This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 9, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
TONY SNOW, HOST: Another day, another series of small leaks in the investigation into Chandra Levy disappearance. What could the latest news mean for California congressman Gary Condit? Here to help us explore that question is criminal defense attorney Bernard Grimm.
Let's begin first with the move by Billy Martin, who is part of the legal team representing the Levy family, to insist publicly on a polygraph for Gary Condit. How do you -- if you're a defense attorney, how do you look at that?
BERNARD GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I guess if I'm representing Mr. Condit, that's somewhat of a strategic low blow because everyone knows that polygraphs, if they were 100 percent reliable, would be admissible as evidence in courts around the country. And they're universally not admissible because they're not universally reliable. There is a chance that you can take a polygraph, flunk it and nonetheless be innocent. It also opens up a Pandora's box of where would the questions stop? Where would they begin? Would they go into other relationships? Would they go on into other interns? It's a real problem for the congressman.
SNOW: And Rita Cosby was reporting that the Levy defense -- or whatever you call it -- the Levy legal team would want to be doing the administration of that.
GRIMM: That's a bit unusual, although you have an unusual case here because there's no crime that's been committed yet. We don't know, Chandra Levy may be sitting on a beach somewhere. I seriously doubt it. There's probably some foul play, but it's all coming back to the congressman because he didn't step up to the mike and tell us about his relationship with her.
SNOW: Now, if you're his defense attorney and you find out that it took until the third interview to admit to police that he'd had a romantic relationship, what would you tell him?
GRIMM: Well, we would have a real serious heart-to-heart. I may end up being fired at the end of the conversation. But he puts the lawyer in a compromising position, not to mention himself, and now his reelection, ultimately.
SNOW: What also happens in a case like this, since there are no facts and -- least publicly available, any kind of theory can be made to sound plausible. Here you have Gary Condit's defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, running around saying, "Well, he's answered every question to the police's satisfaction." People who've seen this may have some skepticism about that claim.
GRIMM: Well, your network reported not a half an hour ago that their sources inside the police department said he ultimately answered the questions. The problem is it took three interviews to get the questions. And they think that he may be hedging a little bit on perhaps the last time he may have seen her or the context of how he say her last.
SNOW: It's also argued that the fact that there may have been a series of extramarital affairs has no bearing on the case. Do you think that's true?
GRIMM: In -- in a court of law, if he were charged with making false statements to the police, it would have no bearing. Is it fodder for people to pick up newspapers and watch television and make it juicy and racy? Absolutely.
SNOW: But could it not also have a bearing on patterns of behavior?
GRIMM: Yeah. If there's enough women that step forward and say, "Listen, I can't watch the news anymore. I have to step forward and let people know that I had a relationship with him back during X period of time," that's going to be a real problem.
SNOW: There's also the allegation that he asked Anne Marie Smith, a flight attendant down in Seattle, to fill out an affidavit.
SNOW: She says the affidavit is false.
GRIMM: That's a problem. That's a major problem for the congressman because that borders on what in the business is known as obstruction of justice, insofar as you -- you took an actor or you attempted to take an act that would interfere with the due administration of justice. Ultimately, this woman may have been a witness one day against him, and he's trying to make that evidence unavailable to the government.
SNOW: Now, if -- and we're playing a big "if" here -- if there are other women, would it be natural as part of a defense team to try to go ahead and secure affidavits, not to make people lie, but to try to get affidavits that somehow would take them off the table as potential witnesses?
GRIMM: Absolutely. What they did was the right thing, is you want to engage right now in a proactive investigation before your client ends up being charged with something. So it's completely appropriate. In fact, it's obligatory on the lawyers to get out there and do it. However, rigging an affidavit and have somebody sign something false, assuming it was false, is a problem. It's -- it's -- your investigation, at this point, it's already tainted, and you haven't even gotten out of the blocks yet.
SNOW: What legal rights does Congressman Condit have if authorities think they've found some inconsistencies in his testimony and they want to keep calling him back and back and back without making a charge?
GRIMM: If it's the average citizen, you would go back as many times as the police wanted you to. You're under no legal obligation ever to talk to police, ever, under any circumstances about anything. Given that he's a public figure, he has to go back with a lot of advertising and pomp and circumstance to it, so he can say to the public, "Listen, I've gone back every time they've called me," where the average person may just say, "Listen, I came in and saw you one or two times. I'm -- I told you what I know. That's it. Don't bother me anymore."
SNOW: How does that kind of high profile affect the way you represent a client?
GRIMM: Well, it makes it very difficult because every time the police want to talk to you, they can call you on the phone and say, "Listen, we'd like to talk to your client," you say no, then they go in front of the police department and say, "Well, we just called Congressman Condit. We want him to come in for an interview, and he wouldn't come."
SNOW: So at this point, he's in one of those situations where maybe the better part of valor, if he doesn't want to talk about certain things, is to show up dutifully and then not answer questions.
GRIMM: Show up dutifully and give the best answers he can and hope that some day they're not going to come back to haunt him because, as a lawyer, the last thing you ever want a potential client to do is talk to the police.
SNOW: Final question. As part of the proactive investigation, supposing the attorneys are firmly convinced Congressman Condit has nothing to do with the disappearance. What kind of investigation do you mount to try to clear him?
GRIMM: You know, that's a problem. It's -- essentially, you're trying to un-ring a bell, at this point. Once his reputation has been tarnished, it's hard to clear that because in many people's eyes, I think many voters' eyes, they've already made up their mind, one, he didn't have anything to do with it, but two, he never came forward and told us about the affair, which he should have told us months ago.
SNOW: All right, defense attorney Bernard Grimm, thanks for joining us.
GRIMM: Thank you.
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