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Tripp ready to testify about Lewinsky tapes

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Six months ago, a little-known Pentagon worker took tape recordings to prosecutors that gave instant notoriety to Monica Lewinsky, spurred endless speculation and triggered a crisis in the Clinton presidency.

This week, Linda Tripp finally goes before a grand jury to tell why she did it and what it all means. Aside from Lewinsky, the other voice on the tapes that the grand jury has already heard, Tripp is the most intriguing figure in Kenneth Starr's investigation.That probe is trying to determine what went on between the president and the former White House intern and whether there was a cover-up.

The two women were once co-workers in the Pentagon and friends exchanging confidences. Tripp, 48, played the role of older sister and confidante to the 24-year-old Lewinsky while secretly recording her.

On Tuesday, Tripp emerges from virtual seclusion - she has not been much seen or heard from - to join the parade of witnesses who have marched into the U.S. Courthouse on Constitution Avenue to testify before a grand jury.

That grand jury is investigating whether crimes were committed by the president, his supporters or Lewinsky. It already has heard the tapes that allude to an alleged presidential affair and cover-up.

Meanwhile, Newsweek magazine reported Sunday that another friend of Lewinsky told the grand jury last week that the former intern confided in her about a relationship with the president.

Dale Young, a Scarsdale, N.Y., businesswoman told Newsweek she testified that Lewinsky told her there was intimate touching between the intern and the president and sexually charged phone calls. "Nothing was ever taken to completion," she is quoted as saying.

The magazine said Lewinsky told Young that Clinton "established certain sexual ground rules at the outset" because "he didn't trust anybody" not to go public.

Now the grand jury will hear from the woman who secretly made the tapes that set the whole story rolling. The climactic moment will allow the grand jurors to quiz Tripp, both about the tapes and a set of "talking points" she says Lewinsky gave her. That document suggested testimony Tripp could give that would be helpful to Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

"Linda's looking forward to testifying truthfully," her spokesman Philip Coughter said Sunday. "She has no politial agenda to advance, nor does she bear any personal or political animus toward anyone involved in this case."