updated 7/5/2007 3:26:16 PM ET 2007-07-05T19:26:16

Guest: Kris Kobach, Elizabeth Holtzman, Jerry McDevitt, Marc Mero, Steve Blackman, Kevin Drummond, David Cornwell

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.  Coming up: The president rescues White House aide Scooter Libby from the slammer.  Now Congress wants to hold hearings about it.  The decision controversial, but how the president did it, ignoring any and all procedures for evaluating a pardon or commutation even more disturbing.

We'll also have the latest on the investigation into the murder of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit's wife and son.  Benoit's doctor was released tonight.

But first, reverberations and recriminations tonight resulting from the president's decision to spare White House aide Lewis"Scooter” Libby from any prison time.  His 30-month sentence for perjury, obstruction of justice and false statements during the investigation into who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame relegated to a mere footnote in history.  The sentence, quote,"excessive,” according to the president.

My take.  Excessive defined by Webster's dictionary.  Exceeding what is usual, proper, necessary or normal.  The problem?  According to sentencing guidelines, a 30-month term, while stiff, is usual, proper and normal for these crimes.  And even if it's not, quote,"necessary” for Libby to serve 30 months, why not abbreviate rather than abolish the sentence?  A year, even a month behind bars would have demonstrated some recognition of the gravity of the offense.

As I said last night, high-profile cases, rightly or wrongly, define our judicial system.  They serve as a symbolic yet wholly unscientific national assessment of our society.  From Scott Peterson to Paris Hilton, Terri Schiavo to O.J. Simpson, Ken Lay to Scooter Libby, they came to reflect justice in America.  When justice is served, the public interest is served.  When justice is circumvented or even perceived to be, so too, the public's faith in that system.

A jury found Libby guilty.  A judge appointed by this president sentenced him.  Yesterday morning, the court of appeals in Washington, D.C., unanimously ruled Libby must begin serving his time.  In fact, Libby did not present an issue that was even, quote,"close,” according to the ruling.

No question the president has the power to pardon or commute sentence, but according to the Justice Department's own guidelines, it's, quote,"an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted,” a remedy so jealously guarded that specific standards exist to ensure it's meted out fairly and rarely, standards that were completely ignored.

Quote,"Requests for commutation generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving that sentence.”  Ignored.  Quote,"Nor are commutation requests generally accepted from persons who are presently challenging their convictions or sentences through appeal or other court proceedings.”  Ignored.  In fact, Libby never even formally requested commutation of his sentence.

I fear this is another example of the disdain for courts and for rules that attempt to ensure equal justice for all.

Here now, Kris Kobach, former counsel for Attorney General Ashcroft, and former Democratic congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman.  She served on the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.

Professor Kobach, I mean, what am I saying that's wrong here?

KRIS KOBACH, FORMER COUNSEL FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT:  Well, you're quoting the guidelines correctly, but I think there are a couple of factors we have to put this all into context.  One of the factors is that he had a record of public service, no prior convictions.  Another important one is that he was innocent, and we know he was innocent, of the underlying charges that began this whole investigation in the first place because we now know...

ABRAMS:  That's not what he...

KOBACH:  ... that he had nothing to do...

ABRAMS:  But that was not what he was convicted of.

KOBACH:  Correct.  Yes...

ABRAMS:  So that's kind of irrelevant.

KOBACH:  Well, no it's not irrelevant because...

ABRAMS:  Why?

KOBACH:  ... he...

ABRAMS:  Do we do this in every other case, Professor?  In every other case, do we say...

KOBACH:  Well, let me...

ABRAMS:  ... was it the underlying crime or was it they were actually convicted of?

KOBACH:  Right.  We know, for example, the context in which his misstatements or his false statements were made.  He wasn't trying to protect himself at all.  It turns out he wasn't involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name.  And the final thing is we know that the prosecutor was barking up the wrong tree all along.  We now know that Richard Armitage was the person who gave that name.  So in light of the context of that—and I'd add one other thing.  You know, you're making it sound like it's so extraordinary that he would be—his sentence would be commuted, but the probation office in this case recommended a lesser sentence...

ABRAMS:  Lesser,  Lesser.  Not a no-time sentence.

KOBACH:  And the prosecutors...

ABRAMS:  Lesser.

KOBACH:  ... also indicated they were surprised the judge gave such a harsh sentence.

ABRAMS:  Right.  So then you can abbreviate, not abolish, as I...

KOBACH:  And I think—and I think that's a fair argument, reasonable...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOBACH:  ... you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Elizabeth Holtzman, I want you to listen to this from Tony Snow.  I was really surprised that he didn't have an answer for this question that was asked today.  Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Could I follow up on that?  There are more than 3,000 current petitions for commutation, not pardons but commutations, in the federal system under President Bush.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  Right.

QUESTION:  Will all 3,000 of those be held at the same standard that the president applied to Scooter Libby?

SNOW:  I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I don't know?  I don't know?

KOBACH:  Yes, well, it wasn't a very good answer.

ABRAMS:  I mean, I want—I want to get Elizabeth Holtzman in here.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN (D), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN:  I think it's a little disingenuous.  Of course he knows.  They're definitely not going to be held to the same standard because, first of all, they're going to have to go through the normal course.  And secondly, they weren't buddies of the president.  And third, they weren't assistant to the president and chief of staff to the vice president.

