updated 7/30/2008 11:16:15 AM ET 2008-07-30T15:16:15

Guest: Pete Williams, Campbell Brown, Tanya Acker, Andrea Tantaros, Roy Sekoff, Melanie Sloan, Michael Walsh, Clint Van Zandt, Nicole DeBorde, Ashlan Gorse

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to the show, coming to you from Los Angeles, where today, an earthquake shook us here, centered (ph) east of L.A. in Chino Hills.

It was felt down to San Diego and all the way east to Las Vegas.  It measured 5.4 in magnitude.  No major damage or injuries reported.  But it was strange to feel the building I was in shifting and swaying, the walls and the floors shook.

But, from real tremors to political tremors.  We begin tonight with the political world buzzing about Obama‘s V.P. pick.

As always, we‘re On Their Trail assessing who won and lost the day.

First up: Barack Obama may finally be close to settling on a running mate.  Many signs, at least right now, point to first term Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, a relative newcomer on the national political scene.

The “Washington Post” reported today that Kaine is in, quote, “very serious conversations with Obama about joining the ticket.”  There are even rumors of a secret meeting in Washington today.  Obama was spotted twice this afternoon visiting the office of Eric Holder, the man heading his search for V.P.  At the same time, Kaine was denying he‘s Obama‘s choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA:  I haven‘t sought it, I‘m not running for it, I‘m not asking for it.  I never asked anything of the campaign.  I didn‘t endorse him to get anything.  I endorsed him to help him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But he didn‘t say he wouldn‘t take it.

With us tonight: “Huffington Post” editor, Roy Sekoff; Republican strategist, Andrea Tantaros; and, Democratic analyst, Tanya Acker.

All right, Tanya, you‘re in house with me.  What do you make of this?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST:  I think this is a good choice for Obama for a couple of reasons.  He needs somebody with some executive experience.  Virginia is certainly in play for Democrats this year.  And I think that he can help seal that deal.

Certainly, Kaine is a first term governor, so that doesn‘t put to rest some of the experience issues that people have with Obama.  But, I think, on the whole, this is a good pick.

ABRAMS:  But it also seems to me, Roy, they can continue to make the argument that we‘re not going put in a Washington insider, the argument can continue to be made that they‘re going to try and change Washington.  I mean, that would be hard to do with a longtime U.S. senator; a relatively new governor, you can make that argument.

ROY SEKOFF, FOUNDING EDITOR OF “HUFFINGTON POST”:  Yes, I mean, that‘s the up side of it, Dan.  And for headline writers who want to make bad puns like raising Kaine and is Kaine able.  But, in general, I think, this is not that good a pick for progressives at all.  I mean, he‘s not going to send a tingle up any Democrat‘s leg.

I mean, if we look at his record, you know, he‘s pro-life, which is not going to really mollify a lot of the Hillarites (ph) who were wondering to see who Obama was going to pick and his instance on Iraq was not so great, either.

ABRAMS:  Roy, are you guys looking to win or -

SEKOFF:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Or, I mean, are you guys just looking just at a matter of principle?  I mean, isn‘t—you know, Roy, look, you know politics.  I mean, wouldn‘t the strategy be to not pick someone who was just like Obama or certainly even to the left of Obama if you‘re trying to appeal to those Reagan Democrats and centrists?

SEKOFF:  Oh, certainly.  I don‘t think, but, I mean, if you look at it, just may be two weeks ago, Kaine was just the third most likely choice from Virginia.  You know, we had Webb and we had Warner.  I think this is kind of a settling choice.  It‘s not a big loss, like you say, it‘s not branding him the wrong way with an old senator, or somebody who‘s too entrenched, but I don‘t find it a very exciting pick.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Andrea, what do you make of it?

ANDREA TANTAROS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I think this is a great pick.  Look, this is a guy who can bridge that gap between Catholics, working voters, he speaks fluid Spanish.  He is a Washington outsider.

And you know what?  I predicted last week in a column, I went against my Republican colleagues, I suppose, but I said, “If Obama was able to get through that foreign trip without any major gaffes, he would able to remove or, at least, weaken the Republicans‘ arguments that he doesn‘t have foreign affairs gravitas.”  And I think that‘s exactly what happened.

I think, you can make an argument against any of these V.P. names, but, you know, I think that Kaine is a good one.  I don‘t think the foreign affairs issue is that big.

ABRAMS:  Tanya, does it scare you when you hear someone like Roy, a smart political analyst like Roy, to say that we‘re not concerned or he‘s note a great pick or he‘s a draw, or he‘s not interesting because he‘s not progressive enough?  I mean, is that where Obama wants to go so that the left of the party dictates who the V.P. is?

