Skip to main content /transcript



Can Gary Condit's Staff Save His Political Career?

Aired August 31, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Gary Condit's publicist steps aside, a week after a media blitz backfired. And just yesterday, his staff spoke out for the first time in an exclusive interview. Can their boss save his political career?

Squaring off in Washington, former federal prosecutor, best- selling author Barbara Olson. In New York, former prosecutor, now Court TV anchor Nancy Grace. In Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos. And back in D.C., former chief minority council for the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein.

They're all next with your phone calls, on LARRY KING LIVE.

OK, before we talk about the appearance last night of the staff, we will start with Mark Geragos this time. What do you make of Marina Ein who has received a lot of publicity, she is a top publicist in Washington, coming off this?

MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't think she'd give herself an A-plus for the performance here. I mean, she obviously, she was under tough circumstances, but this has not been handled -- and we have said it all along -- this has been a media strategy that has been doomed from the beginning. I mean, obviously they didn't plan this well, and they didn't understand the media and they didn't understand how this thing was going to play out.

KING: Was she hired by Abbe Lowell?

GERAGOS: That's my understanding, yeah.

KING: Barbara, what do you make of it?

BARBARA OLSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I mean, Marina Ein has been put into the background since there was the talk about whether or not she was bad-mouthing Chandra Levy, and so I think when we start seeing Condit's political people coming to the foreground, Marina Ein knew that it was basically done for her and that it was a good time to step out.

But I think it is interesting, she said that since it's clear Gary Condit is not going to have any more interviews, it was time to go.

KING: Julian Epstein, your read on this? JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER HOUSE JUDICIARY COUNSEL: I think generally Marina Ein is a very competent public relations expert, but I think in this case it was handled very badly. I think -- even though I think Gary Condit most likely had nothing do with the disappearance, almost overnight with the interview he has gone from what people thought was a Clinton-like situation to an O.J.-like situation, so I agree with Mark -- this has been a disastrous handling from the public relations point of view.

KING: Nancy? Are you going to make this unanimous?

GERAGOS: For the first time?

NANCY GRACE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No, I disagree. We are all assuming that Marina Ein was taking her orders, that she was planning the whole media blitz, but I say she and everybody else get their marching orders from Condit, and now she is another unfortunate victim of Condit's finger-pointing. First, it's the police targeting him, then it's Anne Marie Smith, then it's the press, now boot Ein. It's not going to help.

KING: All right, what did you make, Julian, of the appearance last night of the staff?

EPSTEIN: Well, you know, again, I don't want to make comparisons to Clinton, but when Clinton was in trouble, and I think one or two ex-staff made some criticisms of him -- I think that was very unpopular. I think if nothing else what you saw last night was some very admiral loyalty, and I think the loyalty was genuine, I don't think it was contrived. The story about the woman who had a 32-year- old son who passed away and Gary Condit was the first person in the living room, I think that was remarkable. If nothing else, he has been a very good boss.

Essentially what they were character witnesses in a court of public opinion, and I think that character witnesses are very important when a kind of case is too close to call. The problem here is that public opinion has really hardened, and the issue, the real issue is that there has been obfuscation by Mr. Condit and by his team on the critical questions relating to his relationship with a missing person.

And when the public senses that you haven't been clean about that, it doesn't matter how many character witnesses you have, even if you had good ones, and I think they were good ones last night.

KING: Nancy, were you surprised that they apparently really had no interest in the congressman's any aspect of his private life?

GRACE; You know what, Larry? I'm not surprised that they have no interest in his sex life, but I'm very surprised, because the issue really isn't his sex life anymore, it's a girl that is presumed dead or missing, and for them to sit back and say, gee, you know, I never thought to ask him about that -- I was dumbfounded, and there is a certain degree of derision I have for misplaced loyalty when you've got a possibly dead girl. KING: Mark?

GERAGOS: Look, I don't know how -- maybe Nancy and I were watching two different programs. I watched that program, I saw some people there who had obvious affection, great deal...

GRACE: I saw that too.

GERAGOS: ... an infinite reservoir of affection for Gary Condit, and contrary to some of the stuff we've seen for thousands and thousands of hours during the coverage of this, these were people who actually know him, day in and day out, for years, and who just do not believe for a second that he could be involved in the disappearance...

GRACE: They never even asked him.

KING: Well, if I were -- if I were -- if this were, let's say, Larry King being involved -- I hate to put myself in things -- the people around me would have asked.

GERAGOS: Well, your staff would have, yeah. Nonstop at you, I have seen it.

KING: I can just picture Wendy Whitworth, my producer, not mentioning Chandra to me.

GERAGOS: Exactly. And Dean (ph) would be calling 15 times a day, so I understand...


KING: Were you surprised that they didn't ask?

GERAGOS: Not really, because I think that immediately here, you could sense that there was this -- I don't want to say distance -- but there was a firm kind of a pecking order amongst the staff and the people who were there. They view him -- I think Mike Dayton was clear -- viewed him as a mentor, I think the other women there all viewed him with a great deal of admiration and awe.

And I don't think that's the place they would have gone. Plus, you know, there is -- you know, this is a workplace, and in a lot of workplaces, especially government workplaces, the last thing you are going to do is start talking about sex and people's personal lives.

KING: And Barbara, Mike Dayton was driving him around every day and with him every day, you would have think that might have come up. What are your thoughts?

