updated 11/30/2005 4:41:51 PM ET 2005-11-30T21:41:51

Guests: Jim VandeHei, Demaurice Smith, Doug Burns, Michelle Suskauer, Pam Bondi, Eamon Javers, Michael Crowley, Al Jones, Kathy Gray

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, is there a new witness in the CIA leak investigation who could keep Karl Rove out of trouble? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  “The Washington Post” reports that a “TIME” magazine reporter could be crucial to saving the president‘s right-hand man.  That conversations with her helped prevent Rove from getting indicted? 

And the man convicted of raping and murdering 11-year-old Carlie Brucia has a compassionate side, his lawyers say.  Witness after witness testified today for the defense in an effort to save him from the death chamber.  But how much does what he did before the murder matter? 

Plus, an aspiring actress found murdered in her New York City apartment.  Now many asking whether her secret life as a high-priced stripper had something to do with it. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, will Karl Rove, did Karl Rove escape an indictment in the CIA leak investigation thanks to a “TIME” magazine reporter?  Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wants to know more about Viveca Novak‘s conversations with Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin, during the time that she was covering the leak story. 

Now, according to “Washington Post” sources—quote—“This is what caused Fitzgerald to hold off on charging Rove.”

Someone close to the case quoted in “The Post” saying Luskin‘s conversations with Novak may have been what saved Rove from an indictment in October when Vice President Cheney‘s former chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. 

And in an article over the weekend “TIME” magazine reporter that—quote—“Ms. Novak was cooperating with the inquiry.  It is not known when she will testify.  She has not been asked to appear before the grand jury, but will instead give a deposition.”

(INAUDIBLE) All right.  Well, joining me now two attorneys who follow this case closely.  Oh Jim VandeHei is with us.  All right, Jim VandeHei from “The Washington Post” who broke this story joins us now.  Jim, thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

JIM VANDEHEI, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Good to be here. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So I don‘t get it.  How can a “TIME” magazine reporter possibly save Karl Rove? 

VANDEHEI:  That‘s still the great mystery here.  I mean clearly, the Rove legal team does think that this “TIME” magazine reporter can help them.  That‘s why Bob Luskin, Rove‘s lawyer, went to Fitzgerald and told them about the conversation.  What we‘re still trying to figure out what is that conversation? 

What could she possibly know that would help clear Rove?  I mean one possibility is, is that the one thing that the Rove team is trying to prove is that this was just a case of a memory gone bad, that he did not remember that he had ever had this conversation with reporters about Valerie Plame, and maybe there was something that happened between the lawyer and the reporter that they feel like will help prove that it was just a bad memory. 

ABRAMS:  So let‘s be clear.  You‘re not—we‘re not talking about conversations between Rove...

VANDEHEI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... and Viveca Novak.  We‘re talking about conversations...

VANDEHEI:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  ... between Rove‘s attorney.  And so even assuming as you just lay it out, right...

VANDEHEI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... that something could suggest that it was faulty memory, how could it—let‘s even assume for a moment that Luskin, the attorney for Rove, says to Novak...

VANDEHEI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... oh, you know what?  Karl‘s had a faulty memory, hasn‘t been remembering.  Even I‘ve been asking him questions, et cetera...

VANDEHEI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... he doesn‘t remember.  How does that really help the Rove case? 

VANDEHEI:  I think it has to be more than that, particularly if it‘s really going to prove exculpatory for Rove.  It‘s going to have to be something much more concrete that somehow shines some light on the plausibility that Rove really did forget this.  I don‘t think it can simply be a reporter telling a lawyer or a lawyer telling a reporter oh, you know Rove forgot about it. 

It has to be more than that.  And I think what‘s interesting is the context.  What we do know is that Rove‘s lawyer came forward with this information right before there was a strong possibility that Rove was going to be indicted.  He sort of waited to the last minute.

And what we have learned from our reporting is that it was definitely enough to give Fitzgerald, who‘s a prosecutor in this case, pause to hold off and to do more investigating.  So I‘ve got to think it‘s more than just simply something that Luskin told Novak, the reporter at “TIME”.

ABRAMS:  Now your reporting indicates that that is the reason that Fitzgerald held off on indicting Rove? 

VANDEHEI:  That is definitely a big part of it.  It‘s one—at least one of the pieces of evidence that were presented in this secret meeting a couple of days before “Scooter” Libby, who‘s the vice president‘s chief of staff, was indicted.  At this time there was definitely signs that Rove was going to be indicted, too.  The lawyer for Rove met with the special prosecutor, and in that meeting whatever was presented definitely convinced Fitzgerald to spend more time investigating Rove, and everything I‘m hearing is that this was a big piece of it. 

ABRAMS:  You say that a person familiar with the matter said Luskin cited his conversations with Novak in persuading Fitzgerald not to indict Rove in late October...

