updated 1/4/2006 2:59:11 PM ET 2006-01-04T19:59:11

Guests Mike Allen, Mark Radomsky

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  THE SITUATION with Tucker Carlson starts now—Tucker. 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Thanks a lot, Joe.  Thanks to you at home for tuning in.  We always appreciate it.

Let‘s get right to our top story tonight.  The body of a one miner has been found in West Virginia more than two miles from the mine‘s entrance. 

At this hour, rescue teams continue to search for the other 12 miners. 

They‘ve been trapped since 6:30 yesterday morning. 

We go live now to Buckhannon in West Virginia, where MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby is live with the very latest—Rita. 

RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR:  Tucker, you can see the skies, it‘s dreary and a dismal day here in this area.  I‘m right in front of the Sago mine, of course, where the 13 miners were trapped. 

And now the mood is definitely very grim.  They are praying for a miracle, but they know the odds are against them.  Two hours ago that devastating news came down that one body was located about 111,000 feet from the portal, which is the entranceway to the mine.  It‘s about half a mile from where I‘m standing here. 

But it was, as you pointed out, about two miles in; 11,000 feet from the entranceway that body was found.  The good news is they have not located the 12 others.  And they believe that they did take the man bus, which is that railcar that goes through into the railway, literally into the mine. 

And it looks likes the other folks were probably on that railway, got off safely, were able to get off on their own.  So tonight they are still looking for 12 other individuals, saying that they are missing at this hour. 

But needless to say, when the word came down that that one body was found, certainly, things were very dismal.  People were very depressed, including the governor of West Virginia.  Here‘s what he had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  We are still on full rescue mode, looking for the 12 miners, the 12 miners that we‘re still trying to locate.  And we know that the tram they would have rode in on was intact.  There was no damage to that at all. 

And so we‘re in search right now of those 12, and the crews are doing everything humanly possible.  So unfortunately, we did—we have one fatality that‘s been confirmed.  And our hopes, as I tell you so many times, we still believe in those miracles and we‘re still hanging onto this miracle, and we‘re hoping for the best. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And of course, nobody is hoping for a miracle more than family members.  Hundreds of them have been at a church not too far from here, praying, just clinging to any piece of information that they can get. 

They are not the only ones who have been emotional.  Even the owners of this mine, International Coal Group, which just bought the mine last year, when they got the news, you could tell that they were visibly moved. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN HATFIELD, CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP:  It‘s a nightmare.  It‘s the worst news that we can possibly deliver to families that are anxiously awaiting good news.  So we‘re devastated by it, the families are devastated.  There‘s a lot of anxiety because we haven‘t yet identified the employee.  So our hearts and prayers at this point are with the families. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Now, officials were telling us that initially the rescuers who went in, and again, it‘s very deep, very treacherous, very dangerous area they‘re going into to locate these bodies.  When they found that one body, and again holding out hope that some others are alive, of those 12 missing, that some of them, or all of them, may be alive.  There are some air pockets in there, so there is a possibility that they could be alive. 

They‘re going to go in in the next few hours.  They‘re trying to ventilate some of the carbon monoxide levels because they were still quite high in the mine shaft. 

And initially, what we were told from authorities, they‘re saying that their initial observation of the individual who did pass that one miner, at this point it looks like he was overcome by fumes.  They‘re surmising, and again this is very early on, that maybe it was carbon monoxide poisoning. 

I was also told from the head of the West Virginia Coal Miners Association, that body, Chris Hamilton, told me a few minutes ago some other stunning piece of information, that apparently that miner, the body, there was no mask put on them. 

These guys are trained.  These guys, even the ones, the junior ones that were inside, we know that most of the minors who were inside were very experienced.  We don‘t know if it was a younger one or an older one, the body that they located, but we do know that all the guys get a lot of training and are told immediately when there‘s a problem, an explosion, any sort of issue, they‘re told to put on their mask, their breathing mask. 

We‘re told from this person, from Chris Hamilton, with that association, he said he has been told that there was no mask found on that individual.  Meaning that whatever happened happened so quickly, so furiously, at least for that individual, he was not able to put the mask on. 

Right now, Tucker, the mood here is very grim, but they are still praying that they will find those other men, find them alive, and hopefully find them tonight. 

CARLSON:  Rita, do we know who this individual is?  I know there has been confusion about whether the body had been identified or not.  What‘s the status?

COSBY:  Well, officially, they‘re saying that there is no identification yet.  We talked to a number of individuals.  We talked to John Bennett.  His father is in there, Jim Bennett.  He‘s been a miner for 30 years. 

And John Bennett said to us, “Look, we know probably who these guys are.  They haven‘t told us.”  But all of them have tags apparently on their belts, sort of a metal tag, identifying each miner.  And what we were told from folks who have been talking to the rescuers, is that that body was not badly damaged.  There was not a lot of deterioration, not a lot of damage, in other words, from the explosion. 

CARLSON:  right.

COSBY:  So they are surmising that he was overcome by this gas.  In other words, probably that tag is pretty visible.  Maybe they‘re just not releasing—maybe they‘re talking to family members, making sure, of course, that the family members know first, at this point.  But publicly they‘re saying that they don‘t know the identification. 

CARLSON:  Set the scene for our viewers a little bit, if you would.  If rescuers were able to reach two miles into the mine, the body of this fallen man, why weren‘t they able to go deeper into the mine and locate the other 12?

