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Should Gary Condit Take a Lie Detector Test?

Aired July 9, 2001 - 19:30   ET



ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT ATTORNEY: From the beginning, while he has not been forthcoming to you, not wanting to be on camera and answer the questions about his private life, he has been totally forthcoming with the police.


ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Tonight: Has Gary Condit been forthcoming enough? Or should he have to take a lie detector test?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak. In the CROSSFIRE, Julian Epstein, Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. And in New York, attorney Ann Coulter, legal reporter for "Human Events."

NOVAK: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The District of Columbia police say over and over that Congressman Gary Condit answered all their questions about Chandra Levy. That doesn't satisfy the missing intern's parents. They want the California Democrat to take a lie detector test.

Condit's lawyers brush off that request and instead plead that more attention be paid to the other 99 witnesses questioned by the D.C. police. But the difference is, those 99 witnesses did not have a sexual relationship with Ms. Levy, and sources say the congressman last Friday finally admitted to the police that he did.

Should it make any difference in this case that a 53-year-old married congressman is a philanderer? Should a lie detector be used to find out what else Condit has been withholding? And what did happen to Chandra Levy? Democratic strategist Paul Begala is sitting in for Bill Press on the left.

Julian, welcome.


NOVAK: Julian Epstein, we have a situation here where, now, according to the police, the congressman has admitted this relationship with the missing intern, been missing for two months. Surely now, even you will admit that this is a legitimate point of inquiry for the news media now that it's been admitted by the congressman.

EPSTEIN: Well, I think it's a legitimate point of inquiry by the news media, but I think the problem is, is that the salacious side, the prurient interest as to whether or not he actually had an intimate relationship with Chandra Levy has eclipsed almost everything else. In the face of the police saying that they do not believe that there is a link between the relationship and fact that she's missing, they believe that even though Mr. Condit, I don't think, has been candid with the public on this, I think he has answered all the questions that the police have put to him, and answered all the questions to their satisfaction.

If you listen to the police, what they will say that is that the media and others that want to continue focusing on the prurient side, as I say, the details of this relationship, are frankly barking up the wrong tree, and it's not advancing the cause of finding Chandra Levy.

PAUL BEGALA, GUEST HOST: Ann Coulter, let me bring you into this. The Levy family has challenged Congressman Condit to take a lie detector test. Now, I'm dubious about them, as a civil libertarian. But if he were to take one and if he were to pass it, would you find that credible and would the right wing back off him?

ANN COULTER, LEGAL REPORTER, "HUMAN EVENTS": I don't think it's is right wing.

BEGALA: Fair point, fair point. Would the media back off him? You're right, it's not the right wing. I take that back. Would the media back off him?

COULTER: It's like a nervous habit with you, Paul.

BEGALA: It's a reflex -- Pavlov.

COULTER: No, I have to say, I mean, of everything Condit has done, that is -- of about 100 things he's done, that is the only thing I think he's right on. He shouldn't take a lie detector test, only because they're voodoo. He should tell the public and he should have told the cops the truth about what's going on. Oddly enough, lying to the public and the police hasn't been a good way to deflect attention from himself.

EPSTEIN: Where's the evidence saying that he's lied to the police in any way? The police have made it clear that they believe he has answered every single question that was put before him. I grant you that he was...

COULTER: Yes, eventually, by the third interview. But he did not...


EPSTEIN: That's not what the police have said. The police have said repeatedly, Ann, that he has answered every single question that they put to him. I don't think he has an obligation to sell newspapers and get TV ratings, but I do think he has an obligation to answer the police, and I think the police have said he's done that. What more do you want him to do?

COULTER: I think you have to be careful in quoting the police. They're not the research assistants for the American media. I mean, when they say he's not a suspect -- for one thing, remember Richard Jewell. And for another thing, it's not even a murder investigation yet. It's still a missing persons investigation, so there are no suspects because there's no crime investigation yet.

So, you know, to be hanging on every word of the police, we do know that he -- according to Smith, the stewardess he had an affair with, he was two-timing with Chandra Levy, in fact, and unlike Congressman Condit she has proved to be credible. She hasn't told a lot of lies about this so far. He submitted an affidavit to her suborning her perjury. He also called her. and I think most devastatingly, said to her that he was going to have to disappear for a while, before he knew she was missing. Now, that's a pretty devastating fact.