OLSON: Well, I mean, when I got done listening to the interview, I thought I had just seen a series of the Stepford staff after the Stepford wives movie. None of them asked him -- it seemed like they had been morally anesthetized by Condit. They were incapable of making moral judgments.

And I think at one point Ms. Moore likened Condit's problems to her back surgery and how he didn't think less of her after her back surgery, so she wasn't going to think less of him after this. It was odd. Yes, they were loyal. Yes, they even said they loved him. Some of them thought of him as their son.


GERAGOS: ... why is it that people have to subscribe to your morality or your idea of being a moral scold? Why is it that people can't say, I have had an affection for this guy for 20 years, or in the one case say he was in my living room within an hour of my son dying?


GERAGOS: ... I don't see where that's Stepford wives or anything else.


EPSTEIN: ... put a finer point on the question, if we can. There is nothing unusual, Barbara will attest to this having worked on the Hill before, about members -- about staff not asking members about their personal life. The workplace is the workplace, the personal life is the personal life.

KING: Even when it's front page?

EPSTEIN: Let me continue with the point, if I may. I think what happened after she went missing was that I'm sure that Gary Condit made it clear to the staff that he had nothing to do with the fact that she was missing, and the staff stopped it there.

The point, however, I think Mark that we cannot argue, we cannot get away from, is to have the staff out there making public denials about the nature of the relationship when at the same time the police are saying he is not forthcoming about it. No staff...


KING: One at a time!

EPSTEIN: I love you like a brother, but I don't think having worked up there, having worked up there, that a staff person on a matter this important can be out front in press without the boss stopping them or the boss correcting the record. There is no way around that issue.

OLSON: And the other thing is, let's talk about what we heard last night. We heard Mike Dayton, who said he had never asked Gary Condit about the relationship. Now, Mike Dayton is in the Washington office. The other staffers who are out in the district office, I understand. Chandra Levy was in Washington, they may not have seen that.

But Mike Dayton was in Washington, and although he never asked Gary Condit, he sure knew how to trash Anne Marie Smith. I think one of the ladies even said the exact talking points that they had had about that she was doing this for publicity, to get on television, and how sad that she was using it.

It was very interesting that these people, who had never talked with him about any of his relationships, were able although to start trashing this woman. So where did they get that information? If they were telling us...

KING: Let me get a break...

OLSON: ... I was just going to say, if they're telling us we are wrong to condemn Gary Condit on what we know, why are they able to condemn those women?

KING: Let me get a break, we will come right back. By the way, if you missed the interview with Chad Condit, it will be repeated tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND. Also, the last major interview the Levys did will be repeated on Sunday night.

Next Tuesday, Oprah Winfrey in an exclusive hour appearance with your phone calls. We'll be including a lot of your phone calls tonight too, don't go away.


KING: Driving around the car with your boss, you are his major deputy, administrative assistant, it's in all the newspapers, you don't say "what happened?"

MIKE DAYTON, CONDIT'S TOP D.C. AIDE: I feel if that's something he wants to share with me, he will. But, no, I have never asked him, and you know, I don't think I ever will.




KING: Did you know about Chandra Levy, Jackie?

MULLEN: No. I never met Chandra. No.

KING: Did you?

MEJIA: No. Never met Chandra.

KING: Never heard the name?

MEJIA: No. Never heard of Chandra.

KING: Mike, you obviously knew.

DAYTON: Knew her, yes. I knew her. She came by the office, you know, probably four times over a six-month period. But, you know, no -- no idea, never seen her in a social setting with my boss. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Nancy Grace, what do you think it is going to be like for the Congressman when he goes back to work Wednesday?

GRACE: Well, I think that...

KING: Tuesday.

GRACE: Back home, apparently with his staffers, they all are "see no evil hear no evil do no evil." You know he could commit mass murder in the parking lot, they wouldn't see a thing. But back in Washington -- I would like to finish, back in Washington, it will be a different story.

The other issue, regarding the employees, the staff, I certainly do not fault loyalty. In fact, I admire it. But there is a certain point where you cannot turn the other way and wash your hands and pretend nothing is happening. Sex, affairs, who cares? But you know what? When there is a dead or missing girl, that is a time you cannot turn away. It is not okay.

GERAGOS: Where are they turning away? The people answered the questions. I don't think anybody who watched that...

GRACE: They were making public statements for him.

GERAGOS: You know as well as I do -- you know as well as I do, Nancy...

KING: One at time.

GERAGOS: ...that anybody who is put on as character witness, so to speak, does not have to ask about the supposed event, that if they know the person, they know him by reputation, that they can render an opinion as to whether or not they think this is something they are capable. That's what a character...

GRACE: These are not character witnesses.

GERAGOS: That is what they have been described as, is character witnesses in the court of public opinion.

GRACE: But Mark, put that -- no. They do not have the right to speak for him publicly.

GERAGOS: Do they have the right to give their opinions?

GRACE: And then never ask the truth. It is not okay.

EPSTEIN: That's the key point. That is -- it's ...

GERAGOS: Do they have the right to give their opinion, because they apparently know him.

GRACE: Even if it is false? GERAGOS: There are people all over the airwaves giving their opinion who've never even met this guy. I think I would like to -- at least for one hour out of 1,500 hours hear from somebody who actually knows the guy.

GRACE: It is not okay to look the other way.

