FTN- 07/08/01

face the nation logo, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, police sources say Congressman Gary Condit now admits an affair with a missing intern. We'll hear from Condit's lawyer Abbe Lowell.

It is the story that won't go away. Chandra Levy has been missing now for two months. A relative says she was having a torrid affair with a married Condit. Now police say he admits it, but that he is not a suspect. So where does the case stand now? We'll talk to his lawyer Abbe Lowell.

Then we'll turn to two issues that will dominate Congress when it returns this week.

We'll hear from Senator John McCain on the chances for campaign finance reform, and finally Republican Senators Arlen Specter and Sam Brownback debate the issues of stem cell research.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on reality TV. But first, Abbe Lowell on Face the Nation.

And joining us in the studio, Abbe Lowell.

Mr. Lowell, thank you for coming by this morning. I want to get right to it. Police say that Congressman Condit - and everybody by this time knows who Congressman Condit is - has now admitted what her family has been claiming for the last couple of weeks, that this missing intern Chandra Levy was in the midst of an affair with this married congressman. Can you confirm that?

ABBE LOWELL, Attorney for Rep. Gary Condit: What I can tell you is, I'm amazed at what you're taking as the first question to me is whether or not unnamed sources of the police are talking about whether the congressman and Ms. Levy were involved when I heard Chief Gainer get on and say Congressman Condit is not a suspect, has never been a suspect, isn't one today. He's been cooperative; he's been providing all the information to our satisfaction. He's been helpful. That's the story. You guys just don't get it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let's go back to the question I posed. Can you confirm, did he in fact have an affair with this intern? Because I'll tell you why I think it's important. I think when a 24-year-old woman is in the midst of an affair with a married man who's over 50 years old and she turns up missing, it seems to me that's where you'd start any investigation.

LOWELL: Well, two things. First, I'm not going to tell you and I'm not going to tell any member of the media what Mr. Condit said to the police, what Mrs. Condit said to the police, what we've been helping them provide. We're going to let them do their job. We're not going to take the risk that anything that we do could get in their way.

Mr. Condit, while he has been a public servant for 30 years, has also been a very private person for 30 years. And what he has done and said throughout is that he'll cooperate with the police and he's going to help find Chandra Levy if he can possibly do that. What he has also said, he's going to hold on to his privacy and that of his family, and he's desperately trying to do that.

But I think wht's important, as you say, it's important to know the nature of the relationship. It's not important that you know the nature of the relationship. It's important that the police do, and the police have what they need to see if it helps them find Chandra Levy.

SCHIEFFER: Well, if I understand what you're saying - because police sources told me several weeks ago when they talked to Congressman Condit about this, he said that they were good friends. He didn't admit to anything like having this kind of a relationship. In fact, according to police sources, when he told them that she had spent the night at his apartment, the police say he told them it was because she was having a bad time and he was trying to help her over that. Do you think he was misleading the police?

LOWELL: No. I think that you've got either what the sources said wrong, or the sources have what the congressman said wrong.

We have now seen the police chief get up three times and have to correct you in the media from all kinds of crazy stories. Whether or not they had a fight and they broke it off and that's what caused her to be running off somewhere, to whether or not - yesterday there was an article about there being a grand jury seeking his telephone records. It's all wrong, Bob. It's all wrong.

So when you ask me, did he mislead the police, I think the question is, is somebody in the police misleading you in the media?

SCHIEFFER: You're not worried that he might find himself in some sort of position of obstructing justice? You're convinced as his attorney that he's told the police the truth all along?

LOWELL: What I'm convinced is, is that I saw the executive chief of police of the District of Columbia Police Department get up and have a 20-or 30-minute conference yesterday and say over and over again that he's been cooperative, he's provided information, we haven't had to ask him by any kind of subpoena for anything, that he is not a suspect. That speaks louder than anything I can say as his attorney.

SCHIEFFER: The police say to me that they would like to go through his apartment, to search is apartment. Have they done that?

LOWELL: I think that's interesting - the police have told you that? That's interesting. The police have not told us that.

And Congressman Condit and Mrs. Condit has said over and over again if there's a question they can answer, if there's a piece of information they can provide, if there's something that they could do in their mind or in their lives that will find this woman they not only have said that they would do it - the proof is in the pudding - they have done it. They've done it by three interviews with him. A multi-hour interview with Mrs. Condit.

I think people in this country get the difference. They know the Condits are cooperating with the police. They just know that they're not going to be part of this media typhoon.

SCHIEFFER: So f the police have not asked to search the apartment and now do ask to search the apartment, you're saying here on national television that Mr. Condit will be delighted to have them come and do that?

