Linda Tripp: who was the civil servant involved in Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton scandal - what did she do?

The Pentagon employee is played by Sarah Paulson in Impeachment: American Crime Story

The third season of American Crime Story, focusing on the Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton scandal, is well underway with three out of 10 episodes already aired.

With viewers tuning in each week for the drama, some have been confused as to who Pentagon employee Linda Tripp is - and what the significance her role was in the Lewinsky and Clinton scandal, and the former President’s subsequent impeachment.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Without her involvement, the scandal may never have broken.

This is everything you need to know.

Who was Linda Tripp?

Linda Tripp (née Carotenuto), born 24 November 1949, was an American civil servant who played a key role in the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal of 1998.

Tripp was the daughter of Albert, who was a high school maths and science teacher, and Inge, a German woman whom her father met whilst he was a soldier stationed in Germany.

Linda Tripp talks to reporters outside of the Federal Courthouse 29 July in Washington, DC, following her eighth day of testimony before the grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair (Photo: WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

Tripp attended Hanover Park High School in New Jersey and then went on to work as a secretary in Army Intelligence at Fort Meade, in Maryland.

She met her husband, military officer Bruce Tripp, and the two married in 1971. She had a son and daughter with him before they divorced in 1990.

Tripp was already working as a White House secretary when Bill Clinton became President in 1993, and in the summer of 1994 she was transferred into a job in the public affairs office in the Pentagon.

In 2004, Tripp remarried Dieter Rausch, a German architect, and together they lived in Middleburg, Virginia.

How was she involved in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal?

Tripp played a prominent role in the events running up to Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, as she was the whistleblower responsible for exposing the President’s affair with White House intern Lewinsky.

It was tapes secretly recorded by Tripp during phone conversations which were key to Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s investigation, and his subsequent report, which was delivered to Congress in September of 1998.

Tripp had befriended Lewinsky when she too was transferred to the Pentagon in 1996, and the pair became close despite their 24 year age gap, with Lewinsky 23 years old at the time.

Lewinsky revealed to Tripp that she was involved with Clinton, something that she mentions in the 2018 documentary The Clinton Affair.

In the film, Lewinsky explains that Clinton would swing between showering her with affection and compliments, and then go the other way randomly, ignoring her for weeks on end.

She said: “I felt so deflated, and so desperate. Those were the conditions, along with some other things, that led me to confiding in Linda Tripp.”

Tripp contacted literary agent Lucianne Goldberg with the intention of selling a book on the subject, and Goldberg suggested that she tape her conversations with Lewinsky.

Linda Tripp (R) waits to make a statement to reporters beside her daughter Allison (L) and son Ryan (C) in front of the Federal Courthouse 29 July in Washington, DC, after her eighth and final day of testimony before a federal grand jury (Photo: WILLIAM PHILPOTT/AFP via Getty Images)

By the beginning of 1998, she had amassed over 20 hours of secretly recorded conversations with Lewinsky which detailed her affair with Clinton.

In exchange for immunity against prosecution, Tripp turned the tapes over to Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

She also told Starr about the infamous blue dress that Lewinsky owned that was stained with Clinton’s semen. When Lewinsky told Tripp that she was going to get the dress dry cleaned, Tripp convinced her not to.

Through the use of the tapes, details of Clinton’s and Lewinsky’s relationship was revealed, which eventually led investigators to find that not only had Clinton taken part in the inappropriate relationship, but also that he had perjured himself by lying about the nature of their relationship.

Eventually, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 1998 on the charges of perjury to a grand jury, and obstruction of justice.

In 1999, the Senate acquitted Clinton on both counts as neither charge gained the required two-thirds majority vote.

Clinton therefore remained in office until the end of his second mandate in 2001.

What did she say about the role she played?

Despite being condemned for her actions, and only narrowly avoiding criminal charges, Tripp always stood by her choices.

Speaking to the NBC News’s Today show, she said: “It was worth it to me to do what I considered to be my patriotic duty.”

She added that if someone did the same to her own 23 year old daughter as she did to Lewinsky, she would thank them.

While she disappeared from the public eye for the most part, she resurfaced to give her first public statement in decades by speaking to reporters on National Whistleblower Day in 2018.

Tripp said that her only regret about what happened was that she did not have “the guts to do it sooner”, and added that she had been a victim of “a real high tech lynching”.

That same year she also appeared on the podcast Slow Burn to discuss her role in the scandal.

Linda Tripp arrives at the US District Courthouse 02 July in Washington, DC. Tripp is appearing for a second day of testimony (Photo: JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking to host Leon Neyfakh, she explained how she saw the relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky as an abuse of power.

She said: “How it was presented to the country initially is how it continues to be referred to today, which is an affair, the Lewinsky affair.

“But by virtue of that word, one assumes it was in some way an actual relationship of sorts - romantic, physical, whatever, it was a relationship - which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“What it was was a series of encounters to address a physical need, a use of a young girl, and then the sort of cold, hard dismissal of her on any human level.”

When did she die?

In April of 2020, it was revealed that Tripp was terminally ill, and upon the news of her illness, Lewinsky tweeted: “No matter the past, upon hearing that Linda Tripp is very seriously ill, I hope for her recovery.

“I can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”

She passed away on 8 April 2020 aged 70 from pancreatic cancer.

Speaking to the NY Post, her son-in-law Thomas Foley said: “It’s hard to talk right now. Linda has passed on.

“She fought as hard as she could. We just have to let all the grandkids know as it was so sudden.

“I know all the press will focus on the other stuff but she was a special person and a fantastic grandparent who was devoted to her family. People forget this part.”

When is Impeachment on?

Impeachment is the latest in the American Crime Story anthology from Ryan Murphy.

The previous two seasons of the show covered the trial of O.J Simpson, and the assassination of Gianni Versace.

The fourth episode of Impeachment will air in the UK on BBC Two at 9:15pm tonight (Tuesday 9 November), with the first few episodes having aired at the end of October.

If you missed the first three episodes of the series, they are available to watch on the BBC iPlayer. 

Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, Ratched) stars as Tripp in the series, and told the LA Times that she has sympathy for the whistleblower.

Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp and Beanie Feldstein as Monica Lewinksy in Impeachment (Photo: FX)

She said: “I think Linda was certainly a victim of being caught up in a machine. Don’t get me wrong - she put the gas in the car, she put the keys in the ignition, and then she started driving, put her foot on the pedal.

“But then it’s like a runaway train - I know I just mixed my vehicle metaphors.

“I will never think that what she did was right. Far from it. But I do have a greater understanding as to the why.”

A message from the editor:Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.