VANDEHEI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... when the prosecutor brought the perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Libby.  But then you go on to say—you say that‘s what caused Fitzgerald to hold off on charging Rove, the source said.  But another person familiar with the conversation said they didn‘t appear to significantly alter the case. 

VANDEHEI:  I think what matters here is that each person only sees a piece of the evidence.  So some of the sources might know like what happened in that conversation but might not know how that conversation fits into the larger context of what is emerging as the Rove defense.  I think we‘re going to know relatively soon, because it looks like Novak will testify next week, and I think at that point she‘ll do a firsthand account and we‘ll get I think much more clarity on what exactly happened in that conversation. 

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, do you have a sense one way or the other as to whether Rove is going to get indicted? 

VANDEHEI:  I don‘t.  I mean what I do know is from talking to folks in the investigation that there is still a possibility that the investigation is still open and that Fitzgerald has not ruled out indicting him. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jim, if you could just stand by for one minute. 

Let me just...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... quickly bring in former federal prosecutors Demaurice Smith and Doug Burns, because I know a lot of this is going to depend on Jim‘s reporting Demaurice and Doug, and that‘s why I wanted to ask Jim to just stick around for a minute. 

All right.  So Demaurice, does this—what does this say to you?  Let‘s assume for a moment that all of Jim‘s reporting is accurate, that he‘s gotten it right here, that something about a conversation between Karl Rove‘s lawyer and a reporter for “TIME” magazine gave the special prosecutor hesitation. 

DEMAURICE SMITH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I think that what we‘d want to look at, and to see whether it really matters, is the content of that conversation and what Mr. Luskin may have learned from the “TIME” reporter. 

ABRAMS:  What could possibly—but I can‘t even—I‘m trying to speculate even as to what it is a lawyer could tell a reporter for “TIME” magazine that would give the prosecutor in this case pause with regard to indicting Rove. 

SMITH:  There are a couple of things, but you know, we have always been assuming, and during the course of the discussion, assumed that it was something that Luskin told the “TIME” reporter.  It‘s equally possible that it is something that Luskin learned from the “TIME” reporter that could impact whether or not his client committed a crime. 

So one of the things that could be, and again, this is all speculation, but if the underlying issue is whether or not this person was engaged in an activity that uncovered the covert identity of a CIA agent, perhaps Mr. Luskin learned something from the “TIME” reporter which could be exculpatory (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Let me—before I go to Doug Burns, Jim VandeHei, a possibility? 

VANDEHEI:  It‘s certainly a possibility that it was—it could have gone either way.  It could have been something that Luskin told Novak or it could be something that Novak told Luskin.  That‘s what we don‘t know. 

I mean presumably if there was a piece of evidence that Luskin learned from Novak who was working at “TIME” and remember was working alongside Matthew Cooper who was a reporter, who had a conversation with Rove who got him in trouble in the first place, you know that—I guess presumably she could have something that could help him out. 

ABRAMS:  Doug Burns, what do you make of it? 

DOUG BURNS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well I think there‘s a lot of guesswork going on.  I think everybody is being fair to say that.  I also think they‘re doing a very good job on the guesswork, but the reality is what Jim said, excellent point, and that is that grand jury secrecy notwithstanding, Dan, after she testifies, she‘s not prohibited from...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BURNS:  ... disclosing or disseminating...

ABRAMS:  Right...

BURNS:  ... what she did, and that‘s what‘s going to happen...

ABRAMS:  I know.  I know.  I know...

BURNS:  ... but I can‘t tell you...

ABRAMS:  I know we‘re going to—I know you can‘t tell me for sure.  I‘m not asking you to have a crystal ball; I‘m asking you to do some analysis here. 

BURNS:  Right.  But I‘m just telling you that I also find it semi comical, if that‘s the right word, to say OK, we spoke to the person‘s defense attorney, and guess what?  That helps the client.  I mean of course, you want to interview me about one of my clients in a criminal case. 

(CROSSTALK)

BURNS:  Do you follow what I‘m saying? 

ABRAMS:  Doug, to be fair though, you know look, that‘s the reason you get good lawyers sometimes is because they go in and they talk to the prosecutors and they make a case.  And they say listen, here‘s the list of reasons why we think that you should look at this case in a different way. 

BURNS:  Right.  But you could say all day long it came from the lawyer who‘s been arguing that the person is not guilty.  That‘s just the standard norm.  It‘s just that simple, and that‘s what‘s going on here basically.  And again, I‘m not trying to you know dodge analysis.  I‘m just saying, let‘s see what she has to say because I can‘t predict it, honestly, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Demaurice, you know it is interesting that suddenly we are seeing reporters coming to the aid now.  At first everyone was saying oh these reporters are going to be implicating their sources.  Now we‘re seeing somehow that the reporters are being cited.  We see Bob Woodward being cited by the Libby defense team.  Now it seems that Luskin is somehow citing Viveca Novak in his defense, and somehow the reporters are coming to their aid. 