OLSON: Mark, how do you explain the fact that the staff talked lovingly about Carolyn and all the work she had done and they obviously -- you could see -- they became very comfortable talking about how wonderful Gary Condit's wife Carolyn was. Yet they find out that Gary Condit is here in Washington telling people his wife is sick and ill, she has encephalitis of the brain. Yet this is a man they would think no less of after all of these things, and they love -- they love his wife. It doesn't make sense! There is a certain -- there is a certain character.


OLSON: Of course.

GERAGOS: Because -- because the only person who has supposedly reported the fact that he is telling people he has encephalitis, that she is sickly and everything else -- they're getting those reports from the press and obviously they know a different .

OLSON: No. David Dreier, excuse me,

GERAGOS: Excuse me.

OLSON: But there are members of Congress that said he had told them his wife was not feeling well. So it is not just the women who you think are lying, there are members of Congress.

GERAGOS: Barbara, calm yourself for a second. David Dreier is a member of the California delegation. David Dreier has seen Carolyn Condit for years, knows her very well. That story is just painfully unbelievable.

OLSON: David Dreier had been told that she was sickly. That is exactly -- so. So, Mark.


OLSON: Everybody is lying. Everybody lies.


KING: Julian, you are a veteran of the Hill. How is he going to do?

EPSTEIN: When he comes back?

KING: yeah.

EPSTEIN: Well, I think I said it the other night. It's like Caesar entering the Roman Senate in 44 B.C., and I think that the Brutus will probably be the Blue Dog Democrats who believe -- I don't think most of the members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, believe that he had a role in the disappearance of Chandra Levy. But it is the way in which this thing has been handled. And you know, you have spoken about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, if I can make an analogy -- the five stages of death, before.

I think the stages of political death, the final stage of political death, is when somebody becomes very isolated, and somebody becomes very defiant. They believe that the press has treated them unfairly and they kind of dig themselves in. Unfortunately, even though I still don't believe that he has had a role in the disappearance, I think that is where he is today. And I think probably his days in the Congress, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which side of the argument you're on, are probably numbered at this point.

KING: Nancy, you think -- do you still hold the opinion that he was involved?

GRACE: Well, I do hold the opinion that he has impeded the investigation. And at least -- if nothing more -- for that reason let a trail go cold, a trail that could have led us to Chandra Levy if he had been forthcoming and told the truth in the beginning. And frankly, all fingers point back at this point to Condit.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll be including your phone calls. Our panel with us for the full hour. Don't go away.


KING: Did Gary Condit ever knowingly lie to you?




KING: A lie where you could say, "Mr. my boss, you lied to me."


MOORE: Never.

AUSTIN: Never.

KING: Never?

MOORE: On any occasion.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAYTON: ... have made statements in the past that there was not a relationship.

KING: do you regret those statements.

DAYTON: I don't regret making those. What I regret is -- you know, if I have any said anything that has caused anybody pain, especially the Levys.


KING: G.O.P. strategist Tony Blankley said -- he is former press secretary for Newt Gingrich -- said, "The general theory in politics is that all staff are expendable. The staff throws themselves in front of the bullets to protect the boss."

Honestly, Barbara Olson, if the Congressman were to say, "I'm not going to run again, this is my last term in Congress." Doesn't that effectively put this story away until she is found?

OLSON: Well, I mean, it puts the story about Gary Condit's relationships with other women away. It doesn't put it away about Chandra.

KING: It takes her disappearance off the front page, though.

OLSON: I don't think it will.


OLSON: I think basically -- you know, you asked Nancy Grace if there was -- whether she thought still thought Gary Condit was involved. He still looks like he is hiding something. I believe he was lying when he was interviewed by Connie Chung. And our common sense says, why? What are you trying to hide? That is still out there. The police are now saying they are not ruling out another interview. They had to come out and say he wasn't forthcoming after listening to Mark, night after night, screaming how forthcoming he was. So I think all that is still there, and it doesn't add up to a completely innocent man. It adds up to man who, although maybe he wasn't involved in her disappearance, what is he hiding?

KING: Mark, he has contributed to his own dilemma.

GERAGOS: Well, there is no question that the perception out there has become reality. Obviously. But at the same time, this idea that the -- that he's given four interviews, that he's turned over his records, that he's invited them to search, that he has done all of those things which he -- as anybody will tell you, nobody is going to do if they have the finger pointing at them. People say it means nothing, but it could have easily just told them to go pound sand. It would have -- he could have stood right out (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


KING: One at a time, ladies. GERAGOS: Hold on. He obviously would not have been in worse situation than he is now, because if he had just told them to go...

OLSON: But that's their...

GERAGOS: My lawyer tells me I can't cooperate -- he couldn't be any more of a pariah than he is right now.

OLSON: But let's be clear. Now, that search that you talked about he invited, that occurred after he put the watch box in the McDonald's french fry in Alexandria, which Mike Dayton wouldn't talk about, under his...

GERAGOS: Let's also be clear that he invited them into his townhouse, the same place they searched...

OLSON: After he cleaned it up.

GERAGOS: Within -- within three days, and gave them that first interview without a lawyer present. So don't forget that as well, Barbara.

KING: Julian, do you think if he says I'm not going run again that that, in effect, for the Levy standpoint, this story disappears?

EPSTEIN: Larry, I would ask you that question. You're the expert on this. I don't know. We just come on and talk about it. But you know, it certainly has less cache if you're not dealing with a public official. But just to segue way this conversation between Mark and Barbara for a second, you know, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said the test of intelligence is whether you can keep two seemingly contradictory thoughts in your mind at one time. Nobody can dispute the fact that he has behaved irresponsibly, I think, to the police and publicly, during the course of the investigation.