ACKER:  No, of course not.  I mean, with all due respect to Roy, Roy, I‘m a big fan, we need to be very smart about this election.  And Obama needs to be clear about where most of the country is.  Now, certainly Kaine is pro-life but Barack Obama is pro-choice and I don‘t think there‘s any question that he‘s going to be true to that part of the Democratic platform.

I think, this is a very astute pick or it is a pick.  I think it‘s a very astute choice for Obama.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, I‘m going to call this a draw.  I always thought that Hillary Clinton should have been, at least, considered, more than she was.  But if Tim Kaine can deliver Virginia for him, well, then that might make it worth it.

Next up: John McCain, flip-flop express comes off the rails again.

McCain actually touching that third rail for conservatives, suggesting he would consider raising taxes.  This time, he even needed his campaign spokesperson to bail him out and swore he wouldn‘t do it.  McCain has stated in the past that tax hikes were out of the question.  He apparently forgot that pledge during an interview on ABC on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”/ABC)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  So, that means payroll tax increases are on the table, as well?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  There is nothing that‘s off the table.  I don‘t want tax increases but that doesn‘t mean that anything is off the table.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  With (ph) their payroll tax diverted into accounts.

MCCAIN:  I‘d say that everything is on the table that has to be on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That apparent shift in McCain‘s position has angered many conservatives including the Club for Growth which called McCain‘s move, quote, “shocking.”  Team McCain attempts some damage control earlier today with the campaign aide basically saying, “McCain doesn‘t speak for us.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICA‘S NEWROOM‘/FOX NEWS)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX ANCHOR:  McCain gets in the White House, is he going to raise the payroll tax?  Might the Social Security tax go up?  Is that on the table?

TUCKER BOUNDS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN:  No, Megyn, there‘s no imaginable circumstance where McCain would raise payroll taxes.  It‘s absolutely out of the question.

KELLY:  Is he going to raise the payroll tax just to help (ph) Social Security or isn‘t he?  Is that on the table or isn‘t it?

BOUNDS:  Megan, there‘s no imaginable circumstance where he‘ll raise taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Andrea, did I miss something there or did John McCain just say, “It is on the table,” and then his campaign spokesperson almost mocked it as if, “Oh, don‘t listen to that guy, come on, he doesn‘t represent the campaign”?

SEKOFF:  He‘s just the candidate.

TANTAROS:  Yes, you know, I‘m a diehard fiscal conservative.  So, this doesn‘t send a tingle up my leg, it actually sends a chill down my spine when I hear this.  You know, I think, it‘s probably a draw because his campaign spokesperson came out and said, “This is absolutely not true”—hang on a second, hang on a sec.

ABRAMS:  You‘re to equate his campaign spokesperson coming out and correcting something the candidate said, right?

TANTAROS:  Well, look, if he continues, I said, this is a draw now, but it could be a huge loss.  Why?  Because John McCain got the name “maverick” not from being predictable and he just confirmed what conservatives are suspicious of him for.  If they don‘t hammer this home, if they don‘t keep hammering home that he will not raise taxes, this will be a loss.  But, for now, they try to put a band-aid on it.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll give you this, this was unpredictable.  Meaning, I think that McCain say one thing and his campaign aide say something else, that‘s unpredictable.

SEKOFF:  You know what‘s shocking, Dan—it‘s shocking, though, really, after 25 years of running, you know, for office, of being in office, that he‘s running such a miserable campaign.  You think after all that time he‘s figure out when he doesn‘t want to give an answer like the one they asked him about gay adoption, he could not give an answer instead of melting down, like he did also when he was asked about, you know, the insurance companies is paying for Viagra—shocking.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s go through this, alright?  McCain in February, here‘s what he said -

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS”/ ABC/FEB. 17)

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So on taxes, are you a read my lips candidate—no new taxes no matter what?

MCCAIN:  No new taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  Then we got March 3rd, I‘m not making—he says in the “Wall Street Journal” March 3rd, “I‘m not making a ‘read my lips‘ statement in that I will not raise taxes.  But I‘m not saying I can envision a scenario where I would, OK?”

Then, March 27th.  “I‘ll wait forever to increase Americans‘ taxes because I don‘t think that‘s beneficial to our economy.”

Look, here‘s what I think is really happening, Tanya.  I think that McCain is actually a practical guy, and he does not want to box himself into saying—no way, no how, no new taxes.  Meaning, he doesn‘t want to get caught up, does it mean no new taxes if he repeals some of the Bush tax cuts, et cetera.  And I think he just wants a little leeway that the Andrea Tantaroses (ph) of the world aren‘t willing to give him.