SMITH:  Well I think the one thing I take from it is this is exactly what you would want a prosecutor to do.  His job is to find the truth, and whether that truth is information that tends to show that somebody committed a crime or information that shows that a person didn‘t commit the crime.  One thing that we‘ve seen out of this case and you‘ve pointed out very right, there‘s reporters on one side that tend to have inculpatory information and some on the other side who might actually have exculpatory information. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, do you have any sense of when we‘re going to know whether Fitzgerald is going to have any more indictments to hand out? 

VANDEHEI:  I don‘t.  I think that we should hear a decision on Rove I think relatively soon.  I know Fitzgerald is sensitive to the fact that as long as this is hanging over the head of the White House, it is certainly a distraction to government.  I mean Rove is arguably the most powerful staffer in the White House now, possibly in decades, and it‘s definitely been a distraction. 

He has to deal with the legal side of this, and the president himself has to keep dealing with questions about this.  So I would assume that we‘re going to have this thing wrapped up, at least as far as Rove‘s involvement, some time in the next couple of weeks. 

ABRAMS:  Jim VandeHei with another fascinating article in “The Washington Post”.  Jim, keep up the great work.  We appreciate it.

VANDEHEI:  Take care.

ABRAMS:  And Demaurice Smith and Doug Burns, thanks for coming on the program. 

BURNS:  Thank you. 

SMITH:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, friends of the man convicted of raping and murdering 11-year-old Carlie Brucia say he had a compassionate side.  Does that matter to jurors deciding whether he should live or die? 

And a dancer murdered in her New York apartment, turns out she was leading something of a double life as a stripper.  Did that have something to do with her death? 

Plus, a Republican congressman resigns in tears after admitting taking millions in bribes, but he‘s not the only one under investigation.  In fact, up to 60, six-O members of Congress could be under investigation? 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN SCHORPEN, CARLIE BRUCIA‘S MOTHER:  I‘m not able to cuddle and hold my daughter.  I can no longer hear her precious innocent soft voice with the silly giggle.  I don‘t have her to talk to.  She was and still is very special to me, and I miss her.  I lost the light of my life, my buddy, my best friend, most of all my daughter. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Susan Schorpen tearfully talking about her daughter Carlie Brucia.  Now her daughter‘s killer is getting the chance to present testimony, reasons to spare his life.  Eleven-year-old Carlie abducted, sexually assaulted, murdered by Joseph Smith back in 2004.  He was convicted. 

Her abduction caught on this video.  Smith‘s attorneys are bringing in witness after witness to try to humanize Smith showing jurors pictures of Smith during different times of his life. 

The witnesses have touched on everything from Smith‘s rough birth to his supposed love of animals.  Before we talk about whether any of this should or will matter, they presented testimony about Smith‘s caring personality, his struggle with drugs and chronic pain, and his affection for his own children. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you ever have any personal problems with him? 

Did he ever give you a hard time? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  He was always polite and respectful in my presence. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joe put me very much at ease.  He was very gentle.  He was very kind to me.  I walked out shaking my head and saying, this was nothing like what I expected.  This was actually a very nice meeting with a man with whom I could become friends. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So even after he broke up with your daughter and they parted ways, Mr. Smith still came and checked on you and your husband. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, he did. 

BARBARA MESSENGER, JOSEPH SMITH‘S FORMER HAIRDRESSER:  Joseph has three little girls, and I‘ve seen two of them, and I have met—I didn‘t meet his wife, but she was next door to the post office, and she‘s beautiful, and the children are beautiful.  He was a good daddy, loving.  Joseph‘s a good daddy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So the question, of course, is will this type of testimony help spare Smith from a death sentence?  Does it matter?  Should it matter? 

Joining me now Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi and Florida criminal defense attorney, Michelle Suskauer.  All right.  So Michelle look, there are a list of mitigating factors which are reasons that the jurors can use to say we want to spare his life.  Let me go through what the mitigating factors are in the state of Florida. 

No significant history of prior criminal acts.  He does have a history.  Under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the crime.  Maybe we‘ll hear about that.

I mean I don‘t know that we‘re really hearing about extreme emotional disturbance.  And he was an accomplice, participation was relatively minor, no.  Under extreme duress or substantial domination of another person, no.

Capacity to appreciate criminality of conduct or to conform conduct to requirements of law were substantially impaired.  I don‘t know.  Maybe that‘s what they‘re trying to show.

The victim consented to the act.  Please, we won‘t even go there.  The defendant‘s age, no.