And finally, with respect to this, Kris mentioned that these people—that Libby was being hold to a higher standard, and look at all his years of public service.  I would turn that the other way around.  He's assistant to the president of the United States and chief of staff to the vice president.  The president of the United States has the responsibility to take care that the laws are faithfully executed.  That means that he's got to enforce the laws.  Libby knew that that was his job, to help the president execute the laws, not to obstruct, not to lie, not to pervert and not to hinder.

ABRAMS:  Let me...

HOLTZMAN:  And that's just what he did here.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask—let me ask you this.  Congress is now threatening to hold hearings, Ms. Holtzman.  That's not really going to come to much, right?

HOLTZMAN:  Well, who knows?

ABRAMS:  Well, what can they do?

HOLTZMAN:  I don't know what they would find.

ABRAMS:  What can they do?

HOLTZMAN:  I think one of the interesting questions here is something you raised, which is how did this come about?  The president was in the midst of meeting with the head of the state of Russia, talking to him about missile defense and Iran, serious threat to the United States, and in the middle of that, takes a moment to focus on this issue all by himself?  Of course, it didn't happen like that.

Who asked him?  And why did he come up with this solution?  And why did he bypass the normal standards?  And then, of course, when you talked about the corrosive effect that this has on the system of justice...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

HOLTZMAN:  Here you have somebody who should know better and should be held to a higher standard, and because—but here you have the president of the United States also under suspicion by many people that there might have been a deal here.

ABRAMS:  The problem is, a lot of the same people that I heard in Martha Stewart's case and in a lot of other cases saying lying—in the Clintons' case—Lying under oath is not OK, it must be punished.  Lying under—and then we start to—Oh, the underlying crime—the bottom line is if you lie when you're asked about something under oath or you lie to the FBI, it's serious business.  Now...

HOLTZMAN:  Right.  Think about a terrorist.  Suppose a terrorist lies?  Are you going to say, Oh, well, we don't—can't convict him of the underlying crime...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I'm not going to compare him to a terrorist, but I will say...

HOLTZMAN:  Well, we're talking about the consequences of lying.

ABRAMS:  I agree.  And look...

(CROSSTALK)

KOBACH:  ... wasn't pardoned today.  He is still—I mean, a quarter of a million dollars fine is not chump change.  And for an attorney, having a felony on your record...

ABRAMS:  So is that...

KOBACH:  ... could end your career.

ABRAMS:  ... the standard that's going to be applied to every attorney who is charged with obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury?

KOBACH:  But I think you've got—you've got to put...

HOLTZMAN:  No, we don't...

KOBACH:  ... all this in context.  And I don't think—in context, this is not, you know, an extraordinary...

ABRAMS:  But we don't get to apply everything...

HOLTZMAN:  No, and...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean, unfortunately, Kris, as you know, the real world, when it comes to after you're convicted, doesn't always get to ask, Hey, I want to put this in context.  I want to put my conviction in context.  The rest of the world doesn't get to do that.

KOBACH:  Well...

HOLTZMAN:  And this isn't—and in context means you have a person who should know better.  You have a lawyer who takes a—whose obligation is to uphold the law, not subvert the law.  So in context, what he did was especially reprehensible.

KOBACH:  I agree with that.  As a lawyer, he should have known better.  But I think there's another underlying question here that I really want to ask, and that is, why are some of the Democrats who are trying to make political hay with this—why are they ignoring Richard Armitage?  If they really think...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOBACH:  ... this is all about national security, why aren't they going after the person who really did reveal this?

ABRAMS:  You know, look, they—they may or may not...

KOBACH:  Because they want someone close to the president...

ABRAMS:  Well, look...

KOBACH:  ... that's why.

ABRAMS:  Maybe.  But the bottom line—Pat Fitzgerald wasn't—you're not going to accuse Pat Fitzgerald of politicizing this, are you, Kris?

KOBACH:  No, no.  But I'm saying...

ABRAMS:  OK.  OK.

KOBACH:  ... now, after the fact, we all know, including all the Democrats calling for him...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOBACH:  We all know where the real source of the leak is...

ABRAMS:  Hypocrisy's a nice political...

KOBACH:  Why aren't they going there?

ABRAMS:  Look, hypocrisy's a nice political argument.  It doesn't address—and people, Oh, you know, what about Marc Rich?  What about Henry Cisneros?  OK, fine.  Evaluate those cases.  A lot of the same people like me will criticize both the Marc Rich pardon and this.  I mean, hypocrisy isn't...

KOBACH:  No, I'm not making a hypocrisy argument.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Well...

KOBACH:  I'm saying that if you were really concerned about national security and you think that there was some great breach of our national security laws...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOBACH:  ... then why is nobody looking at Richard Armitage?

ABRAMS:  Here is...

HOLTZMAN:  Well, the issue wasn't the national security issue only.