LOWELL: I will tell that, if the police say to us it would help them in any way to go find Chandra Levy by getting into the Condit apartment, to - you know, they don't have a car here, so it can't be a car - to get a phone record, to, you know, ask him another question, to ask Mrs. Condit another question, that's what he's been doing for the last, I don't know, however many weeks. That's what he'll do for the next few weeks.

You know, Chief Gainer has said that there's about 100 people that they've interviewed. And I'd like to say that I hope that the other 99 people are being as cooperative and as helpful to the police as is Congressman Condit.

SCHIEFFER: Do you know of any of these other 99 who might have had or are suspected of having had a relationship with this young woman?

LOWELL: I don't. The police are not sharing with us what they're doing. We're not sharing with you what we're telling the police, and that's the way it should be.

This is a different story, Bob. This is still going on. Chandra Levy's still missing. The event is not over. And I think the police are doing an extraordinarily good job in the midst of this typhoon of media to do their jobs well. And we're making it all the more difficult.

SCHIEFFER: Has Congressman Condit given the police a sense of what this young woman's state of mind was the last time he talked to her, because certainly that would seem to figure into any investigation?

LOWELL: Congressman Condit has answered every single question the police has asked him, and the chief has said to their satisfaction. That would include everything he possibly knows that might help them. And as to whether it was about her mood or anything else, that is something that is between the police and the congressman, and it's part of their private investigation.

SCHIEFFER: Has the congressman any reason to believe - has he been told - have the police asked him if this young woman was pregnant?

LOWELL: The congressman, again, has answered all their questions. I'm not going to tell you what each of those questions were. I will tell you that the police have a sense of what they need. They've asked him those questions, they've asked a ton of questions.

But I'm not going to tell what you they were, and the police chief isn't going to tell you what they are. And some sources are going to tell you what they are, and those sources are going to get it wrong, like they got it wrong yesterday morning about the grand jury, like they got it wrong about two weeks ago in terms of something the congressman said at the second interview.

I'm sorry that that's the case. I'm sorry that there are police people that think they're aggrandizing themselve by talking to the media and getting it wrong, but that's a problem I can't control.

SCHIEFFER: Do you know if she's pregnant?

LOWELL: Do I know if she's pregnant? I have no idea the nature of Chandra Levy's condition. I certainly know the questions the police asked the congressman, I know his answers. And we're not getting into that.

SCHIEFFER: Do you have any idea where police ought to look now? What would you advise the police to do at this point?

LOWELL: I have no idea what the police should do. I think they're doing a very good job. I heard Chief Gainer yesterday - I heard the four theories, you know, about harming herself, and about, you know, something befalling her, or being unconscious, or not with her wits, and, you know, I don't know which one's the right one.

I do know that they are pursuing all vigorously. I know that this is bigger than Congressman Condit. I know that there's a lot of people that had contact with her. I realize why Congressman Condit is in the spotlight, but I'm telling you this again, that if everybody who has any piece of information has been as helpful as Congressman Condit, we'd be a longer way in figuring out what happened to Chandra Levy.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Lowell, I thank you for coming by this morning.

LOWELL: My pleasure.

SCHIEFFER: Appreciate it.

All right. We're going to change gears. We're going to shift the subject completely. We're going to turn now to what's coming up in Washington next week.

And one of the first things that is going to come up is in the House of Representatives, and that will be campaign finance reform. And we're going to talk about it now with the man who's led this fight for so long, Senator John McCain, who joins us from Phoenix, Arizona.

Senator McCain, this is coming up. Speaker Hastert says he's going to bring it up. How do you think it's going to come out?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-AZ: Well, I'm optimistic, Bob, that we can get a bill that, one, would not have to go to conference, and, two, that the president can sign. I know that the opposition to it has strongly increased, as the possibility or probability of passage draws near, but I'm guardedly optimistic, and I think we can get it done.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's bring in Gloria Borger, who joins us now.


GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Senator McCain, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay has said that he wants to stop this campaign finance reform bill at all costs. Can he do it?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I don't underestimate the power and influence that he and the speaker have, but I believe that this issue is one that is so well-known to the American public and there's so much momentum behind it because of our success in the Senate that I think we can prevail.

BORGER: Well, the word is out that he is actually threatening some House Republicans wih their committee assignments, other kind of punishment, for voting against his version of campaign finance reform. What do you know about that?

MCCAIN: I just heard it second-hand.

BORGER: What do you think about it?