Existence of other factors that would mitigate against the death penalty.  It seems to me the...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... catchall phrase is the one they‘re going for here. 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  That‘s right.  That‘s it.  Because they really don‘t have anything else.  There‘s really no other place that this fits in, and it‘s going to just take a majority of this jury, not 12 people, but seven people, eight people, more, to make that decision.  And so it‘s under that catchall. 

ABRAMS:  If it‘s—if they come back 10-2, Michelle, for death, does that mean life in prison? 

SUSKAUER:  No.  That‘s 10-2, and it‘s a recommendation.  It just needs to be a majority recommendation to the judge, 7-5, 8-4.  Don‘t make me do anymore math.  And...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SUSKAUER:  ... they send it to the judge, and then the judge ultimately follows a jury‘s recommendation or imposes his own.  So just because...

ABRAMS:  Pam...

SUSKAUER:  ... yes.

ABRAMS:  ... if it‘s 7-5, the judge isn‘t going to impose death, is he? 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Dan, I‘ll tell you, I have—he was 19.  It was a 7-5 death threat.  The judge imposed death, and the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.  So you know, Dan, you never know, except in this case, this is one of the most gruesome, horrible murders I‘ve seen, and the state‘s got so many strong, solid aggravators, and the defense has so little. 

I mean I think even if it is 7-5, I don‘t think it will be, I think it will be 11-1, or hopefully unanimous.  I think this judge will impose the death penalty.  And just so your viewers know, the law says that a judge is to give the jury‘s recommendation great weight. 

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

BONDI:  Of course, it‘s ultimately up to him. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and look, and judges are very reluctant—it happens sometimes, but judges are very reluctant to not take the recommendation of the jury in cases like this.  The aggravating factors, the reasons that the jurors could use to find that the death penalty is appropriate. 

Committed murder while engaged in other crimes, kidnapping and sexual battery, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Of course...

ABRAMS:  Committed crime to avoid arrest, no.  Crimes especially heinous, atrocious and cruel, yes.  Crime was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner, seems yes.  Victim of a capital felony was under 12 years of age, yes.  Capital felony committed by a person on probation.

I mean it is hard...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... as a legal matter, Michelle, to figure out how if they go through the aggravating and mitigating factors, they don‘t come back and give this guy the death penalty. 

SUSKAUER:  I think that they will.  I think that‘s what‘s going to

happen, because they really—as I said before, they don‘t have a lot to

work with, Dan.  That‘s why they‘re bringing in videos.  That‘s why they‘re

from wedding toasts from how many years ago, and they‘re bringing in people who haven‘t really been with him for nine or 10 years, because they don‘t really have a lot of good things to work with. 

But his lawyer‘s doing the best he has with what he has to work with.  He couldn‘t pick this guy‘s life, and certainly this wouldn‘t be the life he would pick...

ABRAMS:  We‘re showing tape of what was shown in court today, sort of pictures of Joseph Smith at different points in his life.  I mean I guess the goal is to show, hey, you know, he‘s just your average guy who used to be a kid who played with animals and stuff.  But...

SUSKAUER:  But what they need to show the jury...

(CROSSTALK)

SUSKAUER:  ... they need to show the jury is what they don‘t expect, that this is actually a person and not a monster.  That‘s what they need to bring up this information that remember, remind the jury, this is a father of three. 

ABRAMS:  And they can‘t—right, Pam, they cannot ask these witnesses on either side, do you think the death penalty would be appropriate? 

BONDI:  No.  No, Dan, and they can‘t.  And that‘s good in a way.  I mean that‘s for the jury to determine, not the witnesses‘ opinions, and I think it‘s clear from all the witnesses how they feel, especially when they have a priest testifying on his behalf.  But I don‘t think that will influence their decision one way or the other. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Susan Schorpen, Carlie Brucia‘s mother, testifying in this penalty phase. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHORPEN:  I am broken.  I will never heal.  I will never have closure, and never again have my daughter by my side.  I am in physical pain all the time.  I am hoping in time I will become a better person and be able to deal with this loss, but I will never be whole again.  My heart will always have a void and tremendous loss. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Pam, as a legal matter, how are jurors supposed to weigh that powerful testimony? 

BONDI:  And Dan, they‘re not.  As a legal matter, it‘s a bit confusing, but that is not an aggravating circumstance under Florida law.  I just think it‘s great that jurors are able still to hear from victims‘ family members, but that is not one of the legal aggravators.  They‘re told that they can only take that information to see how Carlie was a loss to the community and what she meant to her family members, but of course, it‘s very powerful to jurors...

(CROSSTALK)

BONDI:  ... I mean we love it as prosecutors. 

ABRAMS:  ... as a practical matter.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, as a practical matter, of course it matters...

(CROSSTALK)

SUSKAUER:  How could they not? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Right.