ACKER:  He may be practical, but a straight talker, he is not.  And I‘m really, I sort of have done with this myth of the straight-talking maverick who says one thing and holds fast to it for 35 years.  That‘s just not true.

ABRAMS:  No.  He‘s a maverick in the sense that, you know, I don‘t think that anyone else would have the guts to have this many times to like be able to keep switching on this and not really—you know?  But look—anyway.

SEKOFF:  Dan, he‘s gotten in the habit of even denying that he said something the day after, even though he seems not to remember this is old videotape.

ABRAMS:  This has to go down as a huge loss for McCain.  This issue of taxes helped lose the election for George Bush in 1992.

Next up: Obama on tape handicapping his odds of winning the White House.  Last night, he held a private fund-raiser with donors in Virginia, telling them he likes his chances.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When we started this campaign, let‘s face it, there weren‘t too of y‘all who thought we were going to pull this off.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA:  We are now in a position where the odds of us winning are very good.  But it is still going to be difficult.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Some on the right already jumping on comment as a sign of Obama‘s arrogance.  The Republican National Committee is launching a new Web ad today, mocking Obama‘s trip to Berlin, which the McCain camp called a premature victory lap complete with techno music and, yes, of course, David Hasselhoff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE AD)

OBAMA:  People of Berlin -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obama is an inspiration to us all.  Feel the love.  Yes, we can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If we do this and we do that, yes, we can, if we work together, yes, we can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think he‘s like (INAUDIBLE) back in the United States (ph), they should be fun (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have friends in America that are Marxists and they support and they‘re working for, you know, Obama.

OBAMA:  The people of Berlin have spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m the king of the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Hey, Roy, you know, you got to give them credit.  It‘s a funny ad. 

Come on.

SEKOFF:  Dan, funny?  That‘s the one thing the GOP should stay away from.  That is just horrible.  That‘s like a bad “Saturday Night Live” version of sprockets.  You know, now we dance, you know?  It‘s really bad, really bad.

But here‘s the thing—what do you want Obama to say?  “Hey, people, give me your money, it‘s like flushing it down the toilet.  I don‘t really think I have a chance.  I just pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history.”  But you know, come on.  I‘m not (INAUDIBLE).  What else do you say, don‘t you want a guy who thinks he‘s going to win?

ABRAMS:  And, Andrea, I mean, you do, every time you hear a candidate introduced even if it‘s Ron Paul, they‘re introduced as the next president of the United States, right?

TANTAROS:  Well, right.  But that‘s coming from somebody else‘s lips and not their own.  And I think it would be better served to have his surrogates and the left-wingers to say, “Yes, he is going to win.  His chances are good.”

Look, America likes an underdog.  They don‘t want to hear someone who thinks that their odds of winning are good.

And, you know, I think, Barack Obama, he‘s coming off, you know, slaying the Clinton machine.  I think, he‘s coming off a very positive trip in Europe, and, I think, he‘s feeling very good about himself.

But he‘s got to be careful.  This is a guy who made a fake presidential seal.  Why confirm weaknesses about yourself?

ABRAMS:  Look, I got to wrap this up.  I kind of agree with you.  I‘m going to put this down as a loss for Obama.  Stuff happens all the time.  Every candidate is introduced as the next president.  But I don‘t think it‘s dangerous for Obama to let McCain play the role of the underdog.

So, that gives me on my scorecard, a final score tonight of one loss for Obama, one loss for McCain, and one draw.

Andrea Tantaros, Roy Sekoff, and Tanya Acker, thanks a lot.

SEKOFF:  OK (ph).

ABRAMS:  Coming up, one of the most powerful Republicans in the Senate, Ted Stevens indicted today in a corruption scandal.

And the mother who waited a month to report her two-year-old daughter missing is back in court today after jailhouse tapes were released.  Her lawyer is with us.

Plus, the EPA is now ordering its employees not to talk to Congress or the press because they haven‘t done enough on global warming.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: The Environmental Protection Agency issuing a gag order to its staff.  An EPA e-mail has come to light, instructing employees not to talk to reporters, congressional investigator, or even the agency‘s inspector general.  Particular troubling, this comes as the EPA is already taking heat for allegedly trying to bury documents that say that greenhouse emissions could be dangerous to the public.

Today, three senators called for the EPA chief resignation.  The EPA chief issuing gag orders when it should be protecting the public: Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with the indictment of the most senior Republican senator, Ted Stevens, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I am innocent.  Those words coming tonight from indicted Republican senator, Ted Stevens, of Alaska.  The 84-year-old Republican is hit today with seven counts with making false statements after allegedly failing to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts and home repairs.