ABRAMS:  Let me switch gears here for a second.  The president is still leaving the door open to a pardon.  Here's what he said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I thought that the jury verdict should stand.  I felt the punishment was severe.  So I made a decision that would commute his sentence but leave in place a serious fine and probation.  As to the future, I'm—you know, rule nothing in and nothing out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And Kris Kobach, Tony Snow said the same thing.  He's leaving the door open to the possibility of a pardon.  I mean, why would they possibly leave the door open, the possibility of a pardon?  They want to let it go all the way through the appellate process when it comes to the conviction, but they don't want to do that with regard to commuting his sentence, as they're supposed to under the Justice Department guidelines.

KOBACH:  Yes, well, you know, pardons are extraordinary, no matter how you slice it.  I—you know, another question is—they're taking a lot of political heat for this commutation.  Do they really want to do it in two stop steps and take heat...

ABRAMS:  Right.  That's a—yes.

KOBACH:  ... when the pardon (INAUDIBLE) too.

ABRAMS:  So what does...

KOBACH:  They should have done it all in one slot—all in one slice, many people say.  So you know, I don't know.  There's no—there's no good answer to that question, why—why they've chosen to keep the door open.

ABRAMS:  Well, but to me, keeping that door open undermines every argument the president made that he respects the jury verdict...

ABRAMS:  Absolutely.

HOLTZMAN:  ... and it undermines his statement that this was—that there's still a severe punishment...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

HOLTZMAN:  ... because otherwise, why would you even be thinking about...

ABRAMS:  I agree.

HOLTZMAN:  ... a pardon?  So the president is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, which is really astonishing.

ABRAMS:  I don't even think Kris Kobach's going to disagree with you on that.

(LAUGHTER)

KOBACH:  You know, again, I would—if I were in the president's shoes, I would make one decision and make that decision final.

HOLTZMAN:  Yes, so this looks like it's very political.  And I think the other thing is that it again raises the question—the corrosive issue about this is that people will suspect that this commutation was to keep Libby quiet.  And if you're holding out the pardon, that suggests that that's still part of the plan.  And nobody wants to think that the president is ever engaged in that.  I don't want to think it, but this is what I've already heard from many, many people.

KOBACH:  See, that kind of conspiracy theory...

ABRAMS:  All right, real quick, Kris.

KOBACH:  That kind of conspiracy theory really doesn't add up, they're trying to keep him quiet, because again, he wasn't the source of the leak.  And also, remember the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the whole deal about Joe Wilson's report was largely inaccurate anyway.  So there are too many missing links in that chain for some great secret to be behind all this.

ABRAMS:  All right, Elizabeth Holtzman and Kris Kobach, I—that would take another minute for me to—we got to go.  All right.  But thanks a lot.  Interesting conversation.

Still ahead: As we wait for the toxicology report in the case of wrestler Chris Benoit, the WWE is finally talking about why they believe 'roids did not cause his death.  We finally get to talk to the WWE.

Plus, Hulk Hogan weighs in on the Benoit murders.  He knew Benoit and his wife.

And later: the frantic search for a young woman who went out to a bar, got separated from her friends, has not been heard from since, 22-year-old Kelly Nolan.  We'll look at the clues to the case.

Then, as we head into the 4th of July, be warned.  Fireworks can be dangerous.  Shocker.  Really dangerous.  We'll show you the amazing footage.  This is footage of fireworks actually gone bad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  In the murder-suicide investigation of former WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, the debate rages.  Did steroids, could steroids have played a role in his murder of his wife and son? "The Canadian Crippler's” personal doctor, who was indicted yesterday, released tonight on bail, says he never provided Benoit with steroids.  The toxicology reports, expected soon, should determine for sure whether steroids were in his body.

That's raised serious questions about Benoit's employer, World Wrestling Entertainment.  Tonight, they're here to answer the questions we've been asking for days.  Joining me now is Jerry McDevitt.  He's an attorney for the WWE.  Thanks a lot for taking the time.  We do appreciate you coming on the program.

JERRY MCDEVITT, WWE ATTORNEY:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me read you a press release, and this was from the WWE.  And I want to ask you how you guys know this. "Steroids were not and could not be related to the cause of death.  The physical findings announced by the authorities indicate deliberation, not rage.  The wife's feet and hands were bound, and she was asphyxiated, not beaten to death.  The presence of a Bible by each is also not an act of rage.  It is entirely wrong for speculators to suggest that steroids had anything to do with these senseless acts.”

How do you know that they were not and could not be related to the deaths?

MCDEVITT:  There's been a lot of talk about that press release.  I happen to know the legislative history of it, since I in large part drafted it.  And the media characterizations of it I think are somewhat of a mischaracterization.

ABRAMS:  Well, I just read it, though.  So just...

MCDEVITT:  Well, you didn't read the—you didn't real the important part, Dan.  Let me give you the background.

ABRAMS:  Well, but—just to get...

MCDEVITT:  May I answer your question?

ABRAMS:  Well, the problem is, I'm asking a very specific question, and that is,"Steroids were not and could not be related to the cause of death.” And I'm just wondering how you know that.

MCDEVITT:  That's not what we know, that's what they said at the press conference.  The lieutenant said that at the press conference.  What we were putting out here was immediately following the press conference that the Lieutenant Pope (ph) and the district attorney had, there was rampant speculation about 'roid rage.  What we tried to do—and if you read the statement, it actually says, This is what the officer said at the press conference.  And they actually said that, that they could not relate steroids to the cause and manner of death, that the cause and manner of death was asphyxiation.   That was what they said, not us.

