updated 7/16/2008 11:36:14 AM ET 2008-07-16T15:36:14

Guest: Monica Novotny, Roy Sekoff, Michelle Bernard, Brad Blakeman, Jane Mayer, Contessa Brewer, Judge Alex

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: While John McCain bashes Obama on foreign policy again, it turns out it‘s McCain shifting his position to follow Obama on troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Huffington Post‘s” Roy Sekoff, Michelle Bernard, and Brad Blakeman are here.

Then: A new book charges that some top Bush officials actually feared for their safety—not from al Qaeda—but from other members of the Bush inner circle?  The author is here with a stunning story.

Plus: Bush League Justice.  Karl Rove speaks out for the first time about defying a subpoena from Congress.  And rather than talk about why he won‘t testify under oath, he attacks me.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

Is John McCain now following Obama on foreign policy?  And if things gotten so bad for McCain, that Obama‘s now actually giving McCain a run for his money in McCain‘s home state.

As always, we‘re On Their Trail: Making the call on who won and lost the day.

First up, Obama and McCain delivered major speeches today outlining their plans for Iraq and Afghanistan.  And McCain caught in what seems to be a major shift in his Afghanistan policy, now proposing an idea that Obama‘s been arguing about for months.

Obama‘s consistently pushed to shift troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.  A call he repeated again today.  McCain, on the other hand, has insisted that NATO forces not U.S. forces should step up their role in Afghanistan.  That is, until today.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Our commanders on the ground in Afghanistan say that they need at least three additional brigades.  Thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them.


ABRAMS:  Here now: Roy Sekoff, founder of the “Huffington Post”;

MSNBC political analyst, Michelle Bernard; and former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman.  Roy, did we just witness the McCain camp following the lead of the man they call “naive and inexperienced” on foreign policy?

ROY SEKOFF, THE HUFFINGTON POST:  Indeed we did.  Yes, you know, the Republicans love to brand him as “inexperienced.”  That it looks like the “inexperienced” guy is right about not invading Iraq, right about the fact that we‘ve taken our focus off Afghanistan, right about Pakistan.

He‘s doing pretty good, and suddenly, we have Bush agreeing that Afghanistan, this is the central part of the war on terror.  It‘s going bad as it was in Iraq.  And we have McCain saying, “Me, too, me, too.”  Don‘t forget, he was supposed to talk about this on Thursday but moved it up to today so we could jump on the bandwagon.

ABRAMS:  Brad, this is really one of the most important issues in this campaign, is Afghanistan and Iraq policy, right?  And here you have John McCain now saying that we should move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan just as Barack Obama has been advocating for months.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  That‘s not the case.  And Roy has


ABRAMS:  Tell me where I‘m wrong.

BLAKEMAN:  And Roy has a convenient memory.  If we followed Senator Obama‘s advice a year ago, we wouldn‘t be there.  Iraq would be a terrible place.

ABRAMS:  But let‘s focus on my question, Brad.  The question is, isn‘t -


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Isn‘t McCain, though, Brad, now following Obama‘s lead on policy for Afghanistan?

BLAKEMAN:  Absolutely not.  Here‘s what McCain‘s saying.  Listen to the generals.  And the generals have said the surge has worked in Iraq.  We should be moving our troops into Afghanistan.  Where else are they going to come from?  It makes perfect sense  What McCain was talking about before the generals‘ report to him was the fact that Europe has not stepped up like they should.  And who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, the subcommittee on Europe, Barack Obama—has he held a hearing?  Not at all.  Has he attended any hearing?  Not all.  This guys is not –

ABRAMS:  OK.  That‘s called changing the subject.  And you know what?  And McCain has the worst record of attendance in the Senate lately. 

But, you know what, is anyone really going to blame McCain or Obama with regard to their Senate attendance records at this point?  I think that‘s -

BLAKEMAN:  Sure, they are.  When you serve on that committee -

ABRAMS:  All right, fine.  Then let‘s talk about - you want to talk about McCain—look, I‘ve given McCain pass on this issue of his attendance record in the Senate.

I mean, correct me if I‘m wrong, I believe, Roy, he has the worst attendance record in the Senate right now.

SEKOFF:  Yes, absolutely, Dan.  You put your finger on it.  This is the key issue here because, you know, foreign policy gravitas is the bread and butter of the McCain campaign.  In fact, it‘s more than the bread and butter, it‘s the lunch, the dinner and the dessert, and Obama is serving it to him right up and they‘re following his footsteps.


BLAKEMAN:  Roy, answer me one question.


BLAKEMAN:  Has Barack Obama called for a hearing, attended a hearing on the issue of Iraq or Afghanistan.

ABRAMS:  I‘m not going to let you change the subject.

BLAKEMAN:  The answer is no.


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Michelle can I promise I‘m going to let you in, all right.  I don‘t want to let Brad sidetrack us here on what is—you want the talk about the most important issue.  It is policy with regard to Afghanistan and Iraq.

And here‘s what McCain now clarified his Afghanistan comment, alright?  “Speaking to reporters on his bus after today‘s speech, McCain indicated that he‘d be open to those additional troops coming from NATO.”