But at the same time, we have to say, regardless of the french fry watch container box and regardless of all these other things, there still is no evidence that we are aware of, that in any way connects him to the fact that she's missing. So I think that we have to avoid turning this into a star chamber, into a Salem witch trial. We have to struggle to remember that he has behaved irresponsibly, but again, we shouldn't be trying to convict him here in the court of public opinion.

KING: And, Nancy, it appears at times -- don't you think that when you look at yourself that you might be guilty of that? Convicting before...

GRACE: You mean of a witch...

KING: Yes.

GRACE: No, I don't.

EPSTEIN: Nancy doesn't care.


GRACE: Because I haven't convicted him. I'm simply evaluating and making deductions on the evidence that I have. So far, I know that he allowed police in, after he cleaned out his apartment. He had a polygraph-not, that meant absolutely nothing to me. He lied to the Levys, and he's still having his children and his staffers go out and bite the bullet and take the heat for him. He's still being evasive with police, and to me, that adds up to a highly suspicious suspect.

EPSTEIN: But I think he's suspicious, Nancy, if I may, I think he's deeply suspicious and perhaps even guilty of attempting to cover up one, maybe several extramarital affairs. And I think that all of the conduct that he has been found to have engaged in and the poor public explanations, I think you can relate all of that back to the fact that he's covering up extramarital affairs. I don't think that any of that evidence necessarily links him to the fact that she's missing.

GRACE: That is one possibility.


GRACE: He could be covering evidence that does link him to Levy.

KING: Yeah...

EPSTEIN: That's possible. Yes, that's possible.

KING: One or the other.

GRACE: It's highly possible.

EPSTEIN: But it's hard to square that. And again, I don't defend any of the conduct. I think it's been odious. But it's hard to square that when you have police coming out and saying things like, he's not a central figure in the investigation. The police have contradicted themselves, they said he's being cooperative, the next day they said he's not being cooperative. So I think at this point, we would see a little bit more evidence at this point, particularly from a guy, as I've said before, that can't dispose of a watch box in a Virginia trash can. I think we'd see a little bit more evidence if the guy was connected to it.


GERAGOS: I'd also like to know...

GRACE: I've noticed that you've used that example over and over, but frankly speaking, the fact, the mode of her disappearance puzzles me. This is not a random rape or murder. Someone with the wherewithal to dispose of Chandra Levy, highly meticulous job here, did this. And I think that rules out a lot...

EPSTEIN: Agreed.


KING: Let me get a break. We'll come right back. We're going to include your phone calls, and we'll pick up with Mark right after this.


MIKE DAYTON, CONDIT'S TOP D.C. AIDE: There's been a lot of hay made about that watch box and, you know, I regret that that has added to suspicion, or some people pointing to that and said, you know...

KING: What was going on.

DAYTON: Yes, what was going on. But I can tell you, I've sat down with the police, and I sat down with them over a two-day period, I've told them everything I know about that. And that's, you know, one area that, as you know, is under investigation. My attorney thought I was crazy for coming on here tonight to talk. But, you know, so I'm not going to be able to go into the details on that.


KING: We're back. Let's take a call. Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I've watched your show every night since Chandra Levy has been missing, and my question is since his staff has become so verbally loyal to him, and we can understand that his son would be, maybe Marina Ein, a publicist, was too outspoken for him and too successful and too smart, and talked back. It doesn't seem like he really likes those kind of people, meaning smart and people who talk back. And I enjoy the ladies. I think they're quite intelligent.

KING: These two ladies have become heroes in many circles. An FBI agent's in our studio tonight, who loves them both. I'm not going to mention...

EPSTEIN: Can I respond to that, Larry?

KING: You may, Julian.

EPSTEIN: First of all, let me say I enjoy these two ladies, too, and I think that their intelligence knows no bounds. But secondly, I think that the caller really ought to be doing spin for Gary Condit if she thinks that he -- which he could use right now -- if she thinks that the reason that she is leaving is because the job that's been done was too good a job.

I don't slight her at all. I think she's a superb publicist.

GRACE: She said she'd talked back.

EPSTEIN: Well, I don't think that's really what it was. I don't think it was a lack of public information out there that was the problem. I think what it was is that, as Mark said, it indicates that the public interviews are probably over, and I think that this has not been a happy occurrence for those that have handled the Condit camp right now. I think it really leaves a little bit to be desired. But probably, Nancy is correct. A lot of these decisions are coming, in fact, from Gary, and he is ultimately the person that takes responsibility.

KING: Well said.


KING: Mark, if this had to do it all over, he would do it differently, right?

GERAGOS: Well, you sure hope so. You sure hope that initially that this thing would have been handled in such a way where there would have been a media strategy that was markedly different from this. But at the same time, there is a disconnect here. If this guy is so calculating, and if this is all done for his political career, and if it was so easy to just, as Chad said the other night, take the advice of the people who were telling him, whether it was Richie Ross or anybody else, come out and do a mea culpa, or to say the kind of formula words that Barbara and Nancy want him to say, and that would have ended that.

OLSON: There's a real good reason not to do that.

GERAGOS: Why? Why, Barbara?

OLSON: Because perhaps...

GERAGOS: I'd love to hear.

OLSON: Gary Condit knows if he opens that door to his closet, a lot more tumbles out than Anne Marie Smith and Joleen McKay and Chandra Levy.