ABRAMS:  So...

MCDEVITT:  As far as the rest of the press release, what we were trying to do then and now is urge that the speculation and all this innuendo cease until the evidence is in.  Nobody knows what happened in that house that day.  That's the only true thing that can be said right now.  And none of the investigative results have even been released yet.  And our point then and now is to try to stop all this innuendo, stop all the disinformation and wait until all the evidence is in, and then we'll analyze it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.  So you say that people shouldn't speculate, and I can understand.  It's a very fair position to take about...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... about speculation.  But what about this?  The night that it's learned that Benoit is found dead with his family in the home—there's a three-hour celebration on—you know, with the WWE of Benoit's life.  I understand that at the time, WWE might not have known the circumstances.  Fair enough.  But there hasn't been an apology for doing that three-hour extravaganza.  Are you sorry?

MCDEVITT:  That's not correct, Dan.  Let me explain it.  Nobody knew, as of the time...

ABRAMS:  Right.

MCDEVITT:  As of the time the WWE went on the air that night, all anybody knew is that three people...

ABRAMS:  Absolutely.

MCDEVITT:  ... were dead.  The next night, when all the details of this started to emerge the next night, Mr. McMahon I believe went on television and...

ABRAMS:  He did, but he didn't apologize.

MCDEVITT:  Well, I disagree.  I mean, I—I disagree, and I think that's unfair.  They didn't know then...

ABRAMS:  Well, understood.  I'm not...

MCDEVITT:  ... what had gone on.

ABRAMS:  ... blaming them at all for the—fair enough.  I'm not blaming them at all for what happened that night because that would be unfair.  I'm asking merely about after the fact, saying, Hey, you know, we blew it.  If we'd known what we knew, we never would have done it.  Big mistake.  We haven't heard that.

MCDEVITT:  I disagree.  I think if you look at what Mr. McMahon did on television the next night, he came out to the crowd and said, in essence, We didn't know any of that.  Look at the transcripts of the show.  You'll see that.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MCDEVITT:  Look, nobody knew, Dan.  That's the bottom line.  Nobody knew what happened in that house until, basically, the next day.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you about this, and this is—this is a quote, again, from—I think this is actually something that you wrote.  This is about a disease that the young boy, the 7-year-old, may have been suffering from. "It became pretty obvious from several different sources, Nancy, the wife, and Chris had tension in their relationship.  They were constantly struggling with the difficulties of raising a child who from all indications may well have had fragile X syndrome.”

And then the DA of Fayette County, Georgia, a few days ago issues the following release that says,"A source having access to Daniel's medical reports reviewed those reports.  They don't mention any preexisting mental or physical impairment.  Reports from Daniel's educators likewise contradict the claim Daniel was physically undersized.  The educators report that Daniel graduated kindergarten and was prepared to enter the 1st grade on par with the other students.”

MCDEVITT:  And your question?

ABRAMS:  It sounds like he's contradicting the notion that this boy might have had fragile X.

MCDEVITT:  Well, let's review the history of how this came into play.  A lady up in Canada, the day after these murders were discovered, went on a radio show up there, which was widespread throughout the media thereafter, on blogospheres and everywhere else, and indicated that she and her husband had had a conversation with Chris about this syndrome because their child had it, and they wanted him to be a spokesperson for that and indicated that he declined to do that.

In or around the same time that that information came to light the next day, certain information started to come to our attention about the family situation, which we have made available.  And I have told the law enforcement people everything we know that would indicate that within Chris's family, that there were issues they were having with their son that was a source of tension.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.

MCDEVITT:  Now, let me say this.  What we have said all along on this issue of this fragile X—my understanding from talking with forensic pathologists, and we have communicated this to the law enforcement people, is the issue of whether he has that syndrome is not something subject to speculation.  It can be determined by microscopic slides...

ABRAMS:  Absolutely.

MCDEVITT:  ... by a geneticist.  So let's just do that and find out the answer.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well look, but you're the one—again, you put in your press release,"may well have had fragile X syndrome,” so don't accuse us of speculating.  I mean, it was in your press release.

MCDEVITT:  No, I said"may well”—I don't know.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Fair enough.

MCDEVITT:  But the answer lies in science.  Get the scientific answer...

ABRAMS:  OK.

MCDEVITT:  ... and do the test.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But again, just a moment ago, you were saying we shouldn't speculate, and then part of the reason we speculate is because you put it in your press release.  All right, let me ask you...

MCDEVITT:  No, it wasn't in any press release.  That was a conversation I had with a reporter.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.  Let me do this.  I'm going to ask you to stay with us.  I appreciate your candor on this.  Because I want to ask you about this issue of steroids in wrestling.

And our wrestling team joins us with their reaction to the interview. 

And Hulk Hogan weighs in on this, as well.

And later: Fox promises to show you nothing but the news, but what they cook up turns out to be nothing like the news. "Beat the Press” is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VINCE MCMAHON, WWE CHAIRMAN:  I'm not trying to hide from the fact that we are who we are or that Benoit was a part of our organization.  Unfortunately, he was.  There was no way of telling that this man was a monster, no way of knowing that whatsoever.  He was a mild-mannered individual.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And in any way, does pro wrestling in any way contribute to the creation of monsters?

