Condit Returns to Washington with Questions Swirling About his Future

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Rep. Gary Condit left Washington a month ago, wounded by his continuing silence about missing intern Chandra Levy. He returns this week having broken that silence but even more damaged.

Condit finally spoke publicly in an interview broadcast Aug. 23 on ABC. Rather than repairing his image, the poorly received interview kicked off a week's worth of problems for the seven-term California Democrat.

• Condit was abandoned by some leading Democrats, including House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and California Gov. Gray Davis, his longtime friend and political ally.

• Condit's two children, Chad and Cadee, quit their well-paying jobs on Davis' staff in a show of solidarity with their father.

• Washington's top two police officials disputed his claim of full cooperation with investigators who are searching for Levy.

• The Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register became the latest newspapers to call for his resignation.

• A Democratic draft of new congressional districts for California was circulated. It put Condit in a district where 40 percent of voters would be new to him.

Ken DeBow, a political science professor at Sacramento State University, said Davis' statement clearly reflected Democrats' view of Condit.

"Gray Davis never does anything precipitously," DeBow said. "This is a conclusion on his part that finally, finally, Condit is dead weight and we have to throw him off."

Meanwhile, investigators are about where they were when they learned of Levy's disappearance in early May.

Police believe Levy, 24, disappeared May 1, after logging off her computer in her studio apartment in Washington. She had recently ended her internship at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and was planning to return to California. Police found no evidence of foul play when they searched her apartment in early May, and continue to treat her disappearance as a missing person case, not a crime.

Police do not consider the 53-year-old Condit a suspect, though they have interviewed him four times, taken a DNA sample and searched his Washington apartment and the cars of two aides.

A police source has said Condit admitted to an affair with Levy during the third interview, which occurred two months after her disappearance.

In a series of print and broadcast interviews over the past few weeks, Condit acknowledged a close relationship with Levy, but sidestepped questions about whether it was sexual. He denied any role in her disappearance and said he cooperated fully with police from the outset of the investigation.

When Condit returns to Washington, he will tend to his congressional duties and has no plans to say anything more about his relationship with Levy, Condit chief of staff Michael Lynch said.

"The argument that he hasn't said anything certainly can't be made any longer," Lynch said.