BONDI:  Right.  Absolutely.  It‘s great for prosecutors. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Michelle. 

SUSKAUER:  Right.  No I mean this is as damaging as you can get to have Carlie‘s mother on the stand crying and talking about how she misses her daughter.  I mean it‘s absolutely gut wrenching, it‘s heartbreaking, and it‘s the defense lawyer‘s nightmare.  But you know that‘s what they heard. 

And how can they disregard that?  I know they‘re not supposed to put that into their consideration, but how can they take that out of their mind?  That‘s an image that they‘re going to with them back into that jury room. 

ABRAMS:  Joseph Smith is in a lot of trouble.  I‘ve said it before and you know I‘ll say it again, it‘s going to be—it‘s going to take something else to go through those aggravating and mitigating circumstances and determine that somehow the aggravating don‘t outweigh the mitigating in this particular case.  That‘s the law in Florida.  We shall see. 

Pam Bondi, Michelle Suskauer, as always, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SUSKAUER:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a congressman pleads guilty to taking millions in bribes, resigns in tears.  At least six other lawmakers have been indicted or are under investigation.  Some say the number could reach six-0, 60, 60 members of Congress and even some of their wives. 

A dancer from Ohio moves to New York and is murdered in her apartment. 

Could her secret life as a stripper have anything to do with her death? 

Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  Our search today is in Idaho. 

Trying to help authorities locate Glenn Watson, he‘s 52, 5‘9”, 145, convicted of lewd conduct with a child under 16.  Released from prison in August, but has yet to register with the state.  If you‘ve got any information, please contact the Idaho Bureau of Criminal Investigation, 208-884-7130. 

We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Is it true that as many as 60 members of Congress are under investigation for bribery?  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER REP. RANDY CUNNINGHAM ®, CALIFORNIA:  The truth is I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office.  I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly the trust of my friends and family. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, one-time Vietnam War pilot whose life crashed in flames on Monday when he pled guilty to conspiring to take $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.  Cunningham may soon have company.  No fewer than six members of Congress are under investigation for possible crimes and violations, and that number could go much higher.  Some reporting investigators could ultimately target as many as 60 senators or representatives, even a few congressional wives. 

The active investigations we know of, at least a few of them, Senate Majority Leader Republican Bill Frist subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission over possible violations in the sale of millions of dollars in stock.  Democratic Congressman William Jefferson is being investigated over a telecommunications deal.  Three representatives and one senator who have been dealing with this man, indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Department of Justice has launched a wide ranging investigation into possible influence peddling on Capitol Hill. 

Prosecutors looking into his connections with former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Congressman Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican who chairs the House Administration Committee, Congressman John Doolittle, a California Republican, and Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana.  Prosecutors are also investigating at least 17 former congressional aides, including five who worked for Tom Delay. 

Now all the cases involving Abramoff are about politicians allegedly taking money and favors from his and his client in return for favors.  Sounds like bribery.  It also sounds like business as usual in much of Washington.  So is this really as big a deal as it sounds, 60?

Michael Crowley is Capitol Hill correspondent for the “New Republic”. 

And Eamon Javers is Capitol Hill correspondent for “Business Week”. 

Appreciate both of you coming on the program. 

All right.  Eamon, let me start with you. 

EAMON JAVERS, “BUSINESS WEEK” CAPITOL CORRESPONDENT:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Up to 60 representatives and senators could be under investigation? 

JAVERS:  Yes.  You know, I‘ve got one source who says this.  Now we should treat this basically like informed speculation from a source who‘s close to the situation who says it could be as many as 60 is the pool of the members of Congress that they‘re looking at here.  But you know of course, that would get whittled down if that‘s, in fact, the case. 

But this thing keeps growing and growing.  The more we look into it, the more members seem to be dragged in.  Jack Abramoff had wide contacts around this town.  And you should remember that he was viewed as one of the biggest lobbyists in town, a big donor, a big-name Republican.  So a lot of members of Congress had reason to trust him just based on his reputation.  That was then.  This is now.  It‘s a lot different now. 

ABRAMS:  But we listed off a number of Republicans and one Democrat in connection with something else, but isn‘t there some discussion about Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader in the Senate? 

JAVERS:  Sure.  There‘s discussion about a lot of Democrats involved in this Abramoff thing.  The press so far has really been focused on the Republican piece of this, but there were Democratic lobbyists who worked in Jack Abramoff‘s shop at the lobbying firm, which is called Greenberg Traurig, and they had connections to a lot of Democratic members of Congress, and we can be sure that the investigation is going to look at Democrats as well as Republicans as this thing moves forward. 

ABRAMS:  Because Michael Crowley, obviously the concern would be if you suddenly see eight Republicans indicted and no Democrats, you‘re going to hear people screaming politics, politics, politics. 

