Guests: John Kiriakou, Jack Burkman, Jonathan Turley, Charlie Savage, Joel Brodsky, Jonna Spilbor, Susan Filan, James Martin Davis, Carmen Rasmussen
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC HOST: Joining us live, the former CIA officer now speaking out about the harsh interrogations of top al Qaeda prisoners as the scandal in Washington grows over who destroyed tapes of those interrogations, and whether laws were broken.
And day two of our series “Bush League Justice.” Forget laws broken, President Bush often just ignores them, using secret decrees to decide which laws he wants to follow.
Plus, suspect Drew Peterson may be deciding which laws he wants to follow, as everyone else searches for his missing wife, he now wants your money this holiday season. But first, new details tonight about the destruction of the CIA‘s secret tapes.
Today the “New York Times” reports the CIA lawyers gave the go-ahead to destroy the 2002 video of al Qaeda operatives undergoing, quote, “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
But who ordered the enhanced interrogations, including waterboarding? And the destruction of those tapes? Are we to believe that neither the president nor any of his closest advisers knew about it? Today the president made his first public comments on the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: My first recollection of whether the tapes existed or whether they were destroyed was when Michael Hayden briefed me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: OK, but back in 2006, the president sure seemed to know the details of the interrogations themselves. He said these procedures were designed to be safe to comply with our laws, our Constitution, and our treaty obligations.
Today the CIA director, General Michael Hayden, testified behind closed doors before two intelligence committees. This amidst talk of possible pardons from some on the right. But let‘s be clear. The law would likely protect the actual interrogators, just not necessarily the officials who ordered them to do it.
So how did all this work, who ordered it, did the White House know? Joining us now, live is John Kiriakou who spent 14 years as a CIA agent and who was involved in the capture and interrogation of top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. Thanks a lot for taking the time. We appreciate it.
JOHN KIRIAKOU, FORMER CIA AGENT: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: First tell me what happened to Abu Zubaydah after he was captured?
KIRIAKOU: He was severely wounded during the capture. He was involved in a firefight with Pakistani authorities and he was shot three times, once in the groin, once in the thigh and once in the stomach with an AK-47 so he was in quite poor physical condition when we finally got him.
ABRAMS: And what happened, so you got him, you got a chance to interrogate him, to question him. How did that go?
KIRIAKOU: You know, I honestly wouldn‘t call it an interrogation, because he was so severely wounded. He was coming in and out of a coma. And I wanted to see if I could at least as he was getting better in the first couple days if I could establish something of a rapport with him, so I tried to engage him in conversation.
At first it was something of a gibberish conversation, he asked for a glass of wine. He made a comment about not wanting to be treated like a zoo animal, and then he finally came around a day or so later, and first asked me to smother him with a pillow, and then after that, wanted to talk about philosophy and poetry and religion.
ABRAMS: When was it that he was waterboarded?
KIRIAKOU: It wasn‘t until a couple of months after he was captured, after he had physically recovered and it was determined that he was uncooperative, and he was going to remain uncooperative.
ABRAMS: How did you get approval for this technique and some of the other techniques?
KIRIAKOU: It was a very formal process. I‘ve explained on some other shows today that when these authorities were sought by an officer in the field, a cable would go back to headquarters saying this is what I want to do and this is why I want to do it, and we‘re going to do it once and that cable would go back to headquarters to the deputy director for operations, and they would seriously consider the case, and on a case by case basis say, all right, you‘re approved to do X, Y or A. You do it once and you report back what happened.
ABRAMS: And waterboarding was included in that approval process, right?
KIRIAKOU: Yes, all of the enhanced techniques were included in the approval process.
ABRAMS: So do you believe that the White House ultimately knew that he was being waterboarded?
ABRAMS: And what about other techniques? Was there other aggressive techniques, slapping, hitting, anything else like that?
KIRIAKOU: To the best of my recollection, no, not with Abu Zubaydah. There was immediacy around the information we thought he could provide and we were so worried about a potential disastrous September 11 like attack on U.S. soil or U.S. interests abroad that we felt really an immediate need to try to get the information very quickly.
ABRAMS: You said not with Abu Zubaydah. How about with anyone else, were there any other very aggressive that might be considered torturous techniques used on other detainees?
KIRIAKOU: Honestly I probably shouldn‘t comment on that.
ABRAMS: Can I ask you why you talk about Abu Zubaydah but not others?
KIRIAKOU: Because the president commented about Abu Zubaydah and it‘s become part of the national debate.
ABRAMS: OK. Fair enough. Do you believe it‘s torture, waterboarding?
KIRIAKOU: I‘ve come to believe that it‘s torture, yes, but not to say that I disagree with its use back in 2002. It was a different time, and we were so convinced there was another major attack coming. We felt that we were almost forced into it, it was something that we had to do on an extremely limited basis but we had to get that information to either disrupt or forestall another terrorist attack.