MCMAHON:  Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And that's a question a lot of people are asking.  There are a lot of statistics suggesting a lot of young wrestlers are dying young.

We're joined again by Jerry McDevitt.  He's an attorney for the WWE.

Let me read you this from Wrestlemag.com, and I want you to respond. 

“Continuing to push guys who are obviously jacked up does nothing but tell

people it's OK to have these physiques.  Is anybody seriously believing

that their drug policy is working?'

There's a lot of talk about steroid abuse at the WWE.

MCDEVITT:  Is there a question, Dan?

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean, what's your response to that?

MCDEVITT:  The drug testing program we believe is working.  The drug testing program was implemented in February of 2006.  It has had an impact.  It had an impact on Chris.  These people that want to speculate about that, that's going to be part of it.  All we can talk about is the effort that we are making and continuing to make to do our part to try to detect when there is abuse of drugs, correct it, and if you can't correct it, discipline it, and if discipline doesn't work, to have them exit the organization.  That is all any company can do.

As far as this notion of wrestlers dying young and all the rest of that, we've heard various talk about lists, but nobody ever shows us what list they're talking about.  What I am aware of...

ABRAMS:  Well, I'll show you—let me show you the list.  Let's skip to number 6.  This is according to"USA Today,”"65 wrestlers have died between 1997 and 2004, 25 killed by heart attacks, 5 deaths suggested likely from steroid use, 12 deaths from other drugs.  Wrestlers' death rates seven times higher than the general population, 12 times more likely to die from heart disease.”

Again, the suggestion—and again, I have no idea, but the suggestion being that steroids and other drugs are leading to these early deaths.

MCDEVITT:  Well, what I know about those 60 is—I don't think any names are in there, but whenever you do see names, a lot of the people that you see have never been associated in any way, shape, fashion or form with the WWE.  We don't even know who they are.

As far as we know, the number of people who have died prematurely while under contract to the WWE, where there is some ability, at least, if you will, to try to influence their behavior, is far smaller than that number.

ABRAMS:  All right.

MCDEVITT:  And when you examine—for example, the two that I'm familiar as I sit here—and I'll be glad to talk with you about any specific case you would like to, if you give me advanced enough notice to tell you.  But for example, Davey Boy Smith is one of the people who is always on that list.  When you look at the autopsy report for Davey Boy Smith, they tested him for steroids in his body at the time...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MCDEVITT:  ... and he didn't have any.

ABRAMS:  Let me do this.  I'm going to take a break.  Jerry McDevitt, thank you very much for coming on the program, taking the time, answering all of our questions.  I appreciate that.

When we come back, I want to talk to our panel of wrestlers, former WWE wrestlers, who have thoughts about this.  We'll also talk with a sports attorney.  We've got late-breaking developments in the Benoit case.  His doctor's been released on bail.  Plus, that doctor now denying he's ever prescribed steroids for the wrestler.  We'll speak to his attorney, as well (INAUDIBLE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, our wrestling panel responds to that interview we just did.  Plus, Chris Benoit's doctor says he never prescribed steroids to the wrestler.  We'll talk to his attorney, who just got out of court, up next.

First, here's your latest news.

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, this Wisconsin college student disappeared more than a week ago.  Now police are asking the public for help in finding her.  That is ahead.

But first, just a few hours ago, the physician who saw wrestler Chris Benoit the day he began his murderous rampage was released on bail.

Federal authorities are charging Dr. Phil Astin with seven counts of improperly dispensing painkillers and other drugs to two other people.  The DEA says he prescribed Benoit 10 weeks' worth of steroids every three or four weeks.

Now to our panel, former wrestlers Marc Mero and Steve Blackman, and sports attorney David Cornwell.  Thanks a lot for coming back.

All right, Marc, you were listening to the interview that I was just doing with the lawyer for the WWE, and you were shaking your head.

MARC MERO, AKA"JOHNNY B. BADD,” FORMER WRESTLER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Why?

MERO:  Well, first of all, when you hear - I keep hearing about lists, and I never see any lists.

Well, I have the list of wrestlers that I have wrestled that are no longer with us.  And 25 of them on this list.  And almost every single person was at one time or another with the WWF or WWE.

And another thing is that, I just received yesterday a royalty check from the WWE.  Many of these dead wrestlers are still receiving royalty checks.  They still have a lot to do with the WWE.

We can't change the past, but we certainly are not going to let 65 people die in vain.

ABRAMS:  Steve Blackman, it does sound to me like, you know, that the WWE is trying to shift attention away.

I understand why they're doing it.  They're trying to shift attention away from the possibility of steroids and to the possibility of the son having problems, domestic violence, et cetera.

STEVE BLACKMAN, AKA"THE LETHAL WEAPON,” FORMER WRESTLER:  Right.  Well, I mean, I don't condone steroids by any means.  I don't take them.  I never took them while I was wrestling, so I hate to be stereotyped along with the guys that were taking them.

Now, they don't put them on a platter in front of the guys and say,"Here.  You guys have to take these to keep your job.”

These are grown men making their own choices.

Now, in WWE's defense, on some of these substance abuse problems, when WWE recognizes a drug problem, they make every attempt to send you to rehab.  If you refuse rehab, you're ultimately released, but they give you numerous attempts to go.