MICHAEL CROWLEY, “NEW REPUBLIC” CAPITOL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, yes.  People are always going to scream that.  I‘ve got to tell you, Dan that you know, based on everything I‘ve seen, the relationships that Abramoff had with Republicans, Republican leaders in the House, particularly like Delay and Ney, are categorically different from the relationships he had with Democrats. 

He clearly directed some of his clients to give some money to Democrats.  I do think that there‘s been—that angle of the story has not been covered as closely as some of the more dramatic stuff involving people like Delay, but you know, he wasn‘t flying Harry Reid over to Scotland on golf junkets the way he flew Tom Delay and Bob Ney and David Safavian, a bureaucrat who was—a Bush administration bureaucrat who was recently indicted.  I mean I really think there‘s a categorical difference here, and crime politics is sort of the last resort of guys in this situation, but I just don‘t think it washes here. 

ABRAMS:  Eamon, what do you make of that? 

JAVERS:  Well I think that‘s a fair comment.  I mean Abramoff was a Republican, was well connected in Republican circles.  Some of these guys who were on Tom Delay‘s staff at the time that all this was taking place seemed to have been operating as much as they were on Abramoff‘s payroll as if they were on the taxpayer dime in some of the actions that they took.  So clearly there were deep, deep connections with Republicans here, and that was Abramoff‘s first love and first choices that go to (INAUDIBLE) Hill.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what Representative Ney‘s official statement was and I want to talk about this.

Whenever Representative Ney took official action, action similar to those taken by elected representatives every day as part of the normal appropriate government process, he did so based on his best understanding of what was right and not based on any improper influence.

And it seems to me that if we‘re talk about this widespread an investigation, Michael, I mean if we‘re talking about, you know, again, let‘s even assume the lower—the number is lower than 60.  Let‘s even assume it‘s you know 10 people who are investigated, maybe more, whatever the number may be, that a lot of them are going to say it‘s a very tough line to draw between a crime and politics as usual. 

CROWLEY:  Yes.  Well Dan, I think that‘s why this story is so fascinating and so kind of essential, because it has really laid bear the way business is done in Washington, and I think it‘s why people aren‘t sure whether the number is six or 60 or, you know, 100, because what we‘re learning is the degree to which money and favors and sort of shady back scratching makes Washington go round.  And I do think that dozens and dozens of members of Congress are probably guilty of, you know, giving access to lobbyists like Abramoff or doing maybe small favors for someone like Abramoff.

That happens all the time.  That‘s how Washington works.  I do think that when you talk about the boom coming down in terms of criminal charges, it‘s going to be a smaller number for guys like Delay and Ney who got on private jets, flew to Scotland, Moscow, went on these ludicrous golf junkets.  But it is true that this is to some degree how Washington works, and when you start kind of lifting up the rock, it‘s sort of hard to know where you‘re going to—where to stop digging...

ABRAMS:  Actually Delay and Ney deny any wrongdoing.  Go ahead Eamon...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... then I want to ask you a follow-up question.  Go ahead. 

JAVERS:  Well Michael‘s making a good point here.  I mean the interesting thing that we have in this case that we haven‘t had in other cases is that investigators now have subpoenaed Jack Abramoff‘s e-mails.  So what they have is the spine of a case already there, because the man sent just about 400 e-mails a day for years and years to all of his associates and colleagues...

(CROSSTALK)

JAVERS:  ... pretty much laying out exactly what he was doing. 

(CROSSTALK)

JAVERS:  So for the first time we get to see how one of these things operated, and the question is are there others around town that we just don‘t know about because we can‘t see that kind of detail? 

ABRAMS:  Well and that‘s my question.  Is this going to be effectively the political Enron?  Meaning, the case that forces everyone to do business differently?  I mean as a result of Enron we see companies, we see legislation, we see companies being forced to account for themselves in ways that they didn‘t have to before.  Is this case that big, this investigation that huge that it‘s going to change the way politics are done? 

JAVERS:  Yes, absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Really? 

JAVERS:  It clearly already has changed the way people operate in Washington.  A lot of lobby sources are telling me that for years the gift ban on Capitol Hill, where you couldn‘t give gifts to members or staffers, has been treated sort of like the speed limit, 55 miles per hour.  Everybody goes a little faster and everybody winks and nods about it. 

Since this Abramoff story has broken I‘m told that‘s gotten much tighter on Capitol Hill.  That‘s just one piece of evidence, but we‘re going to see I think a wrath of legislation aimed at reforming lobbying laws, reforming lobbying in Washington.  That‘s the end result of all of this, and there might be some legal changes enacted in law when we‘re all said and done here. 