ABRAMS: Now you know there are a lot of people now responding to your comments, saying, look, waterboarding doesn‘t work. You don‘t get truthful information from waterboarding.
KIRIAKOU: In some cases I think that‘s true. With Abu Zubaydah, however, waterboarding worked very well, very convincingly.
ABRAMS: How are you so confident that the information you got from him was accurate?
KIRIAKOU: We were able to corroborate it using other sources, and vet the information and it turned out to be accurate.
ABRAMS: Now, the CIA director has defended the destruction of the tapes by saying it was to protect the identities of those involved and yet you‘re going public. What do you make of that rationale?
KIRIAKOU: You know, if the director says it, I have no doubt that he believes it. I disagree, and I think that it‘s not a convincing reason, at least from my perspective.
ABRAMS: You don‘t think those tapes should have been destroyed?
KIRIAKOU: I don‘t. I think they‘re a matter of historical record. They may have evidentiary importance and if they‘re that sensitive, then you just lock them up in a safe or in a vault in CIA headquarters.
ABRAMS: Why are you going public now? Are you allowed to speak publicly?
KIRIAKOU: I‘m allowed to speak publicly so long as I don‘t reveal sources, methods or reveal classified information which I don‘t believe I‘ve done. The reason I‘ve gone public is when the story broke about the videotapes being destroyed, it also dragged back to the surface the whole issue of waterboarding, and I think honestly that the Agency has gotten a bum rap on waterboarding. This isn‘t something that the Agency, as a rogue organization, just decided to do one day to prisoners.
This was something that was done because there was a genuine concern for the safety of American citizens, and to protect American lives, and in 2002, I think honestly, that our hand was forced.
Now, here we are, five years later, we‘ve had five years to develop sources. We‘ve had five years to improve our relationships with foreign governments, and presumably, we‘ve used those five years to really improve the quality of our information. As a result, I would say that waterboarding is not necessary anymore.
ABRAMS: One other question. You say that you don‘t think you‘re going to get in trouble, you know, our sources in the CIA are saying they‘re still deciding how to react to your going public. Some are also suggesting that maybe the CIA has put you out there, to do exactly what you said, which is put this all into context. Have you been given authorization by the CIA to speak out?
KIRIAKOU: No, I haven‘t had any contact with the CIA.
ABRAMS: All right, if you could stick around, joining me now MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell and Republican strategist Jack Burkman. All right. Lawrence, look, we‘re hearing and look, I get exactly what John is saying about the difference in the time b the way people were thinking in 2002, versus the way that they‘re thinking now. It doesn‘t change the legal issues, however, and it seems that the administration is still kind of skirting this issue of whether waterboarding is legal. It sounds like they‘re saying everything they did was legal but they won‘t comment on waterboarding.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, this is—Dan, this is extraordinary television, to be sitting here with a former CIA agent who has participated at this level of the story, is something I‘m just amazed by. If I could just presume to ask one little follow-up question, which is to Dan‘s question about do you think the White House knew, could you tell us who do you think in the White House knew about this method, about the existence of the videotapes?
KIRIAKOU: There was an approval process in place, where the request for permission to use enhanced techniques went first to the National Security Council, then to the Justice Department, and then back to the White House, and it was the president that gave final authority.
JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, Dan, if I can just, I don‘t want to interrupt but I would say one thing. You have to understand, I can tell you the way the Bush family does things, both Bush and his father are well really walled off from discussions of intel.
ABRAMS: That‘s kind of sad.
BURKMAN: They make high-level decisions but they do—you can make of it what you will but I can tell you as a practical matter before we get into the discussions, they have a history of walling themselves off from this, so it‘s very unlikely the president, very unlikely just as a practical matter he would get into a detailed discussion of intel.
ABRAMS: John, look, let me ask it to you this way. Do you think—knowing how important Abu Zubaydah was when he was captured, all right, don‘t you think that the president must have been involved in the discussions about what to do to him?
KIRIAKOU: In a theoretical way I would say yes. I don‘t think it was the president who said, “I think we should waterboard him today.”
KIRIAKOU: But yeah, I think the president had the final authority to say, yes, I approve of these enhanced techniques as enhanced techniques in the interrogation process.
ABRAMS: Lawrence, does John‘s going public help or hurt the president?
O‘DONNELL: It sounds as of this point in the discussion as though it hurts the president, and I can see in certain ways how it helps the CIA and I think it does raise the question of, does the CIA want John to be out here right now which we‘ve already dealt with, but you know, but we do have some evidence about the president‘s personal interest and specific al Qaeda figures. We do know through Bob Woodward‘s books and other people who researched that the president, for example, had a most wanted list in his office, and as they would be found or executed or, you know, killed in action, he would cross them off on a specific list, with pictures of them, you know, in his desk in the Oval Office, so we have little bits of information about just how specifically interested the president was in each one of these guys.