GERAGOS: But at the same time...

OLSON: That is the only reason that makes sense, and you know that.


KING: Nancy, yes.

GERAGOS: If that is the case, how does that have anything to do with the disappearance of Chandra?

KING: Nancy?

GRACE: You know, I don't think anyone has considered the fact that maybe Marina Ein just had a stomachful of the whole kit and caboodle. And I think that if she was fired, as opposed to resigning, I think that she's just another casualty in Condit's finger-pointing game. It's everybody's fault but his.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more phone calls for our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're going to switch the bid a little on Monday night. We're going to have a wing-down debate here on Labor Day night. We're going to have the famed psychic, Sylvia Brown, and the equally famed skeptic, the Amazing Randy. Randy thinks it's all a bunch of baloney. Sylvia Brown thinks she communicates with (WHISTLING). They're going to go at each other and I'm just going to referee.

We'll be right back with more of our panel your calls. Don't go away.


JACKIE MULLEN, CONDIT EXECUTIVE SECRETARY: I would have liked to have seen him go out in the very beginning and say to media, "I'm not going to talk about this. I have nothing to say to you folks. You know, this is something that is between me and my family -- this is private."

But I wish he would have said, "I'm not going to talk," to the press.



KING: We're back. Let's reintroduce the panel -- not that they need introduction at this point. Barbara Olson, the former federal prosecutor and best-selling author, she is in Washington. In New York, Nancy Grace, anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV. Here in Los Angeles, the famed defense attorney Mark Geragos. And in Washington, the former chief minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein.

Back to the calls. Garland, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Larry, my question to the panel and especially to Mr. Geragos, which I appreciate this time -- I haven't always agreed with him in the past.

GERAGOS: Thank you. It's a lonely job out here, but somebody has got to do it.

CALLER: Well, I appreciate that you are doing it. But for the panel, the police have talked to Gary Condit four times -- his wife -- if they had anything on that man, Ms. Olson, they would have charged him. Now get off his back and get back to what you are supposed to be doing.

KING: All right, Barbara, her statement is, if they had something they would have come right after him.

OLSON: Well, the real problem is dealing with someone that you don't have probable cause, that you have things that don't quite add up. You have -- and we know that from the very beginning, they knew there was a relationship, yet Gary Condit was refusing to talk about it, as a matter of fact challenging the police to cite the relevance. The problem with that is that if you push a witness too hard too fast, they are going to take the Fifth or tell you to walk away. They are going to say, I'm not going to talk to you anymore. And as a prosecutor, unless I have probable cause, unless I can go forward, I'm stuck with an uncooperating person. Gary Condit was talking, they didn't want him to shut up. They are going to not push him further than they think they can.

GERAGOS: Barbara, I have heard you on this show, and I have known many a prosecutor who -- the one way that they think they are going to break a case is if they've got somebody, like you suggested, a Mike Dayton, and they think they've got some kind of an obstruction or anything else, all they have got to do is put the pressure on that person, try to roll him over onto person who is the target, and that is how they break a case open.

Now, if they had any of this, if they had any obstruction, if they had even a false statement against Gary Condit -- because everybody has always said, well, he changed his story, blah, blah, blah, but why wouldn't -- why haven't they pursued that?

KING: But Dayton has a lawyer. In fact, he said last night he couldn't speak because he had...


GERAGOS: But Dayton also said last night for the first time...

OLSON: And Mike Lynch, who we didn't hear from.

GERAGOS: Except Dayton said last night for the first time, he talked to the police for -- on two occasions over two days, for a number of hours. And they haven't come forward. They haven't done anything with him. Nothing at all.


KING: Julian.

EPSTEIN: Barbara and Mark can go on all day long about the fact -- and I would probably agree with Mark that the dots don't quite connect up, even though some of the conduct is suspicious, and again if you lie about small things people think you lie about the bigger things. So there is no question about that. It is really not the issue at this point.

I think most people -- I may be wrong about this -- a lot of people don't think he had anything to do with the disappearance, it's the way you handle it. And if you don't handle something as important as a missing person, then I think that is when the public begins to condemn you. You know, I think the public was on the precipice of forgiveness with Mr. Condit, if he had come out and he said he had an affair, he was irresponsible, because he panicked, but that then he was going to meet with the family.

You know, we are not even talking about the family -- if he is going to meet with the family investigators, as he has requested, I think a lot of people would have been more forgiving. So, it's the way you handle it, as is so often the case when it comes to public officials.

KING: New Port Richey, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yeah, hi, good evening, Larry.


CALLER: This is to the panel. I'm a little perplexed about that Mr. Dayton last night. Why, if it's not such a big deal, can he not once and for all talk about the watch box? And Nancy and Barbara, you are great.

KING: Why can't he, Mark? Why can't he?

GERAGOS: Well, look, he said last night, and I think a lot of lawyers have this -- take this position, that his lawyer thought he was crazy to be on here in the first place, lawyer says until you get some kind of a resolution of this that you shouldn't talk.

You and I have talked about this before. In cases like this, where you have this kind of media scrutiny, that just doesn't work anymore in the last six years.


GERAGOS: Because I think specifically, the only reason that he was -- that he was talked to, obviously, was on obstruction, and the only thing that had to do with obstruction has to do with the watch box.

KING: So, he could have told the story of what happened to the watch box?

EPSTEIN: Can I tell you why a lawyer would say it, Larry?

KING: Yeah, Julian, why?

