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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

D.C. Police Chief Details Levy Investigation; Shays, Dreier Discuss Finance Reform Battle; The Legal Progression of the Levy Case

Aired July 15, 2001 - 12:00   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.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6:00 p.m. in Madrid and midnight in Beijing. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two- hour LATE EDITION.

We'll get to my interview with D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey on the Chandra Levy investigation shortly, but first, a check of the day's top stories.

We begin here in Washington where Bush administration officials are clearly pleased by the latest test of President Bush's proposed missile defense system. That's not the case, however, in Moscow where officials are criticizing the test as a potential violation of the 1972 ABM or Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The test occurred last night some 100 miles over the Pacific.

Let's go live to the White House and CNN's Kelly Wallace for details.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And now to case that is gripped much of the United States, the investigation of missing Washington intern Chandra Levy. It has now been more than 10 weeks since the 24-year-old woman disappeared without a trace. D.C. police are pressing ahead with their search, as questions continue to surround California Congressman Gary Condit with whom she has a romantic relationship.

A short while ago I spoke with the D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey to get the latest on the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, thanks for joining us.

Chandra Levy has now been missing for 76 days. Are you any closer today to getting the hard lead, any evidence about her whereabouts, than you were then?

CHARLES RAMSEY, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: No. I mean, we have a lot of information that we still have to go through. But we're really no closer to answering that question of what happened to Chandra Levy.

BLITZER: How unusual is that? The manhunt, the investigation, the intensity -- 76 days, and you still don't have a lead.

RAMSEY: Well, what's unusual about it is the fact we don't have a lead. Usually you have something by now that will take you down one path or another. We are still in the process of exploring a couple of possibilities. One is that she left on her own and simply doesn't want to be found. The other is that is she did meet with foul play. The probability of suicide becomes more and more remote as time goes on.

BLITZER: Suicide being unlikely. That's why you released those sketches of what she might look like if she changed her hairdo, for example. We'll put some of that up on the screen.

Is that realistic, though, given her nature, that she voluntarily would have just disappeared the way she has?

RAMSEY: Well, it is about as possible as anything else because right now we don't have any evidence one way or the other. So we can't ignore that possibility. We're not saying that we have any hard evidence or leads to take us in that direction, but we just can't take those cards off the table right now.

BLITZER: So this is still a missing persons investigation? It's not a criminal investigation?

RAMSEY: Not yet, because we don't have anything to really indicate that she met with foul play. If that ever does happen, then we will reclassify the case. But quite frankly, I can't think of anything that we would be doing differently if it were classified as criminal case than we're doing right now.

BLITZER: We are now being told by you that there was a 911 call from someone in her apartment building near Dupont Circle here in Washington, D.C., on the day that she disappeared. Tell us about that.

RAMSEY: Well, there was a call that came in to our 911 center. And I believe it was around 4:30 in the morning.

BLITZER: On May 1.

RAMSEY: On May 1, from an individual who lives in that apartment who heard what she thought was screams outside the building. Now we immediately dispatched someone there. They found nothing. We do know that about five hours later, from approximately 9:30 to 1:00, there was great deal of activity on Ms. Levy's computer. And nothing in that activity would indicate that it was anyone other than her that was using the computer.

BLITZER: So, you're convinced she was typing away on her computer that morning, May 1?

RAMSEY: Yes. I mean, it's something obviously we had to explore. We did look into it. I mean, we continue to just keep that there. But the e-mail sent to the mother, the surfing of the web, for lack of a better term to describe what was going on -- there is no indication that it was anyone other than her.

BLITZER: Now, one of the areas where she was surfing was a web site called Mapquest which helps people get driving instructions from point A to point B. You've gone through that. You've discovered where she was looking. What can you tell us about the various driving instructions, for example, she was looking for?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, there are some local areas. There are some areas in other parts of the United States. It doesn't appear there was any particular focus in any one area. But certainly that led us to follow other leads. We may very well make some of the information public to see if we can generate some more activity, in terms of people calling, saying that you know they have additional information.

But it is very apparent that for 3 1/2 hours she was quite active on the computer. But after that, we don't have much.

BLITZER: Can you tell us what cities she was looking at for some driving instructions, some information?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, some in California, because, obviously she is from there and she was planning on returning, at least we believe she was planning on returning. Travel agencies, things of that nature. But there is nothing that we have been able to verify in terms of actually purchasing a ticket, where there is airline, rail or what have you, at least not under the name of Chandra Levy.

BLITZER: So she was looking for Mapquest areas in the Washington, D.C., area as well as in California. Anyplace else?

RAMSEY: Well, that's what I know of right now. I haven't seen the complete list myself. But she did do some surfing around and asking how much does it cost to go from point A to point B between cities, things of that nature, but nothing that really looks suspicious. I mean, a lot of people do that. She could have been planning trips once she got to California, from Modesto to wherever.

BLITZER: Is there any suspicion that there was a stalker or someone in the Dupont Circle area that may have been stalking her or her health club or anything along those lines?

RAMSEY: Nothing that we have seen. And I'm aware of the variety of theories that are out there, one of which involves a serial killer and all that sort of thing.

Now, we entered this information into the FBI's VCAP system. The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program is a system they have that matches MO's of not only homicides but other types of cases that are unusual in nature. And we have not come up with any matches as of yet.

But we're certainly still looking at every single possibility that exists. But we've not found anything that really connects a series of cases. BLITZER: John Walsh, the host of America's Most Wanted, did a special report last night. Among other things, he invited viewers to provide his program with tips. He did get one tip that earlier today on Meet the Press he thought could potentially bear some fruit. Listen to what John Walsh said earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WALSH, HOST, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED": We did get one very interesting tip that there was a van in the neighborhood in Dupont Circle the day before Chandra was missing, trying lure women into that van. So the D.C. Metro Police are following up on that tip very, very closely today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Was that a good tip? Are you following up on that?

RAMSEY: Sure. I mean, we'll follow up on anything. Again, we are trying to find a link between the disappearance of Chandra Levy and anything that might have happened, whether it was a random type of act of violence, if in fact she met with foul play or, again, whether or not she left on her own.

BLITZER: But the specifics on -- do you know anything about this van? Someone supposedly trying to lure women into this van. Do you know anything about that specific information?

RAMSEY: I mean, I don't know whether or not the detectives had that or not, quite frankly. Most of the information we've gotten from a variety of sources, the detectives did have. But if this is something new, then that gives us one more lead to follow up on.

BLITZER: "Newsweek" magazine, in its cover story this coming issue, concludes, among other things, with this sentence. It says, "Investigators now say they think it's unlikely the congressman" -- referring to Congressman Gary Condit -- "had a hand in Levy's disappearance. Is that true?

RAMSEY: Well, I don't know who investigators are talking to. I know that all cards are still on the table.

RAMSEY: I'm aware of the polygraph that was given, although it was given without our input in terms of questions. We've not yet seen the questions, we haven't seen the results, we haven't seen anything.

But I think it's very early in this investigation without any real, hard, solid evidence, to start discounting anything.

BLITZER: Abbe Lowell, the lawyer for Congressman Condit, had a news conference on Friday. Among other things, he said this. I want you to listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR REP. GARY CONDIT: Those people who honestly are concerned about the disappearance of Ms. Levy will now realize that Congressman Condit has exhausted the information that he can provide and that the spotlight on him should be turned elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What else to you want Congressman Condit to do?

RAMSEY: Well, first of all, we've never had a one-dimensional investigation as far as the Metropolitan Police Department is concerned. We've been looking at a variety of possibilities, not just at the congressman.

However, I need to see exactly what that polygraph examination covered. We need to really see the results of that. There may be some additional information we need for him, because we need to understand her state of mind at the time.

And he did have a relationship, although I'm not getting into the details of nature of that relationship, but obviously he knew Chandra Levy. We need to know as much as possible about her actions a week prior to, at a minimum, her disappearance. And there's some information that he can perhaps still provide on it.

BLITZER: As of this moment you haven't received the results of the polygraph that was administered by the private polygraph examiner that they did last week?

RAMSEY: Yes, and not only the results but, I mean, the questions. And we have to have our own experts look at the results to see whether or not they're valid. But it would have been nice if we had the opportunity to formulate some of the questions. I don't know how a polygraph examiner could give an accurate exam without knowing facts of the case. And we're the ones who have the facts of the case as we know them now.

BLITZER: Well, Abbe Lowell said the three specific questions that he passed with flying colors with were these. Let me read them to you: Did the congressman have anything at all to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy? Did he harm her or have anyone else harm her in any way? Does he know where she can be located? And those three specific questions Abbe Lowell says he passed.

RAMSEY: Well, that's what he says, and again, we need to look at the results and make that determination ourselves. I'm certainly glad he gave his opinion, but I'd like to see that for myself. But not only that, it doesn't give us any clue into her mental state. It doesn't verify some of the time lines that we need to get a better fix on. So there are some areas that we would have liked to have explored, but unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity.