BURKMAN: Keep in mind, Dan, with a I would say, I don‘t want to sing the out Lawrence but a lot of our friends on the left have their talking point written either way. God forbid if there was a suitcase bomb or dirty bomb to go off on 59th Street, the CIA would get blamed just as badly and Ted Kennedy and Jane Harmon would be .
ABRAMS: But did you hear what Lawrence said, Jack? He said he‘s not blaming the CIA. What he has just said is John‘s account actually helps the CIA but may hurt the president so in terms of talking points, maybe it‘s, maybe you‘re the one who has the talking points because you‘re not listening.
BURKMAN: I certainly don‘t want to take away from Lawrence but many in Congress, many in Congress are doing just that. The other thing, Dan, from a legal standpoint, keep in mind, Dan, it‘s not clear to me any laws were broken. I don‘t know that the tape in question was ever under lawful subpoena just because members of the 9/11 Commission and/or Jane Harmon or somebody is clamoring for it. That doesn‘t mean the CIA has any legal obligation to turn it over.
ABRAMS: John, when you went public, when you decided to go public, how did you think it was going to be perceived, which way do you think it would cut in terms of who was going to go after you?
KIRIAKOU: I thought I‘d be trashed in the blogs which I‘m told I‘m being trashed in the blogs. And I think that .
BURKMAN: We all are.
KIRIAKOU: I think that‘s the truth. I‘m told that there is some division at the Agency, that I‘ve heard today that a third of the people think that I did the right thing, a third think I should have kept my mouth shut and a third think I‘m trying to pitch a book or movie deal or run for Congress I heard today.
BURKMAN: Do you regret going public, John?
KIRIAKOU: No. I think this is a real intelligence success story that needs to be told. The American people want to know that the CIA is working hard to protect them. They‘re generally not influenced by politics, as difficult as that might be to believe, but this is a success story, and the American people are getting their money‘s worth out of the CIA.
ABRAMS: And you have told us the story. John Kiriakou, thanks so much for taking the time on the program.
KIRIAKOU: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: Lawrence and Jack, as always, thank you.
BURKMAN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up next, day two of our series, “Bush League Justice,” our investigation into how the Bush administration has politicized justice. Tonight the president repeatedly claiming he does not have to enforce some of the most important laws Congress has already passed, ranging from torture to military rules to affirmative action.
Plus, looking for a good charity to donate to for the holidays? How about the Drew Peterson Defense Fund? That‘s right, the suspect created a fund for his legal defense, oh and any money left over will be used to find his missing wife and take care of his kids.
ABRAMS: Day two of our weeklong series, “Bush League Justice, How the Bush Administration has politicized the Justice Department and overstepped its constitutional boundaries.
Tonight the administration‘s unprecedented use of what are called signing statements. Or, how the president has expanded his own power.
ABRAMS (voice-over): President Bush doesn‘t like to veto laws. He doesn‘t have to. Since he took office, he‘s been regularly attaching conditions to laws already passed by Congress allowing him to essentially disobey the will of Congress and dramatically expand his own power.
In total, the president added so-called signing statements to more than 1,100 sections of legislation, an unprecedented number. That‘s almost twice as many as all 42 prior U.S. prior U.S. presidents combined, on a whole range of issues from interrogations to education, to energy policy, for example, in 2005, Congress overwhelmingly voted to ban torture. The next day Senator John McCain joined the president for a photo-op at the Oval Office.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: The common objective, and that is to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture.
ABRAMS: Well, not necessarily. Two weeks later the president signed the bill but quietly issued a signing statement effectively allowing him to ignore the new law.
In 2006, a new law instructed the Justice Department to report to Congress on the use of the PATRIOT Act. The president signed the bill, but added that the president can order justice department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides to. Translation? Congress‘ law doesn‘t mean much.
ABRAMS (on camera): Joining me now, Charlie Savage, the “Boston Globe” reporter, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on presidential signing statements. He‘s done more than anyone else to remove the veil of secrecy on this subject.
And from Washington, law professor, Jonathan Turley. All right. Professor Turley, let me start with you. How big a deal is this? A lot of people are not talking about this. Tell us why it‘s so important.
JONATHAN TURLEY, G.W. UNIVERSITY LAW: Well, it‘s very important, because essentially by using signing statements to this extent, the president becomes a government unto himself. He‘s usurping a legislative power that was given by the framers to Congress, but it also invites illegality, that by qualifying these laws, he allows agencies and officials to say we thought we were interpreting the law correctly, as the president told us to do so, when nobody honestly believes that that interpretation was correct.
ABRAMS: So Charlie, how does he get away with it? I mean, effectively what he‘s doing is saying, I‘m not going to bother vetoing laws. Instead, you know what I‘ll do, I‘ll accept it, have a nice ceremony, we‘ll shake hands and at the end I‘ll add something that basically says I like this part, don‘t like this part. This is the part we‘re going to enforce. How is he allowed to do that?