COSBY:  Well, we‘re told the carbon monoxide levels were pretty high at that point and they don‘t want to risk the lives of the rescuers and have more people dead at this point. 

What happened earlier is they got some very high readings.  And that‘s why they‘re surmising that it may have been carbon monoxide.  Again, there could have been other gases.  There‘s a number of other toxic—there‘s hydrogen.  There‘s methane.  But they believe it‘s a combustible gas, that carbon monoxide could be the key at this point. 

But they know that they got some very high levels, three times the maximum sustainable amount.  There‘s a level of sort of 400 parts is the equation that really anybody could live through.  They believe that it was 1,300 parts.  And that was a reading that they got earlier today. 

When they went in and found that body, they said in and around that area, there were some high levels of carbon monoxide.  So they‘re trying to ventilate that area, get some good air in, get the bad air out.  And they believe in the next few hours they‘ll be able to go back in, try to hopefully see if some of these other guys are alive. 

And you know, it is a remote chance at this point, Tucker.  The mine is fairly simple as far as minutes go.  I‘ve learned a lot about mines.  And this particular mine doesn‘t have a lot of crevices.  It‘s a fairly direct mine, meaning that there‘s not a lot of places to hide, which does not bode well.

But there are a few spots, and having checked all the spots at this point.  So there still is hope that maybe they found a good part, maybe those guys got their masks on and maybe they‘re alive tonight. 

CARLSON:  Do we have any idea at this point what caused this explosion?

COSBY:  You know, they don‘t know at this point.  At first they were surmising that maybe something happened to the equipment, that maybe something happened to the portal man bus.  That‘s that rail car that goes through.  But then we just heard during the press conference that that railcar that was carrying at least quite a bit of the miners at the time, that that was not damaged, meaning that that was not a part of the explosion, not one of the initial causes. 

There‘s still a lot of things coming into play.  We know that there was a bad storm coming through at that point, 6:30 yesterday morning, many, many hours ago.  At that point, lightning strikes, maybe some freak of nature maybe cut out the ventilation system.  May not have caused the explosion, but maybe it certainly made it much worse, meaning that there was no bad air to move out. 

That if there was an explosion taking place, high levels of carbon monoxide as a result of some sort of explosion taking place inside the mine shaft and maybe the lightning may have struck out some of the ventilation systems so they were not able to breathe at this point. 

In terms of the initial cause, Tucker, they‘re not ruling out lightning.  They‘re not ruling out some kind of a mechanical device.  We know that this mine was idle for the holidays.  They just fired up the equipment.  Maybe something happened when the batteries...

CARLSON:  These are the first men in the mine, apparently?  Give us a timeline from here on out Rita, and tell us where the families are in all this?  Do they have hope when do they expect to find out what happened?

You know, it‘s a really prayerful community.  I‘ll tell you, some of

the people are here are amazing.  I talked to a lot of family members in

the last few hours, and they are still holding out hope that these other 12

these guys are very experiences.

A lot of the guys in there, Tucker, have more than 30 years of experience in mining.  They‘re supposed to be trained.  No one can prepare you for a freak of nature or some sort of explosion, but they believe these guys will do all they can.  Most of them are at a church, congregating where they‘ve been for the last two days, nonstop, haven‘t slept at all, just praying for any sort of information in terms of what‘s going to happen with the rescue. 

We‘re told that in the next hour or so, they should be going back in.  They‘ll get that bad air out, that carbon monoxide out, so it will be safe for rescuers to go back in.  Now they know the spot.  We think that we‘ll know in the next few hours the status of those 12 missing men. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Rita Cosby.  Of course, we‘ll be coming back to you throughout the hour as we continue our live coverage from that state.  We‘re waiting to learn the fate of 12 other trapped miners.

Plus, an explosion of another sort in Washington today, a political explosion.  Jack Abramoff, former super lobbyist, pleads guilty to at least three felonies.  But that story is far from over.  Who will be caught next in the web of corruption?  Someone will be.  We‘ll give you a hint when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come tonight, continuing live coverage of the trapped miner situation in West Virginia, plus Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleads guilty to three felony charges.  What big names will he implicate in the federal corruption investigation that‘s certain to rock Washington?  Find out when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back. 

We‘re continuing to cover the increasingly frantic search for a group of miners trapped in a mine in West Virginia, when an explosion occurred yesterday morning.  There were 13.  The body of one has been recovered.  He is still unidentified at this hour.  Twelve still missing.

To help us understand what happened and why and what might happen next we are honored to welcome NBC News analyst Robert Hager who joins us live tonight from New York. 

Bob, thanks a lot for coming on.

ROBERT HAGER, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Sure.

CARLSON:  What—give us the overview of what happened. 

HAGER:  I thought maybe, just to understand better what Rita was telling us, if I showed you here where they found these various—the body and the cart and all. 

So this again, is the side view of the mine.  This is the mountain coming up, the mine shaft going in for two miles back here.  They think the explosion occurred about here. 

But now, if you add this, this is the—this would really be this way of the mine, but to see it better.  You‘re looking down on the scene of the mine.  So here‘s the shaft going in again.  Same level as the shaft, here are these branches coming off on the left.  This is left one, left two and so forth.