CROWLEY:  Dan, the old cliche is that the scandal is what‘s legal, and I think that this story has really revealed that in kind of a breathtaking way.  And I agree.  I think that we‘re probably going to see a crackdown in terms of lobbying reform.  I also think it‘s possible that Republicans are going to be slaughtered in the 2006 midterm elections, and that‘s going to make people take notice. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t—yes, we‘ll see.  I mean I have to tell you that I‘m not seeing this story stick, and from what I‘ve read even in Ney‘s own home district, when he‘s going home...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... he‘s not getting a lot of questions about this particular topic, but...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... we shall see.

JAVERS:  I was there in August in Ney‘s home district, and at that time the people that I talked on the street really hadn‘t heard of Abramoff...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right...

JAVERS:  ... so this hasn‘t penetrated to that level just yet. 

ABRAMS:  Michael Crowley, Eamon Javers, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

CROWLEY:  Thanks Dan.

JAVERS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, an aspiring actress found murdered in her New York City apartment.  As the investigation into her death continues, new details emerge about her secret life as a stripper. 

And later, why winning the lottery is not all it‘s cracked up to be, really.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, an aspiring actress murdered in her New York City apartment.  Did her life as a stripper have anything to do with her death?  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON WOODS, DAUGHTER WAS MURDERED IN NYC APARTMENT:  We‘ve had many great times here together going to Broadway shows and taking in the sights of New York, and so it‘s, it‘s a tremendous, tremendous loss. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That is the father of a 21-year-old dancer brutally murdered on Sunday.  Seems, though, she was living a life her family knew nothing about.  What some have called a double life.  Catherine Woods moved to New York three years ago from Ohio hoping to make it big on Broadway.  She even told her family she landed a small part in a production.  But in reality Catherine, the daughter of the head of the Ohio State University marching band, had been working as a topless dancer at clubs around the city. 

She told her family she was working on a play called “The Privilege”.  In reality she was dancing at a topless club called Privilege, sometimes using fake names like Ava.  On Sunday night neighbors heard a scream and noises from the apartment Catherine shared with her ex-boyfriend.  He said he later came home to find her stabbed and nearly decapitated. 

With me now on the phone is reporter Al Jones from New York‘s all news radio station 1010 WINS and Columbus, Ohio “Dispatch” reporter Kathy Gray, who has been working on the story from Catherine‘s hometown.  Thank you both very much for coming on the program. 

All right, Al, let me start with you.  In terms of the investigation, what do you know about where they‘re looking and what kind of leads they have? 

AL JONES, 1010 WINS NEW YORK REPORTER (via phone):   Well, Dan, they started off obviously with the boyfriend or I guess ex-boyfriend, David Hahn (ph).  He‘s the one that made the 911 call.  They questioned him extensively Sunday night into Monday morning.  Two problems with David Hahn (ph) as a suspect.  One, he wasn‘t at the apartment at the time of the murder.  People who heard it say that it happened sometime between 6:30 and 7:00. 

At that time Hahn (ph) was at his work about a block and a half away, he picked up a notebook, and was walking back.  People who saw him say that he didn‘t seem to be flustered, that there was no real problem with him.  The other problem is that police say that Catherine Woods fought her attacker.  She had some skin under her nails, but that Hahn (ph) had no visible scratches. 

So they‘ve questioned and released him, and they‘ve also talked to a professional dancer described as Catherine Woods‘ current boyfriend.  He also has been questioned and released.  So right now detectives are working the club.  She worked at two topless clubs here in town.  They‘re talking to people that are employed there asking if she had a problem with patrons, did somebody get aggressive with her, was there some kind of problem there as they still look for a suspect. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Kathy, as far as the people in Ohio knew, she was working and trying to become a Broadway actress, right? 

KATHY GRAY, “THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH” REPORTER:  What I‘ve been told is that from speaking with some of her friends that she had been working part time as a waitress and some other odd jobs, but that she had had a number of actual professional jobs.  I was told that she had danced with a dance troupe and that she had been in a chorus line—in a touring production of a chorus line.

Now I checked that out and I contacted the only touring production of a chorus line that I could find that had been touring this year, and they did not know anything about her.  They said that she had not been working for them.  The friend had told me that she worked for them for a couple of months and then had decided that she wanted to return back to New York City. 

ABRAMS:  The ex-boyfriend, and correct me if I‘m wrong on this, Kathy, was a hometown boyfriend, right? 

GRAY:  Right.  He graduated in 2002 from Independence High School, which is one of the Columbus public school urban high schools here, and she had graduated from Worthington Kilbourne, which is in a suburb here, upper middle class suburb, and we‘re not quite sure how they got together, but our understanding is that she has known him and dated him for at least four years. 

ABRAMS:  And Al, he, the ex-boyfriend, was working at one of these clubs as well, right? 