They also pay for rehab.  They pay your salary.  So, they do cover their butt pretty well by giving the guys a chance to get clean.

ABRAMS:  Do you know did they do that with Benoit, Steve?

BLACKMAN:  Well, Benoit - I don't know if they recognized a substance abuse problem with him.  But I'm bringing it up, because Davey Boy Smith was another good friend of mine.  And that was pretty much the situation with him.  He pretty much flat-out refused it.

And his salary was substantial.  I mean, and they were paying him.  They paid him for a month or two, and he just kept refusing to go to rehab, and he finally got released.

ABRAMS:  Steve, I'm going to ask you to hang on for a minute.  Joining me on the phone right now is Dr. Phil Astin's attorney, Kevin Drummond.  Mr. Drummond, thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

KEVIN DRUMMOND, ATTORNEY FOR DR. PHIL ASTIN (by phone):  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, your client is accused of some pretty serious stuff here, in addition to the seven counts with regard to these two individuals, the DEA investigating whether he was giving steroids to Benoit in excess.

Let's start with the Benoit issue.  The DEA saying in the affidavit that we have, that he was getting 10 months' worth of steroids every three to four weeks.

DRUMMOND:  Well, right now, that's not even part of our case.  The case right now is just simply a typical case of improperly dispensing prescription drugs has nothing to do with steroids.

ABRAMS:  But he was - you know, he was Chris Benoit's doctor, was he not?

DRUMMOND:  He was.

ABRAMS:  And do you know, did he prescribe Benoit any steroids?

DRUMMOND:  I haven't seen any medical records at this time.  The prosecutor hasn't given us the discovery.  You know, I think our client has made some initial statements that he had given us some testosterone, but had never dispensed any type of anabolic steroids.

ABRAMS:  This is, again, from the U.S. district court search warrant affidavit.

Mr. Benoit was previously identified as an excessive purchaser of injectable steroids.  Dr. Astin has been identified as prescribing, on average, a 10 months' supply of anabolic steroids to Mr. Benoit every three to four weeks.

No comment on that?

DRUMMOND:  That's what a police officer has said.

ABRAMS:  Right.

DRUMMOND:  That's not what the U.S. attorney's office is charging him with.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But that's why I'm asking you about that one.

DRUMMOND:  Yes.  We haven't seen any evidence of that at this point.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, what about the allegation that he's facing now?  You know, they put up some big numbers.  They say things like a million times, et cetera.

Actually, let me do this.  Let me play a piece of sound from the U.S.  attorney, and let me let you respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED U.S. ATTORNEY:  Dr. Astin allegedly prescribed these drugs like candy, without regard for appropriate medical practice or the recipient's health.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Drummond, your response?

DRUMMOND:  Well, Dr. Astin had a large number of clients.  He had over 2,500 patients that he was seeing on a regular basis.  Most of them had some type of pain issue.

He treated a lot of the poor, indigent and elderly folks here in Carroll County, and saw a lot of clients.  And all of them needed prescription drugs, or most of them had something that required them to visit the doctor and they needed medications.

ABRAMS:  The wrestlers who are on our panel have said in the past that a lot of the doctors were fans.  And they could get them to prescribe just about anything at any time.

Was Dr. Astin a fan?

DRUMMOND:  I don't believe so.  We've discussed that, and he didn't know who most of the wrestlers were before - he got to know several of them in the last couple of years, but he was not a big wrestling fan, didn't - I think he's got members of his family that are bigger fans than he was.  But he was not a big fan.

ABRAMS:  And your client is now under house arrest?

DRUMMOND:  He is.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Kevin Drummond, attorney for Dr. Phil Astin, thanks a lot for taking the time.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Back to our panel, former wrestlers Marc Mero and Steve Blackman, sports attorney David Cornwell.

David, this is a doctor who is in trouble.

DAVID CORNWELL, SPORTS ATTORNEY:  He sure is.  But listen, counsel said that the answer lies in the science.  And I say the devil is in the details.

This testing program of the WWE is a sham and a smokescreen.  Testosterone and epitestosterone has a ratio of one-to-one.  If it is at four-to-one, testosterone to epitestosterone, it is presumptively positive.

ABRAMS:  But, wait, wait.  I don't .

CORNWELL:  The WW .

ABRAMS:  I don't understand any of that.  The bottom line you're saying is that the test they're doing doesn't work.

CORNWELL:  The WWE's standard or cutoff is 10-to-one.  If you test positive, you can come in with a doctor's note and get away with a positive test.

This is not a testing program.  It is a smokescreen.

ABRAMS:  But Chris Benoit did test negative, I believe it was April 10th.  But Marc Mero has said to us in the past that he doesn't think that means anything.

CORNWELL:  It doesn't, not by the WWE standard.  Ten-to-one ratio is off the charts.  Then you get to come back and give a second test, most assuredly on notice, so you get to cleanse.

And even if you test positive then, if you have a doctor's note, it's treated as a negative.  This is a smokescreen.

Negative in the WWE would not be negative in the NFL or under the World Anti-Doping Agency.  It is a smokescreen.

ABRAMS:  And Marc, is that one of the reasons you think that a lot of people were able to do steroids and get away with it?