What does that mean?  He‘d be open to them coming from NATO?  And what he just said in an important speech today is—he now believes we should move U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.  Then he says he‘d be open to them coming from NATO.  What does that mean?


ABRAMS:  Michelle, I want to let Michelle answer this.

MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that Senator McCain‘s statement today and I‘m saying this as someone who actually greatly admire Senator McCain, but I think that his statement today, it could be seen as being somewhat analogous to Senator Obama last week when he said he would be open to listening to the commanders on the ground in Iraq in deciding what to do responsibly with regard to withdrawing troops from Iraq.

I‘ve got to tell you, this conversation is very interesting because all along, when we‘ve had these national discussions about foreign policy and national security, most definitely, in recent weeks, we‘ve been talking about Iraq, Iraq, Iraq and Iran.

And I have to say that today, Senator Obama, he went out on the offensive and he actually did a pivot, just like he did when he went from primary mode to general election mode.  He changed the conversation offensively and started talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And regardless of whether or not Senator McCain changed his position with regard to how we fight the war in Afghanistan, for all appearances‘ sake, it would appear that he, today, is actually following Senator Obama because of the conversation has shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SEKOFF:  Well, Obama has said all along that this is where we should have put our focus.  We took our eye off the ball by moving to Iraq and he‘s put it front and center now.  And it was the worst casualties in June, right, in Afghanistan?

BLAKEMAN:  Roy, the American people—the American people can walk and chew gum at the same time.  We can effectively be in Iraq.  We can effectively be in Afghanistan.

SEKOFF:  Where are the troops coming from, Brad?  Where are the troops going to come from?

BLAKEMAN:  Not only ours—Europe and that‘s what John McCain was saying.


SEKOFF:  That‘s he retract (ph) it because there aren‘t enough troops.  That‘s why he had to restate it.

ABRAMS:  This is, look, this is a lose for McCain in the sense that look, I think, it‘s the right idea here.  It‘s a win for the country.  But, I think, a lose for McCain politically, in that he is now following Obama on a crucial issue, one where he—according to most people—this is his issue.  So, I think, this is an important, important point today.

Next up, after taking a beating from some on the left for what they say is Obama moving to the center, on issues like faith-based initiatives, gun rights—Obama conceded tonight that he is, quote, “shifted his emphasis on some issues” since he‘s wrapped up the Democratic nomination.  He made the admission during an interview tonight on PBS.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When you compare sort of my shift in emphasis on issues that I‘ve been proposing for years like faith-based initiatives, and you compare that to John McCain‘s complete reversal on oil drilling, complete reversal on George Bush‘s tax cuts, complete reversal on immigration where he said he wouldn‘t even vote for his own bill, you know, that I think is a pretty hard case to make that somehow I‘ve been shifting substantially relative to John McCain.


ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m going to set this one up for Brad.  I mean, you heard him there pause after shift substantially.  I mean, there is clearly an admission, it seems, on Obama‘s part here that there is some shift.

BLAKEMAN:  Oh, come on.  It‘s more than a shift.  It‘s another transcends flip-flopping, it‘s another abomination.  This guy goes with the wind.  He doesn‘t stand for anything.  He stands for everything.

And you‘re not even sure where he stands on any given day.  And today is the perfect example.  He didn‘t win today.  Are you kidding me?

Some guy who‘s never talked to generals, doesn‘t attend hearings, doesn‘t even call a hearing and he doesn‘t have -

SEKOFF:  And was right about the war and was right about Afghanistan.

BLAKEMAN:  No, he was wrong about the war and he can‘t even admit that the surge is working.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  Wait a second.  I mean, Roy, let me—actually let me let Michelle in on this one.  Michelle, look, Obama is saying tonight that a shift in emphasis is what he‘s calling it.  I mean, you know, is that an acceptable answer, do you think?

BERNARD:  Well, whether it is acceptable or not, I think by the time, you know, the American public gets to the voting booth in November, nobody‘s going to remember whether he had a shift, a flip-flop, or he ran to the center, you know, immediately after becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.

I think that we‘ve seen most definitely an enormous change in the way he campaigned in the primary versus how he is campaigning in the general election.  And let‘s face it, there are large number of significant differences in policy between Senator McCain and Senator Obama on a great deal of issues that independents, “Reagan Democrats” and more moderate Republicans are interested in.  They are both need to go to the center on this -


ABRAMS:  Yes, I don‘t know that I agree with that.  I think that some of these -

SEKOFF:  There‘s enormous differences.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BERNARD:  On some issues but not on all issues.

SEKOFF:  But, Dan, Obama has to be careful here.

ABRAMS:  Yes, real quick, Roy.

BLAKEMAN:  I like it when those two fight.

ABRAMS:  Roy, real quick.

SEKOFF:  Yes, Obama has to be careful here, Dan.  I mean, more than any politician in history, he is seen as the different kind of politician.  So, he has less wiggle room.  And we saw that in the “Newsweek” Poll, you know, where the independents had the big shift.

ABRAMS:  I think this is a draw.  I don‘t think you ever really want to admit you‘re shifting on issues.  But, I think, politically, as I said before, he needs to emphasize his more centrist positions in the general election.  I don‘t think that‘s bad.  I know, some on the, you know, on the left are very upset with him but -

Next up: A new poll shows John McCain‘s home state of Arizona is apparently up for grabs—his home state.  The Zogby Poll shows Obama now leading McCain, 42 to 39 in Arizona, Libertarian Bob Barr pulling in 7 percent.  Perhaps the McCain camp read the poll.