They think they saw the signs of the explosion around in here.  And right after that scene of the explosion is where they found the body of the one miner.  He‘s by a coal belt, they call it.  So he could have gotten off the cart that would have brought these men in before the explosion, and he‘s working there at the coal belt. 

The fact that he‘s found without his mask on, as Rita told us, as she‘d learned, would indicate that he‘s standing near the explosion, and maybe the explosion knocked him with such a hard blow, stunned him immediately or perhaps may have been instantly fatal.  He was unable to reach his mask to try to protect himself.  That‘s conjecture, but that could be why he didn‘t have an air mask on. 

Now 700 feet beyond that man the empty cart was found.  That‘s a little rail cart that was bringing these men in.  No sign of the men that were in that, the other 12 men.  So how did they get out of the cart?  Did they get out of the cart after—and by the way, the cart is not very badly damaged.  So that‘s interesting, too.  It was not damaged by the force of that explosion. 

So were the men already out of the cart and perhaps working up in this area of the mine?  Or did they, after the explosion, were they still alive and managed to get themselves out of the cart, get their masks on and try to get somewhere to safer grouped?  If that were the case, why they wouldn‘t try to get back down here and make their way out of the tunnel. 

But you were asking about what it‘s like back up in here.

CARLSON:  Yes.

HAGER:  And beyond that simple shaft there that you see, there‘s a complex grid work of smaller shafts, where they‘re cutting the coal.  So there are lots of little tunnels through there. 

And that‘s why the rescuers, first they have to wait and make sure that they continue to ventilate this area, get the gas levels down, so they can safely operate up in there. 

But if these men were either—had already left the cart and were working up in there someplace, or they had fled the cart at the explosion and were looking for some safe haven up here in one of these little tunnels.  That would take time, because it is quite a labyrinth, quite elaborate, a honey comb of little tunnels up there. 

So that would all take the rescuers a good little while to go through that, again in dark, very cramped quarters.  That‘s why it takes so long. 

CARLSON:  And how cramped?  I know that you‘ve been in coal mines yourself.  Give us a sense of the physical conditions.  I mean, you think of a coal mine as very narrow and restricting.  Is it?  What are the conventions?

HAGER:  Sometimes in the big shaft on the way in, they get that dug out pretty well, and you can sometimes even stand up in it.  But then as you get up toward the face of the mine, which means the end of the mine.  That‘s a much smaller shaft. 

So it‘s not as big as the shaft you that see those fellows there, those rescuers there at the mouth of the mine walking out of. 

It can be—think of it as a horizontal slit in the earth and there‘s just room enough in there—there‘s a larger shaft there, where they could walk in standing up.  But you go a mile or so back, and get toward the face of the mine, and that gets very low.  The ceiling hangs very low. 

Sometimes in those little rail cars—I‘ve been down in mines a lot -

you have to even lie down in them as they make their way toward the face of the mine.  They just have to have room enough to get the big coal butting equipment in there, the grinder that works at the face of the mine.  So that‘s maybe about three feet high, something like that. 

So there‘s not much more space than that in a lot of these mines.  So it‘s very difficult to move around in there if you‘re not in the railcar, lying down, because you have to crawl on your knees. 

CARLSON:  And where does the ventilation come from?  Is it possible to sink shafts from above into the mine?

HAGER:  That‘s what they do.

CARLSON:  OK.

HAGER:  They are required—I used to go into mines in the 1970‘s and they didn‘t have this. 

But to improve the ventilation in the mines, hold down the methane gas, hold down coal dust, they have—they require these air shafts to be sunk every so often. 

And then inside the mine—this is all new some the 70s, but there are fans and there are what they call breaks or ventilation breaks at some of these intersections or openings, where they build up sinner block and then hang strips of cloth down, the strips of cloth being so that you can walk your way through, by pushing them aside the strips and moving throw. 

But that‘s supposed to control the direction of the air in there, so that the fresh air that‘s ventilated down in these little shafts can be driven by the fans through these areas way back in the mine, to keep fresh air in there.  Now, a lot of that system probably quit here at the time of the explosion.  And poison gas built up. 

Robert Hager joining us from New York.  Thanks a lot. 

We are still awaiting news on the fate of those 12 missing miners. 

MSNBC will be live for quite some time tonight, keeping up to date on that

search.  We‘ll return in just a moment with more.  I‘m 22 for a moment and

she feels better than ever and we‘re on fire making our way back from mars

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We continue to follow the unfolding trauma, now a tragedy, unfolding in a West Virginia mine.  Thirteen miners trapped underground by an explosion yesterday morning.  One dead for certain, 12 missing. 

For more on how this might have happened, we‘ll turn to a mining safety expert, Bruce Dial, live from North Carolina. 

BRUCE DIAL, MINING TOTAL ASPECT:  Glad to be here, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  What would be the training a miner would get for a circumstance like this?  Miners, presumably expect the possibility of explosions.  You‘re a miner.  An explosion occurs.  What do you do?

DIAL:  Yes.  There are all trained in what to do in case of a mine explosion. 

The first thing they‘re trained to do is put on their self-rescuers, which would give them a one-hour supply of oxygen.  And that would allow them to try to get to a safe are. 

