updated 2/7/2008 1:12:50 PM ET 2008-02-07T18:12:50

Guests: Michelle Cottle, Pam Bondi. David Schwartz, Chris Lejuez, Jim Moret, Vanessa Grigoriadis

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Some of the polls, the pundits and the press got it wrong.  We look at the five biggest Super Tuesday blunders.  And what is with the so-called superdelegates?  And if they stay this close, these party insiders, not the voters will determine the Democratic candidate.  Is that really a Democratic way to pick a candidate?

And breaking tonight: We know what killed Heath Ledger.  A cause of death that‘s lead official to launch a federal investigation..

But first: If there‘s one thing the polls, pundits and D.C. press got right before last, it was the race between Obama and Hillary was going to be close.  It‘s almost an even split in the popular vote from Super Tuesday.  Both candidates getting over 7 million votes, just 50,000 vote differential between them.  NBC News estimates Clinton now leads Obama by just four delegates.  With that said, it also showed us how wrong the polls, the pundits and the press can be.

Tonight: With 20/20 hindsight, we count down the top five blunders leading up to Super Tuesday, what they‘d told us what happen, might happen, should happen that didn‘t.  Here to evaluate, MSNBC political analyst, Craig Crawford, is a columnist for CQPolitics.com, and MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan.  All right.

First up tonight: Number five on our list—bad polls.  And there were a lot of them leading into last night.  The polls roll over the place in some states, it makes you wonder if they‘re just picking it out of a hat.  Some of the worst, a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll taken February 3rd and 4th, predicted Obama over Clinton in California by 13 percent.  The actual results, Clinton beat Obama by 10 percent.  That is a 23 percent difference.

On the Republican side, a Zogby poll showed Romney beating McCain by 13 percent in California.  The actual Super Tuesday result, McCain beat Romney by 8 percent, a 21 percent off on that one.  And the American Research Group poll taken in January 30th to 31st in Connecticut showed Clinton leading Obama by 13 percent.  The actual result, Obama takes it by 4 percent.  That would be 17 percent off.  It makes you think that you can‘t trust any of these polls.  But you know, Craig, we can say that things change.  You can say that things can happen, but some of these California polls were taken the day before and they were 20 plus percent off.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CQPOLITICS.COM:  I tell you, I‘ve given up tracking polls and cigarettes in this campaign and it‘s working out real well for Dan.  I just don‘t even read a lot of these things because first of all, when I see big numbers of undecided, when I see some of these polls show how many voters are saying, they might change their minds, the so-called Keith number that Keith Olbermann’s been using, that matters.  I mean, when you see that kind of fluidity on top of that, you know, in race after race, we‘re seeing voters make up their minds at the last minute.  And Democrats like both of these candidates.  They‘re really are going back and forth between Clinton and Obama.

ABRAMS:  Pat, that seems to rationalize into some degree, I mean, that‘s offering up an explanation.  To me, there‘s got to be some sense of they‘re not doing something right.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that‘s right.  I think what‘s happened is one thing is Obama clearly had a wave.  And I think some of these polls may have projected the wave as going on where as it appears like Obama has pulled back.  But Dan, up here in New Hampshire, even the internals of Hillary‘s polling and internals of Obama‘s had him winning 10-15 points and he lost.  And so, I think, you know, Craig is right in the sense.  All of the sudden, it‘s undecided.  Women came over and we found out later that he had a huge wave move on way of the other.  Look, these guys live and die by their reputations.  You‘re hammering them, tonight.  Everybody is - and people buying those polls, you say, and, look, those guys are so far off, they are gone.  I think they‘re doing their best but their job is a lot rougher than it used to be.

ABRAMS:  Next up -

CRAWFORD:  Dan, we got to remember, it‘s also important how we report the polls and how we read and interpret the polls and when we overlook these undecided numbers, the margins of errors, don‘t really explain what that means, get into the sub panels with much larger margin of errors, we‘re not doing our job properly.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  It just seems to me that from now on, I need to like to do a caveat.

Next up:  At number four of the biggest Super Tuesday blunder:

California.  We all knew it was important.  It has more delegates than any other state.  But remember, many are saying that the winner of California would be declared the winner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The big enchilada is California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The winner in California can say I won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think so too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But did anyone actually call the night of victory for Clinton after she won California by 10 points?  No.  Joining us is Michelle Cottle, senior editor of The New Republic.  All right.  Craig, let me start with you though on this one.  What do you make of this California?  About a lot of people saying, it‘s going to be California, it‘s going to be California.  You know, don‘t—California is going to determine who wins, then we get to California and there‘s nothing.

CRAWFORD:  Based on the patterns I‘ve seen, since this campaign, the voting started, Dan, I just have to say it and I hate to say it, but I‘ve seen a pattern of many in the media wanting.  It‘s wishful thinking, wanting Obama to win.  Many of them thought Obama is going to win California, so, they were setting it up that way.  I don‘t think it‘s a conspiracy.  I don‘t know if it‘s even conscious.  It‘s almost a subterranean level.  I‘m not sure what it is.  But there‘s this need to see Obama do well.