On Sunday, McCain held a campaign stop in Arizona, followed that up with another event in Phoenix yesterday.

Brad, come on, this has got to be reason for concern.

BLAKEMAN:  Absolutely not.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  Really?  Arizona this way?

BLAKEMAN:  Please.  Let me tell you something, if Al Gore were smart, he would have campaigned in his state.  And did he win it?  No, he didn‘t win it.

And John McCain is taking nothing for granted nor should he.  Why should he take his home state for granted?  Doing a few campaign stops is not only worth it, it‘s a smart thing to do.

ABRAMS:  Well, it maybe, but, Michelle, this poll, if this was Illinois, I mean, this would be pretty frightening for Obama.

BERNARD:  This would be huge news.  I mean, I will say that we are still four months out from the election and these numbers can turn around.  But most definitely, Bob Barr is bad news for John McCain.  He could be the Ralph Nader of the Republican Party in this election.

ABRAMS:  All right.

BLAKEMAN:  We‘ll concede those three votes, Michelle.


ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to move on.  It has to go as a lose for McCain, giving us something, giving me, at least on my scorecard, a final score tonight of two losses for McCain, one draw.

All right.  The question: who won the day, Obama or McCain? Michelle Bernard, you‘re our kind of our “middle of the roader” here, who do you think won the day?

BERNARD:  I have to give the day to Senator Obama.  He just seemed to have a better day on all fronts.  And I think the worse news for Senator McCain was not the Afghanistan and the Iraq speech, believe it or not, but Bob Barr and the fact that there is such a huge difference in the poll numbers of Senator McCain on his home turf.

ABRAMS:  Roy Sekoff, who won the day?

SEKOFF:  Well, this is supposed to be McCain‘s strong suit, it was a good day for Obama, a win for Barack Obama.

ABRAMS:  Brad?

BLAKEMAN:  A win for McCain.  Come on, he led on Iraq.  He led on Afghanistan.  If anything, Obama is following McCain.  It‘s not the other way around.

ABRAMS:  Well, now look, what the practical reality here and my reasoning—for giving Obama the win today is the fact that this major policy shift on where the troops should come from, moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, something that Barack has been pursuing, I think that that‘s a big win that McCain is now following suit there.

Roy Sekoff, Michelle Bernard, and Brad Blakeman, thanks.

Coming up: A new video of an interrogation at Guantanamo.  This as a new book details how the White House, quote, “made torture the law of the land” and this is not just waterboarding.  The author joins us next.

And Karl Rove finally speaks out about not testifying in front of Congress.  One of his answers includes a personal attack on me.

Plus, the State Department misses a 30-year deadline.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The State Department will probably fail to complete a mandatory report that it had 30 years to prepare.  The department is required to report its foreign relations activities over the last three decades by 2010.  Now, an advisory committee told the secretary of state—the report probably won‘t be ready.

The department may blame government secrecy, presidential directives, a shortage of personnel, for the failure to meet the deadline.  So, it‘s either the president‘s policies or the incompetence of the State Department.  Either way, it is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with newly-released footage of a 16-year-old being interrogated at Guantanamo Bay, up next.


ABRAMS:  We have got breaking news to report, a break with past Bush administration policy.  A top U.S. diplomat—this is according to the “Associated Press”—will, for the first time, join colleagues from other world powers at a meeting with Iran‘s chief nuclear negotiator.

According to the “Associated Press,” “The senior U.S. official has spoke on condition of anonymity, talked about, acknowledged that it‘s a shift in the administration‘s approach, but stressed that William Burns, America‘s third highest ranking American diplomat, will not meet with Iran‘s negotiators separately and would not specifically negotiate with him.  This is a one-time event and he‘ll be there to listen, not negotiate.”

But let me just check back in with Roy Sekoff, founder of “The Huffington Post.”

Roy, this seems to me, a major shift in administration policy.  You can say that they‘re listening, you can say that they‘re not negotiating, but when you‘re talking about a U.S. official being in the same room as an Iranian nuclear official, this seems to me to be not just significant for administration policy, but also significant for campaign 2008.

SEKOFF:  Well, you know, absolutely.  We‘ve seen the results—they‘ve had the shift, though—we‘ve seen the results of what their prior strategy has brought them.  You know, we‘ve seen them go from zero centrifuges in Iran to 300 centrifuges in Iran.  So, I think, this is obviously something they have to do, and I‘m glad to see it, actually.

ABRAMS:  But, wait a second, but, Brad Blakeman—look, one of the big campaign issues here has been that McCain has been attacking Obama for his comments about being willing to meet with rogue nations.  And now you have, again, according to the “Associated Press”—this just coming in to us—that you now have the America‘s third highest-ranking diplomat, is now going to attend talks with an Iranian envoy.  I mean, doesn‘t that blunt some of the attacks on Obama?

BLAKEMAN:  No, it doesn‘t.

ABRAMS:  Really?

