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Condit ally Stenholm issues rebuke, says actions bring 'discredit'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Charles Stenholm, one of Rep. Gary Condit's fellow Blue Dog Democrats, rebuked the California congressman in a statement Tuesday evening, saying he has brought "controversy and discredit to his family, his district and the Congress" from his actions with regard to missing intern Chandra Levy.

But Stenholm, a Texas Democrat, did not call for Condit to resign and said he would not comment on whether the House should discipline Condit because he could eventually be a "de facto juror" in any ethics investigation.

However, the phrase "discredit to ... the Congress" is listed in the House Ethics Committee's manual as a violation of House rules. Such violations carry a variety of possible punishments, including expulsion from the House.

"While the House of Representatives has the right to discipline a colleague following an appropriate investigation and deliberation, ultimately it remains the prerogative of each congressional district to elect whomever they wish," Stenholm said in a statement. "The citizens of the 18th District of California will decide how they want to deal with their congressman."

While two Republicans -- Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Bob Barr -- have called on Condit to resign, other members of Congress, including Condit's fellow Democrats, have been reticent to comment publicly on the Condit-Levy situation.

Stenholm and Condit are part of a group of moderate and conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dog Coalition. They also sit together on the House Agriculture Committee.

Stenholm did not inform Condit in advance that he was releasing the statement and has not expressed these sentiments directly to Condit, a spokesperson for Stenholm told CNN.

Police say Condit, 53 and married, has admitted to them that he had a sexual relationship with Levy, 24, who was last seen April 30. However, the congressman has not publicly admitted to an affair with the one-time Bureau of Prisons intern from his home district.

Members of the Levy family and police investigators have complained that Condit has not been cooperative in the investigation into Levy's disappearance. His attorney, Abbe Lowell, insists Condit has cooperated, including allowing a police search of his apartment and taking a privately administered polygraph test.

In his statement, Stenholm said that Condit "and any other person who has information which potentially could aid police in their investigation of the missing woman should be 100 percent forthcoming and cooperative."

"We must not lose sight of what should be the highest priority right now, that being the resolution of this missing persons case."

Stenholm also said that he does not "approve of the actions Congressman Condit has admitted to having taken in his personal life." But he said "there are other instances which have not been widely reported."

"Virtue and its opposite do not follow party lines," he said. "For the most part, however, I find my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle to be conscientious, hard-working public servants."






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