EPSTEIN: The reason, the legal reason if you are sitting there counseling him, you would say not to speak about it for two reasons, even though I agree with Mark in this day and age you have to do it. If you say something that in any way, in even a minor degree, differs with something you have said before, it's off to the races with the press.

Secondly, whatever you say out of court, under the rules of evidence, something known as statements against interests or prior inconsistent statements, if you say a statement that somehow damns you, in the light of a prosecutor they can take that out-of-court statement and use it against you in a court of law. That's why a lawyer in a lawyer's prudence tells you not to do it.

But again, I agree with Mark, in this day and age, you've got to figure out a way of meshing the public relations with the legal, and they could have done it, and they didn't.

KING: Barbara, Nancy, do you -- let's start with Barbara first. Do you understand that from a legal standpoint why they would advise him not to?

OLSON: Well, I mean, yes, that is true. If he's at trial and he's made statements publicly on television and they differ and they conflict, it is against interests. But you know, Mike Dayton came on here...

KING: No, he hasn't on the watch, he hasn't made any public statements on it.

OLSON: Well, no. That's right, that's why we're explaining why he wouldn't answer your question.

But what was interesting is he kept saying he wanted to enlighten you, he wanted to tell you, and some day he will. Well you know, if the watch box was just him driving over there, I can't imagine why he can't answer that we were going to my house or we were coming back, and he was throwing away French fries. Tells me Mike Dayton knows more than he's telling, and Stan Brown probably gave him very good advice, not to talk.

KING: Nancy -- Stan Brown is his lawyer -- Nancy, what you would add to that?

GRACE: Yes, what concerns me is if he finds himself at trial one day, trial for what? What is he worried about going to trial for? Another thing, if it's the truth...


GERAGOS: ... obstruction of justice, that's what this is.

GRACE: ... why is he so afraid to tell the truth? He also said yesterday that his lawyer said he was crazy for coming on. Coming on for what? He didn't say anything. We wanted to find out about the watch box, why Condit was throwing out evidence. He wouldn't talk. What's so incriminating about him throwing out the watch box? But Dayton wouldn't talk. Why?

EPSTEIN: Well, first of all...

KING: We will take a break and will be back with more, and Julian will respond, as we go at it. Don't go away.



KING: Has he made a decision about his political life?

CHAD CONDIT, GARY CONDIT'S SON: He has been in public life for 30 years, never an allegation, never a charge. I don't know if he will run again. My family vote would be that he doesn't. I don't think he deserves this. I don't think my mom deserves this. But that will be decided in the next few weeks.


KING: Julian, if the redistricting plan drawn up today passes, his district will change considerably, and it will be about 37 percent Hispanic, and will go from about 52 percent Democrat to about 63 percent Democrat. What do you make of that concept, if approved?

EPSTEIN: Well, it's very close, that district, to the San Andreas fault, and in a sense this is kind of like a political earthquake for Gary Condit if it occurs, because if you follow his politics closely, he is a very, very conservative Democrat, he often votes with the Republicans. He voted for President Bush's tax program. If that becomes a more minority, more liberal district, I think it's difficult to square that with his politics. It is a sign that Gray Davis, that the other Democrats think that, again, his handling has become too big a burden for them to bear.

KING: Jacksonville, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Nancy. My question for you is, don't you think that when Gary said, in the Connie Chung interview, several times "I have not been a perfect man," can't you read between the lines and see what he was saying? He was basically saying, "I had a sexual affair."

GRACE: Yes, I can see that, and I'm not all hung up on Condit saying, hey, guys, I had sex with Levy and a whole lot of other people. I couldn't care less about that than I do.

But what concerns me, Caller, is that he stonewalled police. You can't tell me he didn't. He let the trail grow cold. He is still hiding something, and his staff and his family, by turning the other way, through loyalty, are washing their hands of the whole thing, looking the other way. I don't agree with it.

GERAGOS: You know, it's an interesting thing. I've heard this theory about how he let the trail get cold. If he is responsible, then he's drawn attention to himself. If he isn't responsible, he threw the police to somebody else. So how did he, by as you say, stonewalling, which nobody's ever said he did, how did that impede the investigation, Nancy?

GRACE: By taking the focus off other suspects, if there really are any, and having police focus solely on him. He was her lover. He was one of the last men with her. He clearly was evading. He clearly was evading police questions.

GERAGOS: They said the same time they were interviewing him, they had interviewed some 99 other people. So I don't think that for a minute that he had impeded any investigation.

EPSTEIN: Again, there's a middle ground between the two positions.

OLSON: Mark, you want to answer the question then, why all of a sudden with Connie Chung we hear about a train? If that was true, if Chandra Levy had told him she was going on a train, why didn't the public hear about that early on, so that possibility?

GERAGOS: I'll tell you why. Because the D.C. police didn't leak it. I mean, that the simple answer.

OLSON: Oh, come on.


OLSON: Gary Condit did not tell the Levys. He didn't even tell the Levys. Not only if he told the police did they not leak it, but he didn't tell anyone.

EPSTEIN: Again, I think that my guess is that when Gary Condit went in for the first interview, they asked about the nature of the relationship. He essentially said mind your own business. My guess is -- it's only a guess -- the police had an idea that their affair was romantic. However, you can make no excuse for the fact that -- and the police have said this -- that it was like pulling teeth from him. And when you're dealing in the context of a missing person, no matter what you want to infer as to what the police knew or didn't know, or trails going cold, the responsibility in his part is to be as up-front and forthcoming as possible. I think the police have said that they didn't think that he was doing that, and that is where the real problem is.