NOVAK: Let me just say that we are waiting for Abbe Lowell, the Congressman's attorney, who is supposed to be, at this hour, giving a televised statement, a live statement here in Washington. And we'll switch to that as soon as he comes on.

Julian Epstein, Ann Coulter just mentioned that this Anne Marie Smith, the stewardess, says that she was told to -- to really lie by the Congressman's aides and said she was not having an affair with the congressman, when she was. He seems to be quite a boy, incidentally. I didn't really realize that before.

But she is -- the news is that she is on her way to Washington to be interviewed by the D.C. police. That's not good news for Gary Condit.

EPSTEIN: No, it's not good news, and let me say that if Mr. Condit asked Miss Smith to do anything or file an affidavit that wasn't truthful, I certainly won't come on this program and defend it . I think that would be wrong.

But there are a couple things that make the theory of subornation -- make that kind of dog not hunt, if you will. If you were going to suborn perjury, the last thing do you is you provide an affidavit to that person's attorney, because that person's attorney is going to do everything that they ought to do as a responsible attorney, and I think Mr. Robinson is a responsible attorney, to make sure that person, the subject, doesn't file anything that's false.

If you're going to try to suborn perjury, people generally do it beneath the radar screen in the middle of the night, not through someone's attorney.

NOVAK: They're just not very skillful. You know, Joe diGenova, who, unlike you and I, was U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, has a little different theory of the case, which he presented on television this weekend, Julian. Let's take a listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR D.C.: Congressman Condit withheld from the authorities vital information which would have been helpful to them. And in fact, his staff, I understand, overnight, claimed that this was a complete vindication of him -- that the news conference held by the chief last night. I must say that it gives spin a new meaning when a congressman admits that he has lied to investigators twice, and then finally tells the truth --that somehow that is a vindication of him.


NOVAK: And Joe diGenova thinks that Congressman Condit should be a suspect. What's wrong with that theory?

EPSTEIN: Well, I think it's the same thing that Ann just said. Ann said and Joe said that he had lied to the authorities. The authorities disagree. The authorities say that Mr. Condit has not lied to us. The authorities say that on three interviews now he has answered every question that we have put to him.

NOVAK: Why did they need three interviews, then?

EPSTEIN: Mr. Condit has given three interviews to the police.

NOVAK: Why did they need three if he was telling the truth in the first place?

EPSTEIN: Because -- that doesn't say anything. That doesn't say anything, Bob. Police constantly do second and third interviews. But they say -- the people that know the best, not Ann, not Mr. diGenova -- that Mr. Condit has been utterly frank with them.

BEGALA: I talked to Abbe Lowell this afternoon. He's the attorney, of course, for Congressman Condit. Let me show you what he said to me and then ask for your response. Here's what he said: "There is a difference between helping the police and helping the media. Congressman Condit is helping the police, and that's what's important. The Congressman understands that after that, his priorities are to protect his family and to serve his constituents, and there's plenty of time to do both of those things."

What's wrong? I think it's a bad political strategy, but what's wrong, as a lawyer, with cooperating with the police and then politics be damned?

COULTER: Because at this point, we're looking at what increasingly looks like a murder investigation. To be covering up an affair at that point, I think is wrong, morally, legally. It's wrong to your constituents, it's bad political strategy. I think it's time for him to call a press conference and announce to everyone everything that went on, It's really way beyond hiding a little affair here.

And if I could just get back to the police, as I say, I mean, you really can't read into everything the police say as if you are interpreting the Talmud here. They are not research assistants for the media, and according to reports, Condit either did not answer or lied about his affair in the first two interviews. He then told the truth in the third interview. The cops said he answered all their questions after the third interview and that he's not a suspect. But of course, no one is a suspect because there's not a murder investigation.

BEGALA: No, in fact, Ann, if I could differ with you, the cops of course are not the research arm of any news network. They're the investigators. They're the people who are supposed to know more than anybody else and, frankly, they're the only ones here that don't seem to be hyperventilating.

Let me show you a piece of videotape from the No. 2 man, Mr. Terrance Gainer. He's deputy chief of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan police, who stated one more time -- well, let me let you watch what he said and then get your response.


TERRANCE GAINER, ASSISTANT CHIEF, D.C. POLICE: We said weeks ago he wasn't a suspect. He wasn't a suspect midday yesterday. He wasn't a suspect during the interview, and he's not a suspect now.


BEGALA: I'll grant you Congressman Condit was lying, but you don't think Chief Gainer is lying, do you?