MCCAIN: Well, I understand why they're so opposed to it. I mean, their power structure, to some degree, is based on the ability to raise all of this soft money, these unlimited and unreported contributions. So I understand it, and it's all the more reason why we need to succeed.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, last week on this broadcast Speaker Hastert said that you had been bullying some Republican congressmen to try to get them to go along with campaign finance reform because you had campaigned for him during last year's congressional elections. Have you been bullying people, Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Well, Bob, you know, I have a "to read" file about a half-inch thick of letters and correspondence that I get from members of the House asking me to support various projects and programs and legislation, particularly when I was chairman of the Commerce Committee.

I am really kind of stunned that someone would be surprised that I would write a letter to people that I campaigned for and with, asking them to support what was one of the themes of the campaign I engaged with them. There was no threats or intimidation. I just asked them to support it. I hope they will. And you know, I think it was not inappropriate. In fact, I think it was very appropriate to remind them that we did discuss this issue and how important it is to me and to the country.

SCHIEFFER: But Speaker Hastert says he asked you to stop that. What did you say to him in response?

MCCAIN: First of all, he never communicated with me in any way that I know of.

And so, I don't know why - again, I'm a bit amazed that he would think that I wouldn't want to correspond with people that I campaigned with.

But when you read the letter, it just says, "I would like you to support campaign finance reform. It's an important issue, and we would like for you to support this."

So, I'm really kind of stunned at the reaction to a letter that I viewed as fairly routine.

BORGER: Senator, if House Republican leaders succeed in defeating your version of campaign finance reform, will you be less willing to go out and campaign for House Republican candidates in the 2002 mid-term elections?

MCCAIN: I'm a loyal Republican. I'll do what I can to help the party. Obviously you have to set priorities in who you campaign for. But I intend to be very active in helping the Republican Party, as, according to Tom Davis, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, I was very crucial. And I hope that I can continue to help Republicans maintain majority in the Congress and the House.

SCHIEFFER: You know, Senator McCain, one of the interesting sidlights of all of this is that those who are against campaign finance reform are making a major effort to turn around members of the Congressional Black Caucus in the House, most of whom who were for campaign finance reform in the last election. We are now seeing some defections. And I would ask you, if this loses, do you think it will be because you lost the votes of the Congressional Black Caucus?

MCCAIN: No, I do not. I'm happy to say that one of my personal heroes, Congressman John Lewis, is very supportive, Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., many others. I think the Congressional Black Caucus is split on this.

Let's be clear: If this loses, it will be because of the efforts of the House Republican leadership. I understand that, I respect that. If they defeat it, then they can and will claim victory.

BORGER: We have seen recently President Bush's poll numbers really heading south a little bit. How do you explain that, Senator?

MCCAIN: Primarily due to the economy. I think that nothing in life or in politics is simple. But clearly with this economic malaise that we're in, that it is having a significant effect on the president's numbers. I think once he signs the education bill, I think that other issues that - including rebuilding our national defense. And hopefully we'll be working together. I know we'll be working together to eliminate waste and wasteful spending in earmarks in the congressional - but I think you'll see him come back.

SCHIEFFER: All right. John McCain, thanks for coming by.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we'll talk about this controversy over stem cell research in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: And we turn now to this very controversial subject, stem cell research. Coming soon, the president's going to have to decide whether to recommend that the federal government not fund research brought on by the stem cells.

With us this morning, two people with very different points of view: in Topeka, Kansas, Senator Sam Brownback; from Long Beach Island, New Jersey, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Gloria, you've been doing a lot of work on this. Start us off.

BORGER: Senator Brownback, let me begin with you. These cells, as you know, come from embryos that are conceived for in vitro fertilization. They are separated then from the embryos. They are in a petri dish. They are kept in a freezer. If they would not be used for stem cell research, they will be discarded.

You oppose stem cell research. Can you explain to us why it's better to discard them rather than use them for medical research?

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK, R-KS: Well, let me say first, Gloria, I support adult stem cell research, which is a promising area developing a number of these techniques for us to be able to rebuild virtual body parts. Right now we're taking adult cornea stem cells, and growing thos outside of the body to put back in, so people can see. I strongly support that area. I think we ought to increase the funding on that. And I think that is an area of great promise.

The area you're talking about is embryonic stem cell research, and there I think we have to first have the basic debate about, what is the status of the embryo? Is it a person? Is it a piece of property? You know, we have to first go there to determine the legal status of this embryo before we really should take on down the road of research on what all we can do with it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what's the response here, Senator Specter, to that?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA: The response, Bob, is that these embryonic stem cells are vastly superior to so-called adult stem cells. They are very flexible. They've already demonstrated their ability to pose a cure for Parkinson's, to delay the onset of Alzheimer's. And there is a real groundswell building in America today as more and more people understand what these stem cells can do.