ABRAMS:  This is number three.

BUCHANAN:  Craig, is get on.  There‘s a hunger and a thirst.  They saw Obama roll and he‘s going to win this.  Obama winning this, he‘s going down the field and he‘s going to score.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michelle, I‘m going to give you the first question coming out of this one because I know you and I have debated this before.  Coming at number three, the anti-Clinton bias out in full force.  Many of these D.C. media had been predicting or in my view hoping for Super Tuesday to deliver the knock out punch to Clinton.  And last night was no exception.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think Obama is going to have a big night.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I really, this isn‘t going to be over

mathematically tonight but -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But psychologically, it will be over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Barack Obama has a lot of bragging rights coming out of this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, the bottom line is, Michelle, I think that again, we saw the fact that a lot of the pundits, the press, I‘m not saying they wouldn‘t vote for, they are just tired of the story, they‘re bored with the Clintons, they don‘t like Hillary Clinton, whatever the reason they just want to see her go.

MICHELLE COTTLE, THE NEW REPUBLIC:  I think there‘s definitely an Obama swoon among a lot of the media.  But also, as you show last night, we had talked about this, whether or not people would actually rule it as a win for Hillary and on the whole, I think everybody was very balanced.  They talked about Massachusetts being an upset, even though it really wasn‘t that big of an upset.  They talked about Obama not getting the mow that he needed.  I mean, basically, they reported what happened, it was evenly split.  He came away with more states and he came away with more delegates.  But I think the coverage was actually pretty good and pretty fair.

BUCHANAN:  I think, Dan, I think the media, because of the swoon and I agree with it, because of all of these expectations raging the great Obama night, they made it Hillary‘s victory.  Hillary won California, Massachusetts, New Jersey.

ABRAMS:  She‘s not getting destroyed, holy cow.

CRAWFORD:  They‘re doing him no favors here.  I almost think there‘s almost this subtle racism about it, and there almost a white man‘s burden kind of attitude that the only way the black candidate can win is if we the white has done what the media establishment says, helping him out.  I mean, I really see some of that going on here and I don‘t think it helps him a bit.

COTTLE:  I don‘t know if it‘s racial.  But I mean, there is the aspect of everybody is rooting for him because they do see him as kind of  this insurgent under dog against the big, fierce Clinton machine and he needs a little push to get out there.

BUCHANAN:  Yes, they love Obama.

ABRAMS:  They love him.  For weeks, I‘ve been saying that.  All right, at number two.  The big surprise of the night to almost all the inside D.C.  pundits and pollsters, Mike Huckabee who won five states including Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama after most of them have declared it a two man race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For Mike Huckabee, the Super Tuesday is daunting. 

Still, he‘s likely to come in a distant third.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s a two-man race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Huckabee is a good candidate, I don‘t think he probably had too much of a chance now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now, look, let‘s not overstate this, Michelle, I mean, it still looks like McCain is going to sail to the nomination, but Huckabee did a lot better than the polls and the pundits and the press ever thought he would.

COTTLE:  Yes, because the Democratic race is so tight still, everybody talked about what the pundits missed there.  But you know, for my money, the big pundit missed was like memo to Mitt Romney, the Bible belt hates you.  I mean, they win, nobody thought Huckabee was going to carry these states.  They thought he was going to cause trouble.  But my goodness, I mean, this was a big deal.

ABRAMS:  Even Pat Buchanan didn‘t predict this.

BUCHANAN:  I wouldn‘t have predicted he‘d won every single contested state down there.  And he get himself a good bag, there‘s no doubt about it but at the end of the night, who‘s got more delegates, Romney or Huckabee.  And now you got, Romney get out of the race.  It‘s Huckabee‘s going to be on the ticket.  I think Romney‘s got a lot more delegates.

CRAWFORD:  It‘s phenomenal too because the south is the Republican Party‘s base.  And here you got somebody else winning in the south.  It‘s very strange situation.  I‘m seeing McCain-Huckabee.

ABRAMS:  All right, well, I mean, I don‘t want to do pure political

analysis, but he‘s going to find a purer conservative than Huckabee but -

BUCHANAN:  (INAUDIBLE) I think he‘s got to win Ohio and he‘s got to

win some -

ABRAMS:  All right, well, let‘s me go to number one.  I want to do the coverage.  All right.  And coming in at number one: The number one blunder for Super Tuesday, the vastly overstated Camelot effect.  If you listen to many in the media, you would have thought the endorsement of Ted and Caroline Kennedy would have at least assured Obama a competitive race in Kennedy‘s home state of Massachusetts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, TV HOST:  Barack Obama touched by the legacy of Camelot picked up a key endorsement from Caroline Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Kennedy‘s family still holds a real pull on the Democratic electorate‘s imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Kennedy endorsement is awfully important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When Ted Kennedy comes out and says, we think this is the guy, that‘s an important endorsement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Democratic primary voters look to people like Ted Kennedy for guidance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, the problem, Hillary took Ted‘s state by 15 percent, 56 to 41.  Michelle, are you going to tell me that either, A, that he did better in Massachusetts still because of it or B, that it helped outside of Massachusetts more than we are allowing for her?