BLITZER: You still want to do your own polygraph of Congressman Condit?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, if it's possible, but I doubt if we'll be allowed to do that. It seems as if they've kind of done this and given it to us and said, "Hey, here it is, and that's it, and let's move on". I don't agree with that, but it is what it is.

BLITZER: Do you want to polygraph others who may know something about this case?

RAMSEY: Well, that's an investigative tool that we aren't afraid to use. We ask people, it's very, very common for us to ask people if they would submit to a polygraph.

We may or may not have administered some to others. I mean, I'm not going to say one way or the other. Again, there are certain things in this case that I can't talk about. But it's not unusual for us to do that if we feel it can help us better understand and better confirm some of the information that we've been given.

BLITZER: But as of this moment, you haven't polygraphed anyone else?

RAMSEY: Well, I can't say that. I'm just saying that I'm not going to confirm whether or not we have, but it's not unusual for us to do that.

BLITZER: The Levy family, the parents, who are of course distraught. They want you to investigate, speak to some of the staffers who work with Congressman Condit. Are you doing that?

RAMSEY: We've already done it. And if we need to do it again, we will. But we've already done that. And I understand their frustration. We've been staying in touch with the family both through Billy Martin and some personal conversations that we've had. I don't blame them for being frustrated, but we're doing everything we possibly can to try to find out what happened to Chandra Levy, and we'll continue to do that.

BLITZER: We're told that Congressman Condit does not own a car here in Washington, D.C., but used a staffer's car when he needed a private car. Is that your sense of his relationship with an automobile here in Washington?

RAMSEY: Well, we've certainly explored all that. And, again, we've talked to people about that and how he gets around and so forth and had interviews. I can't get into the specifics around that.

But, again, there's not an area that I can think of that we've not explored and really exhausted in terms of trying to find that out and also following through with interviews of individuals who might be involved in that.

BLITZER: This red little Ford that's owned by one of the staffers, have you searched that car thoroughly?

RAMSEY: Well, we're aware of that vehicle. Again, we have done a lot of searching during the course of this investigation. I'm not going to get into the specifics of we have or haven't. But let's suffice it to say that's not news to us.

BLITZER: So, is the answer, yes, you did search the car? RAMSEY: The answer is that we've done a lot of things. We're not unaware of the car. We know where the car is. We've seen the car. And again, I don't have any results of anything, but we certainly are aware of it.

BLITZER: When I interviewed John Walsh of America's Most Wanted earlier this week, he had his own theory of what may have happened. I want you to listen to what he told me earlier in the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WALSH: I think it threw the attention and the focus of the investigation on the wrong track. We've had two girls murdered here. One in 1998, Christine Merzian (ph), and one in 1999, Joyce Chiang, who worked for the IRS. Both were interns, both lived within about a mile and half of Chandra Levy, both were seen leaving their houses. My gut feeling is that there may be a serial killer in the Washington, D.C., area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is there a serial killer in the Washington, D.C., area?

RAMSEY: None that we're aware of. And there's a couple things around that. First of all, the second death, Joyce Chiang, there's been no cause of death determined by the medical examiner in that particular case.

We can't afford to speculate on this. We have to deal with fact as we're investigating this. We're certainly exploring all possibilities. He's entitled to his opinion, but again, to say that the focus has been one-dimensional, if from the police standpoint, is inaccurate in itself.

We have, from the very beginning, looked at a variety of possibilities. Congressman Condit is one of about 100 people that we've talked to around this particular case, so we've not had a singular focus.

BLITZER: Is there a search of the landfills that's expected to happen in the next few days? I know there's been a long process in getting ready for that search. It hasn't happened yet, I take it.

RAMSEY: It hasn't happened, and it may not happen, quite frankly. We're looking at landfills. However, in discussion with the people there and the cost involved in conducting such a search, we have to really think about whether or not that's the most appropriate course of action for us.

So, right now, we're looking at different dumpsters, we're looking at different areas in our city like Rock Creek Park and various other places, the more remote areas where you could hide a body for a period of time and not have it seen, abandoned buildings -- which we've done before, but we're retracing our steps.

But as far as the landfills go, with the cost and the amount of time it takes to do that, it may not be practical.

BLITZER: And finally, Chief Ramsey, any more questioning that you want of Congressman Condit and/or his wife coming up in the next few days?

RAMSEY: We aren't taking anything off the table. We may very well need to reinterview him. We may need to reinterview others that are part of this investigation. As far as we're concerned, it's still open. The results of the polygraph notwithstanding, nothing is off the table.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, thanks for joining us.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And later in our program, we'll get some legal analysis on the case from three prominent attorneys: criminal defense attorney Roy Black, former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Clinton special counsel Lanny Davis.

But when we come back, Gary Condit may be embroiled in controversy but his colleagues on Capitol Hill are engaged in major legislative warfare. We'll talk with Republicans Chris Shays of Connecticut and David Dreier of California about the long battle over campaign finance reform. Is it really over?

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now are two leading members of Congress. Here in Washington, Republican Chris Shays of Connecticut. He led the fight for campaign finance reform in the House of Representatives. And in Los Angeles, his fellow Republican, David Dreier, of California. He's chairman of the powerful Rules Committee.

Congressmen, good to have you both of you on the program.

REP. DAVID DREIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I want to get to the debate over campaign finance reform in a moment.

But first, Congressman Dreier, listen to what the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, said earlier today on Fox News Sunday about...

DREIER: I wish he were still the majority leader.

BLITZER: Excuse me, the minority leader, you're absolutely correct, the Minority Leader Trent Lott. Listen to what he said about Congressman Gary Condit and his behavior. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Infidelity is always unacceptable, but particularly when you have an elected official involved in a position of trust with a young girl, an intern. If these allegations are true, obviously he should resign, and if he doesn't, the people of his district probably will not reelect him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you agree with Trent Lott that Congressman Condit should resign if the allegations of infidelity are true?

DREIER: I'm not going to call on him to resign. I will tell you that there are many aspects of this whole situation, Wolf, that are very troubling.

And I believe that we need to do everything we can to find Chandra, and I know that your interview with Chief Ramsey, obviously, has shown that the focus is on that.

I think that Gary Condit has a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I'm not going to sit here and call for his resignation.

BLITZER: What about that, Congressman Shays?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Absolutely not. I mean, if infidelity is the test, there'd be a number of members of Congress that should resign.

The bottom line is, he lied about it. And as my parents taught me and as we tell our daughter, when you lie then people don't believe you afterwards, and now he has a credibility problem that's quite significant.

BLITZER: And very briefly, should the House Ethics Committee take up this entire matter, Congressman Shays?

SHAYS: Well, eventually, but then they should also investigate the press and how they have handled it. I'm joking. Laugh.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm laughing.

What about that, Congressman Dreier? Should the House Ethics Committee get involved in this?

DREIER: Well, Wolf, it's my understanding that a case has been brought to the House Ethics Committee, and they have the responsibility to look into this now, and we have a process through which we are going. But I think that the situation is very, very troubling.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the issue that I invited both of you to discuss today, namely campaign finance reform. Congressman Shays, you failed to get the Shays-Meehan legislation, the equivalent of McCain-Feingold in the House, passed. Is it dead?

SHAYS: Well, first out, we didn't vote on Shays-Meehan, we voted on a rule that sets up the battlefield. And we felt they were trying push us into the valley so that they could shoot on us from the hills, and took one amendment and divided into 14. We weren't going to accept that.

But the issue doesn't go away. I know David Dreier tried hard to get a rule that we could all accept. But the issue is there, and we'll vote on it.

BLITZER: It's a complicated matter.

David Dreier, what many of the supporters of campaign finance reform say is that you and the Republican leadership, the Speaker Dennis Hastert, simply did not play fairly, that you promised a fair debate and a fair vote and you came up with a complicated rules procedure that in the end guaranteed a collapse of this entire process.

DREIER: Wolf, Chris will tell you that he and I have been working for months on this issue. We were traveling overseas and talked about it quite a while back, over the east Easter break, in fact.

And I will tell you that I believe that, when Chris and I were meeting earlier this week to discuss the fashioning of the rule, that we were doing everything that we possibly could to allow for a free and fair debate.

And I think it's important to note, this is obviously an extraordinarily complex question, Wolf. The Democratic leadership killed this issue, and, as I said at our news conference following it, crocodile tears are being shed by many of them.

Chris Shays is extraordinarily sincere and very much wants to bring about passage of his legislation. There are Democrats with whom he has worked who very much wanted to kill this legislation, and they joined with him in defeating this rule. Now, I...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you for a second, Congressman Dreier, and ask Congressman Shays.

Who is responsible for the collapse of this entire debate right now, the Democratic leadership in the House or the Republican leadership in the House?

SHAYS: Well, I think Marty and I are willing to take some of the blame and simply say...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Your referring to Marty Meehan, your Democratic colleague.