In what I hear of the empty man trip, they had already arrived at their work area and were past where the explosion happened.  So if a—when the explosion happened, they would have put on their mask.  They wouldn‘t have gone back down the same tunnel where the explosion happened, because that would be like if you have a burning home, instead of going around the house, you would go in the front door and you on the back door. 

They don‘t know what‘s in that, so they‘re trying to go around the explosion area.  So as they put on their masks, they would go as far as they can.  Then they would find a heading, three walls, and then they would build a wall and barricade themselves in, behind that. 

CARLSON:  Why would they do that?

DIAL:  Well, they‘re all if one place, they‘re more likely to be in a safe area, in case there was another explosion, they would be have some kind of protection between them and the explosion.  They would all be together and be able to help one another and be able to pool their supplies and things like that. 

CARLSON:  Do they carry supplies?  Is there a way to get water when you‘re underground?  Do they bring any kind of safety equipment with them, apparent from the rescuer?

DIAL:  Yes.  Many miners carry their own water, plus the mine operators supply water in little bottles or water jugs and things like that and station them throughout the mine. 

Some mines even have extra food supplies stored in there, in case, for something like this.  So they would have, you know, their lunches and water, that they could pool together. 

CARLSON:  The scary thing about carbon monoxide, it seems to me, is that it‘s invisible and odorless.  So if you‘re a miner trapped underground and how helmet is going to determine whether you‘re in a part of the mine that has deadly levels of carbon monoxide. 

Not all miners, but some of them have gas detecting devices that would test for methane gas, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and also oxygen.  And they would be able to tell where the higher concentrations were. 

Also, the mask that they wear, it provides oxygen, but it also takes the carbon monoxide out of the air.  And as it takes the carbon monoxide out of the air, these masks get hotter.  And so this would be able to feel the heat.  The more heat, the more carbon monoxide they would be in. 

CARLSON:  How dangerous is mining?  You get the impression certainly from events like this, that it‘s enormously dangerous.  Is it?

DIAL:  Not as much as it used to be.  There‘s been great leaps of safety in the last 20 years.  Of course, we do have these mine disasters every three to five years that seem to occur.  But there‘s been new regulations put in, many new technical devices to help prevent these things from happening.

So it is a lot safer than it used to be, but it‘s still a dangerous place to work.  Your environment is in things you don‘t have control of, so you have to put devices in there, like sniffers on the equipment, once they detect any kind of methane, they automatically shut off.  Things like that. 

DIAL:  What‘s your theory as to what happened?

I think there was a billion dollar up of methane gas over the down time and whenever they went back in to work, something sparked that methane gas.  It could have been a roof fall, it could have been—to my understanding there wasn‘t any equipment in that area that had happened, but something caused that methane gas to ignite. 

Once that methane gas ignites, it can make the coal dust that‘s in the mine airborne, and once it gets airborne, it gets explosive, also. 

Do you think it‘s realistic at this point to believe anyone could be alive in that mine?

DIAL:  The only chance they have is if they were able to get an area of the mine that still has some type of ventilation.  If they to the—either they barricaded themselves in, if there‘s no ventilation in that area, they would run out of oxygen and also there would be no way to vent the bad gases like carbon monoxide out. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Bruce Dial, joining us live today from Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thank you. 

DIAL:  You‘re welcome. 

CARLSON:  We‘ll continue to follow this mystery, this mystery at this point, what has become of the missing miners in this mine.

But first, the Jack Abramoff scandal.  You may not be familiar with the name but you will be before the end of this month.  Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist in Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty today to three felonies, among them a suggestion that he bribed members of congress.  We‘ll bring you more in just a moment. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We‘re going to continue to follow that West Virginia mine situation, but first, huge news from Washington that has Capitol Hill on edge tonight.  Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty earlier today to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.  It sounds bad, and it is, but the real caveat in all of this is that Abramoff reportedly has agreed to cooperate with a wide-ranging corruption investigation that could include more than 20 members of Congress. 

I know a lot of people involved in this story and I can tell you pointblank a lot of them are really sleazy and in deep trouble.  Here to tell us about this investigation, MSNBC Washington correspondent David Shuster who joins us live tonight from the capital city. 

David Shuster, thanks a lot. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Good to be with you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Give us the parameters of this.  This is a huge scandal.  You‘ve heard everyone say that all day long.  But let‘s get specific, why is it huge, why does it mean something? 

SHUSTER:  It‘s huge because of where it‘s going.  I mean, there are some reports that federal investigators, as a result of Jack Abramoff and other information they received, that they talked to some 60 different members of Congress, and as you mentioned, 20 could possibly be implicated by the information that Abramoff is willing to provide.  That would make this one of the biggest scandals since Watergate. 

But the other aspect that is so intriguing in this, Tucker, is that there have been scandals involving lobbyists before, but the scope and scale of this one is just huge.  I mean, this is a guy, Jack Abramoff, who was essentially convincing Indian tribes, look, your casinos are in danger of being taxed, and you need me to keep the Bush administration, to keep members of Congress from putting taxes on your casino. 

So the Indian tribes in turn, it‘s a shakedown.  They gave Jack Abramoff and partners some $80 million over three years.  Abramoff doesn‘t report some of that.  There‘s a kickback scheme as far as his partner.  He pockets some of the money and then uses other funds to essentially bribe members of Congress by giving theme luxury skyboxes at Washington sporting events, taking them to St. Andrews golf links in Scotland, all sorts of other lavish trips. 

