Congressman breaks silence over intern’s disappearance

Embattled American congressman Gary Condit today broke his silence over the disappearance of Chandra Levy and was promptly accused of ‘‘ducking tough questions’’.

Embattled American congressman Gary Condit today broke his silence over the disappearance of Chandra Levy and was promptly accused of ‘‘ducking tough questions’’.

The Californian politician will go on television tonight and speak for the first time in public about the mysterious vanishing of the 24-year-old Washington intern, with whom her family say he was having an affair.

But in a letter to his constituents today, the 53-year-old father-of-two did not mention whether he had been involved with the missing woman, why he did not admit his affair to police until the Levy family revealed it, or offer any apology to them or his voters.

American magazine People, to whom he has also spoken, unveiled its cover featuring the congressman, without the trademark grin he has worn throughout the three-month long storm surrounding him, and standing beside his wife.

And the magazine wrote on its cover: ‘‘Blunt one moment, ducking tough questions the next, the embattled congressman, in a People interview, goes public about Chandra Levy.’’

The magazine cover and the letter came as speculation mounted that Mr Condit was trying to resurrect the political career one of his colleagues had described as ‘‘toast’’.

In his letter, the congressman claims he ‘‘co-operated’’ with police and the FBI even though Washington DC police insiders have disclosed he told the first detectives who arrived at his door to interview him it was ‘‘not convenient’’ and refused to let them in.

‘‘I have answered every single question asked by the police and the FBI,’’ the Democratic politician wrote.

‘‘I have co-operated and worked with law enforcement to find Chandra. I invited the police to my apartment. I asked the FBI to help.

‘‘Some suggested that not talking with the media could mean I had something to do with Chandra’s disappearance. I did not.’’

He made his first expression of sympathy for Chandra’s parents, Bob and Susan Levy, and said: ‘‘I’m sorry the pain the Levy family and Chandra’s friends are feeling has grown worse with each passing day.’’

And he added: ‘‘I hope you will understand that I am not perfect and have made my share of mistakes.’’

But he did not explain why he had denied his affair with the woman to her mother on the one occasion he met her in June.

Mr Condit has been in hiding since Congress began its summer holiday and was not seen at a series of events in the Central Valley of California, which he represents, where he would normally meet his constituents.

He used the letter to attempt to blame the media for his silence, saying he did not want to discuss his ‘‘private life’’.

The letter has raised speculation Mr Condit will attempt to run again for his seat in the House of Representatives, where he had been seen as a key figure on the conservative wing of the Democratic party until the intern vanished on May 1.

In the letter, delivered this morning to 200,000 homes around his, and the Levys’, home town of Modesto, California, he tells his constituents: ‘‘I hope our relationship is strong enough to endure all of this.’’

No trace has been found of Chandra Levy since she went missing on May 1 from her apartment in Washington DC after her job as an intern with the American Bureau of Prisons ended.

She had been due to return to California to graduate from university but when police entered her apartment, her luggage was partly packed and she had left her wallet behind.

A search of empty buildings and parkland in the American capital was carried out by police, but no evidence was found to help the search for the missing woman.

Her parents broke down in tears on national television earlier this month as they told of their agony at not knowing where their daughter was and whether she was alive or dead.

The Levys have hired a prominent lawyer, Billy Martin, who is overseeing a private investigation into their daughter’s disappearance.

Mr Condit also hired a high-profile Washington lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who came under fire from police for having the politician undergo a private lie-detector test which was then claimed to clear the congressman of any wrongdoing.

The two lawyers were due to go head-to-head on television after Mr Condit has spoken on the American network ABC.

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