BLAKEMAN:  If anything, it gives credence to what George Bush said, and that is, we will ratchet up talks with officials as warranted.  Nick Burns is not the president of the United States, with all due respect.  Nick Burns is a secretary of state.  And look what the success we had in North Korea, because we had a policy that works.  We give them the diplomats according to the talks and according to success.

ABRAMS:  But, wait a second.  But, up to this point, the Bush administration has refused to even sit down with them.  I mean, their whole policy up to this point has been—we‘re not negotiating, we‘re not sitting down with them, we‘re not talking to them.  Does this then reflect badly on the administration in the sense that it says, “Look, Iran‘s own activities have forced the administration to sit down at the table with them”?

BLAKEMAN:  Not at all.  If anything, it means that the policy of

George Bush has been right and -

ABRAMS:  Really?  That is an unbelievable twist - really?

BLAKEMAN:  Not all.  You use back channels, you use our allies.

ABRAMS:  But this is not a back channel.  This is—wait.

BLAKEMAN:  Obviously, no, Dan, the groundwork has been laid.  And now, Nick Burns and the State Department, the president, feel that it‘s constructive for us to do this.

ABRAMS:  But again, how does Obama get blasted for being the one -

BLAKEMAN:  Because Obama said he wouldn‘t meet unconditionally.  The president of the United States would put his prestige and the prestige of the country to meet with this dictator.  That‘s wrong.  It‘s outrageous.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look—the bottom line is that for some reason, the administration has changed its policy according to the “Associate Press.”  And now, the third highest ranking diplomat for the United States is going to be attending talks with an Iranian envoy on the issue of nuclear weapon.  That‘s a significant development.

But we will talk about more - we‘re going to take a break here.  We‘re going to come back with Jane Mayer, the author of a scathing new book about the administration, about torture and about how officials in the Bush administration actually feared for their own safety.

It‘s coming up.


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

First up: It always makes me nervous when outtakes of news anchors are sent around because it could certainly happen to any of us.  But what makes this clip of FOX‘s Laura Ingraham interesting is not what she said, but what someone in the control room must have said to her.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX HOST:  And new tonight—and new tonight—no, why are we saying new tonight.  And we should say and this just in.  Why is this new tonight?  Guys, it‘s not new tonight.  No, no, no, but he gave the speech yesterday.  That‘s the FOX way of doing things?  OK.


ABRAMS:  That‘s the FOX way of doing things.  That‘s what they do. 

They make up breaking news.

Next up: A shoutout to FOX business anchor, Elizabeth MacDonald for doing what CNN claims to do, keeping them honest.  MacDonald interviewed Republican Senator Pete Domenici, who tried to use talking points, but she quickly corrected him with facts.


ELIZABETH MACDONALD, FOX ANCHOR:  And we saw it with Hurricane Rita and we saw it with Hurricane Katrina, a lot of oil spills occurred on this oil -

REP. PETE DOMENICI, ® NEW MEXICO:  Not so, not so.  Now, don‘t let them give you that.

MACDONALD:  There were oil spills, but go ahead.

DOMENICI:  There were none.

MACDONALD:  No, there were 124.

The idea that China owns leases off of Cuba, it‘s not just China, it‘s Vietnam, it‘s Spain.  But even though that they‘re not drilling yet, in other words, they haven‘t started drilling yet but they own the leases.  We‘re about telling the truth on this network, that‘s why we want to you come back and we thank you.

DOMENICI:  You bet.


ABRAMS:  Well, MacDonald got it and she got him.

Coming up, a new video of an interrogation at Guantanamo.  This, as a new book details how the White House, quote, “made torture the law of the land.”  And this is not just waterboarding.  The author joins us next.

And, Karl Rove finally talks about ignoring a subpoena, not testifying before Congress.  Part of his defense involves attacking me.

Coming up.



Here‘s what‘s happening.

Congress voted overwhelmingly to override President Bush‘s veto of a bill protecting doctors from an 11 percent cut in their Medicare reimbursements.  The president has vetoed nine bills.  It was Congress‘ fourth override.

And, General Motors is announcing new cuts.  GM says it will reduce its salaried work force by 20 percent, cut truck production, and for the first time in 86 years, suspend its stock dividend.  GM is seeking to raise $15 billion to survive.

Now back to Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  New video is out today showing for the first time, an inside look at a Guantanamo Bay interrogation.  The video, shot in 2003, shows a 16-year-old detainee being interrogated by Canadian authorities.  It was released today by the detainee‘s lawyers who say their client was abused.  In the video, you can see him showing the interrogator injuries. 

And tonight, a new book suggests that the top military leader at Guantanamo believed that half of the detainees were not dangerous.  It‘s probably the most comprehensive look at the prison and the American war on terror.  The new book is called “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer.  It includes details of torture techniques, detainees being forced to wear women‘s underwear and dog leashes, being kept in cages, force fed liquids and kept from toilets. 

Plus, the allegations the approval of these techniques went far up the Bush administration chain of command.  In one passage Mayer quotes an attorney from the Justice Department who says, quote, “It was like ethics were out the window.  After 9/11, we were bending ethics to fit our needs.  Something wrong was going on.  It wasn‘t just fishy - it stank. 

Mayer is a Washington staff writer and an investigative reporter for “The New Yorker” and she joins us now.  Thanks very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it. 