SHAYS: Exactly. I mean, the bottom line...

DREIER: You don't deserve any of the blame at all, Chris. It falls with the Democratic leadership.

SHAYS: No, no, I'm not going to allow that to happen. This was -- the supporters of this bill basically felt, as hard as David Dreier tried to craft a rule, it wasn't a rule that really would have allowed for a level debate on this issue. So we simply sent the rule back to the committee.

But anyone who believes -- and I know David doesn't believe this --that the issue is dead is simply wrong. We haven't yet voted on campaign finance reform.

BLITZER: All right. We're just beginning this debate.

Congressman Dreier, stand by. We're going to have a lot more to talk about, but right now we have to take a quick break.

For our international viewers, a live report on the summit between India and Pakistan.

For our North American audience, we'll continue our conversation with Congressmen Shays and Dreier. They'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with two Republican congressmen who strongly disagree on campaign finance reform, Chris Shays of Connecticut and David Dreier of California.

Congressman Dreier, "The Washington Post," in an editorial on Friday after the collapse of the entire process, wrote this. They said, "That's petulance, not leadership. It is absolutely the wrong way to resolve the issue on small board procedural rather than substantive grounds. It discredits the House."

Strong words against the way the leadership behaved in this process.

DREIER: Wolf, those words, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," they have been putting out totally inaccurate editorials over the past several weeks on this issue.

What we did was, when Chris came to me earlier this week and asked for a manager's amendment, a manager's amendment -- and remember, we made Chris Shays' legislation, he was not the chairman of committee, but we made it the base text of the legislation. And there were a lot of very controversial issues that were included among the 14.

We very much wanted to package as much of it as we could, but we felt strongly there was a need to have an open and fair debate about the prospect of criminal penalties being changed, about the prospect of reintroduction of soft money. Several provisions that were included in there, we felt there should be open debate on it. And to say "petulance" and these kinds of words are just preposterous.

BLITZER: What about that...

DREIER: We very much want to have as much debate as we possibly can on this very important issue.

So we weren't Balkanizing, as "The New York Times" said other day. We want to have everyone have the opportunity to have up-or-down vote on any issue of controversy.

BLITZER: You heard what Congressman Dreier said, but you also heard what the House majority leader, your leader, the Republican leader, Dick Armey, said you about in the aftermath of these entire uproar this week. I want to replay that right now. Listen to this, Congressman Shays.

SHAYS: Do I have to listen?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Listen to what...

SHAY: I don't want to.

BLITZER: ... Mr. Armey said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I have been working with Mr. Shays on this matter for some time. To say that I am being subjected to unfairness when I'm asked to go through a normal legislative process is arrogant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what do you say about that, that you have only yourself to blame for the failure to get to a debate and a vote?

SHAYS: Well, we made a decision that we viewed the rule as not in keeping with what our understanding was. I think David Dreier tried to put together a rule ultimately in a compromise. We came very close to a adopting that compromise. So he worked overtime to have it happen. The majority leader was disappointed. But he said some harsh words, and I'm absolutely convinced he didn't mean them.

BLITZER: Wait a minute, David Dreier.

Why are you so convinced he didn't mean them? This is a gut issue for him, campaign finance reform, and he diametrically disagrees with you.

SHAYS: Well, no, he disagrees on the issue, but the personal attacks is not in keeping with the way Dick and I feel about each other. I happen to think he is a good friend, and I happen to like him a lot.

DREIER: Absolutely. There were a lot of harsh words said during this whole period of time, Chris will acknowledge that. And we all worked very long and hard, and tension was very high on this.

But we very much want to focus on a lot of important issues. We're going to be dealing with the patients' bill of rights. We've got the appropriations process. We've got China normal trade relations, trade promotion authority, stem cell research...

BLITZER: All right.

DREIER: ... which is something very important.

SHAYS: And campaign finance reform.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask about the campaign finance reform. Congressman Shays, you can bring this back up, go around the leadership, go around the speaker, by what's called a discharge petition. You need 218 signers, people who will support such petition. Are you going to do that?

SHAYS: Absolutely. I mean, the 19 Republicans that voted against the rule and all the Democrats voted against the rule, we believe the rule is unfair; David disagrees. Ultimately, we just sent it back to the Rules Committee. We didn't vote on campaign finance reform.

We're going to make sure we have a vote. We'll do it either by a discharge petition -- first, I want to do it just by the hope and prayer and good dialogue that we'll have with leadership to do the right thing.

DREIER: But remember, Chris...

SHAYS: No, let me just make this point.

But secondly, if that doesn't happen, we'll do a discharge petition. And if that doesn't succeed, then I'm going vote and so will some colleagues against rules on other issues. We simply will have a vote on this bill.

BLITZER: What about that, Congressman Dreier?

DREIER: Well, Chris, let me just say that I think it's very important to note that many of those people who voted against that rule were trying to kill this legislation. They very much want to ensure that no campaign finance reform legislation moves forward, and those are Democrats.

In fact, when I was working on that deal, which you and I were trying to put together at the very end, one very prominent Democrat came to me and said, you are about to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. And what he meant by defeat -- meaning the prospect of the passage of your legislation.

And so, I think that I just went through this litany of very important issues, you know, where the Olympics decision has been made. We now have China normal trade relations. I'm very happy that Li Shaomin was just returned. We need to get Gao Zhan back. I'm working with China. Chris and I worked together on that issue.

Again, we've got the patients' bill of rights, stem cell research, appropriations -- all these things. We need to work on those. And I very much want Chris and all the Republicans to help us move this legislation.

BLITZER: But, Congressman Shays, I just want to be clear on this. What you are saying is, if they don't agree to bring -- the Republican leadership in the House -- they don't agree to bring it up, campaign finance reform, soon you are either going with the discharge petition, go around and try to get 218 signers, or you're going to try to block all these other issues that Congressman Dreier is talking about by adding all sorts of amendments.

SHAYS: Absolutely. And you have to understand why. It's been against the law since 1907 for corporations to contribute to campaigns, and they are. It's been against the law since 1947 for union dues money in be in campaigns, and they are. They're basically distorting the legislative process.

I mean, we had a story of one of our legislative leaders who said, Republicans better be careful of the Tauzin-Dingell bill which favored the baby Bells because AT&T might not give us millions of dollars. We have a corrupted system that better be changed before it gets worse.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman Dreier, you have the last word. Let me just say, it sounds like you have a Republican leader here, Chris Shays and a lot of other supporters including, of course, most of the Democrats who are going to tie up business in the House of Representatives unless you agree to bring this campaign finance reform forward.

DREIER: Wolf, Ronald Reagan had a great line. He said, "Show me somebody who disagrees with me 20 percent of the time and I'll show you somebody who agrees with me 80 percent of the time."

I happen to believe that, as we look at this issue, we have very important things that need to be addressed. And I think that we have problems in the area campaign finance -- it's not a perfect world -- but I also believe that we have the cleanest, most-responsive government we've ever had in our nations history. And I think that the idea of potentially undermining First Amendment rights is something that is very, very troubling.

BLITZER: All right, this debate is obviously just getting going. David Dreier...

DREIER: Always great to be with you.

BLITZER: Chris Shays here in Washington.

DREIER: See you tomorrow, Chris.

SHAYS: Take care, David.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

And just ahead, a newspaper article is raising fresh questions about the handling of last year's presidential election. We'll talk with former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman about that and his party's future when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Democrats are deeply engaged in their plans to regain control of Congress next year and the White House two years after that.

Joining us now to talk about that and much more is the man who ran on last year's Democratic Party ticket, Connecticut Senator and former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Great to be with you again, Wolf.

BLITZER: You saw, I'm sure, the front page huge story in "The New York Times" today about their examination of these overseas absentee ballots. They concluded that about 680 of them were questionable. And remember, the margin of victory for George W. Bush over Al Gore in Florida was 537 votes.

What's your take on all of that?

LIEBERMAN: Well, my immediate take on it is that the Republicans were not consistent and were prepared to do just about anything, I hope within the law, to win that election in Florida, and that was not our point of view. We were committed not only to achieving a victory in Florida, but to fighting for a principle which was that every vote should be counted.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting that they did something improper, illegal, unfair in winning Florida?

LIEBERMAN: The article suggests that about 680 votes, really, might well have been thrown out. But in fairness, they also, consulting a statistician, reached the conclusion that on balance -- because obviously some of those votes were for us as well as some for then-Governor Bush and Dick Cheney -- it would not have altered the results.

I will remain convinced forever that a majority of the people who went to vote and voted in Florida intended to vote for Al Gore and me, but because of confusion in the ballots, the butterfly ballots, et cetera, et cetera, because of some discouragement particularly of African Americans and Haitian Americans, that's not the way it ended.

And I think the main -- the election's over, it's history. And now I think we've got to go on. And one of the things I think we most have to focus on as we go on is to pass election law reform so that what happened in Florida last year never happens anywhere else in America again.