COULTER: No. I really think you're putting a lot too much stock in this. Are you suggesting that the cops, while they're investigating the case, should come out and, as they did with Richard Jewell, evidently -- and start accusing someone? I mean, he will be a -- quote -- "suspect" about the time he's being arrested, if he is arrested.

But I really think, I mean, you are blowing off a lot of the very important evidence here. I mean, just to start off, the longer the body remains missing, I think the more remote the possibility is that this is anything other than foul play and foul play by someone who was close to her. Suicides don't hide the body. Common criminals don't hide the body. She did not appear to be a runaway.


COULTER: Once you narrow it down to someone who had a close personal relationship with her, well that leaves Gary Condit. And then you look at Gary Condit, who keeps lying and lying and lying, including telling the other mistress, I'm going to have to disappear before Chandra Levy's parents had even called to tell him she was missing. Now how did he know that? Why did he have to disappear for a while?

I was with you on the old logic train there until you just took a big leap into thin air, and here's the problem. I think the fact that the young woman has not turned up does argue quite strongly against a suicide, but it doesn't mean that Congressman Condit did or anybody close to her did. I mean, you're just not being fair. We still do, even under the Bush administration, have a Constitution that says you are innocent until proven guilty, don't we?

COULTER: Yes, he is. That is why the police keep saying he is not a suspect. That doesn't mean that commentators and the media can't say, wow, it is probably somebody who was close to her. Who was close to her? That is Gary Condit.

And I'm sorry, it's just, you know, a fact of criminal statistics that common criminals don't hide the body. And the odds are, it was someone who was close to her. I mean, unless you are going to produce someone else she was having an affair with, it is not looking good for Gary Condit.

NOVAK: Julian Epstein, I want to get in on this, I feel surrounded by all these lawyers, and talking about the lawyers, but, there is no question, is there, without parsing Chief Gainer's words, he was being very careful in that press conference Saturday night, but there is no question, everybody says so, that the congressman gave a different version of his relationship with the woman with Chandra Levy in the first two interviews than he gave in the third interview.


NOVAK: There is no question about that.

EPSTEIN: No, there is a big question about that, I stop you on the supposition of your question. The police have made it clear, after every single interview that they have had with him they feel...

NOVAK: They haven't denied that.

EPSTEIN: Bob, they have, and if they felt that there were discrepancies I think that would have come out. What I think, and according to the reports of people that have been watching this closely, is that the police did not go into the intimate details of his relationship. He said he had a close personal relationship, you read into that what you will.

But the notion -- everyone is coming out of the woodworks now, playing Sherlock Holmes. Let's have him take a lie detector test. We know what went on in the police interviews. We don't know. But the police repeatedly said they have answered his questions, he is not an intern, and this has become a festival.


NOVAK: But, I think -- I think everybody would tell you, there is a different story in the third interview than the first two.


EPSTEIN: No! That's not -- no -- not everyone would tell you that. The police would tell you that they asked a few more probing questions in the third interview, but not that he changed his answers.

NOVAK: We'll have to take a break and when we come back, we will explore Gary Condit's status on Capitol Hill and in good old Modesto. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Leon Harris here in Atlanta.

Let's go live to Washington, where Abbe Lowell, the lawyer representing Gary Condit is speaking now to the press.


ABBE LOWELL, CONDIT ATTORNEY: ...on the number of questions I could take.

On Saturday, Executive Chief of Police Terrance Gainer reiterated as much as a police officer could possibly, that Congressman Condit has never been and is not now a suspect in the disappearance of Chandra Levy. He and other police officials have also confirmed that the congressman and Mrs. Condit been fully cooperative and have answered all of the questions asked of them. The congressman has said throughout the ordeal that he would cooperate with the police in any way that he could.

Yet, no matter what has occurred, the media continues to spend almost all of its time focusing on Congressman Condit. With that in mind, I have followed up today with the authorities with two goals.

First, to see what else we could do that might be of any additional help in trying to find Miss Levy. And second, to allow the police to get back to the other 99 people that they have identified, and the leads that these people might be able to provide.

If it will be helpful to either of those two goals, the congressman will provide whatever additional information or material he can to the police. This includes access to his apartment, telephone or cell phone records, a request that his entire staff make themselves available, and whatever else I can arrange with the police.

