Condit returns to growing criticism from colleagues
WASHINGTON (AP) – Rep. Gary Condit faced new criticism from colleagues Wednesday as he returned to Congress for the first time since talking publicly about his relationship with missing intern Chandra Levy.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, joined the growing chorus of lawmakers who have questioned whether Condit, D-Calif., should remain on the House Intelligence Committee.
Armey said the decision should rest with House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. ”Prudence might suggest to Mr. Gephardt that he think about asking Gary about stepping down,” Armey told reporters.
Gephardt said he would talk to House Democrats before deciding whether to take any action against Condit, including perhaps stripping him of his seat on the panel. Condit also could face an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which has so far deferred a decision because of the ongoing police investigation of Levy’s disappearance.
”This is not something where I go off and make decisions,” Gephardt said. ”I have to talk with my colleagues, talk with the caucus. We have an ethics process in this House that has to be respected. We’re going to do these things in the right way.”
Gephardt aides said it is unclear whether Condit could be removed from a committee against his will. Gephardt said he had no plans to talk to Condit.
Condit skipped a meeting of the Blue Dog conservative Democrats, but was among the first members to appear on the House floor for the first of two votes Wednesday evening. California Democrats Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr and Nancy Pelosi hugged their colleague, among the more than dozen lawmakers who greeted Condit.
Some lawmakers have suggested that Condit’s ability to handle the sensitive matters that come before the Intelligence panel may have been compromised by months of intense media coverage of Levy’s disappearance and Condit’s relationship with the 24-year-old from Modesto, Calif.
Several Republicans have called for Condit’s resignation, something his aides and two adult children said he would not consider. Less clear, however, is whether Condit will seek re-election next year amid signs that he could face a strong primary challenge.
Condit has refrained from any public comments since giving a series of broadcast and print interviews in late August in which he sidestepped questions about whether his relationship with Levy was sexual and denied any role in her May 1 disappearance.
Investigators say they have no clues about Levy’s whereabouts and do not consider Condit a suspect. A police source says Condit, who is married, acknowledged an affair with Levy when police questioned him a third time.
While Condit endured criticism from some colleagues for remaining publicly silent for more than three months after Levy disappeared, the criticism only intensified following the interviews.
Gephardt said Condit was evasive in his interview with ABC News and California Gov. Gray Davis, a longtime Condit friend and ally, said the congressman should have been more forthcoming.
Condit’s aides would not comment Wednesday, but daughter Cadee Condit defended her father in an interview on CNN’s ”Larry King Live.”
Her appearance on King’s program followed similar efforts by Condit’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell; her brother, Chad; and five Condit staff members.
She described her father as a ”totally different guy” and ”heartbroken” since Levy’s disappearance and the scrutiny of his relationship with her.
”You know, I don’t know if we’ll ever get the twinkle back,” Cadee Condit said.
Condit’s father also publicly defended his son Wednesday, telling the congressman’s hometown newspaper that he believes ”Satan had a big time role” in Levy’s disappearance.
The Rev. Adrian Condit and Jean Condit told the Ceres, Calif., Courier that their son cooperated with authorities and they don’t believe he had a link to her disappearance. Adrian Condit said he believes Levy is dead, while Jean Condit said she thinks the missing intern staged her disappearance.
Condit’s parents also said they have been bombarded with interview requests and even were sent a bouquet of red roses by one television reporter whose interview request they later declined.
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