MERO:  Absolutely.  You know, the time I was in the WWE was 1996, which Mr. McDevitt talked about their drug testing policy.

The whole time I was with WWE, I remember only be tested twice.  And the doctor never even watched us urinate.

So, who knows?  You could have brought your own stuff in there.  You could have done anything.  Nobody was really monitoring .

ABRAMS:  Steve Blackman, let me read you what Hulk Hogan had to said about it.  He was referring to Benoit's wife.

He said,"She was into devil-worship stuff.  It was part of her wrestling character, but she was somebody who gets so close to their character, someone who gets into their character too much.  Sometimes these people believe their own publicity.”

True?  And what do you make of it?

BLACKMAN:  Well, it sounds a little bizarre to me.  I don't know what to say about that.  I've never heard of her being a devil-worshipping.  So, I don't know where that allegation came from.

But I can't imagine Hulk making that up.  Neither me nor any of my friends have heard anything like that.

But I wanted to say - not to get off that subject, but back to some of the doctors.  I want to say one thing.

Some of the guys in WWF do legitimately need painkillers.  Guys are hurt a lot.  Sometimes, you know, a small dose of steroids might help them recuperate.  But .

ABRAMS:  Like anyone, yes.

BLACKMAN:  Yes.  But I mean, a lot of the doctors, you know - and in their defense at some level, too - they don't know that they're being worked.

You know, like if one wrestler is working 50 different doctors for the same script.  You know, he thinks he's probably one of a few doctors giving this guy some of these painkillers.

Some of these guys have to just suck it up, have some willpower and stop taking so many of these.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask, David Cornwell, what happens if toxicology reports do show that Benoit had steroids in his blood?

CORNWELL:  Well, it certainly blows out of the water all of the defenses that the WWE is throwing up.  It suggests that there is some connection between steroid abuse and the tragedy that he committed with his family and on himself.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Marc Mero, Steve Blackman and David Cornwell, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

BLACKMAN:  Thanks for having us.

CORNWELL:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight's"Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.

First up, over at Fox, they claim to be reporting"nothing but news.” 

Apparently, they have a pretty broad definition of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, FOX NEWS:  We start with"Nothing But News.”

Hey, are you getting ready for your Fourth of July barbecue?  Well, guess what.  We're heading out to the grill for tips on how to make a New York restaurant quality steak .

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nothing but news.

And then global warming had been blamed for the rise in sea level, the hole in the ozone layer, worse sunburns.  I've heard about going green.  Who knew it was this bad?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY SMITH, ANCHOR, CBS'"THE EARLY SHOW”:  This morning in health watch, poison ivy.  Scientists say it is worse than ever for a number of reasons, including global warming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Global warming and poison ivy.  An inconvenient truth.

Finally, over at"Good Morning America,” our friend Biana Golodriga (ph) on an American tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ABC'S"GOOD MORNING AMERICA”:  Who doesn't love fireworks?  It's a tradition as American as apple pie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  As apple pie?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ABC'S"GOOD MORNING AMERICA”:  The vast majority of our fireworks in the U.S. today, 75 percent of them come from - you guessed it - China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Or another American Sunday night tradition, chop suey.

Coming up, police need help finding a Wisconsin student who disappeared more than a week ago.  They're hoping the purse she was carrying could be the key to solving the case.

And later, for some people it's the best part of July 4th.  But fireworks are serious business and seriously dangerous.  We'll show you some of the most amazing and awful incidents, accidents caught on tape.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Mary Jane, you're optimistic you'll find her. 

But are you optimistic you'll find her alive?

MARY JANE NOLAN, KELLY NOLAN'S MOTHER:  Absolutely.  It doesn't take but a second to believe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It's been 11 days since anyone's heard from 22-year-old University of Wisconsin student, Kelly Nolan.  Nolan last seen in a bar in downtown Madison, hanging out with a few close friends.

Her friends apparently left the bar around 11:30 that night.  She stayed behind.  She spoke with her sister during the early hours of the following morning.

It's not clear what they spoke about.  That appears to be the last time anyone heard from Kelly Nolan.

With the latest on this story,"America's Most Wanted” correspondent, Jon Lieberman is back with us.

All right, Jon.  So, we've got that one clue, and that is that she spoke to her sister.  Any details about what they said?  Was she drinking?  Did she say anything about seeing anyone?  Was anyone following her, et cetera?

JON LIEBERMAN, CORRESPONDENT,"AMERICA'S MOST WANTED”:  Well, what we learned about the cell phone call is that it was pretty routine.  She seemed upbeat, nothing out of the ordinary.

But, Dan, what's important is, police have come across a number of people who had contact with Kelly sometime before that cell phone call and after.  It's very important, because they're trying to build a timeline of where Kelly might have gone in the early morning hours of June 23rd.

ABRAMS:  She was going through a rough time in her life, was she not? 

She had just lost her job?

LIEBERMAN:  Yes, you know, she had lost her job, but she had just had another job interview for another one.  And by all accounts, she was a pretty well-adjusted kid.

So, now it's just a matter of police are going through all the surveillance tape of all those downtown bars, going through her cell phone records for any irregularities, looking for some clue as to where Kelly might be.

