ACS: Impeachment – Did Ann Coulter Tamper with Linda Tripp’s Tapes?

Ann Coulter played a crucial role in the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

First, she betrayed Paula Jones by leaking attorney client-privileged information to scuttle the settlement that Jones’ desired in her case against President Clinton. This meant that Jones’ case could be used in the impeachment.

Second, Coulter had illegal access to Linda Tripp’s illegally-recorded tapes of conversations with Monica Lewinsky and there is the possibility that she tampered with one or more of those tapes to remove exculpatory material or make portions of those tapes more damaging then they really were.

A rather curious sequence of events enabled Coulter to gain access to those critical tapes illegally recorded by Linda Tripp before they were turned over to the OIC. Coulter recommended one of her closest friends, Jim Moody, to represent Tripp, who accepted that recommendation despite his inexperience in that field of law. Moody replaced Kirby Behre as Tripp’s attorney.

Moody soon took possession of Tripp’s tapes. Behre confirmed that while the tapes were in his possession, no unauthorized individuals had access to them and no copies of those tapes were made.[1] Within hours, Coulter had access to those very tapes from Moody, whom she herself had suggested represent Tripp.

Coulter would later engage in damage control, writing,

“Moody came in to the case, Toobin says, when New York lawyer George Conway ‘remembered an old friend in Washington’ – Jim Moody. George Conway barely knew Jim Moody; the two had met only briefly once or twice before in group settings. It certainly was not George Conway who thought of suggesting his name to Tripp.”[2]

Coulter is right. It was Coulter herself who thought of suggesting Moody as Tripp’s lawyer. And it was Coulter to whom Tripp’s tapes were brought.

Early Morning Rendezvous

One of Coulter’s “greatest moments” had national implications and international repercussions. In the early morning hours of January 16, 1998, Coulter illegally listened to illegally-recorded audiotapes of conversations between Linda Tripp and her friend, Monica Lewinsky, who was President Clinton’s lover. Those tapes would prove crucial to impeaching Clinton and would pave Coulter’s path to glory, a glory which would somehow never transcend Coulter’s deep insecurity and low self-esteem.

Coulter could not contain her joy over gaining possession – secretly and illegally – of such a critical piece of evidence. She exclaimed,

“I must say, I don’t mind reliving the greatest night of my life over and over again. I was dancing a jig. I was bouncing off the walls.”[3]

To this day, it remains unknown whether Coulter tampered with those tapes prior to them being turned over to the OIC.

Five people, all lawyers, listened to those explosive tapes during the early morning hours of January 16, 1998. Conway and Moody were physically present with Coulter in her apartment, while Marcus and Porter participated via telephone conference call. Significantly, with the exception of Moody, all of those present (either in person or via telephone) have refused to comment on those events for this book.

Given Moody’s paranoid cloak-and-dagger evasive tactics[4] after obtaining the tapes from Kirby, why would he wait till the afternoon of the 16th to turn them over to Starr’s office? He certainly wasn’t listening to them at his home on his antiquated tape recorder (the stated reason for playing them at Coulter’s apartment). Where were they and what was done with them?

The details are murky, but it is unquestioned that Coulter was in possession of those tapes – without the approval of Linda Tripp – before they were turned over to Ken Starr’s office.

The critical time frame – January 15-16, 1998 – has escaped serious scrutiny because the story is complicated, with overlapping sequences and a conflation of events. The three midnight meetings make for a good thriller, but confusion arises over which date each of those late night/early morning meetings actually occurred. Proper sequencing simplifies the complicated.

1/15/98      Moody acquires the Tripp tapes from Tripp’s previous lawyer (Behre).

1/16/98      At 2 a.m., the elves (Coulter, Moody, Conway, Marcus and Porter) listen to the tapes in Coulter’s apartment.

                  Moody gives one tape to the FBI in the morning and the remainder in the afternoon. (Where were those remaining tapes during the interval?)

