Linda Tripp Dies at 70: Lightning Rod Exposed Bill Clinton's Lewinsky Affair — Then Started Over Away from D.C.

Andrea Billups

Linda Tripp Rausch, the Pentagon employee whose secret recordings thrust her into the middle of the historic scandal involving President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, died this week, PEOPLE confirms.

She was 70.

An attorney who had previously worked with her, Joseph Murtha, said Wednesday that “sadly, Linda did pass away today.” He said he could not provide more information.

“My mommy is leaving this earth. I don’t know myself if I can survive this heartache,” daughter Allison Tripp Foley had written on Tuesday in a since-removed Facebook post, according to the New York Post.

Foley continued: “Please pray for a painless process for the strongest woman I will ever know in my entire lifetime.”

“She fought on as hard as she could,” son-in-law Thomas Foley told the Post on Wednesday, adding, “I know all the press will focus on the other stuff, but she was a special person and a fantastic grandparent who was devoted to her family. People forget this part.”

PEOPLE’s efforts to reach her family were not immediately successful.

Although the cause of Rausch’s illness was not known, her daughter told TMZ that it was unrelated to the novel coronavirus pandemic. She previously survived cancer. ( first reported news of her death on Wednesday; the Post first reported she was seriously ill.)

Rausch rose to prominence — and, for some, infamy — in 1998 when she revealed information about the president’s affair after having grown close with the 20-something Lewinsky, who was moved from the White House to the Pentagon but continued her burgeoning relationship with Clinton.

With Rausch, Lewinsky shared intimate details about her time with Clinton.

Facebook Linda Tripp Rausch

Rausch taped her calls with Lewinsky, without Lewinsky’s knowledge, and later shared what she knew of the relationship with independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who was investigating Clinton.

That evidence, which also included a semen-stained blue dress worn by Lewinsky, was used against Clinton — who was impeached by the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, acquitted him.

Rausch’s protracted stratagem — sometimes talking with Lewinsky for hours, in great detail — as well as her work in President George H. W. Bush’s administration and her association with a book agent opened her up to criticism that she was selfish and partisan rather than righteous, tossing aside someone she had pretended to befriend for her own motives.

But, Rausch insisted, she was uncovering something the country couldn’t abide. That book agent who encouraged her to record Lewinsky, Lucianne Goldberg, has said she did so in order to help Rausch protect herself from any claims that she was lying.

“I was fascinated,” Rausch told ABC News in 2001. “I couldn’t believe — could he [Clinton] be that reckless? Could he be that arrogantly reckless to philander with a child? I was reeling from the horror of it all.”

Lewinsky, now 46, tweeted on Wednesday about Rausch’s reported health problems.

“No matter the past, upon hearing that Linda Tripp is very seriously ill, I hope for her recovery,” Lewinsky wrote. “I can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”

RELATED: Monica Lewinsky Remembers the ‘Hero’ Who Went to Bat for Me

Rausch spoke out only sporadically in the years since Clinton’s scandal. She split from husband Bruce Tripp in 1991, married Dieter Rausch in 2004 and re-settled in the Middleburg, Virginia, area outside Washington, D.C. The Pentagon had dismissed her in 2001, on the last day of the Clinton administration.

“It’s paradise with complete autonomy and privacy, and that’s how I like it,” she told Page Six in 2017 of farm life in Northern Virginia with 16 horses.

Linda and her husband, who fell in love decades after first meeting in Germany, also ran a Christmas shop, according to a previous PEOPLE report. In addition to daughter Allison, she had a son, Ryan.

Starting in late 1999, she underwent expensive — and extensive — plastic surgery, bankrolled by an anonymous benefactor. Indeed, the verbal slings and arrows hurled at her because of her ’90s appearance (including John Goodman’s Saturday Night Live impersonation) seemed to take its toll.

“The notion of betrayal is ridiculous,” Linda told PEOPLE in 2003. “If I had looked perky, sweet and cute, I wouldn’t have been defined the way I was by the press

“People either think I’m a hero or a villain,” she said then. “I’m neither.”

Speaking with The Daily Mail in 2015, she castigated Hillary Clinton amid the latter’s presidential campaign. And she said she wasn’t sorry she spoke up about Lewinsky.

“I regret what I put my children through. I regret very much that they had to endure that level of vitriol,” she told the Mail. “But would I do it again? Yes.”

• With reporting by WENDY GROSSMAN KANTOR