One of the most infamous periods in modern U.S. history is being reexamined in a new book by one of the most prominent players.
Kenneth Starr, who served as independent counsel during the ’90s investigation into the Clinton Administration, reveals details about his team’s first encounter with former President Bill Clinton’s one-time mistress, Monica Lewinsky, in a new book, Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation.
In part of the memoir excerpted by NPR, Starr recounts a January 1998 operation that his team playfully dubbed “prom night.”
After his office received a tip that Lewinsky may have perjured herself during a civil suit against the then-president, Starr’s team set up a faux lunch date with Linda Tripp, a Pentagon employee who was friends with the former White House intern. Tripp famously secretly recorded her phone conversations with Lewinsky about the latter’s affair with the president when she was 22-year-old.
“Our team dubbed the operation ‘Prom Night.’ Fresh from the gym, wearing purple sweats, Monica arrived,” Starr writes of Lewinsky’s arrival at the arranged meeting spot, the Ritz-Carlton, according to NPR. Continues Starr in the excerpt, “After Monica and Linda had chatted for a short time in the lobby, by predesign Steve Irons and several other FBI agents swept in.”
Monica Lewinsky on How the #MeToo Movement Has Redefined the Clinton Scandal
Lewinsky was furious when she realized the lunch meeting was a trap, Starr writes in the excerpt. “When they arrived upstairs, Monica turned on Tripp in a fury,” he remembers in the NPR excerpt. “She realized she’d been set up.”
Tripp was interviewed for “several hours” by Steve Binhak in a separate room from Lewinsky, who was questioned by Mike Emmick, Starr says in the excerpt.
Lewinsky was “facing federal charges of perjury and subornation of perjury,” Starr writes — and she lost it.
“For an hour, Monica screamed, she cried, she pouted, and complained bitterly about her scheming, no-good, so-called friend,” he writes, according to NPR. “After a while, she calmed down and began asking questions. The meeting turned into a marathon.”
Lewinsky asked for her lawyer and, when Starr’s team reiterated that she wasn’t under arrest, requested that they wait until her mother, Marcia Lewis, arrived, according to the NPR excerpt.
Hours later, Lewis arrived. The mother and daughter talked in the hallway and didn’t keep their voices down, Starr writes.
“You are in peril here,” Steve Binhakshe overheard Lewis say to her daughter, according to Starr. “Give them what they need.”
“I will not be the one who brings down this f—ing president!” Lewinsky shouted, according to Starr’s memoir.
A rep for Lewinsky declined to comment to PEOPLE.
In a 2014 interview for The ’90s: The Last Great Decade?, Lewinsky, now 45, remembered the day the 445-page Starr Report detailing her affair with Clinton was released.
“That was one of the worst days of my life,” she said. “I was a virgin to humiliation of that level until that day.”
She adds, “To be called stupid, and a slut and a bimbo, and ditzy, and to be taken out of context, it was excruciating.”
Lewinsky continued, “To have my narrative ripped from me, and turned into The Starr Report, and things that were turned over or things they delved out of my computer that I thought were deleted. I mean, it was just violation after violation.”
Lewinsky didn’t actually meet Ken Starr until 20 years after the investigation.
She recalled how difficult it was to meet the man who “turned my 24-year-old life into a living hell in his effort to investigate and prosecute President Bill Clinton” and who, with his team of prosecutors “hounded and terrorized” not only her, but her family.
“Ken Starr asked me several times if I was ‘doing O.K.’ A stranger might have surmised from his tone that he had actually worried about me over the years,” she recalled. “His demeanor, almost pastoral, was somewhere between avuncular and creepy. He kept touching my arm and elbow, which made me uncomfortable.”
Lewinsky introduced Starr to her family, writing that she was “a bit thrown” by the surreal run-in, but determined to seize the chance to speak her truth.
“I finally gathered my wits about me—after an internal command of Get it together,“she explained. ” ‘Though I wish I had made different choices back then,’ I stammered, ‘I wish that you and your office had made different choices, too.’ In hindsight, I later realized, I was paving the way for him to apologize. But he didn’t. He merely said, with the same inscrutable smile, ‘I know. It was unfortunate.’ “