CHARLIE SAVAGE, “BOSTON GLOBE”: How this works, the way a signing statement works sort of behind the scenes bureaucratically, is it is instructions to the executive branch about how they are to enforce the new statutes that are created by a bill. It gets filed into the federal register but no one outside the executive branch typically reads these things. And so when the president says to the military or the Justice Department, or whoever, this section of the bill, you will consider that to be unconstitutional because I alone have said that, that means you don‘t need to enforce it. And what that section is actually a limit on his own powers as president. That means essentially he doesn‘t need to obey that section of the bill.
ABRAMS: Professor Turley, let me read you one of these. This is from 2006, this is, “The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, its contractors, may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistleblower who tells Congress about possible wrong doing.” That‘s what the law says. They‘re trying to protect whistleblowers.
Here‘s what the president adds to it, “The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.”
I mean, it‘s effectively saying whistleblowers don‘t have any protection.
TURLEY: That‘s right. And it‘s extraordinarily destabilizing effect upon our system. You know, our system has really only one rule that can‘t be broken and otherwise it‘s idiot proof and God knows we tested that, and that one rule is you can‘t go outside the rules, that each of the branches has to respect the limited authority given to the tripartite system. What this president is doing is saying I‘m going to yield to Congress, except when I disagree with it, and then I‘m going to become a government unto myself.
And when you attach to that all the other areas of his unprecedented claims of authority, he represents almost an imperial presidency.
ABRAMS: And Charlie, there is a lot of talk that Dick Cheney is behind a lot of this.
SAVAGE: That‘s right. I‘ve written a book called “Takeover” if people are interested in it, in which I trace the desire to expand presidential power back to Dick Cheney‘s experiences as chief staff to Gerald Ford in the 1970s in that post Watergate, post Vietnam moment after Nixon had fell and Congress was sort of waking up and reimposing constitutional controls on what had gotten out of control, the imperial presidency, that seared Dick Cheney, he would spend the next 30 years of his career work working to restore the imperial presidency, though he wouldn‘t of course call it that, and as the most influential vice president in history he‘s been in a position to bring that vision into reality.
ABRAMS: And Charlie, is he the one literally picking which ones they need to target?
SAVAGE: His aide, David Addington, who has been with him since the Iran-Contra investigation in the ‘80s and was with him in the Pentagon as well, is said to be the chief architect of these signing statements and is also sort of the leader of the administration‘s legal team that had been pushing these very radical theories about a president‘s supposed power to bypass laws and treaties at his own discretion.
ABRAMS: All right. Professor Jack Goldsmith, Harvard Law professor, former Justice Department official here, says about signing statements, “Nobody reads them. They have no significance, nothing in the world changes by the publication of a signing statement. The statements merely serve as public notice about how the administration is interpreting the law.”
TURLEY: Now, I know Jack, and I have to disagree with him on this, and in that it is much, much more serious than that. What it does is it gives legal cover to officials who violate the law, in some cases violating criminal laws. Torture is a good example of that. Torture and specifically waterboarding is a crime. It‘s been viewed as torture since the Spanish inquisition and Congress somewhat belatedly took a stand against it and the president immediately negated it.
Now he negated that law not because he had, you know, previously complied with any standards. He wanted to give his officials some cover, so as they continue to violate criminal law, they could say, well, you know what? There was this ambiguity, there was disagreement in terms of interpretation. There was no ambiguity. There was no disagreement in terms of what the language meant. There was only a signal from the president that his own people will not have to follow it.
ABRAMS: It‘s not interpretation, Jonathan, to say we will not enforce portions of this law.
TURLEY: It‘s denial.
ABRAMS: Right. It‘s astounding to me how they continue to get away with this, and no one, apart from Charlie Savage and a few others have been making a big deal. Professor Turley, you have, too. All right. Thanks to both of you. That‘s why we asked you both to the program. Charlie Savage and Professor Turley, thank you very much.
TURLEY: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a 25-year-old teacher now says she was pressured and beaten by her 13-year-old student with whom she had sex, but she now says he was to blame. OK. And Fox News not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. This time to defend Mike Huckabee‘s support for a convicted rapist, that‘s coming up in “Beat the Press.”
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press.” First up, over on Fox News, the only thing that gets in the way of the facts is a good story that either helps Republicans or hurts Democrats. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been trying to explain why he supported the release of a convicted rapist from prison, and Fox News contributors Dick Morris and Newt Gingrich did their best last night to garner sympathy for Huckabee, literally inventing this story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK MORRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That guy, Wayne Dumond, the reason everybody was focused on him is he was cast rated while he was in prison by his fellow inmates by a knife.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: This guy had been castrated by his fellow prisoners and was in danger of being killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Again the problem, it‘s not true. According to Wayne Dumond himself he says he was castrated at his home by intruders before his rape trial and some question whether he might have done it to himself to garner sympathy for his trial. They report. You decide.