Our colleague, Gordon Smith, a very distinguished, pro-life Republican senator, put it very well when he said, "it's one thing if an embryo is in the womb of a woman where the embryo can produce life. It is quite another thing if the embryo is in a test tube in a laboratory, where it is going to be discarded."

And when you have, say, Ronald Reagan suffering from Alzheimer's - and we now know that, had stem cell research been available to him, it could have been delayed, perhaps prevented. And there are millions of people suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and spinal cord disorder and cancer and heart ailments, all of whom may be saved.

And so, if it's a matter of throwing away these embryos or saving lives with them, I think the answer is very clear-cut.

BORGER: Senator Brownback, there's been a lot of talk about some kind of compromise that the administration might come up with, such as not using federal funds to separate the stem cells from the embryo, but rather using federal funds for research on stem cells that are already separated from the embryo. Would that be something that you could accept?

BROWNBACK: I think there you're doing in two steps what you don't allow to happen in one. It still involves the destruction of the embryo, and we still don't wrestle with the base question. And we don't get into the issue yet of cloning, which is going to evolve in this as well, as people seek for ways to get the genetic material to make up and to match up of the recipient body and the giving body.

And I want to point out something else on these embryonic stem cells. A report out this week in Science magazine that was reported in The Washington Post about how genetically unstable they are, that they're not staying put in the type of cell type that they were put in.

We've been down this road before on fetal tissue research, where we said, OK, this is going to promise al these great healings that we want to take place, that I want to take place. But it didn't work with the fetal tissue, according to a March issue of New York Times Magazine. It's not working right now in the embryonic. And we can do it if we'll just really focus in and do the thing that we know is right in the adult stem cell area.

SCHIEFFER: But, Senator, don't all those things argue for continuing the research? Let's find out, let's experiment, let's go through this and see what works and what doesn't work?

BROWNBACK: Bob, what is the legal status of the young human? Is it a person, or is it property? Shouldn't we first determine in our legal system that question and that answer and then move forward from that point? If it's - everything in our legal system is one or the other. It's either person or it's property. We're on this set right now, we're people. Everything else on this set is property.

The same is true here. Shouldn't we wrestle with that base question first and determine, OK, we determine that these are all people, or we determine that these are all property subject to the whims of their master, and then proceed from that point? That would be the logical way.

BORGER: Senator Specter?

BORGER: Bob, may I comment on that?



SPECTER: I think what Senator Brownback has already said has been resolved. When you can throw away the stem cells, that answers the question.

I'm glad that Senator Brownback brought up the question of fetal tissue because five, six years ago, there was a very similar debate where people said don't use fetal tissue because it will promote abortions. Then Senator Strom Thurmond, a very strong pro-life senator, really an icon of conservatism, voted to use fetal tissue because his daughter had juvenile diabetes. And then the Congress voted overwhelmingly for the use of fetal tissue.

I believe today in the Congress there are overwhelming majorities in favor of, Gloria, not only of stem cell research once the stem cells have been extracted, but also in federal funding to extract the stem cells where you don't have private companies doing it, where you have prohibition against cloning. I certainly would never agree to cloning. I certainly would never agree to destroying a stem cell if there was any chance at all, any chance at all, that that embryo would turn into a human being.

I think there are more than 70 votes today in the Senate. And there's a groundswell in America because so many people have personal experience with the availability of these stem cells to save their lives of their loved ones.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Brownback, quickly, we have about 10 seconds. Do you have idea when the president is going to make the decision on this?

BROWNBACK: Well, he decided during the campaign that he was opposed to this. That was his stated position during the campain. I would certainly hope that he would stand with that.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we're going to leave it there. We'll hear a lot more about this.

Back in a minute with a final word.


SCHIEFFER: Finally today, with a few days off over the holidays, I've been seeing the promos for the new summer reality shows, and it has given me an idea. As I understand it, these shows revolve around putting people in embarrassing situations and then watching them try to squirm out of it. Points seem to go to the most devious, the ones willing to come up with the most ingenious ways to undercut their companions - to the schemers go the spoils.

Well, maybe I had too much Fourth of July, but I had a thought for another kind of storyline. What if there were a program that stressed teamwork instead of double dealing, a program where you somehow got points for putting the common good ahead of personal ambition? Now, I know, it sounds crazy.

But I keep thinking that whatever gets done in this country, from little things like raising money to buy uniforms for the school baseball team to big things like winning World War II, gets done because people work together.

Americans have always admired those who inspired us to be more than we thought we could be, not those who schemed to take advantage of our weaknesses and sell us out. We marked George Washington's birthday, not Benedict Arnold's. Now, isn't that a story that still has some appeal? We could even call it counter-program.

Well, that's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

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