And so you‘ve got two aspects to this.  You‘ve got now the guy who was essentially shaking down the Indian tribes.  He‘s admitted to that.  He‘s going to be providing investigators with the information now about the money that he funneled to members of Congress to essentially bribe them. 

The question tonight, Tucker, is 20 members of Congress, maybe fewer, maybe more, but some of them in the next couple or days or weeks are going to get a phone call from the Justice Department task force.  And the question is for members of Congress tonight who know that they are trouble, what are they going to do?  Because the phone calls are going to say, look, we‘ve got you.  We‘ve got Jack Abramoff testifying against.  You can either cop a plea, you can either agree to plead guilty or we‘re going to indict you.  But that is the decision that members of Congress who are involved in this are going to face. 

CARLSON:  That is just absolutely shocking and bizarre.  I mean, all of the sort of tangents in the story are bizarre.  Abramoff apparently used some of this money to fund a religious school he sent his kids to and to pay for sniper training for IDF soldiers on the West Bank.  It just couldn‘t get weirder, as of course you know.

Now one of the indictments mentions, not by name though, a “representative number one” who apparently is Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio, a Republican.  This is out in the open, I mean, essentially that federal prosecutors believe that he was bribed by Jack Abramoff.  What has his response been today? 

SHUSTER:  Well, his response has been that he hasn‘t done anything wrong.  That while he did go on these trips to Scotland, he didn‘t think that there was anything wrong with it.  He didn‘t know that the trip was being financed essentially by these Indian tribes that Jack Abramoff was representing.  What Abramoff has done is now contradicted that and said, no, Bob Ney did know the source of the money that was paying for his golf trip. 

The problem that Ney has is putting aside the specifics and the complexities of this case.  Bob Ney has already been notified by the Justice Department that he is likely to be indicted.  He has received that warning, he has said he did nothing wrong, but this is not good news for Bob Ney to have now Jack Abramoff essentially dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on his plea agreement, because this is now setting the stage for the next stage of the investigation, which is either choice for Bob Ney to either plead guilty or possibly be indicted.  And again, it‘s the same choice that is facing perhaps 20 members of Congress tonight. 

CARLSON:  It‘s just unbelievable.  For some reason I don‘t think the rest of America has been focusing on this, that‘s about to change is my prediction.  David Shuster, I hope you will come on every night and fill us in on developments.

SHUSTER:  It‘s a pleasure, good to be with you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, David.

Well, for more on the Abramoff scandal and its implications in Washington and around the country, we bring in MSNBC political contributor Flavia Colgan, joining us live tonight from D.C. 

Flavia, thanks for coming on. 

FLAVIA COLGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Thank you so much for

having me, Tucker.  I just want to say one thing, as a Pennsylvanian who

had to live through Quecreek before we talk about Abramoff.  I really want

to say that my thoughts and prayers are not just with the families, we had

such a hopeful great ending to that in Pennsylvania, and I just hope and

pray that something positive can come out of this and all the people that

are working really hard down there to try to get a good result.  I just

wanted to say that/

CARLSON:  That‘s right.  And you never know.  And before we write off those 12 men trapped underground. 

COLGAN:  Governor Schweiker had hope until the end, and it was—I think it was a good inspiration for a lot of us. 

CARLSON:  Yes, amen.  Well, a story not too inspiring, the Jack Abramoff scandal, as I said a minute ago, I know a lot of people involved in this, which is certainly not bragging since they are enormously sleazy.  And I guess what surprises me is not that this happened but that it happened for so long, so openly, and nobody said anything about it. 

These are mostly conservatives, not just the members of Congress, but the people around Abramoff in the lobbying community, people like Grover Norquist, the Reverend Lou Sheldon.  I mean, they‘re fairly well-known in D.C., anyway.

COGLAN:  Ralph Reed, Ralph Reed. 

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right, conservative ideologues.  And here they are teaming up with a guy whose job is to maintain this grotesque affirmative action program known as the Indian gambling, where these people simply because of their ethnicity get a government-sponsored monopoly tax-free.  It violates every conservative principle I can think of, and yet all these conservatives were onboard and profiting from it.  Onboard because they were profiting from it. 

And I have to say conservatives will be tempted to defense these creeps and I hope they don‘t because what they did was wrong and it violated conservative principles.  And I just hope that there‘s not an attempt to make excuses for the misbehavior of these people because they discredit the beliefs they purport to stand for. 

COGLAN:  Good for you, Tucker.  And that‘s why I like you.  But I think what—you hit the nail on the head, because I think that this story is really going to captivate the imagination of the American public, so much so that I think that it will have an affect on the 2006 races.  And you know as you know, although this is the most grotesque and sort of insidious of all of the scandal that‘s happened in D.C., this quid pro quo, pay-to-play, is nothing new. 

But I think what you pointed out is that when you get to this level of flamboyancy, when people are driving Rolls Royces, hanging out yachts called the “Duke Stir,” you know, I mean, paying for things like sniping classes and religious schools and taking money from charities, I really think that this gets to a level that‘s unreal. 

And look, a lot people are going to say, there‘s Democrats, Republicans, it‘s an equal-opportunity sleaze-fest in D.C., but I really do have to say that the level of hypocrisy here on the side of a lot these guys who of course go around preaching family values is just outrageous. 

