Video: Political Futures

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updated 1/10/2006 2:16:38 PM ET 2006-01-10T19:16:38

Political shakeups are happening all over Washington.  This past weekend, House Majority Leader Tom Delay announced he will not run again for this leadership position with the Abramoff scandal threatening his future and House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s as well. 

Former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and former federal prosecutor, John Flannery played Hardball with guest host Norah O’Donnell on Monday to discuss the future of these politicians

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  How big political trouble is Tom DeLay in? 

JOHN FLANNERY, FMR. COUNSEL, SENATE JUDICIARY CMTE: I was just listening to him.  He's no longer a political thug, now he's a comedian.  He was trying to tell us he had been ethical the entire time he had been there.  Finally he's in a Mayday situation.

He's diving, going to crash and burn, and it took this to have the Republican party take a step back from him.  They only took the step back because they're so inextricably intertwined with his corruption, they've had no choice. 

O'DONNELL:  So you're a Democrat? 

FLANNERY:  I'm a Democrat, but I'm also a patriot and what these guys have done to steal from us voters the government, is outrageous and you don't get access, you don't get time, unless you you're a paid contributor.

We know this because it started with his K Street Project, which some might look back on now and say it was part of the continuing criminal enterprise as a predicate to where we find ourselves today. 

O'DONNELL:  But you're, as a former prosecutor, they now have the cooperation of Michael Scanlon, they now have the cooperation of Jack Abramoff.  Just last week started really sitting down and talking to prosecutors. 

How much does The Justice Department know now and why haven't they interviewed, for instance, Tom DeLay?  If they haven't interviewed him, maybe he's not that heavily involved? 

FLANNERY:  Well, they may not publicize it either.  You might add to that list Duke Cunningham.  What we do have is a series of people who can tell us about conversations, so when you make corruption cases, the hardest thing is what was your intent.  Well, if you have Abramoff and these other people saying what they said, then you're in a different place.  If you have a tape recording in the Cunningham case, you're in some place else. 

O'DONNELL:  You're referring that Duke Cunningham, we just find out last week, “TIME” magazine did some exclusive reporting, that in fact Duke Cunningham wore a wire at The Justice Department.  We don't know who, but he may have had conversations with other lawmakers, lobbyists, who knows.  That could be a bonanza on that case.

FLANNERY:  That's probably a defense industry emphasis, whereas we have the casino gambling over here and Internet gambling and the Marianas.  It's a mess, 200 people received contributions.

O'DONNELL:  But I really want to break this down legally, because it's one of the questions I have.  Tom DeLay says he's not done anything wrong.  I've spoken with Tom DeLay's attorneys.  He says he's not yet been interviewed by the Justice Department, by federal investigators.  They've not subpoenaed documents from him.  Why wouldn't they have done that yet? 

FLANNERY:  Well, they may not have to talk to him.  There are two ways to run a prosecution.  As a recovering federal prosecutor I have done it both ways.

One is you would talk to the target first up.  Give him a chance perhaps under oath to give you whatever his or her story is.  In this case, they may have decided to build toward DeLay, who is more obviously given his position in the government a target, rather than a cooperating individual. 

Abramoff is in the lucky position as the accused of having people he can give to the government building to a pyramid of others, including perhaps DeLay. 

O'DONNELL:  And Abramoff knows where the bodies are buried essentially? 

FLANNERY:  He does.  And he probably knows what documents he has and how to get there in a way that even with the e-mails the government has, they don't appreciate. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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