COTTLE:  Well, I‘m going to tell, I think clearly, they thought it would have more of an specific impact in delivering Massachusetts, this one state.  But I do think that what he got instead was kind of a general buzz and bounce beforehand.  I mean, have you ever seen such kind of press coverage and following (ph)?  You know, everybody was so thrilled about this.  So, yes, it had a broader impact, but couldn‘t deliver that state.

BUCHANAN:  Look, we got all this stuff—the torch has been passed to a new generation.  OK.  He loses Massachusetts by 15 points; not only that he lost California where Maria Shriver came out.  The Hispanic vote, he was supposed to help with, Hillary won it again, two to one.

ABRAMS:  But maybe we‘re underestimating, Craig Crawford, the power of Robert Kennedy‘s family.

CRAWFORD:  They had to pass the torch to somebody else.  Their own kids are in rehab.  I mean, this is a politically-defunct family, I mean, Ted Kennedy, I can‘t think of anyone Ted Kennedy ever endorsed to actually became president.

BUCHANAN:  The Republicans love it when Ted Kennedy endorses somebody.

CRAWFORD:  And you know what, Hillary Clinton is going to love it in November.

ABRAMS:  Michelle Cottle, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Craig and Pat are going to stick around.

Coming up next: With Clinton and Obama neck and neck in the delegate count, it‘s starting to look more likely that the winner could be decided not by the voters but by party insiders known as superdelegates.  They should pledge to stay out of it or at worst just vote away their state or district voters did.  Do they really want another one Bush V. Gore crisis in confidence?  And the ultimate political insider comes home.  Yes, Karl Rove got his post at FOX News last night and the folks there just seem elated.

Plus: At the end of the show, we read your e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know party insiders known as superdelegates comprise almost 20 percent of the Democratic party‘s total delegates?  Coming up:

With the presidential race so close on the Democratic side, it could all come down to those superdelegates.  For the sake of their party and country, shouldn‘t they pledge to just stay out of it?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight: The votes are still being counted.  Delegates total is still being fleshed out.  New Mexico is still too close to call, just a few hundreds separating Clinton and Obama.  Nationally, a similar story, Clinton with a slight lead among allocated delegates from Super Tuesday‘s voting: 786 to 775.  The total tally to date, finding Obama up just four delegates.  But guess what?  All the campaign rallies, primaries and caucuses may not matter.  Because if the race remains close, by the time the Democratic convention rolls around, it will be 796 party insiders, so called superdelegates who will decide who wins.  It is hard to believe that they make up nearly 40 percent of the delegates clinched the nomination.  They‘re Democratic senators, members of Congress, former presidents, officials working at the National Democratic Committee, party VIP‘s and normally, they‘re super status, get from a nice trip to hang out at the convention.  But this year, they very well may decide the outcome.  Can this really happen?  Florida delegates based on actual voters won‘t count on the Democratic side but no accountability, superdelegates from other states do.  I‘m calling for all superdelegate to step aside, let the voters decide who the nominee will be.  We already had one crisis of voter confidence with Bush v. Gore, we don‘t need another.

Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan are back with me.  Pat, I mean, this doesn‘t—as a Washington outsider, as I am, this makes no sense.

BUCHANAN:   Well, I think it does make some sense.  Although, I agree

on the party hacks working at the national committee.  But look, if you got

elected, congressmen and senators, what happens when you have an electoral

college, it‘s deadlock, it goes to the Congress of United States.  I can

understand that.  If you have a deadlocked convention.  But I think, I tend

to agree with you on this.  If you got a deadlock and no one has the votes,

then I think the idea -

ABRAMS:  Fine.  I‘m willing to say, I‘m willing to say, if it‘s exactly dead even, meaning that their delegate numbers are exactly even, I‘m willing to leave it up to a group of superdelegates to decide.  Absent that, I don‘t want to hear from them.

BUCHANAN:  But look, there‘s a reason for this and that is to get the

people who are concerned most about the party and who have been elected I

mean -

ABRAMS:  Not the people, not the people, not the voters.  We have to

get people like you -

BUCHANAN:  You think I‘m an insider.  That‘s how outside you are.

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  For Democratic Party, this was a trade off that was very important when the Democratic Party went to this proportional system.  I mean, if they had winner-take-all delegates like the Republicans do, they wouldn‘t have to worry about this sort of deadlock, this sort of chaos that this proportional system represents.  I think they do have to have some sort of—one thing to remember is so many of these are elected officials. 

If they go against, if they vote for some candidate their own states voters

didn‘t go for -

ABRAMS:  It‘s not just -

CRAWFORD:  They are going to have political problems, they‘ll be pressured to what their voters did.

ABRAMS:  Let me read you, this is Elaine Kamarack, a Democratic superdelegate who‘s endorsed Hillary Clinton.  They call you.  They send you things.  They invite you to things.  They have people who know you call you.