And the saddest part about it is one of the most disgusting trends that I‘ve noted in the last couple of years is this increasing amount of municipal lobbyists.  And you know, the listeners at home are probably going, what the heck does that mean?  The point is that cities are having to pay lobbyists to actually lobby for their cities.  That‘s what congress people are supposed to be doing.

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second, lobbies.

COGLAN:  . but they‘re too busy going on these cruises and golfing trips. 

CARLSON:  Hold on, to be fair, cities don‘t have to pay for lobbyists. 

They do because they‘re mismanaged and greedy.

COGLAN:  No, but they.

CARLSON:  And they want federal dollars. 

COGLAN:  Yes, but they do more and more now because a lot of our congress people—and look, Jack Abramoff, he had three counts --  you know, I‘m looking at the charges here: corruption of public officials, paying for trips, conspiracy, I mean, the guy is a complete creep.  I mean, but let‘s not forget that there seems to be a lot of elected officials—these people, unlike Jack, were given our public trust, were sent there to do the people‘s business and they‘re going around the world worrying about golfing and getting fancy gifts.  It‘s ridiculous. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know, though, actually, I can say as someone who lived in Washington for 15 years and is interested in the city that I think this is an aberration.  People have the impression that everyone in Washington is corrupt, that every member of Congress is in it for himself and for money.

COGLAN:  I don‘t think that.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think that‘s true.  Actually, this is weird behavior.  This kind of thing, there is influence-peddling in Washington, of courser, but this sort of thing doesn‘t go on typically. 

COGLAN:  But the American public needs to respond.  I mean, one of the things—and of course, this isn‘t going to solve it, George Miller, a congressman out of California, has been trying to push a bill, you know, for the last couple of weeks that would clamp down on gift from lobbyists to lawmakers.  The GOP Congress has basically put a shutdown on that. 

I think that voters need to reach out to their congress people, tell them this is totally unacceptable, and start making some noise.   You know, I was very intrigued that Hastert decided to return the money.  You know, there were some calls that President Bush returned $100,000.  You know, that‘s one small part of this. 

The point is that this is a far-reaching—he is the tip of the iceberg.  I think we are going to see a lot of people in D.C. go down.  And what we need to do as Americans is not just focus just on this, but focus on what have we allowed to have happen, that, like you said, a situation like this goes on for years and years, and people don‘t even mention it.  We have got.

CARLSON:  Wait, but I also think.

COGLAN:  . to be serious.

(CROSSTALK)

COGLAN:  . changes.

CARLSON:  Right.  But I think the start, before we start drawing vast conclusions about all this, I think we just need to take pleasure in the punishment of a guilty man. 

COGLAN:  Absolutely. 

CARLSON:  And that would be Jack Abramoff.  And so I think—you know, I raise my glass to your imprisonment, Jack Abramoff, you deserve it. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Flavia Colgan, thanks.

COGLAN:  Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, there are many congressman, as we said, who are waiting anxiously by the phone for a potential call from federal prosecutors in the wake of Jack Abramoff‘s guilty pleas today.  One of those may be Tom DeLay of Texas himself.  Moreover, the White House is concerned, too, because most of the people involved in this, in case you haven‘t already picked up on it, are Republicans.  What will the White House response be?  Will Tom DeLay be indicted?  Two questions we are going to take up in just a moment with TIME magazine‘s Mike Allen.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  The wrongdoing that he apparently now is acknowledging he was involved is outrageous.  And if he broke laws, he needs to be held to account and he needs to be punished. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  That was of course the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, expressing outrage on behalf of the White House, in the wake of news reports that Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist, has pleaded guilty to three felonies.  That‘s the White House response so far.  To find out what they‘re going to do after today, we bring in Mike Allen from TIME magazine.  He is the White House correspondent.  He joins us frequently.  Tonight he is, as always, in Washington—Mike.

MIKE ALLEN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, TIME:  Hey, Tucker.

CARLSON:  The White House response, not any attempt to defend anything having to do with the scandal, is that the idea?  I mean, there are going to potentially some pretty strong allies of the White House swept up into this.  What are they going to do?

ALLEN:  Yes, well, you‘re obviously not going to go out and defend Jack Abramoff at this point.  The White House has, though, stood by Representative Tom DeLay as these stories have sort of swirled around him.  Vice President Cheney went and did a fundraiser for him in his reelection campaign in Texas not too long ago.  And that‘s partly because the White House recognizes and appreciates his power on Capitol Hill.  He can get stuff done. 

Even not holding his office, he still is someone who really knows how to make the levers of Capitol Hill work.  I think the White House also recognizes the power of his operation on K Street in the business community in Washington.  And so ironically the president and Mr. DeLay, Mr. DeLay and Karl Rove, do not have a close relationship at all.  In fact, there are strains in their relationship, but I think there‘s a professional courtesy between the two that has kept them working together. 

CARLSON:  This has just been one of those slow motion stories.  It almost reminds me of the Iraq war, which for—a year before it happened, we knew it was coming but it was sort of hard to believe it was actually going to arrive and then one day it did.  This Abramoff story, and Jack Abramoff, I mean, he has been this—I‘m sure you know him, everyone in Washington has dealt with Jack Abramoff, he is kind of this larger-than-life figure who just sort of smelled like sleaze and it turned out for a good reason. 