GRACE: Julian, in missing persons cases, every -- I know -- every minute counts. Hour by hour...

EPSTEIN: I'm not disagreeing with you. Nancy, I'm agreeing with you, here.


GRACE: I understand you are. And this is back to the caller, Julian, what the caller was asking. The hours you wait could mean the difference between life and death, and I hold Condit responsible for stonewalling.

EPSTEIN: Well, I don't think anybody could argue on that point.

KING: Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hi. First, I'd like to say hi to Nancy Grace. I'm a huge fan.


CALLER: The reason for my call is I was wondering why -- Gary Condit obviously went to Bill Clinton school of how to not answer a question. Why is everybody so quick to rally around him, but as soon as Anne Marie Smith opens her mouth, everyone already automatically attacks her and says she's got ulterior motives. I just don't understand why she's getting attacked and she's done nothing wrong.

KING: Who's attacking?

EPSTEIN: Take a shot at that?

KING: Yeah, Julian, go ahead.

EPSTEIN: I don't -- I, for one, have not attacked her. I've said that I believe that she's probably telling the truth. I think in the context of Bill Clinton and, Barbara, I can hear her huffing and puffing already, before I've gotten the words out of my mouth -- there wasn't a missing person. And secondly, it may have taken him a little bit long, but he did concede on television and before the grand jury to the inappropriate affair, and he did say he was going to try to make right. I think that is a long way from where Gary Condit was, both before the police and on television with Connie Chung.


GERAGOS: There's only one reason...

OLSON: Bill Clinton started...

GERAGOS: The difference is, it's the poll numbers. Period, end of story.

OLSON: No, it's not, Mark. You know better than that.

GRACE: The difference is, Clinton's girlfriend is alive and Condit's is missing. That's the difference.


EPSTEIN: That also explains the poll numbers.

KING: Go ahead, Barbara.

OLSON: I was just going to say that with Bill Clinton, we were asked that it was a private affair about sex. And that's the beginning of it. It is stark. I disagree with Julian on one thing, that if Gary Condit apologizes, everything is OK. I do think there is some moral authority our elected officials have.

Yes, I'm going to pass judgment. I'm going to say that I think someone who is telling friends that his wife is very ill and sick, and is going around with young girls and having multiple affairs -- because I think Anne Marie Smith wasn't lying -- I don't necessarily say that's private, that's personal. I think it's character. I think it's who he is. I think it's how he treats people, I think it's how he treats women. And I think it's relevant in a political sense, that may not be relevant to finding Chandra Levy, whether or not Anne Marie Smith was telling the truth. But it's relevant to who he is.

EPSTEIN: But it's not what I said, and I don't think the public has a kind of Victorian-like voyeurism interest in these extramarital affairs. And its not that I said -- and I think that's what people perceived during the Clinton crisis. But it's not that I said if he simply accepted responsibility everything would be all right. But what I think people wanted to hear was that he made a mistake. Why did he make a mistake? He was in fact having an affair. OLSON: And what was that mistake?

EPSTEIN: I think the mistake was he wasn't forthcoming with the police. I think that was the big mistake.

OLSON: So it wasn't a mistake to have the affair with a girl while you're married -- just don't lie about it.

EPSTEIN: No, no, no, I'm not saying that. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that in the context of -- we're talking about relative things, here. I think in the context of a missing person here, there is no excuse for not being up-front with the police. And I think that people may have understood that he did in fact panic, that he was trying to save himself and his wife and his family the embarrassment, and he did the wrong thing. If he had said that, if you take responsibility...

OLSON: He could have saved his wife the embarrassment early on. There's a better way of saving your wife's embarrassment.

KING: Let him make the point.

EPSTEIN: I agree with you, but I think what the American public basically wants -- the American public understands people aren't perfect, people have foibles. But they want to hear, particularly when there's a dire situation, a dire context, them take responsibility for it and try to make right. And that's when people begin forgiveness, if they'll give forgiveness.

KING: Have to get a break. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


MULLEN: There may be some things in his life I don't know, but, um -- no, I don't think that there's a Gary Condit we don't know. You know, I think the people that know -- no, I think the people that know Gary Condit know Gary Condit, and the people that are making the judgments don't know him, have never met him.



KING: There of course, the picture of the still-missing Chandra Levy. The phone number for any information you may have is (800) 860- 6552. That's (800) 860-6552.

Cambridge, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I have a statement and a question for Julian.

KING: Sure. Julian, go ahead.

CALLER: I feel that the only one that can save Gary Condit is Gary Condit. He keeps sending out all of these sympathizers, and it's not doing him any good. Julian, do you think it is too late for him to promote and be contrite publicly? Do you think he has lost all of his credibility?

EPSTEIN: I think he's lost much of his credibility, and I think he lost it during the Connie Chung interview. Whether or not he can save his career, I think it is important for him to acknowledge that he did have the affair, that when the police asked him about it, he was -- he did not do the right thing.

And I think even more importantly, that if the family now says to him, you have to jump, he should say, how high. If they want him to meet with the investigators, he should go and do that. I think if he begins to do these things, people might say, well, he had a lot of extramarital affairs, and that was bad, but at the same time he is not a murderer. I think that would help him a great deal if he were...

KING: So he can -- he can improve his reputation?

EPSTEIN: I think he can. I think he still has an...


KING: Do you think he can, Mark?

