a book proposal in connection with the allegations.

Previously, Goldberg represented Dolly Kyle, an Arkansas woman who wrote a book in 1996 about her alleged 25-year-long affair with Clinton. The book, which Goldberg described as "a well-written sizzler," was discredited by Arkansas reporters. Goldberg also represents former Los Angeles policeman Mark Fuhrman, whose book on the O.J. Simpson case was a bestseller. She may have a hot new property with the Lewinsky tapes. "I might even write a book about all this," she added.

Describing the secret tape recordings that Tripp made of conversations with Lewinsky, Goldberg said: "It's hours and hours and hours of two women talking about one of them being deeply in love with a married man, who just happens to be the president. There's also talk about their sexual encounters." She declined to elaborate.

In interviews Wednesday evening with PBS's "Jim Lehrer Newshour" and on National Public Radio, President Clinton strenuously denied having any sexual relation with Lewinsky. He also categorically denied that he and Jordan had instructed Lewinsky to lie about the alleged affair.

Lewinsky, who has already signed a sworn affidavit denying any affair with Clinton, is scheduled to be deposed by lawyers for Paula Jones on Friday. Jones' attorneys are trying to establish a "pattern of sexual misconduct" on Clinton's part to bolster Jones' demand for an apology and $2 million in damages. Clinton's lawyers now anticipate Lewinsky will plead the Fifth Amendment on Friday, a move that may deepen the suspicions surrounding the president.

Salon's attempts to reach Tripp by telephone were unsuccessful. Goldberg said Tripp "had gone to ground and changed her telephone number" and had asked the literary agent to answer any questions.

"I'm a friend of Linda's, and she asked me if I would talk to people for her," she said. "I'm not her Susan Carpenter McMillan" -- Paula Jones' spokeswoman -- "I'm just a friend helping a friend."

Goldberg said Tripp decided to record Lewinsky secretly because Tripp was angry that Clinton attorney Robert Bennett had publicly called her a liar last year. Last October, Tripp alleged that she had seen another White House aide, Kathleen Willey, emerge from the Oval Office with her lipstick smeared and her clothing askew and that Willey had told her President Clinton had fondled her. Clinton denied the incident took place, prompting Bennett's comment.

Goldberg also said Tripp made the secret recordings "to protect herself" in the event she was deposed by Jones' lawyers. "She had been listening to Monica's story for a year and only began taping when the Willey thing came up," Goldberg said. "She knew all this stuff and was desperate to protect herself."

Goldberg said Tripp eventually went with her tapes to independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who has been investigating the Whitewater affair and related scandals allegedly involving the president and the first lady. Starr's office, together with the FBI, outfitted Tripp with a secret wire and sent her back to hear Lewinsky's story again, this time recording it secretly for Starr's office on one tape.

Tripp herself was a White House aide in the Bush administration. In 1993, she was an executive assistant to former White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, and was transferred to the Pentagon spokesman's office after she testified before a grand jury and a Senate committee investigating the so-called "Travelgate" affair. "She was considered a hostile witness," one administration official told Salon.

Lewinsky worked for a year and a half at the White House as an intern. Last year, she also was transferred to the Pentagon spokesman's office, where she met and befriended Tripp. A former White House colleague of Lewinsky, who spoke to Salon under conditions of anonymity, described Lewinsky as "emotionally young for her age" and "star-struck" by the president.

But the mood at the White House Wednesday night was grim. Sources described the atmosphere as "batten down the hatches." In Congress, the allegations that Clinton encouraged Lewinsky to perjure herself and obstructed justice prompted some Republicans to warn of possible impeachment proceedings against the president if the allegations proved to be true.

President Clinton, while denying the allegations, said he would cooperate fully with Starr's investigation and wanted everybody involved to tell the truth.

Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, decried the expansion of Starr's investigations into the president's alleged love affairs. "I never thought before I woke up this morning that we have sex police in the United States," he said. "Ken Starr, who was appointed to investigate Whitewater, has become the Inspector General of the United States, a fourth branch of government. We are starting down a very slippery slope. I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know how this is going to end up, but I now fear for the institution of the presidency."

"What's [the controversy] all about?" Goldberg said. "The president was fucking this kid in the White House. Is there any question?"

By Jonathan Broder

Jonathan Broder is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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