Did people expect this?  I mean, do we really believe at this point looking forward that there will be members of Congress indicted and convicted?  Do you really think that‘s going to happen?  Just a reality check here for a second.

ALLEN:  Yes, well, Tucker, take one thing at a time.  Yes, people expected this.  I think what people did not expect was that Mr. Abramoff would dress like Tony Soprano.

CARLSON:  Good point.

ALLEN:  . when he went to court.  I think it was Hotline‘s “Last Call” that said: what, does he want to play himself in the movie, already?  Nobody could believe that.

CARLSON:  When I last dealt with Jack Abramoff, he weighed about maybe 40 pounds less and had a beard. 

ALLEN:  Yes, so the—all that restitution money I guess is not going to go to a trainer.  But to answer your question, I think people have seen this coming.  And that‘s part of the reason that it‘s so surprising that House Republicans didn‘t do more to inoculate themselves against what‘s coming. 

CARLSON:  Exactly.

ALLEN:  Tucker, I‘m told tonight that both the House and the Senate Republicans plan to move ahead this year with lobbying reform bills.  As one Democrat said to me, now they want to be born-again reformers when in fact with a little strong leadership, they could have done that last year when it was clear where this train was headed, and they would look like they would have something to say when they had a better functioning Ethics Committee, they would have something to talk about. 

Now Tucker, to break a little news for you, Mr. DeLay‘s reelection campaign in Texas plans to announce tomorrow that he is donating to charity $15,000 that his campaign has received from Mr. Abramoff between 1995 and 2003.  This an example of the small ways that Republicans are trying to get right as this story burgeons. 

At the time that I was covering Capitol Hill earlier this year, privately financed travel, which is behind a lot of these allegations, became virtually a thing of the past.  People—members would go on trips paid for by the government.  But these golfing trips to Scotland were just not occurring.  The Wall Street Journal had a good story last week about how fewer and fewer staff and members are accepting tickets and even dinners.  I‘m told members and staff are more aware of their surroundings.  They know who‘s picking up the check. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  If someone‘s flying you in a G4 to St.  Andrew‘s in Scotland, and you‘re a member of Congress, you‘ve got to think to yourself, you know, I had better not get caught doing this.  I mean, what a moron you would have to be to do that.  Mike Allen, not a moron, a great man and a great reporter, thanks again for joining us tonight. 

ALLEN:  Have a great week, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, you too, Mike.

We are going back to West Virginia the moment we get back.  We are following the mystery of what has become of the 12 missing miners trapped in the mine since yesterday morning following the explosion.  One has been declared dead.  He has not been identified, but we know he has passed away somehow.  We‘re not exactly sure how.  We‘re going to come back in just a minute with the latest in that breaking story.   We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back to THE SITUATION.  We are of course following the tragedy in West Virginia, the mine where 13 miners were trapped yesterday morning following an explosion.  One has been declared dead, the other 12 are missing.  The town, the state, the entire country is holding out hope that they will be found alive.  We are joined now on the telephone by Mark Radomsky.  He is a former miner and expert on mining.  He is in State College, Pennsylvania.  He is also a current field director of field services for the Penn State Miner Training Program. 

Mr. Radomsky, are you there? 

MARK RADOMSKY, DIRECTOR, PENN STATE MINER TRAINING PROGRAM:  Yes, I am. 

CARLSON:  Now tell us what you think the 12 miners who apparently escaped the initial explosion would have done after the explosion?  Where would they have gone?  What steps would they have taken?

RADOMSKY:  Well, they would have immediately have tried to get out of the mine.  And when.

CARLSON:  I‘m sorry, Mr. Radomsky, I‘m going to have to cut you off right there, we have breaking news.  We‘re going to go directly to Rita Cosby on the ground in West Virginia—Rita. 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT”:  Tucker, we have some stunning news that we have just learned.  NBC News and the Associated Press are confirming information that the 12 miners—remember, 12 were missing as of a few moments ago, that they are alive.  This is incredible news that we are just learning. 

Remember, one body was located, that was coming out about three hours ago.  They didn‘t know where the other 12 men are, but we‘re just getting information that the other 12 have been located. 

CARLSON:  That‘s terrific. 

COSBY:  . and that they are alive.  This is incredible news, Tucker. 

Back to you. 

CARLSON:  Rita, I mean, what—tell us, fill us in.  Where did you hear this and are they in contact—are they out of the mine or are they still in the mine?  Tell me what you‘ve heard. 

COSBY:  We don‘t know the details.  We know they went back in to the same area where they had found that body, because that‘s where they suspected that all of them would be located and we were just told in the last few moments that 12 are alive, which is just stunning information.  Remember.

CARLSON:  Do the families know this? 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  . very surprised—we believe—we don‘t know if the families know, but we believe they do, because we‘re located—we‘re told in fact that the families have just been told and they‘re about a mile away from here, so you can bet that they are just cheering and just elated at this moment.  We‘re just being told I‘m told from my producer that the family members have just been informed of the news and this is just stunning news. 

I can tell you here in Virginia—West Virginia, we‘ve been praying for a miracle, the whole country has been, the governor, but they knew that the chances were so slim.  Remember, when that one body was located, it was 700 feet from the railcar.  And they knew that the guys were able to get out of the railcar, that they were well enough to get out of the railcar.  They were praying that they went to one of those air pockets somewhere inside. 

