Lawyer: Condit Should Stay on Panel

Rep. Gary Condit has served honorably on the security-conscious House Intelligence Committee, and the spotlight shone on him in the case of missing intern Chandra Levy actually could be a plus in that assignment, his lawyer says.

``Everything about him is out there. He's probably the person on the Intelligence Committee who can't be blackmailed anymore,'' attorney Abbe Lowell said Sunday on NBC's ``Meet the Press.''

``If it's not punitive for some reason, there's no good reason'' for the California Democrat to leave the committee, Lowell said. ``He's served very well. His colleagues will tell you.''

Condit's fate on the panel was questioned after House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., criticized him for failing to be ``candid and forward'' in an ABC interview Thursday about his relationship with Levy, a Bureau of Prisons intern who disappeared four months ago.

Asked repeatedly if he had a sexual affair with Levy, 24, the 53-year-old married congressman said only they'd had a ``very close'' relationship. He offered no apologies for his involvement with Levy or for his level of cooperation with police.

Gephardt on Friday characterized Condit's answers as ``disturbing and wrong,'' and said he would talk to House Democrats about possible action against Condit, including his removal from the intelligence panel.

Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., said Sunday that Gephardt ``has an obligation that's inherent to his responsibilities to immediately remove'' Condit.

Service on the committee ``requires very high integrity,'' McInnis said on CNN's ``Late Edition.'' ``Certainly, any kind of indication that someone has not been forthcoming or truthful when put under pressure should not be in charge or sitting on the committee that oversees central intelligence and our spy networks throughout the world.''

On ``Fox News Sunday,'' Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., called Condit's behavior ``embarrassing'' but said ``there's nothing that we can do in the Congress. Unless there is something to take before the ethics committee, I don't see how we can do anything.''

Later, on CNN, Rangel added: ``What is it that we could possibly charge him with in the ethics committee? Not one thing.''

Lowell asked that Gephardt consider comments Condit made in other media interviews last week before determining any possible action.