BLITZER: You noticed in the article -- and we're going to move on in a second -- one of the aspects was criticism of you for, in effect, some Democrats, some of your colleagues suggesting you pulled the rug out from under the entire recount process when you said on Meet The Press on November 19 -- and you said this, referring to the overseas military ballots, some of which were questionable, you said, "The vice president and I would never authorize and would not tolerate a campaign that was aimed specifically at invalidating absentee ballots from members of our armed forces."

That was a surprise to a lot of your colleagues who were trying, in fact, to do precisely that.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I don't know why that was a surprise, because, as I said before, we were fighting in Florida not just for a victory but for a principle that every vote that was cast should be counted. And you can't fight for that benefit of the doubt, for senior citizens and African-Americans and Haitian Americans and South Florida counties where Democrats tend to do better, and not fight for that same right for, of all people, men and women in uniform overseas, there to protect our national security, who are voting by absentee ballot.

So a misunderstanding maybe, but I believe absolutely what I said then. I'm confident Al Gore had the same feeling, wouldn't change it at all. And I think we stood for a principle.

BLITZER: Are you going to run for president in 2004?

LIEBERMAN: I have no idea.

BLITZER: If Al Gore decides to run, will you drop out? You've said that in the past.

LIEBERMAN: That remains my position.

BLITZER: So if he's going to run, you definitely won't run.

LIEBERMAN: That is correct.

BLITZER: But you haven't made up your mind. Because it looks, it feels, it sounds, as you well know, like you're really seriously thinking about running.

LIEBERMAN: Well, it's a time for rampant speculation. I mean, we're so much closer to the 2000 election, as our discussion just now shows, than 2004.

Right now, I'm responding to invitations to go around the country to help Democratic candidates. I'm thanking them for the tremendous support we got for the fact that we won the popular vote last year, got more votes than any Democratic ticket in the history of our country. And I'm trying to be a spokesperson for the values and the principles and programs that I think are good for America's future. And for now, that's all.

BLITZER: I know you're deeply involved in military matters. Last night, apparently a successful test of the missile defense system over the Pacific. Is this going to be enough to convince you to support the billions of dollars that President Bush wants to go forward with the deployment of a missile defense system?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the test last night was good news and very encouraging news. And I congratulate General Kadish and all the folks at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the Pentagon for a very significant step forward.

I've been for a missile defense. I was one of the co-sponsors of legislation that passed in 1999 that says very clearly it's America's national policy to develop a defense to a limited missile attack. We don't have one now.

BLITZER: Even if it means unilaterally abrogating the 1972 ABM Treaty with then-Soviet Union which has continued, of course, with Russia?

LIEBERMAN: I think we should do everything we can to avoid unilaterally abrogating the ABM Treaty, and that means consulting intensely with the Russians to find an agreement on modification of that treaty.

But that's a 30-year-old treaty that was adopted in a very different world than we're facing today. And I hope we can convince the Russians what is the truth, which is that we are developing a national missile defense to protect our people, our kids, our grandkids, not against Russian attack but against attack from rogue nations; and that they're as much potential targets of those kinds of attacks as we are.

But once we adopted that law in 1999, the National Defense Missile Defense Act of 1999, we set ourselves on a course to bump up against the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. And I think we've got to find a way to reconcile those two.

But most important of all is the national security of the United States. There is a missile threat, and we ought to be developing a defense to it.

My gripe, my argument with the administration, the Bush administration, is that they have squandered so much of our resources on this enormous tax cut which goes mostly to people who need it least and is way beyond what we can afford, that there's not enough left over for defense.

Secretary Rumsfeld has thus far gotten for the Pentagon about half of what he feels we need today. And I think that in order to develop a missile defense, to continue to support a good quality of life for our soldiers, to continue to modernize our equipment, we need more than is left on the table after that Bush tax cut.

BLITZER: You were one of, what, three or four Democrats this week to vote with Senator Hollings for a bill that would have rescinded the tax rebate checks to millions of Americans. Almost all of your Democratic colleagues didn't agree with you.

Why is that such a bad idea to return to the American taxpayer some modest, relatively modest sums of money?

LIEBERMAN: Yes. It was ironic, doubly, because Fritz Hollings and I were about the earliest people in the Senate to talk about the value, the good sense of a rebate this year both in fairness to the taxpayers and also to help the economy get out of its slide right now.

But two reasons: One is that the rebate plan ultimately put forward by the Bush administration leaves about 35 million Americans out. They'll get zero, because all they do is pay the payroll tax. But that's a terribly burdensome tax on those people. They deserve that $300.

Also, a lot of people will get less than the full amount that they've been promised. I think there's going to be a lot of disappointment.

Finally, we said, "Let's take that money and instead put it in education and defense, where it's critically needed". And I'll bet you, that if you ask most people in this country, do you want to take that $300 and put it into to your children's education or the nation's security, most of them would say yes.

BLITZER: You heard that the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, earlier today on Fox News Sunday, say that, if in fact Gary Condit, the Democratic congressman from California, was engaged in adultery with Chandra Levy, he should resign from the U.S. Congress.

You, of course, became very well-known during the Bill Clinton- Monica Lewinsky Affair, going on the Senate floor, speaking passionately about the moral issues. What do you think Congressman Gary Condit should do now?

LIEBERMAN: Well, with all respect to others who have spoken, this is a law enforcement matter now and, most importantly, it's a missing persons investigation. There's a young woman missing. Her friends, her family are anxious, heartbroken about it, and I think we ought to let the police do their work. And when they're done, then the politicians can begin to comment.

BLITZER: Joe Lieberman, thanks for joining us.

LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Always good to have you on the program, Senator.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, as the search for missing intern Chandra Levy moves ahead, we'll get some legal perspective on the case from former Clinton White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis, former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and famed criminal defense attorney Roy Black.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Congressman Gary Condit's submission to a private polygraph test appears to be raising more questions about his involvement in this entire matter.

Joining us now to discuss the latest developments in the case of the missing Washington intern, Chandra Levy, are three special guests. Here in Washington, Lanny Davis. He's a former Clinton White House special counsel. Dick Thornburgh, he was the attorney general in the first Bush administration. And in Miami, one of the country's top criminal defense attorneys, Roy Black.

Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Let me begin with you, Dick Thornburgh. Where does this investigation stand right now from your perspective not only as a former attorney general but as a former U.S. attorney?

RICHARD THORNBURGH, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think when you focus on the polygraph, you see a little bit of what's wrong with this investigation. The police have more or less lost control of the investigation. They're letting a material witness dictate how it goes forward, and I think Abbe Lowell very cleverly scored a public relations coup by having this private polygraph conducted.

But it's not worth much to the police because he was not privy to all the facts that they've determined, the predicates for questions that might be asked, and it's got to be followed up by another polygraph, to be sure.

BLITZER: But let me bring in Roy Black. But on that point, the person, Barry Culvert, who administered the polygraph test that Abbe Lowell commissioned, is a highly respected expert in lie detectors, worked at the FBI for so many years, was engaged in some of the highest lie detector tests involving Aldrich Ames, Jonathan Pollard. What's wrong with his credibility as an administrator of this kind of test?

ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don't think we're attacking his credibility. And I agree wholeheartedly with Dick here. The problem is, the police are the ones who know the facts, the police are the ones asking the tough questions. That's why it's the police investigators who should be handling the polygraph.

You have to remember, from the defense side, they're going to be throwing softballs at him. And the real power of a polygraph is using it as the tool in interrogation, keep winnowing down the questions until you get to the real hard facts of the case. And the problem is, with the defense doing it, it really doesn't work that well.

THORNBURGH: Let me give you an example, a hypothetical case, and I don't mean to suggest that's the case here. But suppose that the police in their search of the congressman's apartment, some incriminating evidence came to light. They would want to use that as a basis for examining the congressman on the polygraph. But Abbe Lowell and the congressman wouldn't necessarily know that that evidence had been obtained. So there you go with a polygraph that really is incomplete and therefore relatively useless.

BLITZER: So did this whole initiative by Abbe Lowell, a friend of yours, Lanny Davis, to go ahead and do his own polygraph of Congressman Gary Condit, did it backfire in terms of the public relations aspect of this case?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Well, I think it did. I think Abbe Lowell is making a valiant effort with the cards he's been dealt, which is a pretty poor hand. And he's a great lawyer, but he can't change the fact that if Gary Condit is as innocent as he said at the press conference, then why hasn't he come forward himself to declare his innocence? He still hasn't done that.

And what I wrote in "The New York Times" piece last week, Wolf, is that, by disclosing the details of his relationship with Ms. Levy, he might evoke and trigger some association or memory in other people to come forward. By failing to disclose details of that relationship, he is impeding the investigation in my judgment, and he has no right to privacy under this circumstance.