JANE MAYER, AUTHOR, “THE DARK SIDE”:  Really glad to be with you. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So I think when a lot of people think about this issue of torture, they think of waterboarding.  And they say, all right - there was a debate over waterboarding and that‘s what the administration means, that‘s what people mean, critics mean when they‘re talking about torture.  But your book alleges a lot more than that. 

MAYER:  Well, I‘ve been told that really the country‘s focused too much on waterboarding.  It‘s just one part of a much larger program and the program consisted of a whole combination of techniques, which is what really was - according to the people who have gotten close to this program, that‘s really what was so particularly harrowing for people.  They would do many different things at once over a long period of time. 

And one of the ironies that I‘ve learned about as I was trying to research this was most of the techniques that America wound up using were things that we were emulating that had been created by the communist regimes in the past that the United States considered its enemies. 

ABRAMS:  Let me - I want to read something else which I found stunning from your book.  James Comey, a guy I have a lot of respect for, was a John Ashcroft deputy attorney general.  And Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith had been butting heads with the administration over the NSA spying program. 

And you write the following: “They were both so paranoid by then, they actually thought they may be in physical danger.  Goldsmith and Comey, who knew more about the domestic surveillance program than practically anyone else in America, also feared that their communications were being monitored.” 

You‘re saying that literally two of the highest level members of the Justice Department not just thought that their own conversations might be tapped, but that they might be hurt or killed? 

MAYER:  Well, it sounds funny.  It sounds like, you know, you couldn‘t make this stuff up, though, really.  Some of the things that was going on inside of the White House were like something out of some kind of thriller or, as Frank Rich wrote in the “New York Times,” it was kind of like the “Final Days,” the book by Woodward and Bernstein.  There were very intense emotional moments inside the White House about the torture program. 

And you‘re right, Jim Comey is, I think, in many ways a hero in this administration.  He‘s a Republican lawyer inside.  He was number two in the Justice Department.  And I think the same can be said of Jack Goldsmith who was running the Office of Legal Counsel who went on to teach at Harvard Law School.  And the two guys tried to take on the vice president‘s office.  And that really was the center of power on these programs in the White House. 

ABRAMS:  And Goldsmith is a real conservative.  I mean let‘s be clear.  But I want to move on to something else that you write in the book, and this is about a CIA agent sent to Guantanamo to find out why we weren‘t getting any good intelligence from the detainees there. 

You write, “The CIA officer was further disconcerted to learn that General Michael Dunlavey agreed with him that easily a third of the Guantanamo detainees were mistakes.  Later, Dunlavey raised his estimate to fully half.  There were mental cases and a few teenagers, one so demented he was eating his own feces.” 

And then you write when the White House got word that half of the detainees may have been there by mistake, that David Addington - that‘s Dick Cheney‘s legal adviser - it‘s the easiest way to say it in addition to a lot of other things said, “There will be no review.  The president has determined that they are all enemy combatants.  We are not going to revisit it.” 

Now, are you certain from your reporting that Addington said that in response to finding out that a lot of the Guantanamo detainees may have been there by mistake? 

MAYER:  Well, it comes from two sources who agree on it, who were in the meeting at the time.  So I‘ve got say that David Addington declined to be interviewed.  So if he has another version of it, he hasn‘t been able to tell it or he‘s been allowed to tell it, but he hasn‘t chosen to tell it.  You know, the two people that were in the meeting that were trying to get the government to see if they could get these innocent people out of Guantanamo, one was a general who used to be a very high level official in the CIA, and the other was John Bellinger(ph), the top lawyer in the State Department. 

Now, these are not low ranking people.  These are people who have tremendous standing in the national security community.  And they just felt basically it was wrong for the United States to be locking up innocent people.  But they couldn‘t get much traction on this. 

ABRAMS:  The book is “The Dark Side.”  It‘s an important book.  Jane Mayer, thanks very much for coming on.  We appreciate it.

MAYER:  Great to be here.  Thanks. 

ABRAMS:  Now, an update in our “Bush League Justice” series.  Congress lashing out at Karl Rove again tonight after Rove ignored yet another deadline.  Rove failed to abide by a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee last week.  Then the committee gave Rove until today to change his mind saying we‘re really, really, really, really serious. 

Tonight, committee member Linda Sanchez tells us, quote, “As he let yet another deadline slip by today, Mr. Rove‘s disregard for Congress has become intolerable.  Mr. Rove needs to understand he‘s not above the law and should obey a subpoena just like any other American is required to do.” 

The committee has not yet said exactly what they‘re going to do.  But now Rove is finally talking about his refusal to answer questions.  And in the process, he‘s taking cheap shots at me for our willingness to cover this story.  Rove told a gathering of TV critics that it‘s the White House preventing him from answering questions under oath about whether he played a role in the prosecution of prominent Democrat Don Siegelman. 

And when asked a follow-up question about why not discuss it under oath, Rove bizarrely attacked me saying, quote, “I would just simply point you to the MSNBC Web site to find a letter I sent to Dan Abrams, which is pretty lengthy, but goes over a series of questions that a beginning high school journalist would have asked had this issue been put in front of them.” 