And we believe, we believed at this point that that‘s what happened.  We‘re being told now—and in fact, I can hear I think in the distance, the bells are being rung at the church.  This is the Baptist Church which is located about a mile away from here, where the family members are located.  And we are being told again this incredible, stunning news, Tucker.  I don‘t think anyone would have ever predicted this, and we‘re told that family members right now are running out in jubilation. 

Tucker, just what an incredible moment.

CARLSON:  That is a beautiful thing, Rita.

COSBY:  Just getting word that 12 have survived. 

CARLSON:  Now was this—I mean, this was against all expectations, wasn‘t it?  I mean, throughout the day we were getting statements from officials in West Virginia that sounded very, very grim, like they were holding out hope, but not really.  Was that your impression? 

COSBY:  Oh, absolutely.  In fact, the governor told me privately that the chances were so incredibly remote.  In fact, when they found out, as we reported just a little bit ago, that when they found that body that was located, that one miner, there was no mask on him, and that caused extreme concern because they believed there was such an overwhelming amount of maybe carbon monoxide or something overcame him, where that they were fearing that the other guys, maybe that had happened, making the chances just so remote. 

The only way that they believe that these guys could have survived is that they somehow were able to grab their masks, they have these breathing devices which are able to sustain them to breath for several hours, then they could get to a clear pocket.  There were just a few pockets. 

This particular mine, Tucker, is a fairly simple mine, meaning that there‘s not a lot of crevices, not a lot of places to hide, which does not bode well for the miners.  But we believe—and again, this is the only thing I can surmise at this point, that they were probably hiding in one of those pockets, somehow found an area, and we‘re just getting word now that the 12 are alive.  It‘s just incredible.

CARLSON:  Well, we understand the AP is reporting that the families congregating around the Sago Baptist Church, there where you are, are hugging, screaming, jumping up and down in the air, screaming “they are alive.”  So they obviously have been told.  That is just absolutely remarkable.  Were there people you talked to today who really did think this would be the outcome, that they would be found alive?  I mean, were there people generally holding out hope?

COSBY:  You know, there were some that were holding out hope.  I think they knew that the chances were just so incredibly slim, Tucker.  But in this community, I mean, this is just—the people here are so just really beautiful, solid Americans, people who love their country, are proud of what they do in the mines.  I mean, it‘s the people who have been doing it for generations, their grandfathers, their fathers, and very deep and rich in the faith. 

In fact, the family members were spending time waiting for this news, waiting for this miracle that could happen, that they finally just got.  And getting the news at the Baptist Church, they felt that that was the appropriate place.  These people are very spirit-filled, and were just praying that if there ever was a chance for a miracle in West Virginia, tonight would be it. 

But I can tell you that most people, the governor, the city officials, even the family members knew that it was so remote.  But this is just incredible, breathtaking news.  And I was just talking to family members maybe about 15, 20 minutes ago, and at that point they had only gotten the word at that point that that one body was found.  They were very.

CARLSON:  Yes, well, let me just say I‘m just.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  . very upset.

CARLSON:  I don‘t think you have access to the Internet where you are, but I‘m sitting here checking the wires as we‘re talking and it‘s virtually nowhere.  This has not been reported yet.  This just happened, or it just became public in any case, that these 12 are alive. 

I think most Americans, on the East Coast anyway, went to bed with the sad suspicion that those men were dead, like the 13th man who was found not far from the car they took into the mine.  It just didn‘t seem possible, almost two full days after the explosion, that they could be found alive.  And they were.  It‘s amazing. 

When we will hear the tales about this?

COSBY:  It is absolutely incredible, Tucker.  You know, I bet you we‘re going to get details in probably the next few minutes.  The governor I‘m sure is probably with the family members.  Also these folks with the International Coal Group, this is the organization that owns the mine, they just bought it last, these guys are going to be thrilled.  They were very emotional when they found out news that one miner had passed.  They really predicted the worst. 

And this is just a stunning piece of information that I don‘t think almost anybody expected.  You heard the governor saying “we are praying for a miracle here in West Virginia,” and this is just incredible, great news. 

CARLSON:  But the sad thing is.

COSBY:  Just getting word in the last few minutes. 

CARLSON:  If you‘ve been around news for a while, you know that when a public official stands up and says, we‘re praying for a miracle, he‘s essentially saying it‘s going to take a miracle and that we don‘t think that the outcome is going to be good.  And then for a story at that point, which is—I mean, let‘s be honest, that‘s really kind of the end, it is assumed by most people, including me, at that point to have it turn around and become this kind of amazing, beautiful, success happy ending, it‘s great. 

COSBY:  Yes, it is just stunning, Tucker.  And you know, it‘s funny, a lot of people here were talking about what happened in Somerset, Pennsylvania, in 2002, that‘s when those miners, there were nine at that point, that were trapped for 77 hours.  And they came out.  And everybody said, boy, that is a miracle.  But in this case, the situation was much more grim, Tucker, because in this case, you know, they—in the case Somerset they had water that were dealing with.  Here it was an explosion.  So it‘s really a miracle. 

CARLSON:  It‘s amazing.  For more continuing coverage of this amazing story, this happy story, we‘re going to turn it back to Rita Cosby on the ground in West Virginia.  Have a great night.

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

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