BLITZER: But, Roy Black, you're one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country. If Gary Condit were your client, would you let him go out and have a news conference, come on this program and answer my questions? Or would you tell him exactly what Abbe Lowell is apparently telling him, just remain silent and let me do the talking?

BLACK: Well, Wolf, I certainly wouldn't let him answer your questions.

(LAUGHTER)

BLACK: I certainly wouldn't let him do a press conference. I wouldn't let the police in his house, I wouldn't let them search. I wouldn't let police in my house, I wouldn't give them my DNA.

I mean, this is a -- let's face it, this is a homicide investigation by this time. You probably have half the police in Washington, D.C., working on it. I mean, you know, what can this guy really do now?

BLITZER: Let me interrupt you for a second, though, and ask you, Roy Black, if you have nothing -- this is the question I keep getting e-mails from my viewers -- if you have nothing to hide, if you had nothing to do with her disappearance, why be so nervous about letting the police do whatever they want? BLACK: Wolf, I'll give you one statistic. In Illinois, they've put 25 people on death row. Thirteen of them turned out to be totally innocent. Now, if you want to turn your hands over to the police in this country, who have shown they make enormous errors in capital cases let alone the rest of them, you're taking an awful big risk. And I'll tell you, I tell my clients that all the time.

BLITZER: All right. That's a good point he makes, Dick Thornburgh.

THORNBURGH: The answer to your question, I think, was the comment made by Marlin Fitzwater, who knows this area of controversy and particularly media response very well, last week, when he said that, if Congressman Condit has nothing to hide, he's doing the absolute wrong thing in taking the approach that he has of stiffing people. If he does have something to hide, then he's following good legal advice and keeping as low a profile as possible and being less forthcoming.

DAVIS: And look, Roy, you're not just a criminal defense lawyer when you're representing a member of Congress who's involved with a young woman who has now disappeared.

And if he is, in fact, innocent of any of that involvement, he can call a press conference, categorically deny that, admit to the relationship and then draw the line on any of the details that he doesn't think is relevant.

But why he doesn't categorically and publicly deny at a press conference her involvement, and then disclose day by day his activities with her to help find her, maybe, Roy, you're acting a little bit more as a narrow criminal defense lawyer rather than someone who is in the public arena who has an obligation to do this.

BLITZER: All right, I know...

BLACK: But, Lanny, just as Dick said...

BLITZER: Roy Black, hold your fire. We're just getting started.

I want to take quick break. We have a lot more to talk about obviously in this case. In fact, we have the second hour of LATE EDITION.

Coming up, we'll check the hour's top stories. We'll take phone calls about the Chandra Levy case for Lanny Davis, Dick Thornburgh and Roy Black.

Then, a conversation with the Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill about your tax rebate checks. Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOWELL: Congressman Condit has exhausted the information he can provide, and that the spotlight on him should be turned elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Congressman Gary Condit passes a private lie detector test when asked about missing Washington intern Chandra Levy. But does that clear him with police?

We'll get legal analysis on the Chandra Levy case from top criminal defense attorney Roy Black, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former White House special counsel Lanny Davis.

And as the government prepares to send you tax rebate checks, our Willow Bay talks with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and David Brooks. And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on the forces that really move Washington.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our discussion about the Chandra Levy case in just a moment, but first let's go to Atlanta and CNN's Donna Kelley for a check of the hour's top stories.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: And now back to our conversation with the former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, the former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, and former -- current criminal defense attorney Roy Black.

Sorry about that, Roy, I know you're not a former criminal defense attorney.

Let's get right to the issue at hand. You heard what Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh said: He's not simply an average person on the street, he's also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. What's wrong with him making a public statement and denying all of these allegations?

BLACK: Well, you know, Dick is exactly right, what does he to cover up? Does he have anything to cover up? Of course he does. He's like every other 50-year-old, married politician who's had numerous affairs with young girls. They're all going to try to cover it up and lie about it.

And that's the trouble with letting guys like this get up there and talk. Everybody says, "Well, let's come clean about everything that you know about this," but nobody does that. No politician comes clean on all his sexual affairs.

Condit may have nothing to do with her disappearance, but let's face it, he doesn't want all this embarrassing thing out there, so of course he lies about it. It turns into a cover up and becomes a disaster.

DAVIS: Excuse me, Roy, you just undercut your argument. For God sakes, he already is known to be doing these things and he has already been dissembling and may have opened himself up to an obstruction case. What in God's name more is he going to have difficulty with his wife now if he at least publicly discloses the last several weeks of what happened with Chandra Levy because her parents need him to do that. Other considerations of embarrassment or privacy are not as important as doing what her parents and the police want him to do.

And in terms of criminality for doing that, I don't see what crime you're worried about other than the embarrassment of admitting these relationships.

BLACK: He's on the slippery slope. Remember, he started out denying all this. Now he has to explain why he denied it all and got caught in all these lies. So that's why...

DAVIS: He already has done that.

BLACK: Yes, but that's why you have to be careful with these politicians.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, the other issue at stake for Congressman Gary Condit is potentially a much more serious issue, the whole issue of obstruction of justice, suborning perjury. Anne Marie Smith, a flight attendant, was on Larry King Live Friday night, and she repeated what she had said earlier, that the congressman tried to get her to sign a false affidavit. Listen to this excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNE MARIE SMITH, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: The very last line says, "Under perjury of the law of the United States of America." And I knew in good conscience I could not sign it. And I got several phone calls urging me to sign it, saying...

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": From?

SMITH: From Mr. Condit and his representatives, or the people representing him. And he would say, "Well, their office is really close to where you live. You could just pop over there and, you know, sign it, and we could get this over with."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And as you know, Dick Thornburgh, she spent over eight hours over two days answering questions from the U.S. attorney's office here in Washington with FBI agents, D.C. Police representatives present during that session.

Is this a potential nightmare scenario for Congressman Condit?

THORNBURGH: I'm reminded of the observation that those who don't learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat it. And this brings to mind the cover-up attempts in the Watergate affair, President Clinton's reluctance to acknowledge his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Look, sooner or later, the truth is going to out. And I think what, unfortunately, Congressman Condit has done here is create an impression that he is unwilling to cooperate with the authorities, which, in turn, leads to a suspicion of some kind of culpability. It may be totally unfair, but he is the one that has created that impression.

BLITZER: Roy Black, the whole nature of this other aspect, of course, at heart of this investigation is a missing 24-year-old woman. And 76 days into this investigation, as you heard the Police Chief Charles Ramsey saying on this program earlier, they are no closer to knowing what happened to her than they were at the very beginning of the investigation.

But it has taken this turn into Congressman Condit and allegations, potentially, of obstructing justice. In effect, what Dick Thornburgh saying, the cover-up, in fact, may be worse than the initial sin that he committed.

BLACK: Well, there is no question about it, and the politicians fall into this trap all the time as they cover up something, you know, like their sexual affairs get themselves in a lot of problems.

And there's no question this is a real nightmare for Condit, but I don't believe he passed over into criminality. He came close. If she had signed the affidavit, it would have been a crime.

Secondly, remember that his lawyers put a note on there saying, you know, only sign if it is true or edit it however you want. That also saves him. And, also, let's face it, this is not really material necessarily to the disappearance of Chandra Levy.

So I think, for those reasons, it's not a crime, but it's the ultimate in stupidity and makes him look very bad.

BLITZER: And presumably if Roy Black is right, Lanny Davis, the U.S. attorneys will say, you know, these things look bad, but you're right, she never she signed it, she never did give the false affidavit, she never said what he was urging her to do. As a result, no crime was committed.

DAVIS: Well, I certainly agree with Roy, and I'd also like to remind everybody watching that Gary Condit is presumed innocent at the moment. There is no evidence that he was involved. He is acting as if he is hiding something, but we shouldn't jump to conclusions. He has got a great lawyer. He does have a right to privacy, in certain respects.

But what I'm submitting is that, as a member of Congress involved with this young woman in a missing persons case, he has got an obligation to override his concerns about his right to privacy and disclose every detail of what he did with that young woman two or three weeks before her disappearance that could help find her.

BLITZER: But, Dick Thornburgh, on that point, Abbe Lowell says that he has done exactly that. He has disclosed it all to the police. He hasn't disclosed it to the news media, to you or me, but he has disclosed all that information. Whatever the police want, fine -- obviously, the polygraph being an exception.

THORNBURGH: Well, he wants to play it by his rules. And I think on the polygraph test it's highlighted that the police are possessed of certain information that they would use in administering a polygraph test that either Abbe Lowell doesn't have or doesn't want to put on the record. And I think the only way to clear that up right now is to have him immediately submit to qualified police polygraph investigation. I think it will help him if he does that.

BLITZER: Yes, but you heard -- and, Roy Black, I want your reaction to this. You heard Chief Ramsey himself say on this program earlier, the chances of that happening, of Abbe Lowell letting Congressman Condit go to the police headquarters and agree to their polygraph test, he said is remote. The chief himself saying that.

