This partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 27, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
BRIT HUME, HOST: What chance does Anne Marie Smith's lawyer have of booting up a criminal investigation in California, and what possible violations could have occurred in the Condit case?
For answers, we turn to our favorite law professor, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, who joins us from our bureau in Chicago, where he hails from. Jonathan, welcome, nice to see you again.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Hi, Brit, good to see you.
HUME: Tell me about what -- this is odd, that we have a civil lawyer filing papers in California of a criminal nature. What is that all about?
TURLEY: Well, you know, there's a unique aspect to California law that allows citizens to go directly to the grand jury. It's really common law, it's not statutory law. And it reflects the fact that the grand jury was always a collection of citizens. Prosecutors were added on to the grand jury. They're an appendage of the grand jury.
But California reflects the tradition that the grand jury responds to the demands and serves the interests of the public, not the prosecutor.
HUME: So what are the chances that this -- that anything might come of this? I mean, you don't hear a lot about grand juries acting sort of outside of prosecutorial request, and starting investigations and returning indictments and so on. And what about the allegations themselves?
TURLEY: Well, first of all, I think it's extremely unlikely that this grand jury is going to act in the way that they want. And I doubt seriously that the lawyers for Miss Smith really believe that's going to happen.
I think that the allegations are serious. There is evidence that -- from these affidavits that at least some witnesses insist that Congressman Condit encouraged Smith to sign a false affidavit.
HUME: Well, now, we've seen the -- at least an e-mail copy of the document that she was encouraged to sign, although it was prefaced with the suggestion that, you know, revisions could be made. Does that on its -- and, you know, it is a statement that says she had no relationship with Congressman Condit.
Now, you see the congressman's lawyers quibbling or -- maybe that's unfair -- arguing over the meaning of the word "relationship." First of all, would such a document -- and we've all seen it -- be evidence of possible obstruction of justice? And secondly, what about this sort of defense that says, Well, they have different ideas of what a relationship is?
TURLEY: Well, it's a pretty good quibble to say that it's a draft that we sent for them to revise. It's our view of the facts. The problem that they're going to have is Smith's affidavit. Smith's affidavit that was filed with the California court said that after that draft went forward, Condit encouraged her to sign it.
HUME: Yes, he personally did, right?
TURLEY: Right. And so that really moves it more in a sort of a serious area for Condit.
HUME: Now, what about this argument that Abbe Lowell, Congressman Condit's lawyer, is making, doing, I guess, the best job he can, by saying, Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, (inaudible), this relationship, see, the -- he -- what she meant by a relationship and what he meant by a relationship are different things. He didn't consider that he was having a relationship with her.
Now, they're not denying that they had some kind of sexual or series of sexual encounters over 10 months in which she got to know him well enough to know -- to be in his apartment and have his private phone numbers and that sort of thing.
TURLEY: Well, you know, once again, I -- it's one of those debates of the what the meaning of "is" is. And the problem with making these types of language quibbles, as you said, is that it doesn't go particularly over well with people. It's something that lawyers have a good time with. But if they ever did face a grand jury, I think it's going to have a rather glacial reaction to that type of distinction.
And I think that the problem here, Brit, is that he's looking at a very serious problem in the sense that these affidavits were signed and put into court, not that the California grand jury's going to respond, but by signing affidavits and putting it into court, they have upped the ante. That's a much more serious act, and it gives more credence to them, because if they're lying -- not just her but her lawyer -- they have committed a very serious act themselves, for which the lawyer could be disbarred.
HUME: Now, let me ask you this. There was at the time of this request made of Anne Marie Smith that she consider this affidavit, and she now alleges and personally encouraged by Gary Condit himself to sign it, no criminal investigation in the Chandra Levy case. There was a missing persons case in which, you know, Gary Condit was not a suspect.
So does that mean that obstruction of justice could not have occurred because there was no criminal investigation?
TURLEY: I don't think it rules out the possibility of an obstruction theory. It just makes it a relatively weak case. And the problem for Condit is that his actions have given it a strength that it would not normally have. But it certainly weakens the case for them. There's no question about this. This occurred before any crime was even alleged or investigated by the police. There was no case pending.
It's not a classic case. It's a weak case.
HUME: I see, so if it were -- if it were to be undertaken, it would be a weak case.
Now, you hear -- I mean, I must say I -- I listened with fascination in the last several days to Abbe Lowell's contentions about this. They struck me as, as a political journalist, as not being very appealing. But you have a -- the expertise of someone knowledgeable in the law, and in criminal law. Do they make sense to you as a criminal lawyer that he would be doing and saying -- Abbe Lowell -- doing and saying what he's doing?
TURLEY: Well, I really don't see any method to this madness at all. I think that it's hard to criticize Lowell because you don't know if his client is listening to him. But so far, this has been a perfectly disastrous series of tactical moves.
And one of the things you do in a high-profile case is, you sit down with your client and you say, Look, you're about to get hit by a train. Nobody likes being hit by a train. But my job is to try to get as much of you off the tracks as I can. But that means I've got to control things.
Either Lowell is not in control, or he has put his client in greater peril. It's hard to know.
HUME: How -- and hence -- how's -- how -- it's -- what sense has he put his client in greater peril, by allowing the interview at al?
TURLEY: Oh, yes. I think it's bizarre to have had his client go into an interview like that and not answer any questions. I mean, it's -- it was -- it was a -- it was a case of just igniting him on fire in front of 23 million people. Why do that type of interview if you're going...
HUME: So in other words, the clam-up that he'd done, last question, over the long period before the interview, made sense legally, the interview didn't.
TURLEY: Well, you know, Brit, I'm not even sure the clam-up made sense. I think that the disaster occurred early on. He should have known this was going to happen. By remaining silent, he looked like John Gotti. And that has -- he's done such irreparable damage, I think he is beyond being saved.
And as a lawyer, you have to be concerned not just what your client's going to get out of a courtroom, but in what shape he's going to get out of that courtroom. And right now, Condit is really DOA.
HUME: Jonathan Turley, always interesting, great to have you.
TURLEY: Thanks, Brit.
HUME: Look forward to having you again soon.
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