Mr. Rove, this high school level journalist has a number of questions for you that I asked you in my response and which you are still yet to answer. 

First, let‘s bring back “Huffington Post‘s” Roy Sekoff and former aide to President Bush, Brad Blakeman. 

All right.  Roy, what is the House going to do?  I mean they keep threatening him, and they keep saying, “No, no.  We‘re really, really, really, really serious now.”  And nothing‘s happening.  What‘s going to happen?

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, first of all, congratulations, Dan.  That‘s a badge of honor.  I find it, you know, kind of amusing - yes, I find it amusing that Rove is willing to have this discussion with people whose job it is to review the latest season of “Desperate Housewives” but not the representatives of the American people.  I find that quite indicative of the way they think that they above the law. 

What‘s going to happen, I think, is they - the committee will find him in contempt.  The House will vote that and then nothing will happen, same thing that happened with Myers and the same thing that happened with Bolton. 

ABRAMS:  Brad, before I ask you about it.  I want to play you sound of different members of that committee on this program talking about what might happen to Karl Rove. 


REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  If he refuses to honor the subpoena, then the full House of Representatives must hold Mr. Rove in contempt of Congress. 

ABRAMS (on camera):  What happens if he doesn‘t testify? 

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I think we‘ll pursue it, you know, to the maximum extent possible as Chairman Conyers said. 

ABRAMS:  Arrest him?

SCHULTZ:  Well, if that‘s what it takes. 

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  But will you say, “Yes, Karl Rove will go to jail if he doesn‘t cooperate”? 

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  I personally believe absolutely. 


ABRAMS:  All right.  Brad, let me ask you for political analysis here, all right?  What do you think the House is going to do, Brad?  What would be your prediction?

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER AIDE TO GEORGE BUSH:  If the House takes a vote, it doesn‘t really matter much because whatever they vote, the contempt is not going to be executed upon.  They‘re not going to lock up Karl Rove.  And even if they did, the way Conyers would run the congressional jail, if he runs anything like he runs his committee, Karl could surely escape.  I mean it‘s really comical.  You mean to say that the Judiciary Committee doesn‘t have anything better to do than to go after Karl Rove, somebody that‘s been in their side since we won the election in 2000?  Get over it.  Get over it and get on to the people‘s business. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you - what I can‘t get over is the politicization of the Justice Department.  I won‘t get over it.  And here‘s why I‘m going to tell you Karl Rove says always what a high school journalist would have asked.  Well, you know, this high school journalist still has a few questions that Karl Rove has not answered. 

And Mr. Rove, since you‘re going after me publicly, I‘m going to now state to you, the three questions that I still want to hear you answer - under oath, not under oath, it doesn‘t matter to me.  Just answer them, send me a letter. 

Here they are.  Number one, you‘ve said you certainly didn‘t meet with anyone at the Justice Department or either of the two U.S. attorneys in Alabama about investigating or indicting Siegelman.  Well, did you talk to, or otherwise communicate, with any of them about it even if you didn‘t meet?  Did you have any discussions with any of them about this topic?  Huh?  Did you? 

Number two.  What about your old friend Bill Canary whose wife initially led the prosecution?  Are you denying you spoke with him about anything related to the case? 

And number three, did you ever ask anyone else to communicate with any official in the Justice Department about the Siegelman investigation or case? 

Those are pretty easy questions, Mr. Rove.  You want to talk about comparing me to a high school journalist?  Well, this high school journalist would like those questions answered. 

Roy Sekoff, Brad Blakeman, thanks a lot.

Up next, three teenage girls beat up another girl while a guy videotapes it.  Does the punishment fit the crime for teenagers?  Judge Alex Ferrer joins us.

And an alleged drunk driver hits a cyclist who clings to the hood of a speeding car.  Amazingly - look at that - the biker is OK.  That‘s coming up in “Reality Bites” in 60 seconds. 


ABRAMS:  Tonight, reality bites for a biker feeling the brunt of a drunk driver‘s road rage.  Cell phone video caught the biker clinging to the hood of the car.  He was finally able to jump off when the car slowed down.  The incident started when the biker told the driver to slow down.  Thankfully, the biker amazingly was not injured.  The driver was charged with DUI, reckless driving and kidnapping.  We‘ll be right back.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  A new MSNBC documentary airing tonight, “Caught on Camera: Teens Gone Wild.”  In it, teens are seen viciously attacking teachers and each other.  Tonight, we ask, does the punishment fit the crime?  With us, the show‘s host Contessa Brewer and TV Judge Alex Ferrer.  But first, here‘s tape of three teen girls viciously beating another teen while a teen boy captures it on tape. 



It‘s a brutal attack.  A 13-year-old girl punched and kicked near her home in North Babylon, New York. 


Her attackers - three high school freshmen girls, two aged 14 and one 13.  And it‘s all caught on camera by a 16-year-old boy. 

The victim, whose name is never released to the public because of her age, stands there with her arms folded while three girls taunt her.  Then, the girl in red comes up, punches her right in the face, tackles her to the ground and pounds on her profusely. 

Another girl joins in the fray and begins to pull hair, all while cursing at her.  The victim, in agony, curls up in a ball, but is kicked in the head several times.  This violent scene takes place in a schoolyard of a local elementary school. 