                  Tripp tricks Lewinsky into a meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, where the FBI interrogates Lewinsky from 12:30 p.m. to 12:23 a.m.

                  That evening, Moody and Conway meet Jones’ attorney (Wesley Holmes) at Tripp’s home. Moody does not have the tapes which Holmes wanted to hear.

1/17/98      At a midnight meeting, the FBI gives a copy of the first tape back to Moody (with Conway hiding in the foyer). Around 12:30 a.m., that tape is played at Newsweek (Moody, Conway, Isikoff, McDaniel, Klaidman, Thomas) are present.

Disinformation from Moody

In late January, the Washington Post published this interesting piece of disinformation from the elves:

Moody is uncertain how Tripp learned about him, but he scoffs at the notion that he got the job because of ties to conservatives. His best guess is that while Tripp worked for the White House counsel’s office during the Bush administration, she was impressed with his success in badgering officials to drop decades-old regulations in the citrus industry.[6]

Everything Moody told the Washington Post was a lie. He knew who recommended him to Tripp (Coulter) and who was involved (all the anti-Clinton elves). His cover story was clearly concocted to preserve the identity of the (conservative) conspirators.

Citrus industry-deregulation as a prerequisite for pressing a sexual harassment case against the POTUS? Is it merely coincidence that Coulter would later publish a column in George magazine attacking Isikoff with these words:

“It’s not like we secretly disliked Clinton because of his administration’s position on California’s citrus cartels or something, and then set to work on some crazy scheme to destroy him using a pathological intern as our Mata Hari.”[7]

For the next six months, the elves operated in secrecy as Coulter wrote her book advocating the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton. During that time, she appeared on scores of TV shows to discuss the Clinton scandals and no one knew about her secret involvement with those scandals.

Coulter’s First Book

In High Crimes and Misdemeanors,[8] released in August, Coulter has surprisingly little to say about the Tripp tapes. The two most significant passages follow:

“Jones’s attorneys hadn’t deposed either Lewinsky or Tripp on the eve of Clinton’s deposition. That night, however, one of Jones’s lawyers [Wesley Holmes] informally interviewed Tripp to fill in the details of the anonymous phone calls.”

[REALITY CHECK: Holmes wanted to hear the tapes, which Moody no longer possessed.]

“Tripp had agreed to an informal meeting with Jones’s attorneys in hopes of avoiding a formal deposition. She had only recently discovered that her home state of Maryland was one of the few states that prohibit people from taping their own phone conversations without telling the other people on the line; she had not told Lewinsky …”

[REALITY CHECK: The elves, including Coulter, facilitated that meeting. Coulter left out their involvement, and their conflict of interest.]

Interestingly, Coulter later bragged about “getting a best-seller out of” her involvement with the elves.

Coulter Outed

Meanwhile, hidden from public view, was Coulter’s intimate knowledge of, and clandestine connection with, the now-infamous Tripp tapes. Ironically, it was the Starr Report which exposed her involvement:

“[Tripp] said she subsequently learned that Moody, before turning the tapes over to Starr’s office, had given them to Ann Coulter – a conservative lawyer and frequent talk show guest who has since written a book outlining the case for Clinton’s impeachment – for copying.”[9]

The Starr Report included Tripp’s testimony which revealed that Coulter once had access to the tapes which ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. For a few weeks, the question was “What did Coulter hear and when did she hear it?” In the Starr Report, Tripp testified:

Q:        And your information was that he (Jim Moody) and a woman named Ann Coulter had copied the tapes, and that Ann Coulter had a complete set of tapes?

A:        Well, I was told from a couple of different sources – asked, actually, was I aware that … he had Ann Coulter make high speed dubbings of each tape … but has since listened to all the tapes.

“Tripp later testified that they [Coulter and Moody] did so [make copies of the tapes] contrary to her instructions.”[10]

Only the five conspirators knew of the early morning rendezvous when they listened to Tripp’s tapes in Coulter’s apartment. How, then, did Tripp hear rumors of that event? After all, the elves were almost pathological in keeping their activities and identities secret. So, who told what, when, and why?

