Ickes appears before panel probing release of Tripp data Clinton adviser refuses to comment; Lewinsky meets her new lawyers


WASHINGTON -- As Monica Lewinsky met yesterday with her new lawyers, a top Clinton adviser appeared before a grand jury in Virginia that is investigating the Pentagon's release of private information about Lewinsky-taper Linda R. Tripp.

Harold Ickes, the former White House deputy chief of staff who is now an informal adviser to President Clinton, would not comment yesterday as he left the Alexandria, Va., courthouse. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr wants to know if he, or anyone at the White House, encouraged a Pentagon official to leak portions of Tripp's confidential personnel file to a reporter.

Tripp, a Pentagon employee, has been working at her $88,000-a-year public affairs job from her home in Columbia ever since her tape-recorded conversations with Lewinsky, a former friend and colleague, sparked a full-scale scandal and investigation by Starr last January.

In those conversations, Lewinsky, a former White House intern, described a sexual relationship with the president. Both Lewinsky and Clinton have denied in sworn statements that such a relationship existed.

In addition to the grand jury in Washington that has been hearing from witnesses related to the Lewinsky matter for the past five months, Starr is employing a grand jury in Virginia, where the Pentagon is located, to investigate the release of information from Tripp's personnel file by a Pentagon official.

Kenneth H. Bacon, the Pentagon's assistant secretary for public affairs, has acknowledged that he told a reporter for the New Yorker, who was a friend and former colleague, that Tripp answered "no" to a question on her private personnel record asking if she had ever been arrested.

The reporter included the information in a New Yorker article that revealed Tripp had, in fact, been arrested as a teen-ager for theft and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of loitering. Tripp's lawyer has said his client had been the victim of a prank, and thus was told by the judge that the record of the arrest would be expunged. But some of Tripp's former friends have disputed that account.

Although Bacon has admitted he released Tripp's denial of an arrest to the magazine, Starr is investigating whether anyone at the White House authorized or encouraged the leak, an act that could amount to obstruction of justice.

Bacon, who supervised both Lewinsky and Tripp, has said he never discussed the matter with anyone at the White House or with Pentagon superiors. And he has apologized for releasing the material.

The matter is also being investigated internally by the Defense Department's inspector general.

Ickes has acknowledged that Tripp's name came up in a dinner conversation he had with Bacon before the Pentagon official released the information. He said he merely asked when she started work at the Pentagon after leaving the White House counsel's office.

Meanwhile yesterday, Lewinsky met with her new lawyers, Plato Cacheris and Jacob A. Stein, as a splashy six-page photo spread of her in the new issue of Vanity Fair began to hit the stands, reminding the public of her recently fired lawyer, William Ginsburg.

To the dismay of her family and new lawyers, Ginsburg approved the photo spread in which Lewinsky, 24, is shown reclining on grass in a Marilyn Monroe-like pose, standing on a beach with an antique U.S. flag and, made up like a showgirl, holding a cloak of fuchsia feathers in front of her bare shoulders.

Ginsburg had said he arranged the photo shoot to boost Lewinsky's self-esteem since the independent counsel had imprisoned "her libido." His remarks, and his arrangement with the magazine, were said to have been the last straw for the Lewinsky family, who dismissed him last week.

Starting from scratch, Cacheris and Stein met with Starr's team Tuesday to begin to negotiate a deal that would allow Lewinsky to tell her story, yet escape the danger of prosecution.

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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