ABRAMS:  Let me play another piece of sound.  This is from Kelly's mother.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NOLAN:  A lot of information that brings a smile today instead of sobbing tears, as I feel Kelly is out there, and she can and will be returned safely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And they're putting together a reward, right, for any information?

LIEBERMAN:  The family is putting together a pretty sizable reward.  And that's important, because many times, Dan, you know in these cases, people think that what they saw is inconsequential, but then it turns out to be very important.

So, police need to hear from anybody who may have seen Kelly any time during that night into the following morning.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Talk to us about the purse - important clue there

and also the cell phone.

LIEBERMAN:  Yes, you know, the purse is a pretty standard purse. 

You're going to show a picture of it.  Police - the purse that you're showing is one similar to the one that Kelly had.  It's pretty standard.

The cell phone is missing.  It went dead in the early morning hours of the 23rd.  Her clothing, of course, hasn't been found.

Nothing has been found, and that's the real thing here.  Police have no physical evidence to indicate foul play.  But at the same time, they don't have any evidence to indicate this wasn't a case of foul play, either.

College kids out drinking - there are so many scenarios.  We're just hoping for the best at this point.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, cell phone pings?  Anything with regard to where the cell phone was?

LIEBERMAN:  Yes.  That's one thing they're looking at.  There were some pings in the early morning hours, but then it went dead.

There hasn't been any activity on the phone or credit cards, or anything, in the last 10 days.

ABRAMS:  There's the number, 608-266-6014, if you know anything - anything at all.

Jon Lieberman, as always, thanks again for coming back on.

LIEBERMAN:  Sure thing, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Up next, the day's winners and losers.

Plus how to avoid being a real loser this July 4th.  We'll show you what went wrong in some of the deadliest fireworks accidents caught on tape.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It's time for tonight's"Winners and Losers” for this third day of July, 2007.

Our bronze winner, Bill Gates.  Chinese women voted him their second most desired sperm donor, beating out heartthrobs Brad Pitt and David Beckham in a"Self” magazine poll.  Number one was a local.

The bronze loser, heartbroken swinger, Arthur Friedman.  He encouraged his wife to start sleeping with other men.  She did.  She fell for one of them, and Friedman did what any red-blooded American would do.  He sued.

The silver winner, the king of pop, Michael Jackson.  Fox.com reporting Jacko's moving from his ostentatious Las Vegas spread to a more subdued Virginia home.

The silver loser?  Residents of Virginia, who will get to think about Jacko every time they pass a"Virginia is for lovers” sign.

But the gold winner of the day, TB patient Andrew Speaker, who created a frenzy after flying internationally while infected with the virus.  Today, Speaker's doctors said his TB is not as dangerous as they thought, and that it can be treated with drugs.

Our gold loser of the day?  Speaking of danger, kids who get stuck at an explosives summer camp.  Yes, the focus - fireworks.  Prepubescent pyromaniacs have access to"an absolute smorgasbord of explosives.”

They're learning safety there, which is crucial this July 4th, because as NBC's Lester Holt shows us, things can get out of control, even for the professionals.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

LESTER HOLT, NEWS ANCHOR, NBC NEWS:  Yokohama seaport, Japan.

Two technicians die in an explosion in what was meant to be a celebration.  Instead, 350 shells ignite simultaneously, forcing workers to jump for their lives.

A shell exploded prematurely and ignited the others.

The Netherlands.  A passerby captures an explosion at the S.E.

Fireworks plant.

A few minutes into the fire, another explosion takes place.

The cameraman runs for cover, as fire again races out of control.

After a third eruption, the camera goes dead.

By the time the smoke clears, 18 bodies are discovered.  Close to 1,000 people are injured.  One hundred tons of fireworks go up in the blaze.

Though there are no official statistics on accidents in the fireworks business, the industry has always had a reputation as one of the most dangerous businesses.

HARRY GILLIAM, PYROTECHNICIAN:  How dangerous is it?  I mean, people die from burns, or people die from accidental explosions every year making fireworks.  Sometimes it's beyond their control.  Sometimes it's human error.

It's probably less dangerous than skydiving.  Statistically it's less dangerous - certainly less dangerous in terms of statistics than people who are riding bikes, and that sort of thing.

But it's still a dangerous thing to do.  You just have to understand that it does have inherent risks, and you do everything you can to minimize the risks.

I think the thing that people do - I think it's human nature - is that people think they're invincible, that nothing's going to happen to them.

HOLT:  In Alton, Illinois, a fireworks crew tragically learns that lesson first hand.  On the banks of the Mississippi River, spectators are treated to one of the most spectacular Fourth of July shows of their lives.

But unknown to the audience, something has gone horribly wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is it on fire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is that supposed to be in the show?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh!!

HOLT:  A shell explodes low, and sets off a chain reaction.  Three men working on the display are killed.

Authorities investigating the incident find the crew did not use the proper equipment and multiple other violations of standard procedure.

GILLIAM:  There's not much room for error.  There's not much margin for error in fireworks.  You're dealing with something that has absolutely no forgiving ability.  It happens instantly.

(END VIDEO)

ABRAMS: "Fireworks: Fast Burn” airs tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m., right here on MSNBC.

That's it for us tonight.  Stay tuned for"Lockup.”

END   

Copy:     Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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