Perhaps Coulter could not contain herself over what she described as the “greatest night” of her life. She was, you will recall, the elf who gave the elves their name in her hint to Isikoff in 1997. The baby princess had to prove her worth despite the need for secrecy.

The media’s suspicions were initially aroused when, in a Crossfire debate, [11] Coulter refused to give a direct answer on this topic: “A real quick question on the tapes. Have you ever personally listened to the Linda Tripp tapes? … How’d you get them?” Caught off guard, Coulter gave a Clintonesque evasion. When she was first publicly questioned about her connection with the Tripp tapes, Coulter was speechless! Then she asked a delaying question: “Which tapes?” Then she gave a non-responsive Clintonesque admission: “Well, do you think it’s OK for a president to perjury himself under oath? So what do you think of a political pundit lying on TV?”

Why such obfuscation if there’s nothing to hide? Was Coulter concerned about the legal ramifications of her actions? Why not speak the truth? Even the Washington Post reported that event:

“On a recent edition of ‘Crossfire,’ Coulter was briefly speechless when asked if she had heard any of Tripp’s tapes before the story became public. She now admits she heard one of the tapes, saying that an unidentified friend needed her recording equipment to copy it.”[12]

Three days later, towards the end of her book tour for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Coulter gave a speech in which she tried to dismiss her own involvement with the tapes which led to the subject of her book:

“In this document dump on Friday I made my debut in Volume III in which I was accused in Linda Tripp’s testimony of making copies of all of her tapes. She had heard rumors that I made copies of all 17 tapes back in January, which I can assure you if it had been true they would have been – all over the world – air-dropped by January 22nd. And apparently that’s what Ken Starr’s prosecutors thought because I never heard from them. But, you know, suppose I were asked, “Did you make copies of these tapes?” Well, I suppose, you know, I could just say “No,” then later say, “Well, when you said tape I mean a track tape and listen, really what, what does it really mean to listen? Listening is one of the great mysteries of life.”[13]

Evasion, wrapped in humor and blanketed by rationalizations. If the President of the United States can debate the definition of the word “is,” surely Coulter can play the same semantic game. After all, she’s one of the “good guys.”

Denials and Smokescreens

On Rivera Live,[14] Coulter first denied hearing the Tripp tapes, then admitted to hearing one tape, and lied about her source for the tapes.

RIVERA:         “Did you ever listen to and/or make copies of those tapes?”

COULTER:      “No, I literally would have had them air-dropped across America and I’d probably be a millionaire by now. … they would have been on Entertainment Tonight, they would have been on your show and I’d be a multi-millionaire.”

Interestingly, just hours before I had interviewed Moody about whether Coulter had copied the tapes. His reply was almost identical – “If she had them, believe me, she would have been the first to release them wholesale. I mean, she’s doing a book on the Clinton scandals.”[15] – the very same argument used by Coulter on Rivera Live later that night.

Directly challenged by Rivera, Coulter conceded listening to one of the tapes: “I heard the same tape that was described by Newsweek.”

But Coulter adamantly denied getting the tape from Moody: “I got nothing out of him [Moody] and I must say being one of his friends that did annoy me.” Is it coincidental that Moody also spoke of Coulter’s annoyance at him over the tapes? Moody told me, “She’s kind of annoyed at me for not giving her the tapes so she could put them in her book.”[16]

Still, Coulter continued to blow smokescreens, claiming she got the tapes in her capacity as a journalist/investigative reporter (“people send me things”). In fact, she got the tapes because of her friendship with Moody.

In discussing the tapes, Rivera said, “You got a bestseller out of it.” Coulter boasted: “Yes, I did.”[17] Coulter herself noted the exquisite timing of High Crimes – “Yeah, it was good timing”[18] – and, tongue-in-cheek, admitted “I thought impeachment might be in the news this year.”[19] How and why did she think so? And did Coulter orchestrate to some degree the events which thrust her into the limelight and her book to the top of the best-seller list?

