What do the Tailgate and Fostergate scandals have in common besides official lies, cover-up, and bogus charges of right-wing conspiracy?

Even the establishment press is beginning to notice some other eerie parallels – especially concerning the role played in two major scandals by Linda R. Tripp.

“During the summer of 1994, the White House instructed the Pentagon to hire Linda R. Tripp into its public affairs office without so much as a job interview, even though the office had no openings at the time,” the Washington Post reported Saturday. “The White House’s directive struck Pentagon officials as curious. They had not asked the White House for any promising job candidates in public affairs, and were unaccustomed to such edicts, according to a senior official in that office who agreed to speak only on background but had been authorized to discuss Tripp’s employment. Nevertheless, within weeks, the White House had succeeded in removing a woman who had become exasperated with her fading role there and outspoken about her dissatisfaction with top Clinton officials. And Tripp won a substantial raise. Her new salary was about $20,000 higher than her pay as a White House secretary.”

It was Tripp’s promotion-in-exile that led, several years later, to the friendship with another White House castoff, Monica Lewinsky. Tripp’s 20 hours of covert tape-recordings provided the most tangible evidence of a sexual relationship between President Clinton and Lewinsky.

The Post story continues: “It remains unclear what motivated Clinton aides to offer Tripp such a career-enhancing favor in 1994. After all, for months she was left in limbo, even though she had asked them repeatedly for a new job after her boss left and the new White House counsel brought in his own secretary. Did they become eager to remove her because she was considered, as one former White House co-worker suggests, a ‘dangerous commodity … kind of a loose cannon” with a bad attitude? Did the White House want to make her happy because they feared she might possess damaging information about events surrounding the suicide of Vincent Foster, the deputy White House counsel in whose office she had sometimes worked? Or did they feel obliged to help find a job for a woman whose services were no longer needed but who had put in many years with the government?”

There seems to be no question that, back in 1994, Linda Tripp got very special treatment, reminiscent of the kind of unusual and preferential treatment Monica Lewinsky received following her internship in the White House. Tripp was displaced in her clerical role when Bernard Nussbaum resigned as White House counsel and was replaced by Lloyd Cutler, who brought along his own along his own executive assistant.

An unnamed Pentagon official is quoted by the Post as saying: “What was unusual was the strength of the request (from the White House). … There were no options. There was no interview. It was kind of the extreme of possibilities.”

Tripp’s starting salary in her new Pentagon job, one for which she possessed no experience, “was high,” the official said, at $69,427. It represented a 45 percent increase from her secretary salary. And it got higher quickly. Her favorable evaluations led to a current salary of $88,000.

That same Pentagon official confided that Tripp came over to the Defense Department with an attitude, demanding a private office and chiding co-workers. Several colleagues recall her saying, according to the Post, that she had been exiled from the White House because she “knew too much about Whitewater.”

If she did know anything about Whitewater or Foster’s death, she certainly did not disclose it to investigators – which raises the question of whether the big promotion was a payoff for silence.

So what role did Tripp play in the Foster case? She insists that Foster left the office without his briefcase. Why is this assertion important? Because it contradicted an FBI statement by aide Thomas Castleton who said Foster was carrying one when he left the office that day. Reporter Christopher Ruddy points out that Castleton’s FBI statement was missing from the files handed over to the Senate Banking Committee for its investigation.

It was Tripp’s version of events that became the accepted official version. Why? Because the U.S. Park Police report did not indicate any briefcase in Foster’s car at Fort Marcy Park – even though several witnesses say they saw one in the Honda. What ever happened to Castleton? He, too, got a promotion, raise and transfer to the Justice Department.

Last year, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Park Police, asking for a report on promotions and raises received by those officers directly involved in the investigation of Foster’s death. Wouldn’t you know it? Almost every single one had gone on to bigger and better things. What a coincidence, huh?

One of the most serious allegations in the Tailgate scandal is that the White House “took care” of someone who offered the president sexual favors. Won’t it be ironic if the White House now gets “tripped up” in Tailgate, by someone it bought silence from in Fostergate?

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