Finally there are some words you don‘t want to hear out of Larry King‘s mouth or questions you don‘t want him to ask. Last night he did both when interviewing Victoria Beckham, AKA Posh Spice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: E-mail from Leeza in Brooklyn, New York, question, “I‘ve read you prefer to be au natural, to sleep naked when you go to bed, why?”
VICTORIA BECKHAM, SINGER: Well, I mean I sleep naked when I go to bed every night. I‘m getting in bed with David Beckham, too.
KING: So he sleeps naked, too?
BECKHAM: Yes, he does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I don‘t mind the answer. I don‘t want to hear the question.
Up next, just when you‘re looking to figure out what charities to donate this year, keep in mind, suspect Drew Peterson has a defense fund. The money will go to pay his attorney and then the leftover, they‘ll get a private eye to find his missing wife, a trust for his kids, in that order. His lawyer is with us, coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a 25-year-old teacher now says she was pressured by her 13-year-old student and beaten by him. So why shouldn‘t that be considered as a defense to their having sex? Are we too politically correct to even hear it?
And a retired Rhode Island cop dances while directing holiday traffic.
Plus bad news for “”American Idol”” after a web site posted what it says were the contestants that made it through the audition round. Those stories coming up in “Winners and Losers.”
But first, suspect Drew Peterson needs your help. The former cop is calling on his fellow Americans to pitch in to help pay his legal bills. The “Defend Drew” web site has been suspended or crashed or was hacked. Anyway, it‘s down. But donations that do come in will first to go to Peterson‘s legal defense, then to hire a private eye to search for Stacy and any moneys left over go into a trust for Drew‘s kids.
But Drew may really, really need help. His wife‘s pastor is speaking out on Fox about a confession Stacy made this past summer about Drew killing his third wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL SCHORI, THE PASTOR THAT STACY PETERSON CONFIDED IN: She said, “He did it.” And I said, “He did what?” And she said, “He killed Kathleen.” She shared details with me that I can‘t - I‘m not comfortable getting into. But it was very clear - it was very clear that this was not just speculation, she was not jumping to conclusions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. I‘m guessing they‘re now going to go after the man of the cloth. Joining us now is Peterson‘s attorney, Joel Brodsky, criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor and MSNBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan.
All right. Joel, look, this pastor is offering an account that is very bad for your client. We‘ll discuss whether it would be admissible in a moment. But the bottom line is, he‘s saying straight out Stacy said he killed third wife. Are you going to go after the man of the cloth now?
JOEL BRODSKY, DREW PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY: Well, I‘ve got to go after his story, because it really doesn‘t make sense. You have to remember, this guy is a certified marriage counselor, in Illinois. He knows - he‘s what they call a mandated reporter. He has to report this type of things.
He‘s saying that Stacy came to him and said, “My husband murdered his
former wife. I‘m living with him. I‘m in fear of my life.” And the
pastor says, “OK, that‘s nice, go home and pray.” You know -
ABRAMS: Wait, Joel, did he say that she was saying she was in fear for her own life?
ABRAMS: Absolutely. Absolutely that‘s what he said. I mean, that‘s been reported for weeks now, in several different media. Yet he doesn‘t call the police. Any normal person is going to say, “Sit there, I‘m calling the State Police right now and get him here,” and he doesn‘t do that. It this doesn‘t make sense.
ABRAMS: Maybe it makes sense, but maybe it‘s just not what you want to hear. I mean maybe it makes sense in the sense that, look, not every time someone comes in does a priest go to the authorities. A lot of the time, what they want to do is try and help them resolve the issue. They want to advise them, get out of the relationship, do whatever. And maybe this was - the motive for him to kill her was he knew that, “Oh my goodness, my days are numbered.”
BRODSKY: Well, he wants to help her, go resolve it with what she‘s saying is a murderer? That‘s ridiculous. I mean, when somebody comes in and confesses to murder and says that she‘s in fear of her life, that there‘s only one logical response, and that‘s calling the police. There‘s no other logical response. If that‘s true and I was Stacy‘s family, I‘d be looking for a lawyer right now to sue this pastor and his church. I mean, it‘s insanity.
ABRAMS: You know - I mean, look, Susan, my guess is they‘re not looking to sue the pastor. They‘re looking to get big boy Drew.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, what‘s ridiculous about this is that since her husband is a police sergeant, they‘re going to, what, call the police? That‘s exactly who she‘s allegedly in fear of. So to say it‘s preposterous he doesn‘t report it and he doesn‘t call, which means it‘s untrue, to me is more blame everybody else except look at your client. It‘s ridiculous.
ABRAMS: Jonna, legally, this is what might be called double hearsay, meaning she‘s coming in saying “He told me this. He confessed.” Now the pastor is telling us, “This is what she said he said.”
JONNA SPILBOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes?
ABRAMS: Any way to get it in?
SPILBOR: I say absolutely not, and it is double hearsay, not might be double hearsay. And in order to get it in, you have to have an exception to the hearsay rule at each level. In other words, is there an exception from when he said it to her, and then is there an exception from when she said it to the pastor.