What is the truth behind the Tripp tapes and what exactly was Coulter’s role? To what extent has Coulter manipulated the media and the judicial system for her own personal gain? And to what degree has Coulter changed history for the benefit of her own career?

Coulter admitted she “had” (indicating active possession and not passive audience) “them” (i.e., more than one). Furthermore, Coulter and Moody BOTH admit that she asked him for the tapes. They BOTH said she didn’t get the tapes. They BOTH said she was “annoyed” at his refusal. They BOTH said that if she had gotten the tapes she would have published them and made a fortune. They BOTH lied. Repeatedly.

Link Between Tripp and Jones

Two days later a Washington Post profile of Coulter exposed her secret connection with both Jones and Tripp.

She referred Linda Tripp to her attorney friend Jim Moody (Coulter and Moody are both Deadheads who followed the Grateful Dead to dozens of far-flung concerts, she says). Coulter says she suggested to Moody that Tripp take her tapes of Monica Lewinsky to independent counsel Kenneth Starr; he had already thought of the idea.[20]

She advised Paula Jones’s lawyers in their suit against Clinton and helped Jones find new attorneys when the first pair quit.[21]

“I was a little concerned about the ‘right-wing cabal’ appearance of things,” Coulter says. Although Starr is examining whether Tripp lied about how the tapes were made, Coulter says she’s not worried about being questioned.[22]

Both Coulter and Moody say he was not the source of the tape she heard. “She’s kind of annoyed at me for not giving her the tapes so she could put them in her book,” Moody says. Still, he says, “I always enjoy her because she doesn’t pull her punches. We all want to appear dignified and thoughtful and contemplative, and Ann is just Ann.”[23]

From the beginning, the elves secretly and zealously conspired to topple the Clinton presidency. They also desperately sought to keep their involvement secret. When their involvement came to light, they stonewalled – refusing to cooperate with legitimate investigations into their actions.

Flip-Flop on Tapes

Once Tripp’s tapes had served their purpose – furthering the cause of impeachment – Coulter downplayed their importance. Months earlier Coulter was a one-woman ad campaign promoting their significance.

“23 hours of tapes. On C-Span, over and over and over again. … and there are 23 hours of tapes. … It’s not Clinton vs. Starr. It’s not even Clinton vs. Congress. It’s C-Span playing all of the evidence that Ken Starr has, including, at a minimum, 23 hours of tapes of Monica Lewinsky weeping and crying – on the phone.  … But moreover, the important point is – Look! The most important point of what you just said was that Monica denies it. Well, no, actually, she’s on tape admitting to it when she doesn’t know she’s being taped. She has said nothing since then … But she’s on tape. This is why tapes are such amazing evidence.”[24]

Pressure became so intense that Coulter became desperate not to talk about the Tripp tapes. Again, on Rivera Live, Coulter said:

“[Asked about her source for the tapes] I will stipulate to the fact that I’m a drug-dealing serial killer so that we can talk about something other than me [laughingly]. … [asked about testifying before OIC] Let’s assume I’m the devil incarnate [laughingly]. … I don’t want to talk about the tapes. I want to talk about Clinton.”[25]

Why the flip-flop?

The day after her Crossfire debate Newsday reported that some of those tapes had been tampered with. “Tripp also indicated that Moody may have an explanation for the mystery surrounding her tapes – which, according to FBI forensic tests, have in some cases been duplicated or tampered with.”[26] Apparently nine of 27 Tripp tapes “were copied from the originals” and “one tape may have been tampered with,”[27] sparking controversy over their credibility. One example of a corrupted critical passage is this one concerning Lewinsky’s fear for her life:

LEWINSKY:    “I know [tape skip] [inaudible] my mom will kill me if I don’t tell him – make it clear at some point that I’m not going to hurt him, because – see, my mom’s big fear is that he’s going to send somebody out to kill me.”