BLACK: Yes, well, a good lawyer is not going to hand his clients over into the den of the police, if you say.

But, you know, the real frustrating part here, Wolf, is there is no crime scene. You know, it's very hard for the police to investigate a homicide or a presumed homicide without a body, without blood, without some sort of evidence. So, of course we're all running around on all the periphery here, but the whole central part of this case is missing and it's just a big mystery.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take another quick break, but we're going to continue our conversation.

And when we return, we'll also be taking your phone calls for Lanny Davis, Dick Thornburgh and Roy Black. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation about the Chandra Levy case with former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis, former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and criminal defense attorney Roy Black.

Let's take a caller from Charlotte, North Carolina. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Thank you. First of all, I love your program.

Mr. Davis, I have a question. How did it feel when you found out that Bill Clinton was lying to you about his affair?

DAVIS: Well, I didn't -- I didn't like it. I felt very angry that he had wasted so much time in coming forward. I also felt that it wasn't -- didn't rise to the level of an impeachment or a conviction in the Senate.

But I don't think there's any analogy here because, at least, one could say that Bill Clinton was impeding a civil deposition in a frivolous case thrown out on some re-judgment. Here you have impeding, I think, Congressman Condit, an investigation in finding a young woman and not telling the truth to her parents and, I think, in blocking what is currently happening in the D.C. Police. Anybody who makes that analogy is still stretching, I think, just to go back to the Clinton days.

BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, Johnnie Cochran was on ABC's This Week earlier today, and he made a point about the way the D. C. Police Department has been investigating this case involving not only Chandra Levy but Gary Condit. I want you to listen to what Johnnie Cochran had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNNIE COCHRAN, ATTORNEY: I think the fact he's a congressman gave him, you know, an early kind of free pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did Gary Condit get an early kind of free pass?

THORNBURGH: Oh, I can't speak to that, but I think there has been a lot of commentary about the slow-motion nature of this investigation. It's now two and a half months since she disappeared. And it crucial to get insights from key witnesses early on in the process so that could form the basis for the ongoing investigation.

Obviously, Congressman Condit knew a lot about her lifestyle, knew a lot about what her habits and behavior were, what her mood was, what her way of thinking was. And all of that, if it was obtained early in the investigation, would have given them something to build on. Two and a half months later, I'm not sure it's worth that.

BLACK: Wolf, can I respond to that?

BLITZER: I want you to respond to that. Go ahead.

BLACK: OK, you know I think it's very unfair here to second- guess the police. You know it's always easy to say, well, they should have done this and should have done that. But remember, they don't even have a crime scene, they don't have a body, they don't have any blood, they don't have a weapon, they don't even have any evidence a crime was committed. So it's very hard for the police because they always work off a crime scene. They determine that a crime was committed, then they look for it.

Here, it's such a void in the middle of the case. It's a missing persons case. Where do they go? It's very tough for them to investigate this kind of case.

DAVIS: Let me try one legitimate second-guess, Roy, that you'll probably agree with. I believe Abbe Lowell when he said publicly that Mr. Condit answered every question asked of him in the first two interviews honestly. Why didn't the D.C. police ask him, did you have a sexual relationship with Ms. Levy, yes or no?

BLITZER: Well, wait a second, Lanny. How do you know that they didn't ask him that.

DAVIS: Well, because it's been widely reported that the news of that and the answer to that didn't come out until the third interview.

BLACK: Well, Lanny, I would agree with you if they had Chandra Levy's body there in the apartment, that they would have to ask some very hard questions. But remember, at the beginning of this case -- it's hard to believe this now, looking back -- but it was just a missing persons case. They're just looking for somebody. They weren't really investigating a crime or a murder. And you know if it was a murder investigation they would have asked a lot tougher questions.

So, as I say again, it's easy to criticize them, but you have to be in their shoes at the beginning of the case to see what they did and why they did it.

THORNBURGH: Roy, don't shoot messenger here. I think the problems of both the congressman and the police officials has been caused by their own actions. Unfortunately and sadly there is room for criticism in the way they've conducted themselves in this. And I think it's only fair to articulate that criticism, and maybe it'll help to move this thing off dead center.

BLITZER: All right, let's take another caller from Florida. Please go ahead with your question.

QUESTION: Yes, I just want to ask all the panelists, Wolf, I was just curious how do we know actually it was Congressman Condit taking this polygraph test and not one of his staff members, you know, since he said Abbe Lowell, you know, gave these results to the media? I was just curious about that.

THORNBURGH: I can answer that one. Abbe Lowell is an outstanding lawyer with the highest reputation for integrity. I can guarantee you that if he said that he took the lie detector test, he did.

BLITZER: Roy Black, Billy Martin's strategy, the strategy of the Levy family and everything we can tell over these past several days, pointing a lot of attention on Gary Condit, when a lot of experts seem to think that, yes, he may have had an affair with her but he didn't necessarily kill her.

All of this attention they're pointing on Gary Condit, could it in the end backfire because they're not pursuing other potential leads?

BLACK: No, no. I think that their strategy was brilliant. To sum it up in one word, it's brilliant, an act of genius. If this was just a missing persons case, nobody would be doing anything. By putting the pressure on Condit, by getting into these affairs, they get everyone's attention, "Look at us." They have our attention today. Every day, all day long, people are discussing this. There are pictures everywhere, it's on television.

By keeping the pressure on the Condit side of the investigation, they have done more to try to track down this young girl than anything they could have done. They could spent a billion dollars and not got this kind of publicity about the problem.

BLITZER: On that note, Roy Black, Dick Thornburgh, Lanny Davis, I want to thank all of for you joining us once again. Always great to have you on our program.

And when we return, postal carriers may be bringing you a check from Uncle Sam pretty soon. A conversation about getting out the tax rebate with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

For the first time since 1975 in the Gerald Ford administration, millions of Americans this summer are getting a tax rebate check. It's a massive undertaking that the Bush administration began planning for months ago.

CNN's Willow Bay recently spoke with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill about getting out the checks and what the rebate could mean for the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL O'NEILL, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Yes, this is a big-time administrative task. There are not too many endeavors that require the mailing of 90 million pieces of mail to the right places. This is not addressed to occupants. This has to be to the right person and in the right amount of money.

And it really is quite difficult, because it's only possible to print about 11 million of these special checks that have all the appropriate controls on them so that they don't become the subject of forgery and the rest. And so, this is really quite a task for the IRS to do, in addition to all the other things they have to do.

WILLOW BAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, besides the 90 million or so checks that went out, you also sent out letters of notification to taxpayers. How valuable was this as a good bit of PR for the IRS, for the government, and also for the Bush administration?

O'NEILL: Well, I think sending out the notices is really very important because we were anticipating that, after the first set of checks went out, that, if we didn't have a notice out there beforehand, that the IRS would be buried with telephone calls from the other 79 million people saying, where is mine?

And so the checks serve a really useful purpose to let people know how much they're going to get and exactly when they're going to get it to preempt an administrative avalanche of telephone calls.

BAY: They may have been useful, but is it fair to say that those letters are driving the Democrats crazy?

O'NEILL: Well, I don't think so. You know, I tell you something I found very interesting, not a single member of Congress has written to me or called me to ask that we be sure and put a notice in the refunds to their constituents saying that they didn't want this to happen and they're sorry they're receiving the money.

BAY: Fair enough. The checks, as you pointed out, start getting mailed out July 23 through September, but when will taxpayers start to feel the effects of changes in their withholding as a result of the tax cuts?

O'NEILL: On the first day of July, the withholding rates went into effect. And so people should begin seeing this, depending what you pay cycle is, if your pay cycle is two weeks, in your next check, you should be able to see a reduction in withholding. And from now on, you should see the benefits of the first major tax reduction since 1981.

BAY: One of the recent surveys that I saw noted suggested that about 20 to 30 percent of American taxpayers will spend most of this rebate. Will that be enough to effect the kind of change that you are anticipating?

O'NEILL: Well, I'll tell you what I think. I was asked, what do you want people to do with this money? I want them to do whatever they would do with it if it was theirs in the first place, which it now will be again.

You know, Americans are a diverse lot, they have diverse economic circumstances. And they ought to do whatever makes sense to them. It's not up for somebody in the government to decide how people should spend their money.

So, whatever they do, it's going to be good for the economy, it's going to be pro-growth going forward. And I hope it puts a smile on people's face.

BAY: It may put a smile on people's faces, but do you think it'll be enough to boost consumer spending to keep this economy out of a recession?

O'NEILL: You know, I have a lot of confidence that this, in conjunction with the monetary policy changes that Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Board have implemented with their reductions in interest rates, and now with this stimulus coming at just exactly the right time, I have a lot of confidence that our economy is going to be OK. BAY: Some Democrats in Congress are concerned that these rebates, this tax cut, may be one that we live to regret, that we will see the surplus being squeezed. Are you concerned about that?