JONES:  And hanging around.  I think he had done a little bit of work as a doorman.  His primary occupation was a doorman at an apartment building about a block and a half from where they lived.  But he kind of bounced around from job to job, didn‘t really have one for any length of time, and she also was working at several different clubs as well as auditioning for a number of different shows. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So it looks like as of right now, no leads that we know of.  There‘s the number.  If you‘ve got any information on what may have happened to Catherine Woods, 800-577-TIPS.  They really—they can use—they could use your help.

Al Jones of 1010 WINS and Kathy Gray, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

GRAY:  Thanks Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why you may not want to be the next big-time lottery winner.  Really.  Ask that guy.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  We continue our search in Idaho today. 

Authorities are looking for Cristian Garcia.  He‘s 30 years old, 5‘7”, 240.  Convicted of lewd conduct with a young girl in 2002, was released in 2003, never registered with the state.  If you‘ve got any information, the Idaho Bureau of Criminal Investigation wants to hear from you, 208-884-7130.

Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—winning the lottery seems like a dream come true.  A dollar and a dream, right?  We all have fantasies about how winning could mean a life of carefree luxury.  But as they say, be careful what you wish for.  The stories of some lottery winners suggest that it can leave you a lot worse off than when you started. 

Well first there‘s the obvious.  Friends and acquaintances asking, sometimes begging for money.  Lives change too quickly.  Many winners suddenly get sued, and in some cases worse than that.  Last week 51-year-old Virginia Metcalf Merida was found dead in her Kentucky home.  Merida won over $65 million in the Powerball lottery in 2000.  She and her husband, Mack Wayne Metcalf, split their Powerball winnings then separated. 

He died three years later at just 45 due to complications from alcoholism after serving four days in jail for drunk driving.  Now authorities are trying to figure out how Virginia Merida died.  No sign of a struggle and they think she may have been dead for days before she was found.  And the Metcalfs are not isolated examples.  Fifty-year-old -- 58-year-old Jack Whittaker who won nearly 315 million in 2002 has become the poster child for how not to handle a stroke of what should be good luck. 

He‘s had hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash stolen from his vehicles, house, and office, including over 500,000 after he passed out at a strip bar.  Pleaded no contest to assaulting a bar manager, had to surrender his driver‘s license, and undergo substance abuse counseling after being arrested for drunk driving a second time.  Most disturbing last year, his 17-year-old granddaughter was found dead of a drug overdose underneath an abandoned van.

Another Texas lottery winner, Billie Bob Harrell Jr., committed suicide less than two years after winning $31 million in ‘97.  One of the reasons, everyone, family, friends, strangers had been hitting him up for money.  And Minnesota lottery winner Victoria Zell crashed her SUV into a truck while driving drunk, killing one passenger, paralyzing another. 

She was then arrested a few months later for possessing .7 grams of methamphetamine.  A study three years ago found that one-third of lottery winners eventually went bankrupt, one-third.  I know we all like to believe we would not be one of them, that we would handle it better.  (INAUDIBLE) take it on occasion.  I‘d like to think that if I won I‘d quit my job and live happily somewhere else. 

I did win bingo once time when I was a kid.  Now that I think about it, I don‘t know what happened to that money, but coming back to the point, when you don‘t win, don‘t despair.  You might be better for it. 

Coming up, your e-mails on Saddam Hussein‘s American lawyer Ramsey Clark.  Shocker, some of you angry at me this time I say for asking the tough questions.  Coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Yesterday Saddam Hussein back in court facing murder and other charges.  In the courtroom as a legal advisor for Saddam was former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark.  We aired part of my interview with Clark where I asked repeatedly why Saddam had to have a former attorney general of the U.S. representing him. 

Travis Lee writes “I think your verbal assault on Ramsey Clark was appalling.  This man is trying to give Saddam a fair trial and to insinuate that he‘s unpatriotic or a traitor for doing so is very unprofessional of you.”  Oh come on Travis.

Jim Gray from Cambridge, Massachusetts, “Saddam Hussein is an evil man.  His attorney Ramsey Clark is a great and principled American.  There is no conflict in those two statements.  Thanks for giving General Clark a chance to explain why he‘s representing Hussein.”

William Griffin from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, “Thank you for your interview with Ramsey Clark.  You confronted Mr. Clark and he was surprised to say the least.  Clark really has a problem with his own country.  With reporters like you, it gives one hope that our media is in good hands.”  Thank you, William.

Jackie S. from Norristown, Pennsylvania, “After watching the segment with Ramsey Clark and his role on the defense team, I think he‘s a wonderful man who truly believes in our values and believes that everyone deserves a fair trial and will go as far as defending Saddam Hussein to prove it.  He makes me proud to be an American.”

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.  That does it for us tonight out of Boston.  Be back at our headquarters tomorrow.

Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

The Abrams Report each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

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