The victim is allegedly lured there by the three girls to settle a dispute one of them is having with the victim on the Internet over a boy. 


ABRAMS:  Four students were immediately suspended after the incident.  The three girls are charged with attempted assault.  They pled guilty and got probation.  The question now is, were they punished correctly?  Were they possibly given lighter sentences because of their gender? 

Here now, Contessa Brewer and former Florida Circuit Court Judge Alex Ferrer, host of the Court TV show “Judge Alex.” 

All right.  Judge Alex, what do you think?  Probation - does that make sense for this kind of crime? 

JUDGE ALEX FERRER, HOST, “JUDGE ALEX”:  Well, it really depends.  I don‘t know what the girls have for priors.  But in my feeling, I think that when you‘re dealing with juveniles who commit serious crimes - and this was not a couple of girls in a spat.  This was a beat-down.

The justice system better send a clear message that we‘re not going to coddle you.  Because if they‘re doing this at 14, you can only imagine what‘s going to happen by the time they‘re 18, 19 or 20.  So I would like to see some kind of incarceration even if they have no priors, even if it‘s only weekends at a time, just to send home the message that we‘re not going to play games with this. 

ABRAMS:  And Contessa, do you know if there were any suggestions, allegations that this was based on gender, that they got a lighter sentence? 

BREWER:  No.  None of that.  However, these were girls who they said lured the victim to this playground.  It was an elementary school playground and they lured her there after some fight over the Internet.  So -

ABRAMS:  It makes it more serious, in my view, if they lured her there. Yes.  All right.  In this next video teenage male students suspended from school, then returns and waits outside his teacher‘s door looking for revenge. 


BREWER (voice over):  Sixteen-year-old Randolph Parker seen here in the blue shirt and khaki colored pants, is the problem student in 61-year-old Melissa Rudicil‘s(ph) ninth-grade English class.  She was giving a party that afternoon in her classroom for an exchange student who is returning home. 

Although Randolph Parker had been suspended earlier that day, he returns later and paces outside her door. 

DOUG ESTLE, SCHOOL PRINCIPAL:  Obviously through his anger, he wanted to take out revenge, blamed her for the problems that he had been in.  And so he set up a plan, obviously, to come back at the end of the day to attack her and to hit her. 

BREWER:  As this last period progresses, you can see Randolph Parker walking up and down the hallway, waiting for the class to end.  He puts on a red bandanna over his face and signals to his cohort, 17-year-old Dominic Harris, to position himself on the other side of the hallway. 

According to police, Harris‘ role was to get the assault on his cell phone camera.  At one point, Parker even sends another student into the class to coax the Ms. Rudicil(ph) to come out into the hallway. 

ESTLE:  Through the eye of the camera, you‘ll see the whole thing.  You‘ll see Parker get behind her door.  And as she was walking out of her door at the end of the day, there were students in the hall.  He just took a running start and he hit her with everything he had. 

BREWER:  Parker drives a vicious blow into the side of Ms. Rudicil‘s face right above her eye.  She falls to the ground, and he takes off running down the hall and out the building.  Students immediately come to Ms.  Rudicil‘s(ph) aid.  She gets up from the floor and sits down.  Holding her head, clearly in pain.  Principal Doug Estle is called to the scene. 

ESTLE:  Over the radios, I heard, “Administrator is needed upstairs.”  And of course, we know when we get the call on the radio, “Administrator is needed,” we all go.  We got there, and then at point that I came to the top of the stairs, realized what happened. 

BREWER:  Ms. Rudicil(ph), bleeding from her injuries, is rushed to the hospital where she receives 20 stitches around her eye.  Some say the extent of the injuries is so severe because Parker was wearing brass knuckles. 

ABRAMS:  Sixteen-year-old Parker was charged as an adult.  He pled guilty to felony assault in the second degree, sentenced to three years in prison.  The trial is pending for the second student with the cell phone camera. 

All right.  Judge Ferrer, in the law, when you are sentencing as a judge, a punch is not necessarily a punch, right?  Because we‘ve just seen another tape, girls a little bit younger, but still, punching and punching and punching and punching.  They get probation, treated as a juvenile. 

Here you‘ve got someone a little bit older but it seems that, you know, fights are sometimes treated differently than an attack, for example, on a teacher. 

FERRER:  This was - I mean, I think in this case both of them were a little bit calculated since they both had friends there to videotape the offense.  The difference, I think, the big difference to me as a judge is this individual takes criminal steps to hide his identity and also to arm himself with a weapon that‘s likely to cause serious, serious bodily injury.  I mean, a punch to the face with brass knuckles.  She is lucky she didn‘t have a bone fragment going into her eye or something like that.  And that separates him from a street fight.  That turns him into a very serious criminal.  And I don‘t have a problem with the three years in prison.  I assume that there were probably some priors as well. 

What I do have a problem with is that I think he should have been followed up with probation, because he‘s going to get out of prison right about the time he hits 19, and that‘s a notoriously violent age.  I would like to see him on supervision for a period beyond that so that he doesn‘t violate again.

ABRAMS:  Judge Alex, Contessa Brewer, thanks a lot. 