O'NEILL: Well, not really. You know, I'm one who begins with a proposition that says the money belongs to the people. And those of us in the government, both in the executive branch and in the congressional branch, have an obligation to the people to explain to them why they should agree to give up their resources that they fairly earned for the broader public good. And I think having the responsibility to explain to the people why they should do that is a very good thing.

And so, just saying that, well, we have surpluses and it belongs to those of us in government seems to me to be completely inappropriate. So I like a system where we have to tell the people why we want to spend more money and we have to compete against other priorities that people have in their lives.

BAY: All of these efforts, of course, are directed at boosting consumer spending, but business spending is the real problem right now for this economy. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to give business spending a boost?

O'NEILL: Well, I think business spending is a function of market demand and individual companies seeing the prospect for markets that need their goods. And when those conditions exist then individual entrepreneurs, big companies go out and either borrow the money or get it from shareholders, and they invest it.

And when there's a rekindling of a broad level of final demand for products, the investment process will take place again. I think that it's slowed down, it's slowed down for sure in the telecom sector and, what I call, the box-maker business, but we're going to be OK.

BAY: Is it likely that, going forward, the president will push for some sort of corporate tax relief? Is that an item on his agenda?

O'NEILL: Well, at the moment, we're looking at getting the rest of the president's initial priorities in place. It's really important that we get education reform enacted. It's important that we get the elements of his energy proposals enacted. We're beginning to work on Social Security.

And so, I guess I would say, at the moment, I don't see near-term prospects of substantial, huge, large additional changes in tax policy. There are some things that are already in front of the Congress that have to do with tax credits and tax inducements for a variety of things. And so we'll see some of those come along. But I don't, frankly, see a big initiative either necessary or proposed in the next six months.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill speaking with our own Willow Bay earlier in the week. And by the way, your tax rebate checks are scheduled to go out in the mail beginning next week -- actually a week from Monday, to be precise.

Just ahead, what's next for Congressman Gary Condit? We'll go 'round the table on that and much more with Roberts, Page and Brooks when LATE EDITION returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report"; and David Brooks, senior editor for "The Weekly Standard."

Steve, this horrible story that we're obviously compelled to report on, that we're watching, the whole search for Chandra Levy, it seems that it's not going anywhere, at least not as far as I can tell.

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, there doesn't seem to be much progress. But I do think that one thing has gotten lost in this whole discussion: whether he told the truth or not, Congressman Condit, which a lot of people feel he was very slow to tell truth, including me. And I think that is something that should be condemned.

There is another whole dimension here. I know a lot of people disagree with me, including a lot of young women, but the fact is, I think he should also be criticized for having an affair in the first place with this young woman. She was 24 years old. She was an intern. I am a professor in Washington. I send young people to offices all the time. I expect them to be protected, not exploited. I think their parents deserve that. And I think, whatever else is true, this man also acted badly in the relationship.

BLITZER: Is a 24-year-old woman not capable of making up her mind...

ROBERTS: Yes, she is.

BLITZER: ... if she wants to have an affair with a married man?

ROBERTS: Yes, she is capable of doing that. But I think, in any kind of situation like this, an older man like this, it's an inherently unequal situation and it's inherently exploitive.

BLITZER: The New Republic, David, has and editorial in the July 23 issue, which says, among other things, this: "Did Gary Condit murder Chandra Levy? Did his wife? Did the 24-year-old intern reported missing on May 6 kill herself in despair over her alleged affair with the 53-year-old congressman? Who knows? But Condit's fitness for public office does not depend on the answers. It is time for him to resign."

DAVID BROOKS, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think it's obvious, of course. I mean, we shouldn't even be talking about whether a congressman has an affair. Of course, he shouldn't have an affair. BLITZER: But if every congressman who had an affair with intern or...

BROOKS: OK, that -- you can forget that one. Though, Bob Livingston and others would say, you know, why me and why not him? But then the fact that he didn't come forward seems to me make it a clear call there. 600,000 people in that district, there's not one of them better fit to serve than Gary Condit? It seems to be an easy call.

BLITZER: So you're saying he should resign?

BROOKS: Of course.

BLITZER: Because he had an affair, or because he didn't tell the truth right away.

BROOKS: Because he didn't have the perspective, when it came out, in saying, "This isn't about me. This is about a woman's disappearance. I don't care about me. I'm going to do all I can to help the police find this woman." He didn't have the character in those first few weeks to that say that.

BLITZER: Well, Susan, you know, Lanny Davis, who was on this program just now -- you heard him. But he also wrote that op-ed piece in "The New York Times" earlier in week on Thursday. He said this, specifically referring to what we're talking about now: "The silence of Democratic officials is both wrong and politically shortsighted. Their failure to speak out may be giving tacit approval to Mr. Condit's delay in being forthcoming with the public."

SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, Democrats have a little bit of a quandary if you want to look at this totally in political terms, and of course that's not the most important thing to look at here.

But totally in political terms, Democrats wouldn't want him to resign because if he had a special election now, Republicans would clearly have a big boost from his forced resignation. Whereas, if he serves out the rest of his term, and he chooses simply not to run again in 2002, the kind of natural Democratic tendencies of that district might well hold sway and you'd have a Democrat succeeding him. Now, I don't know that that has figured into Democratic calculations on what to say, but that's the political reality.

BLITZER: Steve, if it turns out, when all is said and done, that Gary Condit had absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with the disappearance of Chandra Levy, and that's proven beyond a doubt, will we all look ridiculous for all the focus of attention that we gave him in this search?

ROBERTS: No, because he behaved badly in the relationship. He behaved badly in terms of dealing with the police. And those two things are true no matter what else is true.

BLITZER: But is it enough to expose all of his dirty linen, his private life, and to let the whole world know what he may or may not -- nothing illegal on that aspect. ROBERTS: But just because something is not illegal doesn't make it moral. I think he behaved immorally in the relationship. He behaved badly.

Look, this is an elected official whose job is to make and uphold the law, and he impeded a police investigation. And I think that that is true no matter what else is true.

Now, look, if you're going to ask me to defend every single minute of coverage on every cable network and say this has been proportionate and aren't there issues like stem cell research and campaign finance reform and a lot of other things and the Middle East peace that are a lot more important and we should be giving attention to, sure, that's true.

But I think that Gary Condit brought most of this on himself by the way he behaved.

BLITZER: David, it has been interesting the way media has been covering this. "The New York Times" does almost a daily story -- inside, not on page one. "The Washington Post" occasionally page one. The "USA Today" occasionally, once, at least that I remember, on page one.

CNN, the other cable news networks reporting extensively. On the broadcast nightly news programs, NBC doing lot of coverage about this. ABC, considerable, but not as much as NBC. CBS Evening News with Dan Rather hasn't touched it at all, although Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation this morning did their entire program on the Chandra Levy investigation.

BLITZER: Who's right and who's wrong?

BROOKS: CBS is wrong. Listen, there are some "castor oil" types who think we should only cover the Interstate Commerce Commission because that's legislation, that's where the -- but the fact is, America has always discussed character and moral issues and the things that really matter to people on exactly controversies like this.

You know, last week here I vented about the aunt of Chandra Levy not behaving properly. A lot of columnists did too. Then some other columnists came and defended it. This is how we talk about things.

The odd thing here is, usually the media stories are lawyers with a judge and then the reporters. Here we have no judge. We've cut out the middleman. It's just lawyers and reporters.

PAGE: You know, one of the criticisms of the press is, it's legitimate, is why are we covering this case so much when there are so many missing persons cases that get no attention at all?

But maybe the point is that we should do more of covering missing persons cases when there are other young women, that we learn now, that have disappeared from the streets of Washington and elsewhere, never to be seen again.

So maybe the real lesson here is that they deserve more coverage, not that Chandra Levy deserves less.

ROBERTS: By they way, as critical as I've been of Gary Condit, I don't think he should resign. I think it should be left to the voters in his district in the next election to decide whether he's behaved well or not. I don't think he should be pressured into resigning.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We'll have more of our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Susan, remember a couple of weeks ago we were pointing to our CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll which showed President Bush's job approval numbers going down. It was 52 percent at the end of June, early July. But this week there was a dramatic uptick. It's now back up to 57 percent, which isn't bad at this stage in his presidency.

PAGE: You know, I think this was kind of a mystery when we got these poll numbers back, because nothing obvious has happened that should prompt this turnaround in his ratings, which have undergone a slide for about two months.

I think that one possible explanation is the Chandra Levy case, frankly. One of the things that people liked about George W. Bush when he ran is he didn't have the kind of moral taint that surrounded Bill Clinton, and his kind of personal character rating has continued to be very high, his highest ratings of all. And I think maybe the Chandra Levy case has reminded people of some things they don't like about Washington, some of the things that they don't -- they assume go on in the Capital all the time that they don't associate with George W. Bush, and that's helped him.

BLITZER: Is that your sense as well, David?

