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Gary Condit couldn’t be digging himself into a bigger hole if he used a backhoe. But he’s had a little help from his friends. While the less-than-forthcoming Modesto, Calif., congressman remains ensconced in his personal witness protection program, new questions continue to pile up about his relationship with missing intern Chandra Levy and his conduct after her disappearance. Among them, did Condit impede the FBI investigation into Levy’s disappearance? Earlier this month, San Francisco flight attendant Anne Marie Smith charged that the congressman asked her to lie about their relationship and told her not to talk to the FBI. Not so, replied Condit, in a written statement that reads like it was run through a strainer by Abbe Lowell, the congressman’s high-profile Washington, D.C., criminal lawyer. “I have repeatedly urged anyone who has any information that could help police find Chandra Levy to come forward, tell all they know and be as forthcoming as possible.” “I have not asked anyone to refrain from discussing this matter with authorities, nor have I suggested anyone mislead the authorities.” Someone is lying. Condit either tried to interfere with the FBI investigation by getting Smith to clam up, or he didn’t. Smith told Fox News that Condit asked her to sign a one-page declaration under penalty of perjury denying any relationship with the congressman beyond being casual acquaintances. “Mr. Condit knew it was false and he was asking me to sign it and, I, personally, could never have signed it,” Smith said in the TV interview. “I would never have signed it. And he was urging me to sign it, he said you don’t want anything, this could be personally embarrassing for both of us.” Smith said that Condit was angry when she refused and told her, “You don’t have to talk to the media, you don’t have to talk to anybody. You don’t even have to talk to the FBI.” “He called me approximately May 5 or 6, saying, ‘I’m going to have to disappear for a while, don’t call me,’ ” Smith added. “ I said, ‘Well, are you in trouble? Is it your job? Is it your family?’ And he said, ‘No, none of that, but I think I may be in some trouble.’ “ What trouble was that, Congressman? A written statement from Condit’s West Coast lawyers, Cotchett, Pitre & Simon, confirmed that the firm asked Smith’s attorney if his “client could provide a statement on her relationship” with the congressman. An investigator sent along a draft stating that “I do not and have not had a relationship with Congressman Condit other than being acquainted with him. I do not and have not had a romantic relationship with Congressman Condit.” A note at the top invites Smith’s lawyer to “edit, cut, suggest, etc.” What did you tell your lawyers and staff about Anne Marie Smith, Congressman? Smith declined to sell her story to a supermarket tabloid. She says that she decided to go public after she noticed she was being followed and had received strange phone calls. She’s moved out of her San Francisco apartment. Her lawyer says that she’s been under police protection in Seattle. Like many involuntary bit players in Washington dramas, she appears to want nothing more than to be left alone. Until last week, Condit would only characterize his relationship with Chandra Levy as that of “good friends.” His staff denied that there was any romance. Then Smith’s statements raised questions about witness tampering and obstruction of justice, and forced Condit into a third police interview. Her allegations also raised doubts about the congressman’s earlier denials, because these were cut from the same cloth as Condit’s statements about the flight attendant. According to Newsweek, CNN and The Washington Post, Condit in effect now admits that his representatives’ explanations about his relationship with Levy were misleading. Did you ask your staff to lie for you, Congressman? No official says that Condit committed any crime in connection with Levy’s disappearance. But Condit’s serial shading of the facts and dripping out of particulars raise anew questions about why Chandra Levy was trying so hard to contact Condit by phone in the days before she disappeared. Not surprisingly, the Levy family wants him to take a lie detector test to find out what else he may have been lying about. “It’s just that it makes me sick to my stomach that a beautiful young girl is missing,” former Condit staffer Vince Flammini told the Modesto Bee. “That’s one of the reasons I think Gary should open up.” As a public official, Condit has an obligation to volunteer information and to tell the truth, whether or not he is under oath. And, Congressman, if you have withheld facts and interfered with the investigation, why should you remain in office? George M. Kraw is a San Jose, Calif., attorney. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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