Grand Jury Target in Linda Tripp Probe Keeps Administration Job

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - Linda Tripp lost her Pentagon job last month, but the Clinton Administration appointee questioned by a grand jury about whether he played a role in prompting a two-year criminal investigation of Tripp is still on the job.

Robert Weiner, the Clinton Administration appointee who serves as chief of press relations for the White House National Drug Policy Office, is keeping his job at the request of the Bush Administration.

Weiner said he submitted his resignation, as most 'Schedule C' political appointees do when a new administration takes over, but said, "The transition team requested that I continue to assist in the new drug czar's operations."

Weiner was ordered to appear before a federal grand jury in January 1998 to face questions about whether the White House urged him to contact Democratic officials in Maryland, who then pressed local prosecutors for a criminal investigation of Tripp.

It was alleged that Tripp made illegal tape recordings of telephone conversations with Monica Lewinski, the White House intern with whom Bill Clinton admitted having a sexual relationship.

Tapes of those recorded phone calls were handed over to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, and fueled the investigation and impeachment of Clinton, including questions as to whether Clinton asked Lewinski to lie under oath about their relationship.

Following Weiner's grand jury testimony, during which he denied efforts to prompt an inquiry of Tripp, Weiner dismissed the episode as "Big Brother at its worst," according to reports.

Weiner testified that he did make a number of phone calls to the Democratic Club of Columbia, Maryland, but said they were only congratulatory calls to the club. Weiner was not found to have committed any wrongdoing as a result of his grand jury appearance.

However, Maryland prosecutors launched an investigation of Tripp that lasted more than two years. Democrats in Columbia, Maryland sought a grand jury inquiry of Tripp in 1998, and dozens of members of the Maryland legislature called for an investigation days later.

Following an inquest laced with questions of Democratic partisanship, Tripp was eventually indicted in July 1999 on charges of illegal wiretapping, but the charges were ultimately dropped in May 2000.

Weiner called the Bush Administration's decision to let him remain at his job a "display of bipartisanship."

"This is not a partisan issue, this is a matter of saving children," said Weiner, who added that he was several months away from reaching the 20 year mark in government service, making him eligible for certain federal retirement benefits.

When asked about the prospect of reaching his 20-year mark, Weiner said, "I'll worry about that when I get there... there are government (retirement) packages as there are with any government position." The White House did not respond to inquiries about the decision to keep Weiner at his post.

Like Weiner and many other Schedule C appointees, Tripp was also expected to submit her resignation from her Pentagon job when Bush took office. However, she refused to resign her post and the fallout of that decision remains a matter in dispute.

Lawyers for Tripp claim she was fired by the Clinton Administration for failing to resign, but Pentagon officials maintain that her termination was the result of her appointment having expired.

Tripp then filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, DC January 25 alleging that there were improper news leaks about her job search and that those leaks allegedly derailed her efforts to find a new job and harmed her career.

An attorney representing Tripp said she was still unemployed as of February 16, and said the lawsuit had not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Attorney David Colapinto, one of the lawyers working on Tripp's case, said that Weiner's continued work with the Bush Administration "confirms what we said when Mrs. Tripp was let go. President Clinton did not have to fire her and she was not required to resign."
Tripp's lawyers sent a letter to Clinton January 18 asking that she be allowed to remain at her job. "Mrs. Tripp has been requested to resign her position with the (Department of Defense). After serious consideration of this request, we have recommended that Mrs. Tripp not resign from federal employment," read a portion of the letter.

Also stressed in the letter to Clinton was Tripp's role in the independent counsel's investigation of the former president.

According to the January 18 letter to Clinton, "Once Mrs. Tripp was identified as a critical witness in an (Office of Independent Counsel) investigation into criminal wrongdoing within The White House, she also became the primary target of a political smear campaign unprecedented in its intensity and viciousness."

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