Let me say again, I hope any or all of this will be useful in finding Chandra Levy. But let me also say that the police have spoken with nearly 100 other people who must also have information. We hope that these others are just as forthcoming, and that one of them can provide a lead to Miss Levy.

QUESTION: Does that include a lie detector test?

LOWELL: I have just said that I will work with the police and I will do with the police what they find useful. And the congressman will be as cooperative as he can possibly be. With respect to lie detectors, I know there is a great public appeal to lie detectors, but I know from my own practice that they leave a lot to be desired.

If the police call me and tell me that at some point they think that, no matter how suspect it might be, can be helpful, I will discuss it with them, but I will discuss it with them, and not with you.

QUESTION: The records you say you are willing to turn over, you cited a few examples. Would those records if, you know, following the guidelines you just introduced, if the police requested them for reasons they outlined to you in private, if they include a DNA sample, would you be open to that?

LOWELL: If the police say to me that they believe having a DNA sample for somebody who is not a suspect, maybe because they want to eliminate all the other men in the United States, well then that is something I will receive from them and Congressman Condit will cooperate.


LOWELL: This is not the result of a subpoena. This is a result of what I said it was a result for. You know, on Friday, Congressman Condit asked me to call the police to arrange that third interview before we knew that the police had made any statement asking for that third interview, and I think, Chief Gainer made that clear Saturday when he said it was simultaneous, so this is in that same spirit.

And it is a two-pronged goal, as I have said. Look. The congressman wants to see if anything he has, anything he knows, anything he could surmise, could help lead to finding this missing person. But the congressman would also like to let you know that you have spent a little bit too much time focusing only on him. If the chief is correct, that there are 99 other people out there that they have spoken to, and it is time to let them get on with the business of finding this woman.


LOWELL: I'm sorry?


LOWELL: You heard my statements today and my statements today were that the police have said that he has answered all questions to their satisfaction, they have said that he has been cooperative, they have said that they are comfortable with his answers, there is no question to test. There is nothing that a lie detector could test. He has not been inconsistent to the police and he has answered their questions.

So let me reiterate, that if the police get back to me say, you know what, even though we think as you think, lie detectors don't really work very well, if they find that useful at some point, I will listen to them, and we will respond accordingly. But let me say today that the congressman is going to make available what the police ask for that they think is helpful. And if it is a search of his apartment, if it is something as somebody said, a sample, if it is anything else, let it come.

But also, let the police get back to their job, go take your cameras and your pads and your pencils and try to see if there is somebody else out there who might have some information that could actually find this woman, as opposed to prying into the private lives of the Condits once and for all. QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

LOWELL: I have today written a letter -- and I'm sure this won't be of as interest to you as some of the other things I had to say today. But today, I have written a letter to the heads of the news organizations around the country, have asked them to stop staking out the Condit family home, his apartment, the homes of his children, and let them start living their lives again. If the congressman wants to make a statement to you directly, I can assure you we know where to find you.

QUESTION: Why wouldn't the congressman allow access to his apartment, access to telephone records, access to his apartment? Why are you announcing that? Why...

LOWELL: Why wouldn't he allow it?

QUESTION: No, why...


... nine weeks ago.

LOWELL: It has never -- it has never come up before, and more importantly, I'll tell you something better than that. Not only has he allowed access to his apartment, some of you might know -- maybe some of you don't know -- that on the very first time he spoke to the police he, the congressman, invited the police -- where? To his apartment. It happened in May. They sat right there.

This has not been anything but the congressman's attempt to be open. When you asked me, "Why hasn't he allowed it?" the better question is what have people asked him do and whether he has responded. And let me assure you he has.

Two more questions.


QUESTION: Are you saying the police haven't asked -- are you saying the police haven't asked -- sir, are you saying the police haven't...

LOWELL: I am saying the police have never asked for a search of his apartment or for the records, and I am telling you that if they find that useful, we will provide them that information.

QUESTION: Mr. Lowell...

LOWELL: One more question. In the back. Somebody in the back.

QUESTION: Have you ever let your client...

LOWELL: Anybody in the back.

QUESTION: Have you ever let your client -- have any of your clients ever taken a polygraph before?

LOWELL: Have I ever let any of my -- what I have done with my other clients is not only not relevant, it would be a breach of my ethical duty to tell you that.

All right, one other question please, and make...

QUESTION: Will Gary Condit be making a statement any time soon?

LOWELL: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Will Gary Condit be making a statement any time soon?