ABRAMS: The bottom line -
BRODSKY: It‘s more than that, too. It‘s - OK.
ABRAMS: Well, the bottom line would be if they can show - I‘ll let you respond to this, Joel.
ABRAMS: If they can show that he‘s responsible for her not being around, meaning if they can show that Drew Peterson got rid of his fourth wife possibly so she couldn‘t come forward and say this, that could be the sort of exception that would make this come into court.
BRODSKY: Well, no, it would not. There would be a violation. It would not.
ABRAMS: Yes, it would, if they could prove that.
BRODSKY: There are two other exceptions. You‘ve got a huge confrontation clause problem here. There‘s no way you can get around the confrontation clause.
FILAN: Yes, there is. It‘s called declarant unavailable -
ABRAMS: You know what?
FILAN: And that‘s a known exception to the hearsay rule.
ABRAMS: This is getting too weak.
BRODSKY: There‘s a - no.
ABRAMS: But Joel, bottom line is you know it can‘t come in, right?
BRODSKY: Absolutely not. No way.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me talk about this defense fund you‘ve set up. The money first goes to you, I guess, to pay for the defense. And the leftover money goes to find Stacy and then the trust for the kids. It would seem to me that the best thing to do with this money, any money, would be find Stacy. You know why? Then he doesn‘t need a lawyer with regard to the fourth wife.
BRODSKY: Well, I consider a private detective and attorney‘s fees to be co-equal. You know, attorney‘s fees and private detective - criminal attorney‘s fees and private detective fees are co-equal. We‘re going to spread those together, both the attorney and the private investigator. And criminal defense lawyers, investigators always work hand in hand.
ABRAMS: He‘s got no leads, Joel. He‘s claiming she called him on the phone and says “I‘ve left you for another man.” And he‘s saying he‘s got no leads such that he might be able himself to do something to help find the woman he claims is alive?
BRODSKY: We get sightings practically every day.
ABRAMS: It‘s not about sightings. I‘m not asking you about the wacko sightings. I‘m asking about - Joel, about Drew Peterson knowing his wife and maybe knowing something about where he claims she might be.
BRODSKY: Well, we have - the only leads we would have in that regard would be the Rosetto brothers, the two male nurses, and this reverend, who we‘ve heard rumors that there was some connection there. And that‘s a good one to start the list.
ABRAMS: Wait, wait, wait. Are you now accusing the pastor of having a relationship with Stacy?
BRODSKY: I‘ve heard today. I‘ve gotten several calls.
ABRAMS: Oh, come on!
BRODSKY: I don‘t know if there‘s any - honest to god.
ABRAMS: Come on!
BRODSKY: I don‘t think there‘s any validity to it.
ABRAMS: You guys are going to slime the man of the cloth now on this one?
BRODSKY: It‘s not exactly - It‘s never been unheard of.
ABRAMS: I know, but I mean - oh, come on. I mean, you know. This
seems to me that you guys -
BRODSKY: That‘s not a rumor that I - Believe me, that‘s not something that I started. People called me and told me.
ABRAMS: You know what? You just said it on national television so you are now perpetuating until - You know what? I don‘t want to continue talking about that until you come forward with some sort of evidence on that one because that just sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me. You wanted to explain something though about the defense fund that you said that I was getting wrong.
BRODSKY: Well that was that we‘re going to do - attorney‘s fees and then investigator fees. They‘re co-equal, investigator fees are just as important as attorney‘s fees, and so they‘re going to be co-equally spent.
ABRAMS: Yes. And look, I know you don‘t think there‘s going to be charges. I do predict in regard to the third wife, I think he‘s going to end up getting charged in that case, and I think soon. We shall see. Joel Brodsky, thank you very much. As always, we appreciate it.
BRODSKY: Thank you. My pleasure.
ABRAMS: And Jonna Spilbor and Susan Filan are going to stick around. Up next, a 25-year-old teacher says she was pressured into having sex with her 13-year-old student. Why isn‘t it possible that maybe the 13-year-old boy could be at aggressor? I know we‘re not allowed to say that.
And later, bad news for “”American Idol”” after a web site posted what it says were the contestants that made it into the show, what is described as the greatest security breach in “”American Idol”” history! That‘s in “Winners and Losers.”
ABRAMS: Did you know a special visa allows illegal immigrants to receive legal status if they‘re recognized by the federal government as going through some type of trauma as the victim of crime? Coming up, a 25-year-old teacher says she was pressured into a relationship with her 13-year-old student who is an illegal, claiming he threatened and abused her. Now he wants a visa. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Isn‘t it possible for an older woman to be the victim of an underage boy? Kelsey Peterson, a 25-year-old Nebraska teacher accused of running away to Mexico with her 13-year-old student to have sex, was in court telling the judge that she was abused by the boy and that he strong-armed her into leaving the country.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KELSEY PETERSON, NEBRASKA TEACHER: He used to threaten me as in, “I will kill you if you ever leave me.” He left bruises all over my arms and across my chest at times, when he would get angry with me. So he was very much the dominant male in the relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He was also an illegal immigrant and is still in Mexico trying to come back. I know we‘re never supposed to say it, but isn‘t it possible that this older woman was the victim, not just a sex predator? Just isn‘t it possible?