GERAGOS: I agree with Julian. He has got not only do that, but he has got to come out. He has to come out at least one more time and talk, I mean, because I think -- and Julian and I have talked about this off the air -- I think that there is going to be a rather rude reception when goes back to Washington, D.C.


GERAGOS: Julian said off the air -- what did you say -- it's a hornets nest back there?

EPSTEIN: It's a hornets nest back here. I can't imagine he wants to come back.

KING: Would he help himself, Nancy, would he help himself if he came on a program somewhere and was completely different than he was with Ms. Chung and he was contrite and he was open, and.

GERAGOS: You're asking that with a straight face of Nancy?

KING: No...


KING: ... let's see if it was the man that the aides described last night, if he put that projection forward, would that reconstruct him?

GRACE: You know, Larry, I'm no politico, and I guess I'm just looking at this from a different point view, from a legal point of view, from a victim's rights point of view. He can come out, he can be contrite. He can say, "I'm sorry, please elect me, I didn't mean to do it." But you know what? Chandra is gone. And you know what else? He let the trail go dead when he was trying to save his own political career...


KING: So he can do nothing in your mind? He can do nothing in your mind?

GRACE: He might get reelected.


KING: Hold it, hold it. Barbara, could he do anything in your mind that could resurrect him a little?

OLSON: Well, you know, I think what we are all talking about is the person who says "I made a mistake, I now realize I shouldn't have done that." And yes, most people forgive that. And I would.

But you know what? Gary Condit hasn't made a mistake. Gary Condit has a series of activities that has been going on obviously for many years, and I agree, his actions on this investigation with a missing girl is that he put his own personal fear of being uncovered above a missing girl. And we learned facts on Connie Chung that hadn't heard before.

And you know, another -- and I've got say this, because it's sticking out there, and I still have not figured it out. Gary Condit brings up a train, we didn't know about that. Where is the watch that Gary Condit threw the watch box away from? You know, this watch that we don't see. I mean, there are so many things out there that he can't come forward. It's as I said before, there is this closet, and if the door opens I think Gary Condit realizes he has to lie about everything.

EPSTEIN: But there's one thing we all agree on, Larry. The one very quick thing we all agree on is that he should meet with the family investigators as the family has requested. And I think that is a substantive thing, Nancy, that he can do that would maybe be constructive.

GRACE: I agree.

KING: We'll be back. We just had a miracle occur on this program, a four-side agreement. We will be right -- but we still got another segment to go. Don't count your hatches! Don't count your hatches? Don't count -- never mind, we'll be right back.


KING: OK, guys, what do you think is going to happen next week? Julian, you think that key Democrats might go to him as key Republicans went to Richard Nixon years ago and say, "you've got to get out?"

EPSTEIN: Yes. I think, as I said, I think he is in -- is perhaps his final stage right now, unless, you know -- remember the final days with Nixon and all of that -- I think he's in kind of the same place.

Unless he does something dramatic along the lines that I was just speaking about -- and it can be any one of these three things, it can be redistricting, it can be a resignation, I'm not going to run again. But barring some dramatic effect, I think -- event -- I think that is the handwriting that's on the wall.

KING: Nancy, any thoughts on what's going to happen?

GRACE: Well, sure. I think they will close on him like wolves. After all, they are politicians, they are trying to save their own skins just like he is. But what my concern is, is will we ever get anymore clues about Chandra.

KING: And from way you sound, you doubt it?

GRACE: I doubt it.

KING: Mark?

GERAGOS: I don't think this story has been anything but linear. I don't know that I believe that there won't by be anymore clues about Chandra, I still hold out some hope.

KING: It is a puzzlement, though.


GRACE: I mean clues from Condit.


GERAGOS: Condit has nothing to do with this, Nancy. I don't know that you are ever going to get anymore clues out of there.

GRACE: Yeah, right.

GERAGOS: So I mean, you can keep holding out that hope that he has got -- in your mind, that he was the one who was involved. But if he isn't, then you are not going to be able to get anything more out of him.


GRACE: ... if I were the police, I would turn the heat up on every suspect I had and until the kettle boiled over, until I found Chandra or...


GERAGOS: And Nancy, I don't know that that's not exactly what they are doing, and it just so happens that he is not one of the prime suspects.

KING: But you think the pressure will be put on him by Democrats?

GERAGOS: I think the Democrats, as Julian says, are going to -- and it will be a hornets nest, and then once he goes back there, I think he is going to realize that something has to be done.

KING: Barbara, you have the last word, what do you think is going to happen?

OLSON: Well, I think it has already started with Gephardt making his statement against Condit, Gray Dais, who with the redistricting -- I think his own party has walked away. Terry McAuliffe the other day was asked about Condit and acts like "Gary, who?" Didn't even recognize the name. I think they are trying to get away from him and he is going to realize it next week. Like I said, their caucus meets on Wednesday. I don't think he is going to have a lot of people willing to sit at his table.

KING: Thank you all very much, I'm sure that we will be seeing you sooner than we think. Barbara Olson, Nancy Grace, Mark Geragos, Julian Epstein. Labor Day weekend, please drive carefully. We will repeat our interview with Chad, the son of Gary Condit, tomorrow night, Chad Condit. And on Sunday night, we will repeat the last long interview done by the Levys, and we will be back Monday night. And don't forget Tuesday, Oprah will be the guest.

Stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." Again, have a great weekend. Thanks for joining us. For all of our panel, good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top