BROOKS: No, I think we had about four or five sunny days in a row, and people felt a little happier.

(LAUGHTER)

BROOKS: Fifty-two to 57 is not massive when you take the margin of error.

BLITZER: Three percent margin of error.

BROOKS: Yes. Basically you've got a country that's divided 48- 48 and a very small margin who feel positively or negatively about him, so I just think we're going to see these sort of random fluctuations.

BLITZER: And the only poll, of course, that counts is the one that's on election day, as we all know.

Steve, you know, Beijing, China, gets the Olympics in 2008. A huge source of national pride for China, of course. Is this going to help the human rights condition in China the years leading up to the 2008 Games, or will it hurt?

ROBERTS: I hope and believe it will help the situation.

Look, a lot of people -- it's very hard to be friends with China. Just this week, they convicted another American professor and then expelled him fortunately, didn't incarcerate him.

But the fact is that the basic supposition that guided the Clinton policy toward China, that has guided the Bush policy toward China, which is engagement is better than isolation. The more people who go there, the more contacts, the more journalists who go to cover the Olympics, the more attention that is focused, the more ways in which international business and press is focused on China, I think that all helps open the society. So it's hard to defend their human rights record, but I think this will help.

BROOKS: May I just say that's naive. I mean, being a communist regime means you suppress human rights, means you don't allow democratic movements. It means you have to throw people in jail. That's what being a communist regime means. It can't be liberalized. It's not an alternative if you're a communist regime.

ROBERTS: But if you are a communist...

BROOKS: And they're going to keep doing it, because they have to do it for their survival.

ROBERTS: But they have to open in order to be part of the world community, and that is the other imperative, David.

BROOKS: Well, then they're committing political suicide, and it's unrealistic to expect a regime like that to do that.

BLITZER: And, you know, Susan, as a lot of people have pointed out, the fact that the Olympic games were in Munich in 1936, that certainly didn't stop Hitler from going forward with his plan. And in 1980 the Moscow games, only, what, a few months before the games, the Russians invaded Afghanistan.

So is David right, that this is probably not going to have much of an impact on the human rights condition in China?

PAGE: Well, I think the reality in this debate that we just heard here and that microcosm is that neither approach seems to have had much affect. I mean, being tough with China doesn't open it up. Engagement with China has not had kind of measurable affects in opening their society. So maybe we ought to make a decision on the Olympics on the basis of other considerations.

BLITZER: Yet the Bush administration was, as a senior Bush administration official told us who came to our bureau this week, was neutral in leading up to this decision and thought it was a decision that the International Olympic Committee should make and that there should be no influence from outside.

ROBERTS: Well, they have a political problem. They can't appear to be friendly to Beijing. They've got core of conservatives who agree with David, that this is a communist regime and you can't ever trust them, and fair enough. And so I don't think they had a view one way or another.

But if you look at their long-term policy, it basically is the same policy as the Clinton administration. And I agree that it's at least as much as a hope as it is anything that this will eventually lead to a liberalization. But I think the odds are better that this will lead to liberalization than isolation.

PAGE: But, you know, the reality, it's not up to the U.S. where the Olympics go, and the U.S. didn't have a deciding vote on this. And some people thought the U.S. weighing in one way or the other would have a counter-productive affect.

BLITZER: Is that your sense, David?

BROOKS: Yes, I think that's right. But, you know, what's wrong with Toronto and Paris? They're perfectly nice cities. Those were the alternatives.

PAGE: Or Washington.

BROOKS: But the fact is Beijing has a lot of economic potential and a lot of business people love them.

BLITZER: Our viewers in Istanbul and Osaka are going to be upset you didn't include them in this list as well.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: David, the fact that campaign finance reform, at least for now, goes down in flames for a procedural reason in the House of Representatives, who wins, who loses?

BROOKS: The opponents of campaign finance win, and the essential problem was a lot of people in the Democratic Party who liked it in theory didn't like it in practice, because a lot of those Democrats need soft money to get their message out. A lot of those groups in the Democratic coalition like soft money. They pulled back, and then we had this blow up.

BLITZER: Crocodile tears from the Democratic leadership, Dick Gephardt and company?

PAGE: Anybody who thinks they're not going to come back and have to vote on this issue does not know John McCain, who is a very stubborn man and who actually believes in this issue. This is not -- this has succeeded in derailing this vote on campaign finance reform, but this issue is no way over.

BLITZER: And you heard Chris Shays on this program, a Republican, saying he's determined to block up all sorts of House legislative activity if he doesn't get that vote.

ROBERTS: I have never believed this bill. I have never believed this bill would become law because, you got to remember, only the winners get to vote. Everybody who's in the Congress today has won under the current system.

ROBERTS: The current system is an incumbent-protection system. That's why Democrats have joined with Republicans to protect the current system.

I think it is -- in the absence of a public outcry, this issue has not made a ripple in terms of the public. Any poll shows that it's right at the bottom, in terms of public awareness. Without a strong tide of public opinion forcing Congress to do what they don't want to do, it's not going to happen. I don't see that tide, and I don't see it passing.

BLITZER: All right. Steve Roberts, David Brooks, Susan Page, thank you for joining us.

Up next, Bruce Morton's "last word."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So it's easy to be cynical about money here, about sex here, easy to wonder what became of standards of doing something just because it's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Has morality taken a backseat in Washington?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on Washington and the storylines that always seem to be a part of the nation's capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORTON: Washington doesn't change in some ways. "The Washington Post" reported this past week that the Salvation Army offered to spend money lobbying for President Bush's proposal to fund faith-based organizations in exchange for a rule allowing such organizations to discriminate against homosexuals in the workplace, to protect the organizations from state or local laws barring such discrimination.

Well, the White House said nobody senior was involved. Then the "Post" quoted two sources as saying the president's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, knew all about the offer.

This isn't quite like letting fat cats sleep in the Lincoln bedroom, maybe, but it is the old Washington dance: money seeking power. And even though Congress is debating campaign finance reform this year, the dance is likely to go on and on.

The relationship between money and politics goes way back.

Mark Hannah, a 19th century pol, once said, "There are two important things in politics. The first is money, and I can't remember what the other one is."

Then there's the intern. And, boy, do we all know about that and remember the "other" intern and other scandals past. Affairs in Washington go back a long way, too, of course.

Franklin Roosevelt's mistress was with him when he died. Their relationship had lasted for years. There may have been more affection in affairs back then.

So it's easy to be cynical about money here, about sex here. It's easy to wonder whatever became of standards of doing something just because it's right.

But there was also a moment last week to remind us that the good stuff is still around, too.

At baseball's All-Star Game, Cal Ripken, almost 41, not the hitter he used to be, playing his last All-Star Game in his last season, steps to the plate against a pitcher he has never faced before and whacks the ball out of the park -- oldest man ever to homer in an All-Star Game.

Ripken is a throw-back, a man who played his whole career with one team and who still, in conversation, uses phrases like "respect the game." Those old virtues again.

So smile at Washington, or sneer if you don't feel like smiling, and celebrate Cal.

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We shall, Bruce. Thank you very much.

Now it's time for you to have the "Last Word."

The case of the missing Washington intern, Chandra Levy, and her relationship with California Congressman Gary Condit provoked a lot of comments from you.

Beth writes this: "Although I don't believe Congressman Condit is responsible for Chandra Levy's disappearance, he obviously chose to withhold factual information that police wanted and need to know. I think it is unforgivable that Condit valued his own personal reputation over his girlfriend's life."

Robert from Georgia says this: "Condit's lawyer is right that you, the media, are looking for the scandal side of the story and not the missing person. I support the actions of the congressman in his efforts to help the police and keep his silence with the tabloid news media, and this includes the major network and cable news organizations."

We also got a lot of e-mail about our debate on the ethics and politics of federally funded stem cell research. Patrick from Washington state writes, "Trying to stop stem cell research is a backdoor way for the right-wing conservative religious right to take away a woman's right to a safe, legal abortion. These backdoor attacks on abortion rights will not be tolerated."

But Eleanor from New Jersey says, "We should not use the unborn for any kind of research. My husband has debilitating MS, and still, we would not want the unborn used in research."

Finally, Troy from Michigan pleads, "Let's not turn a medical issue into a political one."

As always, I invite your comments. You can e-mail me at LATEDITION@CNN.com and don't forget to sign up for my weekly e-mail at CNN.com/email.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Now a look on what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

"Newsweek" examines "The frenzy over Chandra Levy: Gary Condit's secret life, and the parents versus the congressman," with a picture of the missing intern on the cover.

"TIME" magazine asks, "How apes became human: What a new discovery tells scientists about what it calls our oldest ancestors and how they stood on two legs and made an evolutionary leap," on the cover.

And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report": "America's best hospitals, a guide to the nation's finest health care."

That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, July 15. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And if you missed any of today's program, please tune in tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for a one-hour replay of LATE EDITION.

I'll see you tomorrow night on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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