Joining our panel, who is now on the phone, is Kelsey Peterson‘s attorney, James Martin Davis. Thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate it. All right. Mr. Davis, let me just ask you this. You know, you are representing her in this case. It sounds like she‘s making a lot of allegations about this boy. Did she have - is she saying he forced her to have sex with him as well?
JAMES MARTIN DAVIS, KELSEY PETERSON‘S ATTORNEY (on the phone): No. She‘s not making the allegations that she forced him to have sex. But you have to remember, she‘s charged with kidnapping, and you know, he went willingly. And we‘re not accusing him of being a predator, and we‘re saying that she‘s not a predator either.
If he was under 16 and she had sex with him, she‘s committed the charge of statutory rape. But she‘s not guilty of kidnapping him, which faces life without parole in Nebraska, nor is she guilty of this Mann Act violation she‘s facing in federal court that carries a mandatory minimum of 10 to life.
ABRAMS: Are you challenging whether he‘s actually 13?
DAVIS: Oh, yes. I don‘t think there‘s any doubt that he‘s probably closer to 16 than he is 13.
ABRAMS: Well, but he was a student of hers. How could she not know how old he is?
DAVIS: Well, I don‘t know if he knows how old he is. He‘s an illegal immigrant. His mother has phony papers. The birth certificate that he has saying he is 13 is questionable. When he was interviewed by the cops, he gave another birth date. Remember Danny Alamonte, you know, the little league ballplayer that said he was 12 and he turned out to be 13 or 14?
ABRAMS: Let me read to you - this is from Amy Peck, who‘s representing the boy. She said, “Do we really believe a 25-year-old could be under that much influence or is she playing to all of the racial stereotypes that are present hoping that someone would fall for them?”
DAVIS: Yes? I mean, what racial stereotypes? He is a teenage boy. Who has a stronger sex drive than a teenage boy? I mean, she‘s never seen the movie “Porky.” Get real.
ABRAMS: Susan Filan, what of that?
FILAN: Oh, give me a break. This is the ultimate blame the victim strategy. And Dan, you can all me politically incorrect, you can call me whatever you want. But it‘s just plain wrong for a teacher to take advantage of a young student and have sex with them and turn around and blame him for the reason why he‘s now stuck in Mexico, and can‘t come back to this country to see his family.
ABRAMS: But isn‘t it possible that he could be the aggressor? Are we not even allowed to discuss that as a possibility?
FILAN: Oh, you can discuss it. Discussion‘s over. It‘s not possible. The answer is no. It‘s preposterous. It‘s insulting. It‘s hypocritical. It‘s the ultimate blame the victim.
ABRAMS: If he held a gun to her head, all right? Still couldn‘t talk about it, right?
FILAN: If he held a gun to her head and that‘s why she crossed state lines with somebody in a car, could she claim that as a defense, if she could prove, in fact, that she was coerced? Her own lawyer‘s not saying that on national television, Dan, so you want to change the facts? We can talk about that.
ABRAMS: But Jonna, here‘s my concern. We‘re so PC that we can‘t even discuss the possibility that a 13-year-old boy might have, and again I don‘t know that this is what happened, but it‘s like we can‘t even talk about it.
SPILBOR: I‘d love -
DAVIS: That‘s unfortunate, too, because you got all of these 15-year-old boys talking about it and they know how the game was played. It‘s all of the social workers categorizing teenage boys as children. Come on now.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to go.
SPILBOR: Don‘t we try kids as adults all the time? So a 13-year-old boy, if he is in fact 13 - and I love the defense that he might not be and we might not be able to prove what his age is because of his documents are in another country, if they can be found. But we try 13-year-old as adults all the time.
If you take sex out of the equation and you have a 13-year-old with a gun in your face, you‘re not going to say, “Hey, Sonny Boy, put the gun down or I‘m going to call your mother.” You‘re going to do what that 13-year-old says. So, if she was coerced by this kid it very well could be a valid defense, at least to the kidnapping charge and that‘s all we care about.
DAVIS: And the Mann Act violation she‘s also charged with going across state lines; you know, white slavery statute.
FILAN: basically, Dan, you‘re saying that these laws are stupid, and that they shouldn‘t exist. And that if they do exist, just ignore them.
ABRAMS: No. We‘re saying just entertain the possibility.
FILAN: Because you know, what? What teenage boy doesn‘t want to have sex with an older woman? You‘ve been saying this for a long time. You think the kid got lucky.