The previous portion of the tape shows Tripp encouraging Lewinsky to hang up on the president, not talk to him:

TRIPP:             “Well, let me put it to you this way. By hanging up and saying you’re telling your parents, and then hanging up the phone, you’re saying a whole hell of a lot more than you could ever do in a 20-minute conversation.”

Who tampered with the tapes? Was exculpatory evidence erased? Was damaging evidence fabricated? Who stood to profit?

Prior to this revelation, Coulter lied about hearing the Tripp tapes: “I was just thinking last night one thing we still have to hear are the tapes. The two most famous women in America, Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp and no one has ever heard their voices.”[28] Of course, Coulter had heard those voices.

Suspiciously, Coulter and Moody told almost the exact same story. Their cover story: absence of widespread dissemination and personal profit. Coincidental? Coulter lied about hearing the Tripp tapes, about having the Tripp tapes, and about her source for the Tripp tapes.[29]

Still, few people grasped the import of Coulter’s possession of those tapes.

For further details about the Machiavellian machinations of the secret cabal against Bill Clinton, see Case Study #2: (Linda) TRIPPed Up! in Vanity: Ann Coulter’s Quest for Glory at http://bit.ly/1M2z2O5.

Endnotes:


[1]       Author interview.

[2]       Ann Coulter, “Vast concoctions II,” 3/10/00.

[3]       David Daley, “Ann Coulter: lights all shining on her,” Hartford Courant, 6/25/99.

[4]       Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf, Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton, HarperCollins, 2000, pg. 34.

[5]       David Daley, “Ann Coulter: lights all shining on her,” Hartford Courant, 6/25/99.

[6]       David Segal, “Dream Case Is a Burden, Lawyer Finds: No Pay, Long Hours For Tripp’s Counsel,” Washington Post, 1/26/98, pg. A09. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/moody012698.htm.

[7]       Ann Coulter, “Spikey and Me,” George, May 1999.

[8]       Ann Coulter, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, Regnery, 1998, pg. 31.

[9]       John Riley, “Starr Aide’s Role As Tripp Advisor,” Newsday, 10/3/98.

[10]     Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000, pg. 351.

[11]     Ann Coulter, Crossfire, CNN, 10/2/98.

[12]     Howard Kurtz, “The Blonde Flinging Bombshells at Bill Clinton,” Washington Post, 10/16/98. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/coulter101698.htm.

[13]     Ann Coulter, speech at Monday Club, Washington, D.C., 10/5/98.

[14]     Rivera Live, CNBC, 10/14/98.

[15]     Author interview.

[16]     Howard Kurtz, “The Blonde Flinging Bombshells at Bill Clinton,” Washington Post, 10/16/98, pg. D4.

[17]     Rivera Live, 11/16/98.

[18]     Ann Coulter, Equal Time, 8/19/98.

[19]     Ann Coulter, Drudge Report, 8/8/98.

[20]     Howard Kurtz, “The Blonde Flinging Bombshells at Bill Clinton,” Washington Post, 10/16/98. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/coulter101698.htm.

[21]     Ibid.

[22]     Ibid.

[23]     Ibid.

[24]     Ann Coulter, Rivera Live, CNBC, 3/4/98.

[25]     Ann Coulter, Rivera Live, CNBC, 10/23/98.

[26]     John Riley, “Starr Aide’s Role As Tripp Advisor,” Newsday, 10/3/98.

[27]     Carl Limbacher, “Tripp Tape ‘Doctored’ where Monica Speaks of Death Fears,” Newsmax.com, 10/6/98.

[28]     Ann Coulter, Inside Politics, CNN, 5/6/98.

[29]     Howard Kurtz, “The Blonde Flinging Bombshells at Bill Clinton,” Washington Post, 10/16/98, pg. D4.

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