Linda Tripp, central figure in the Clinton impeachment, dies at 70

Tripp, whose secretly recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky became the catalyst for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, was battling cancer.

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By Doha Madani

Linda Tripp, the former White House employee who became a key figure in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, has died at age 70.

Tripp, who was battling cancer, died Wednesday, according to her former attorney Joseph Murtha. Reports of Tripp's condition had surfaced earlier in the day after her daughter, Allison Trip Foley, wrote about her mother's being gravely ill in a now-deleted Facebook post.

Tripp's family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Diane Spreadbury, a close friend of Tripp's, told NBC News that Tripp was "a fantastic friend" whose death is a great loss. An official cause of death is unknown, but Spreadbury said it was not coronavirus-related.

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Tripp, who was working at the Defense Department at the time, secretly recorded her calls with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern who had been hired to a paid position and then transferred to the Pentagon, in tapes that paved the way for Clinton's 1998 impeachment on charges alleging obstruction of justice and perjury about his sexual relationship with Lewinsky.

The tapes were part of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into Clinton, which produced a 453-page report that determined the grounds for impeachment. Tripp was indicted on criminal wiretapping charges in Maryland for making the tapes, but the case was eventually dropped.

Lewinsky offered well wishes to Tripp on Wednesday after seeing reports that Tripp was ill.

"no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery," Lewinsky wrote. "i can't imagine how difficult this is for her family."

Tripp began working in the White House as a secretary under President George H.W. Bush and stayed on after Clinton took office. She was transferred to the Pentagon in 1994, where she first met Lewinsky.

Tripp spoke publicly about her role in the presidential scandal during a National Whistleblower Day event on Capitol Hill in 2018. The former civil servant defended her actions and said her decisions came from a duty to hold power accountable.

"And yet it had nothing to do with politics, which is hard for anyone to understand if they remember the story many years ago," Tripp said. "What it was about was exposing perjury and obstruction of justice."

Tripp is survived by her husband, Dieter Rausch, and her two children.

CORRECTION (April 9, 2020, 6:30 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated Monica Lewinsky's job when Linda Tripp began taping their conversations. Lewinsky was not a White House intern at the time. She had been hired to a paid White House position in 1995 and was transferred in 1996 to the Defense Department, where Tripp began making the recordings in 1997.