Within hours of gaining approval to expand his investigation to the Lewinsky matter, Starr and his deputies in the Office of Independent Counsel arranged to have Linda Tripp bait a trap for Monica Lewinsky. Tripp invited Lewinsky to lunch at the food court of the Pentagon City Mall in Washington, where she was seized by FBI agents working for the OIC and taken to room 1012 of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. There she met six deputy IOC prosecutors, ready to go to work on her with hardball tactics. She also was met by her supposed friend, Linda Tripp, who she immediately understood had set her up. "Make her stay and watch," Lewinsky told the prosecutors, "I want that treacherous bitch to see what she has done to me." The IOC had rented Tripp a room at the hotel, to better enable her to tell lawyers for Jones, who would depose President Clinton the next day, what happened during Lewinsky's interrogation.
At the time Starr's Office approached Lewinsky she had a lawyer who was working with her on preparing her (false) affidavit for the Jones case. Department of Justice regulations prohibit prosecutors from approaching a criminal suspect known to have a lawyer, but the IOC would later content Lewinsky was not a "represented party" within the meaning of the regulations because she hired her lawyer to help in a civil, not criminal, matter.
Deputy Prosecutor Michael Emmick told Lewinsky that the OIC was ready to charge her with a list of federal crimes that included perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. Emrick warned her that, if convicted, she could face up to 27 years in prison. The IOC even had a basis for charging his mother with a crime, Emrick maintained. All this could be avoided, he said, but only if Lewinsky agreed to cooperate with the OIC and were a body wire for monitoring of future conversations between her and Clinton, Betty Currie, and Vernon Jordan.
In fact, the OIC prosecutors greatly exaggerated the punishment that Lewinsky might face--two years would be a much better estimate than 27. Moreover, the most serious charge Lewinsky might face concerned the filing of a perjurious affidavit in the Jones case (denying her sexual relationship with the President), and at the time she was seized that affidavit had not yet been filed in the court in Little Rock. She still had time to call her lawyer who could have called FedEx to cancel delivery of the affidavit--if only the OIC had given her the chance to do so.
When Lewinsky, sobbing and shaking from the shattering events, asked to call her lawyer, Frank Carter, she was rebuffed. Carter, they said, was a civil lawyer (in fact, he had been a public defender for six years) and she needed a criminal attorney. Not only did they want to the leverage that a perjury charge would give them, but OIC prosecutors also were determined to prevent Clinton from learning that Lewinsky's story had been exposed. They wanted him to lie the next morning in his deposition. Despite Lewinsky's early request, no call was placed to the law office of Frank Carter until 5:23 p.m., after the office had closed for the three-day Martin Luther King weekend.
For eleven hours, OIC prosecutors continued to press Lewinsky to accept a body wire and tape conversations with the President, but she refused to give in to their demand. Her decision not to cooperate with the OIC that night, many commentators believe, saved the Clinton Presidency.
The "perjury trap" set for the President by the IOC has been criticized even by a respected federal judge, and Reagan appointee, Richard A. Posner. In his book, An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, Posner writes: "To conduct a sting operation against the President of the United States, in concert with the President's partisan enemies, is certainly questionable as a matter of sound enforcement policy. It is also a potent argument against the independent counsel law, without which such a scheme would be unthinkable."