ABRAMS: Entertain the possibility that a teenage boy could be, I know, horrors, an aggressor. Hard to believe, I know. But just entertain that possibility. I got to wrap it up. Jonna, Susan, James Martin Davis, thanks a lot.
FILAN: Good night, Dan.
ABRAMS: Up next in “Winners and Losers,” Bill Clinton heckled by a protester dressed as a robot. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Congressman Steve King spends precious congressional time, making sure Christmas is appreciated. And a web site reveals the contestants they say are the next “”American Idol”.”
A protester tried to sabotage America‘s best known politician; a congressman who made pandering his holiday mission; or a web site under fire for some “idol” vision? Which will be tonight‘s big winner or loser?
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 11th day of December, 2007. Our first winner, a mocha-making robot, Japanese car maker Honda brewed up the bot barista named Asimo. He wheels around after whipping up a drink. The bean-brewing bot even recognizes specific orders and drops off the drink to whoever ordered it.
At this point, Asimo did brew beans but surely booze can‘t be far behind, perhaps a bartending robot serving up bubbly?
Our first loser, Bubba who got beaned by a robot in Iowa. Bill Clinton campaigning in the Hawk Eye State last night when he was heckled by a hooligan dressed in a robot outfit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robots of the world want you to apologize for Sister Souljah.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The metallic clad clown demanded the former president apologize for comments he made 15 years ago. The robotic rebel turned out to be a University of Iowa professor.
Our second loser, Iowa congressmen Steve King, who spent precious congressional time authorizing a resolution that, yes, Christmas and Christians are important. The Republican‘s resolution affirmed among other things that Christmas is of great significance to Americans and Christians have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization.
Unfortunately for the congressman, his pandering was in need of a Christmas miracle. He got snowed in at an Iowa airport and missed the vote. The lawmaker‘s merry move just clogging traffic in the already backlogged congress.
ABRAMS: Our second winner, a law enforcer whose merry moves are unclogging traffic in Rhode Island. Retired Providence cop Tony LaFore is back, logging some hard earned hours on the beat. The 60-year-old ham hits the streets every December dancing while directing traffic. He‘s been cutting it up on the streets every holiday season since 1984.
But the big winner of the day? An 8-year-old singing sensation now being called a cross between Frank Sinatra and Clay Aiken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY GARGIULA(ph) (sung): When we finally kiss good night, I hate going out in the storm. But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I‘ll be warm.
ABRAMS: Anthony Gargiula(ph) became an internet him after one of his performances piled up more than two million hits on YouTube.
GARGIULA (sung): As long as you love me so, let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. Come on!
ABRAMS: The energetic 8-year-old says “American Idol” changed his life, leading him to aspire to become a singer.
The big loser of the day? “American Idol,” whose new crop of aspiring singers have apparently been revealed, even before the season premieres in what‘s being called the biggest security breach in “American Idol” history. The web site, “IdolForums.com” has posted what it says are the names, ages, home cities and MySpace pages of the 50 contestants who made it through the audition round of the show (UNINTELLIGIBLE) until next month.
The blogger behind the leak says he unmasked the contestants by finding them on MySpace and reading the messages they were sending to each other about the show. Here now, former “American Idol” contestant, Carmen Rasmussen. All right. Carmen, thanks for coming back on this show. How big a deal is this?
CARMEN RASMUSSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT: You know what? It‘s a pretty big deal like you said. Nothing like this has ever happened before. I‘m actually surprised we‘re in the seventh season of “American Idol,” and nothing like this has ever got out before.
But come on, you have to be quiet for four months. That‘s really hard for a contestant to keep quiet about the show for four months. What people don‘t know is these auditions are actually taped, they‘re not live. So, when they air in January, these contestants have been not - you know, obviously, trying to keep quiet from their family and friends about making the show. What was that?
ABRAMS: When you were a contestant, you knew, though, right, how
jealously they guard this information? You knew -
ABRAMS: Oh, my goodness?
RASMUSSEN: Oh, yes.
ABRAMS: Right? Tell me.
RASMUSSEN: Oh, yes. I mean, our lives were on the line basically. We had to sign contract after contract, do not say anything. I really didn‘t say anything. But people could kind of tell by our disposition. We were angry all the time or mad, not watching “American Idol.” “She probably didn‘t make it.”
ABRAMS: What‘s going to happen to the people who were responsible for the leak, even if it was accidental? Do you think they‘re done?
RASMUSSEN: Well, this guy, apparently he didn‘t even try out for “American Idol.” They can‘t really do anything about it. If it was the contestants, maybe they won‘t be in the top 24. We‘ll have to see, I guess.
ABRAMS: All right. Carmen Rasmussen, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
RASMUSSEN: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: That‘s all the time we have for tonight. Tomorrow, another installment of new series, “BUSH LEAGUE JUSTICE.” Tomorrow, “The Triumph Of Politics Over Justice.” Stay tuned for a new episode of “LOCKUP EXTENDED STAY.” I‘ll see you tomorrow.
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