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The Search for Chandra: Business as Usual on the Hill

Aired July 18, 2001 - 10:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in now with our Bob Franken, who's standing by as usual with the coverage of the Chandra Levy investigation.

Bob, moments ago, we were seeing Gary Condit in his committee meeting? BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so what our story is this hour is that Gary Condit is doing the business he was sent to Washington to do.

He has made a big point of saying through his spokespeople. You see him there talking to Congressman Collin Peterson, who's a good friend of his. And they're fellow members of the House Agriculture Committee.

They have made a big point, his staff has, of saying that he is not being distracted from his congressional business, that he's gone about it notwithstanding the horde of media crews that he encounters wherever he goes.

I will point out this morning that instead of coming out of the front door of his apartment, he went out a back door and avoided the cameras. A lot of people are not going to blame him for that.

Of course, our interest in him is because of the relationship that he now admits to police he had with Chandra Levy, who is the missing Washington intern, 24-year-old Chandra Levy, former intern -- did not, by the way, intern for Condit, but as I said, their relationship is what has fueled this intense interest in her disappearance, which is now more than 11 weeks old.

As you see Congressman Condit sitting there, I will point out that outside the Capitol, there is a slow, steady rain today. And that has made things a little bit hazardous out in the parkland areas, that the police are searching.

So for the moment at least, the officers are not out there on what would be their third day of scouring. The park, Rock Creek Park, which is not far from where Chandra Levy lived when she lived in her apartment here.

They were scouring that park, as well as others in the area. Quite frankly, they're looking for a body and hoping, of course, that they do not find one. You see video from yesterday. And you can see, really, you get a good idea from this particular tape how hazardous it can be. They're climbing up areas. You can see them climbing over this log.

And that's not exactly the easiest thing to do. These are police recruits. Many of them have probably not spend a huge amount of time in forests, but they're getting their fill of it now as they search very, very closely. They've had very little success. They've found very little, just a few little items, which apparently are not related to Chandra Levy at all. But at any rate, this particular area is an area that's very treacherous.

Right now, let's go to the Democratic leader, Dick Gephardt, talking to reporters about Gary Condit.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: ... nobody ever appointed to the House of Representatives. So I frankly, I think in my judgment on all kinds of members, is irrelevant. It's their voters that make that decision.

QUESTION: Republicans are considering bringing up TPA or what was known as fast track before the August recess. They haven't committed themselves to doing that. If they do, is that something that you personally will fight against or where do you stand there?

GEPHARDT: We are for giving the president trade promotion authority if it includes specific language that says...

FRANKEN: OK, of course there, you had Dick Gephardt, Richard Gephardt, who's the House Democratic leader being questioned as he always is when he has a gathering with reporters.

These days, he's asked about Gary Condit. And his answers are usually quite similar. That is, it's not really up to him or his fellow members to decide on whether Gary Condit is fit for office, since this is not a matter yet that has really ripe, is a term they've used up there, for the House Ethics Committee. That is a judgment, says Dick Gephardt, that it's up to the voters to decide.

And of course, as we've been hearing in the reporting from the Modesto area, some of the voters out there in what has so long been called "Condit country" are now beginning to have questions as this controversy has unfolded. And the layers of Gary Condit's life, real and imagined, have been stripped away.

But right now, you see that he is just as silent participant, listening as the farm bill is being debated. As we found yesterday, on occasion, he would ask questions, questions about subsidiaries for strawberries and the like. And in this particular case, the condition of this story is when Gary Condit asks about subsidiaries for strawberries, we all listen.

What we have not heard from him, of course, is any comment about the Chandra Levy matter and his relationship. HARRIS: All right, thanks much, Bob Franken in Washington continuing to cover that story for us -- we'll check back with you later on, Bob.

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