I get even as an outsider, that that‘s what happens in politics.

CRAWFORD:  Yes, this happens.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But, it seems crazy, to me—as an outsider, 796 -

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  It‘s too many.  That is too many.  If you had 150.

CRAWFORD:  (INAUDIBLE) when he ran against Walter Mondale where superdelegates made the decision back in that race between Hart and Mondale, Hart  tells the story that he personally called every superdelegate and one told him that her husband worked for a highway department and was told that he would lose his job if she didn‘t vote for Mondale.

ABRAMS:  But this is such a paternalistic system, it‘s basically saying, we the party, we know, we want to let the voters have their say.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  The purpose of this, Craig, in the post McGovern world wants

to say, we don‘t want another George McGovern.  We want to make sure that

the party can fix it -

(CROSSTALK)

CRAWFORD:  Wait a second.  George McGovern only won because California had winner-take-all delegates.  Let‘s not forget that.  I have to make a trade.  We‘ll do away with superdelegates if you‘ll set my home state Florida and count its delegates.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I think the notion that superdelegates count and Florida delegates don‘t count is crazy.

BUCHANAN:  Michigan and Florida was agreed upon -

ABRAMS:  I know, I know, I know.

BUCHANAN:  (INAUDIBLE) if they go in there—and let‘s say, Obama is a little ahead.  Hillary is a little bit a head, gets control of the credentials committee.  Sets Michigan and sets Florida, it will be Chicago 1968.  I was there.  It was a lot of fun.

ABRAMS:  And I tell you where I was.  In 2000 I was covering Bush v

Gore.  And I guarantee, we‘re going to hear the same people who were

complaining about Bush v. Gore.  Complaining on the other side this time,

they‘re going to be saying, wait, you know -

BUCHANAN:  You know, you got a point when you got these hacks or people working for the highway commission.  (INAUDIBLE)  But you can hold senators and congressmen and governors accountable.

ABRAMS:  I‘m staying on this one.  We‘re staying on this one.  I want to invite the superdelegates.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  They are more Hillary—they are more Clinton superdelegates

than Obama.  I don‘t even care who‘s got more.  All I care about is the

fact that the people who are voting should have their votes counted and

this idea -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot.

Coming up: The full autopsy report about Heath Ledgers‘ death and as a result, there is now a federal investigation on.  We got the report.

And: It‘s homecoming time at FOX News.  Karl Rove officially joined the team and the folks there, well, they just couldn‘t be happier.  Beat the Press is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.

First up: Last night, it became crystal clear.  The folks over at FOX News are just thrilled about what I‘m calling Karl Rove‘s homecoming, his debut last as a political commentator and the home team cheered them on again and again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have in our midst tonight, Karl Rove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  As Karl Rove pointed out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As Karl Rove said it earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You heard Karl Rove said earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re talking about this with Karl Rove earlier.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Come on, give me a break.

Next up: With Senator John McCain, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama are the clear leaders in the presidential race.  You don‘t have to be the Associate Press to come up with this headline on Monday:

“Next president could come from Senate.”

Who knew?

Finally, the so called best political team turning politics into a reality show on the night before Super Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER (voce over):  We gather eight undecided California voters to measure how people really vote.  Voters may say they prepare one candidate, but the brain actually knows better.  Another way we measure the brain, this cap packed with electrodes. The take away here, it may prove to be better than polling at determining what a voter does in the voting booth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, that‘s the ticket.  We‘ll all get the voters to wear these space aged brain caps with the electrodes and that will tell us who they are going to vote for.  The best political team on television.

Coming up, tonight: Britney Spears left a psychiatric hospital without paparazzi or police a day after her mother got a restraining order against Britney‘s sometime manager claiming he was drugging and effectively holding her hostage.

And: Suspect Joran van der Sloot seemingly confessed on tape to at least helping dispose of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway body.  That was played three days ago, so, why has he been arrested yet?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, breaking news tonight in the death of Heath Ledger.  The autopsy report is out.  And as a result, there‘s now a federal investigation underway. 

And Britney Spears finally released from the psychiatric hospital today.  This is a day after her mom got a restraining order against Britney‘s sometimes-manager to stay away.  She accused him of grinding up drugs and slipping them into Britney‘s food. 

Plus, Anna Nicole‘s ex Larry Birkhead can‘t seem to pass up an opportunity to make money off their daughter.  This time, he‘s filming the daughter‘s first trip to her mothers grave.  He‘s one of tonight‘s big losers. 

But first, why hasn‘t Dutch teen, Joran van der Sloot, been arrested yet in the disappearance of the Alabama teen Natalee Holloway?  It was three days ago that he sure sounded like he was confessing to something in a secretly recorded tape played on Dutch television.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, SUSPECT IN THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY

(translation from Dutch):  So, we were on the beach over there.  Suddenly, she wasn‘t moving anymore.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED), man!  So, I went and called the guy.  I walked over to the pay phone.  Then I called him.  He took the boat, he went far out, and he threw her over the side.  And then he came back and docked his boat there.  I was even able to sleep that night.  I went home and went to bed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So glad to hear it.  Yet, tonight, van der Sloot remains free in the Netherlands.  An Aruban judge ruled that his own admissions are not enough to re-arrest him.  Joran‘s been arrested and released twice over the past three years.  It seems to be the break investigators needed.  How can this not be enough?