FERRER:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  “Caught on Camera: Teens Gone Wild airs at 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be sexiest man alive, Matthew McConaughey, now the national spokesperson for bee; Miley Cyrus who says she wants to star in a sexless, “Sex and the City”; or the man you just saw in the video there, Peter Brady, upset with this TV mom, Florence Henderson, for claiming his marriage isn‘t really sexy. 

Plus your E-mails in the “P.O.‘d Box.”  We‘ll be right back. 


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  But tonight, we‘re going to try something a little different.  So with me to help pick the champs from the chumps is MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer who‘s going to lay them out.  And then she and I are going to talk about whether they‘re winners or losers.  Contessa?

BREWER:  We may or may not disagree. 

ABRAMS:  We may or may not? 

BREWER:  OK.  So first off, Matthew McConaughey is now the spokesman for - are you ready for this?  The National Cattleman‘s Beef Association.  Let‘s show it.  Oh, yes, he is.  I mean, there you have it.  I would say 99 percent lean, USDA approved, meaty, juicy, delicious.  What is not to love?  He even recorded radio commercials.



Discover the power of protein when you eat lean beef.  Beef, it‘s what‘s for dinner.


BREWER:  Yes, it is.  Dan, winner or loser? 

ABRAMS:  Apart from the ad, this is a guy they have taken photos of passed out drunk, right, who‘s been in trouble with the law before.  This is the guy you want as your spokesperson? 

BREWER:  I don‘t remember any of that.  How can you remember that when you see this ...

ABRAMS:  Because I‘m the legal guy.

BREWER:  ... this picture right here.  I mean - and he‘s beef.  It‘s like where‘s the beef?  Here it is, baby. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to say, I think that the beef people are the losers. 

Not since they sued Oprah have they made such a big mistake. 

BREWER:  OK.  How do you like this one - a big mess in the Brady household. 

Christopher Knight, a.k.a. Peter Brady - isn‘t that the middle one? 


BREWER:  Lashing out at his TV mom Florence Henderson for calling his marriage a sham.  Peter Brady married Adrianne Curry, the winner of “America‘s Next Top Model.”  He met her on the “Surreal Life,” that‘s a reality show.  And Knight apparently rebelled against his TV mom like, you know, any teen might do.  He wrote in his MySpace page - MySpace - he‘s asking for the two women in his life, his TV mom, and his real wife, or is it a TV wife, to find a way to come together in a peaceful and respectful way.  Dan, winner or loser? 

ABRAMS:  $Any time you are at odds with Florence Henderson, who I love, you‘re a loser, OK?  Now, Peter Brady has been on the show.  Seems like a nice guy.  I don‘t know exactly what Florence Henderson is doing getting involved in reality show conflicts. 

BREWER:  Well, she says that they asked her to counsel them before they got married. 

ABRAMS:  But what counsel do you really need?

BREWER:  Counsel -

ABRAMS:  You then like talk about it publicly if you‘re really counseling? 

BREWER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  I mean, you know, so - 

BREWER:  I think just the fact he is, what, 40-ish something and he‘s got a MySpace page. 

ABRAMS:  But that‘s good.  I mean that‘s great if he has a MySpace page.  But again, I say when you are at odds with Florence Henderson - Mama Brady, it‘s bad.  You are a loser. 

BREWER:  OK.  I agree with you.  Loser.  But we‘ll - different reasons.  Miley Cyrus told “TV Guide” she would love to do a younger, cleaner version of “Sex and the City.”  Is she kidding?  What exactly is the cleaner version of “Sex and the City?”  When you take away the sex and 30-somethings, it‘s just “and the city.”  Of course, it might be a hard sell, because this new picture surfaced today, allegedly stolen from Miley‘s cell phone. 

The picture might not be real.  However, add this one to the other pics that we know are real and you‘ve got this news that singer Katie Perry of the number one summer song “I Kissed a Girl” sang that she wants to kiss Miley, I‘m thinking, little Miss Hannah Montana probably isn‘t the ideal candidate for a clean “Sex and the City.” 

ABRAMS:  What does that mean, the clean “Sex and the City”?  I mean -

BREWER:  Boring. 

ABRAMS:  It sucks in the city.  I mean it‘s not going to be a very good show. 

BREWER:  No.  So I think the clean version of “Sex and the City,” thumbs down. 

ABRAMS:  Miley is a loser. 


ABRAMS:  All right.

BREWER:  We just called the 15-year-old a loser.  Guess who‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ABRAMS:  She‘s been a loser on the show before.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Contessa, this was fun.  We tried it out.  Kind of worked.

BREWER:  Yes.  It kind of.

ABRAMS:  Did it work? 

BREWER:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Winner or loser - was the segment winner or loser? 

BREWER:  I say winner. 

ABRAMS:  You know, I say - yes, it was good.  It worked out all right. 

BREWER:  Oh, love the sound effect.  You guys are really on top of things. 

ABRAMS:  Except we didn‘t get to do letters because we didn‘t know how to time this thing.  So all the time we have for tonight.  And you can thank Contessa for the fact that your E-mails did not get read tonight - verdict@msnbc.com.  Include your name and where you‘re writing from.  See you tomorrow. 



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W atch Verdict with Dan Abrams each weeknight at 9 p.m. ET


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