LOWELL: I doubt that the congressman is going to make a statement to you in this milieu. I think that at an appropriate time the congressman will make a statement. But it's not going to happen on your schedule. It will happen on his. Thank you very much.

HARRIS: And we were listening to Abbe Loyal (sic) -- Lowell, rather, the lawyer who is representing Congressman Gary Condit in this case of the missing intern, Chandra Levy. And Mr. Lowell there being quite -- taking the press to task here quite a bit for the amount of scrutiny that the press has focused on Congressman Condit.

He is saying that the congressman -- his priority is to cooperate with the police and not with the press. He says he has cooperated with police by providing them full access to his apartment, access to his staff, his phone records, whatever else the police have asked for.

And in the matter of whether or not the congressman will discuss or even talk about the idea of taking a lie detector test, he says that that's something they will talk about. He was not 100 percent on whether or not that is something that would actually happen. He did say that also if a DNA sample was requested, that also is something that Congressman Condit would talk about with police (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cooperation of doing so.

We'll have much more discussion of this throughout the evening right here on CNN, much more coming up at the top of the hour with Wolf Blitzer. But for right now, let's go back to the guys at CROSSFIRE.

BEGALA: Leon, thank you very much. We are debating, of course, the Levy case with Julian Epstein, who is the Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, and with Ann Coulter, who is the legal correspondent for "Human Events" magazine.

Ms. Coulter, you heard the statement: He's offering the police access to his home, to his phone records, to his staff, potentially to his DNA. What more can the guy do?

COULTER: Well, first of all, when I see Abbe Lowell and Julian Epstein defending a Democrat, I just want to say I won't be completely convinced that he's guilty until Alan Dershowitz starts defending him.

(LAUGHTER) But all of this...


EPSTEIN: ... everybody except Lucianne Goldberg, right?


COULTER: But this much-vaunted cooperation Abbe Lowell is talking about, it is just like all of Condit's remarks on this. I mean, he's given absolutely nothing.

Look, he's going to provide the cell phone records? You don't think the cops already have that?

EPSTEIN: Ann -- Ann, do us a favor. What -- Ann, what more do you want him to do?

NOVAK: Let me get a question into you.

COULTER: But could I just say about the affidavit, because...

NOVAK: No, we're running out of time, Ann.

Julian, tell me what in the world they were talking about when they told the press to let the police go after the other 99 witnesses. They are mostly people who were in the health club the same day she was in the health club. They weren't having affairs with the -- with the intern. Isn't that a silly proposal by your friend Abbe Lowell?

EPSTEIN: No, I don't think it is. I think what the police have said is that they don't believe that there is a link between Mr. Condit and the fact that she's missing.

NOVAK: That isn't what I said.

EPSTEIN: So I think what Abbe is saying is that we will do everything we can, we will move mountains...

NOVAK: That isn't what I asked.

EPSTEIN: ... to provide the information.

NOVAK: What is this business about going after the 99 other witnesses?

EPSTEIN: The point -- I'm trying to answer your question. The point of the matter is we will do everything we can, as Abbe is saying on behalf of Condit, to give you the information, but you're barking up the wrong tree here. The police seem to think that you're barking up the wrong tree. Let's -- let's...

NOVAK: You didn't answer the question.

EPSTEIN: ... pose some other -- let's look at some other evidence. NOVAK: We have to go. Julian Epstein, thank you very much. Ann Coulter in New York, thank you very much. And Counselor Begala and I will be back with closing comments.


NOVAK: Paul, judging from that less-than-spectacular performance by Abbe Lowell, I think that Congressman Condit is running scared, and I continue to think he's running scared until he appears on television. And I don't think that's going to happen soon.

BEGALA: Well, I think he ought to appear on television, but I think I figured out why the right wing is so hyperventilating about this. Condit is after all a right-winger: He's for the school prayer amendment...

NOVAK: He's moderate.

BEGALA: ... he was for the Bush tax cut. It's because that this media frenzy is covering up what a terrible job George Bush is doing.


BEGALA: The only guy who's happy about this story if George W. Bush, because we're not talking about his poll numbers have collapsed, he's losing on patients' rights, Karl Rove's ethics, and Dick Cheney's heart.

NOVAK: Let me admit something: This whole thing was cooked up by the great right-wing conspiracy.

BEGALA: That's a distinct possibility.

NOVAK: Yeah, I bet you believe it.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: On the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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