Here now, Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi and defense attorney David Schwartz.  Pam, how can this not be enough?

PAM BONDI, PROSECUTOR:  Well, Dan, first of all, I think the judge in Aruba is probably a little gun-shy after everything that‘s happened.  And like you said, he‘s been arrested and released twice.  You and I know as lawyers that you have to have more than an admission to charge a crime.  You have to corroborate what he said. 

Now, watching that tape, I believe he fully participated in the death of Natalee Holloway and disposed of her body.  But I think this judge is just a little gun-shy to hold him.  We don‘t have enough yet for murder charges based on his admission.

ABRAMS:  Could there be corroboration based on the fact that he‘s admitting that he was there with her that night, and that you could have the Kalpoe brothers come in and say, “Yes, he was with her that night.”  We know that he was the last one to see her on the beach, et cetera.  Could that be corroboration.

BONDI:  Sure, and I imagine that‘s what prosecutors are doing now.  I think they‘ve known about these tapes for a while.  I think they are trying to re-interview Kalpoe brothers.  And I think they‘re trying to corroborate.  You know, he said he used the pay phone by the beach.  I think they need to go back and look at that.  There‘s a lot of evidence they need to corroborate his admission.  Now, we all know in Aruba, too, you can hold him without charging him formally.  So I think they have enough to hold him on at least lying to the police and disposing of a body, Dan.  He admitted to that.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the problem.  Here‘s the prosecutor.  Here‘s what the prosecutor, Hans Mos has said about why the judge isn‘t ready to re-arrest or allow the re-arrest of Joran. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS MOS, CHIEF PROSECUTOR:  He said in a specific - He put the threshold very, very high.  That is the third consecutive time you asked this from in two and a half years‘ time.  And you really need something very serious.  Well, this serious, but he thought it did not meet this threshold.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  David, why should it matter that this prosecutor has tried to

arrest him in other times, meaning - I‘ve been very dubious of some of the

evidence they brought forward in the past and said, “Look, I don‘t know

what they got.”  Now, I see what they got, and that seems to me to be

pretty powerful.  So why is the judge holding it against him that he tried

to get him arrested before?  He did get him arrested -

DAVID SCHWARTZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Dan, the judge is not holding it against him.  What‘s powerful about this evidence?  What is powerful?  What evidence is there that a murder took place?  What evidence is there?  What do you see in this statement?  I mean first of all, van der Sloot is on pot during this statement.  He‘s on marijuana.  He‘s given drugs. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, he‘s on pot. 

SCHWARTZ:  He‘s not over free mind game.  That‘s first thing. 

ABRAMS:  How old are you?  “He‘s on pot.”  Who speaks like that except my grandmother? 

SCHWARTZ:  That‘s what we call it in Brooklyn.  It‘s pot, all right? 

Not marijuana.

ABRAMS:  I‘m kidding. OK.

SCHWARTZ:  So, Dan, he‘s making the statement, OK?  He doesn‘t admit to a murder.  In fact, he said he wasn‘t involved.  She collapsed, he panics.  He calls his friend who, it turns out, wasn‘t even in Aruba at the time.  And then the body is disposed of.  Even under those set of facts, Dan, where is the murder?

ABRAMS:  Except, here‘s the actual fact.  Let‘s listen to more of Joran‘s comments, because it‘s not clear that she was dead.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP OF JORAN‘S CONVERSATION WITH DRIVER (TRANSLATED FROM

DUTCH))

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How were you sure she was dead, Joran?  You can‘t

you know, people can also go into a coma.

VAN DER SLOOT:  Yes, I wasn‘t sure about that but it really startled me to death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But she could also have been in a coma.

VAN DER SLOOT:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So there, he‘s saying he‘s not sure that she was dead.  You‘ve got the possibility of aiding and abetting first-degree murder, injury to health causing death, accidental death, illegal disposal of a corpse.  I mean these are all crimes. 

SCHWARTZ:  These are crimes, but to charge this particular defendant with those crimes, you‘re going to have a tough time doing that.  Because you know what?  He‘s not the one that disposed of the body according to that statement.  And that statement - you know what?  He is a liar.  He has made a hundred different statements in this case.  You can‘t take anything he says as being the truth.  The bottom line, Dan, is what‘s the evidence?  What‘s the evidence in this case?  And there is none. 

ABRAMS:  The evidence in this case?  What do you mean?  Is the tape irrelevant?  As far as you‘re concerned, it doesn‘t matter, right?  Joran is saying this is where the body was.  This is how it was disposed of.  This is what happened on the beach.  And as far as you‘re concerned, that‘s all irrelevant. 

SCHWARTZ:  He said she collapsed.  And we know that she was taken (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that night.

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  So charge him with murder.

SCHWARTZ:  OK.  Fine.  So let‘s get rid of the murder right off the bat. 

ABRAMS:  So just charge him with one of these other crimes.  I mean he‘s admitting that he was involved in the disposal of her body. 

SCHWARTZ:  Not really. 

HAMMER:  Not being sure if she was dead or not.

SCHWARTZ:  According to that three-minute statement in which we know there were 20 hours worth of statements, Dan.  According to that three-minute statement, we know that he panicked, she collapsed, he tried to revive her, he calls a friend and the friend says, “I‘ll take care of it.”  He runs away.  He was not involved in the disposal of that body.

HAMMER:  Pam, even assuming those facts as David just laid them out, that‘s still a crime. 

BONDI:  Absolutely, Dan.  Sure, and that‘s why he has a right to be held still, although prosecutors aren‘t ready to formally charge him.  And you know, he‘s vile.  He is disgusting.  And at least, David Schwartz has conceded that he‘s a liar in the case, as well. 

HAMMER:  But look, here‘s what he says.  This is his denial.  This is the explanation of the statement to a Dutch radio show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VAN DER SLOOT:  Yes, it is true I told someone something that I should not have told him.  Somebody who I knew for a while.  But I have been trying to explain is that you build up a relationship with someone over six months and that is what he wanted to hear, so I told him what he wanted to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It‘s what he wanted to hear, he says.  He said he built a relationship with this guy over six months.  So what you wanted to hear is Joran‘s a nice guy.  He wanted to make sure his friend got what he wanted. 

SCHWARTZ:  That‘s a possibility.

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.

SCHWARTZ:  He‘s dealing with who we thought was a criminal.  He was

trying to be a big shot.  I‘m not defending the statement.  But you know

what?  It‘s not a crime to be vile, OK?  So the fact that he‘s a vile,

cowardly human being -

ABRAMS:  But it is a crime to dispose of a corpse.

SCHWARTZ:  If that‘s what you want to call it.  If you‘re going to

make - if you‘re going to stretch those facts that disposed of this corpse

-

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think it‘s much of a stretch. 

SCHWARTZ:  I don‘t think he can do it, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  I mean, based on what we just heard.  He‘s talking about being involved.  He‘s with her.  Get someone to come and take the body and dispose of it. 

SCHWARTZ:  That‘s not disposing of it himself, Dan.  It‘s not, OK?

ABRAMS:  Come on. 

SCHWARTZ:  And the murder you can throw out the window, especially

based on those facts.  Look, they messed up this investigation from the

very start.  Those authorities -

BONDI:  I agree with that. 

HAMMER:  Let me real quickly go to Aruba.  We‘ve got Vinda de Sousa on

the phone.  Oh, we‘ve got Chris Lejuez, an Aruban attorney on the phone

with us.  Chris, real quick - Thank you very much for joining us.  We

appreciate it.  How would you summarize why they can‘t or have not charged

put aside murder for a moment - at least with one of these other crimes, maybe accidental death, illegal disposal of a corpse, aiding and abetting first degree murder.  Why hasn‘t he been charged with any these crimes?

CHRIS LEJUEZ, ARUBAN ATTORNEY (on the phone):  Well, they have tried to get a warrant for his arrest from the judge.  We have a judge - the instructions.  We have to review the case.  And the judge found that they didn‘t have a case that‘s strong enough to warrant a third arrest.  He just wants - he feels like if you want to take the case to court, take it direct to court.  No pretrial or arrest. 

ABRAMS:  So do you think that the prosecutors will move forward with that?

LEJUEZ:  The prosecutor has said he will move forward and he will appeal the court‘s decision.  He already has, and he‘s waiting.  The court that consists of three judges will decide whether or not they will issue the warrant for his arrest.

ABRAMS:  No. But, I meant putting aside the arrest warrant for a minute, could he move forward with the case.  Do you think he could move forward with the case even if he can‘t get the arrest? 

LEJUEZ:  If he cannot get the arrest, and he feels comfortable that he has enough evidence, he can always move forward with the case. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  You know, look.  Again, I‘ve been one of the people who‘ve been one of the most dubious about these prosecutors based on what they‘ve come forward.  The tape is the tape is the tape and I think they‘ve got to figure out a way to charge this guy now.  David Schwartz, Pam Bondi, Chris Lejuez, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, we have actor Heath Ledgers autopsy report and it has just led to a new federal investigation. 

And later, former Miss Nevada, Katie Reese in trouble again, this time accused of assaulting a police officer.  She‘s made our list of the big losers of the day tonight.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Did you know Britney Spears was in an off-Broadway production of “Ruthless” in 1991?  Coming up, Britney has just been released from a psychiatric hospital after nearly a week of treatment.  This after mother has gotten a restraining order to keep her manager away from her.  Her mom is now claiming that he was cutting up drugs and slipping them into her food.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back now with breaking details about the death of actor Heath Ledger.  Today, the New York City medical examiner released a toxicology report from his autopsy declaring that his death was not a suicide, not, but an accidental overdose of six prescription medications, including many sleeping pills and tranquilizers. 

Meanwhile, his family issued the following statement, “Heath‘s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage.”

And now comes word that the federal government is getting involved in the investigation and the DEA has requested documents on how Ledger obtained the multiple prescriptions.  It seems they may have come from different doctors, so there could be some legal trouble there.  We‘ll follow that story.

But now, to Britney Spears who got out of a psych ward this afternoon after almost a week of treatment.  Doctors cut her loose a few days early after determining they couldn‘t hold her against her will since she didn‘t pose a legal danger to herself or others. 

Meantime, the singer‘s mother got a restraining order yesterday against Britney‘s self-described friend and manager Sam Lutfi.  She alleged that he cut Spears‘ phone lines, disabled her vehicles and put ground up pills in her food to keep her in a drug-induced daze. 

Joining me now is Jim Moret, an attorney and correspondent for “Inside Edition.”  And “Rolling Stone” contributing editor, Vanessa Grigoriadis who has fascinating insights into Britney‘s world in the latest issue of that magazine. 

OK.  Jim, first, let me ask you about this restraining order that Britney‘s mother has gotten.  These are unbelievable accusations that the mom is making against this guy that I guess would explain why Britney has acted so bizarrely. 

JIM MORET, ATTORNEY AND CORRESPONDENT FOR “INSIDE EDITION”:  Well, and that‘s only part of it.  You know he‘s also said to Lynne Spears, Britney‘s mom - Lynne so stated in her declaration to the court that he said, “Look, I control every aspect of her life.” 

And she describes this relationship with the paparazzi that have

been following Britney, as describing him as the general telling the

paparazzi where the go, keeping tabs on her.  And he basically said, “If

you come out against me, I will ruin you in the press.”  So it‘s based on

that declaration, Dan, that the judge -

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I was going to ask you, but let me read you some of the declaration.  I don‘t want to ask you about the judge‘s ruling. 

MORET:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  “Sam,” this is the manager, “told Jackie, a friend, and me, that he grinds up Britney‘s pills, which were on the counter and included Risperdal and Seroquel.  He told us that he puts them in her food and that was the reason she had been quiet for the last three days.  She had been sleeping.  He told us that the doctor who is treating her now is trying to get her into a sleep-induced coma so they could then give her drugs to heal her brain.” 

I mean, does the fact that the court issued a restraining order, Jim, mean that the court thinks that there‘s validity to these claims?

MORET:  Well, I think in the absence of Sam Lutfi coming to court and stating otherwise and going on record, the court wants to err on the side of caution.  I mean, you‘ve seen how strangely Britney appears in public.  And for the last few weeks, we‘re going, “Oh, there goes Britney again.” 

Well, here‘s something that could possibly explain it.  And, you know, this restraining order extends beyond the conservatorship.  It extends to the 22nd.  That‘s when there is a hearing that‘s scheduled.  So I think the judge, just as in the custody case, is looking to save or looking to keep the children out of harm‘s way.  The judge here is trying to do the same thing for Britney herself. 

ABRAMS:  Well, I think if something happens to Britney Spears, there‘d be a lot of finger pointing that would be going on, because there already is.  Vanessa, you‘ve met this guy, Sam Lutfi.  What do you make of him?

VANESSA GRIGORIADIS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “ROLLING STONE”  I think Sam Lutfi is a little bit of a mystery.  And I think that‘s why we‘re all so shocked by this declaration that was made by Lynne Spears.  I mean he is - to me, when I met him, he was like jovial, sweet, a hug for everybody, sober and seemed cool.  So, you know, he could be a really great conman and there‘s certainly a lot of evidence to say he is. 

I mean a lot of people describe him as her life coach, that he is like one of these guys who kind of comes into people‘s lives and is like, “You know, I‘m going to help you.  I‘m going to make everything better for you.  But once he loses a little bit of control, he doesn‘t seem to know how to deal with that. 

ABRAMS:  Vanessa, let me read a little piece of your article in the “Rolling Stone.”  You say, “If there‘s one thing that‘s become clear in the past year of Britney‘s collapse, it‘s that she doesn‘t want anything to do with the person the world thought she was.  She is not a good girl.  She is not America‘s sweetheart.  She is an inbred swamp thing who chain-smokes, doesn‘t do her nails, tells reporters to ‘eat it, snort it, lick it, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) it.”  It‘s that bad?

GRIGORIADIS:  I think it‘s definitely gotten that bad.  I mean we‘ve all seen the video and the pictures.  And I think that speaks thousands of words, as they say.  She is the direct polar opposite of who she was originally sold to us as, which is a virgin, like a model of Christian charity.  Just a wonderful sweetheart, a southern belle.  I mean, now, she‘s just verging on the Anna Nicole Smith territory. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And Jim, let me ask you again about this restraining order.  I want to read you another piece of Lynne Spears, her mom‘s declaration. 

“Sam told me that if he weren‘t in the house to give Britney her

medicine, she would kill herself.  Then he said to me, ‘If you try to get

rid of me, she‘ll be dead and I‘ll piss on her grave.‘”

Again, these are wild and yet incredibly serious allegations being made against this guy.  And I guess he didn‘t show up to try and fight it?

MORET:  Right.  And I‘ll tell you it really sounds like the person Vanessa is describing.  Somebody who seems perhaps cool, but the second his power is threatened, he turns into a different kind of guy.  I‘ll tell you what‘s really interesting.  I was in court for both of the conservatorship hearings, and one thing that struck me as amazing was one of the lawyers said that there was $40 million in assets. 

Now, “Forbes” magazine, not too long ago, had Britney Spears‘ net worth close to $100 million.  My question which clearly hasn‘t been answered yet, what happened to that other $60 million.  Was it a mistake?  Has it been squandered?  Is Sam Lufti somehow in control of some of these assets?  There are a lot of questions here, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Finally, Vanessa, she‘s out now today, after six days.  Any hope, you think, that could have made a big difference?

GRIGORIADIS:  I would doubt it.  That doesn‘t seem like enough time to treat somebody who‘s severely mentally ill.  But I think it is important to remember that she did get out of Cedars-Sinai and she did now get out of UCLA.  And either both of those doctors and both of those places that deal with celebrities a lot, have drunk some sort of Britney Spears Kool Aid where they believe that she‘s not mentally ill.  Or perhaps, she‘s actually not as severely mentally ill as we all seem to believe. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jim and Vanessa, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser of the day be Larry Birkhead cashing in again, this time on his own daughter on her first trip to mom, Anna Nicole Smith‘s grave?  Yes, it‘s that bad. 

Former Miss Nevada, Katie Reese, who never has been able to cash in her notoriety, in trouble again - in jail tonight accused of assaulting a police officer.  And Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, making the most of his campaign money sweeping the south last night with very little cash.  Winners and losers, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 6th day of February, 2008.  Our bronze loser, eager Super Tuesday voters in Florida went to the polls to vote.  Somehow they didn‘t know or forgot that their state held its primary last Tuesday.  And in Virginia, more than 700 confused voters, called their State Board of Elections, complaining their polling places were closed, some even alleging voter suppression and disenfranchisement.  The problem?  Their state wasn‘t one of the 24 participating in yesterday‘s voting.  Virginia voters get their chance next Tuesday. 

Our silver loser, former Miss Nevada, Katie Reese, in trouble again.  The beauty queen stripped of her title a year ago after racy pictures were discovered.  She was arrested last night after assaulting a police officer after being pulled over for speeding. 

But the biggest loser of the day, money grabber, Anna Nicole ex Larry Birkhead, who has stooped to a personal low.  Yes, it is that low.  Selling the right to film his daughter Dannielynn‘s first trip to mommy‘s grave to “Entertainment Tonight.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Dannielynn visits her mother‘s grave for the very first time.  A little girl.  A black bow in her hair.  Calling for the mother she‘ll never seen again.  Inside the cemetery with an unmarked grave. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, god.  And our big winner of the day, Mike Huckabee, who surprised just about everyone with wins in five southern states last night.  While john McCain is still in the driver‘s seat for the Republican nomination, Huckabee‘s strong showing demonstrates he can still have a lot of influence. 

Time for our new E-mail segment.  Many of you wrote in after Monday night‘s show when I predicted that regardless of the results, that the D.C.  media would likely downplay Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday.  I think in retrospect, with a few exceptions, I was right. 

Patty Ewald from New York, “Finally somebody in the media having the guts to call out the media on their deplorable behavior in this campaign.” 

But Giselle Tapolgollis goes after me, “If you think the media‘s hard on her, try being Mitt Romney.  He‘s hated by all the mainstream media.  Maybe you‘re some ‘whipped‘ fellow in touch with his feminine side.” 

Interesting theory, Giselle.  I may be in touch with my feminine side.  That‘s not really the point here, is it?  FYI, I also asked why McCain seems to get a free pass on flip-flops while Romney gets called out on all of his. 

And David from Bluffington, South Carolina says, “Dan, get over yourself.  If Hillary was quarterback of one team and her team scored 50 points in the first few minutes of the game.  But then Obama, the quarterback of the other team, orchestrated successive scoring drives late in the second quarter to make the score at half time 50-47, the half time commentary would correctly focus more on the Obama comeback than the scoring by Hillary‘s team.”

David, that‘s exactly the point.  We‘re not talking about half time commentary.  This isn‘t a football game.  We‘re talking about electing the next leader of the free world.  And the media‘s obsession with momentum and trends that could potentially shape the outcome of future primaries‘ influence this race. 

Finally, Kathleen Bien for Laceyville, Pennsylvania, “Thank you for trying to keep the campaign honest.  Do you receive any pressure to back off investigating the truth and bringing it to the public?”

Not from anyone here.  I‘m just encouraged to do it.  And occasionally, from certain viewers who can only see the candidates from a one-sided prism, but I can handle that.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  See you tomorrow.

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

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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