NBC‘s Pete Williams has tonight‘s story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For seven years, federal prosecutors claim Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska illegally kept a secret, failing to reveal that a private company helped do major work on his house in Alaska, violating a federal law that requires disclosing gifts.

MATTHEW FRIEDRICH, ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  These renovations are alleged to have included the addition of a new first floor with multiple bedrooms and a bathroom as well as a finished full basement.

WILLIAMS:  Prosecutors say Stevens paid a contractor for some of the work, but they say, much of the renovation was done by employees of VECO, an oil field services company based in Alaska and run by friend.  And they say, Stevens never repaid the company for what it did.  Total value of that work and materials, prosecutors say -- $250,000.  That includes new furniture, a pricey gas grill, and outdoor lighting.  None of it, prosecutor say, was ever listed on his financial disclosure forms.

STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE:  The point of these forms is to make sure that these lawmakers are actually disclosing where they‘re getting their money so we know they‘re working on the public‘s behalf and not on their own personal behalf.

WILLIAMS:  In a written statement, Senator Stevens said today‘s indictment “saddens” him and he‘s “never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form.”  But analysts say this could be a fatal blow to his political future.

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Senator Stevens was considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans running for reelection in 2008.  Now, with an actual indictment hanging over his head, it‘s probably impossible for him to survive.

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Prosecutors say they brought the charges when the case was ready and that the Alaskan election was not a factor.  Even though Senator Stevens is 84, if convicted, he could face prison time.

Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Justice Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is the executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Melanie Sloan; and back with us is Roy Sekoff.

All right.  Ms. Sloan, let me ask you, I mean, if he had disclosed this, if he had said, “Look, I‘ve got a friend, he‘s doing me a favor, we‘re old friends,” is that OK?

MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS IN WASH.:  No, then they‘ve had to prosecute him for bribery.

ABRAMS:  Really?

SLOAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  I mean, can he not—let‘s say it‘s his oldest college friend in the world, can that person give him any sort of gift, do any work for him, et cetera?

SLOAN:  You‘re old friend can give you some kinds of gifts, but if they‘re over a certain value, you have to clear them with the ethics committee.  But here, it isn‘t just that he was given the gift, it was that he lied on his financial disclosure forms, a form you sign under oath.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Now, that I got.  I mean, it‘s that he didn‘t disclose the information.  I was just interested in how that works in terms of what he‘s allowed to do and not allowed to do.

All right.  Roy, let me ask you a political question here.  Republicans have been having a bunch of legal woes as of late.

Since 2003, now Stevens charged here; Representative Rick Renzi facing extortion and money laundering charges; Larry Craig, of course, pled guilty to disorderly conduct; Bob Ney sentenced to 2 ½ years in the Abramoff scandal; Randy Cunningham sentenced to over eight years for corruption.  And, you know, and that‘s just the people who are actually charged.

Is this an ongoing problem for Republicans?  Because, on the other side, of course, you‘ve got Jefferson and others, Democrats who have gotten into trouble, too.

SEKOFF:  Yes.  I mean, I think it does cut both ways but that list you just read, that seems like a pretty ad for, you know, Democrats running in 2008.

I think this is a major development, though, Dan.  I mean, don‘t forget that there‘s not been a Democrat elected from Alaska to Congress since 1974.  And right now, this looks like a seat that could very easily go to the Democrats.  That will be a major pickup.

The very popular mayor of Anchorage was already ahead of Stevens.  He‘s running on a very, you know, ethical—commitment ethics.  So, I think, this just helps him a lot.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Melanie, is this going to open a door, do you think, to more investigations of senators?

SLOAN:  I think it really does.  The unusual thing about this prosecution is that it‘s a very rare prosecution that focused only on lying on the financial disclosure forms.  Usually, that‘s something that prosecutors add on at the end of the indictment, all the bribery and on his services fraud (ph), and then they add on making false statements.

But here, they went over the false statements alone.  That should have a lot of members of Congress looking over their financial disclosure forms and worrying about whether they need to file amendments right away.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Melanie Sloan and Roy Sekoff, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

SEKOFF:  OK, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: Still no sign of two-year-old Caylee.  Her mother waited over a month to report her missing is back in court today.  Police say she‘s not cooperating.  We‘ll ask her lawyer why not.

And: It was evident how little news FOX knows—how little some of those at FOX know about the entertainment industry.  During reports about actor Shia Laboeuf or Shiya Labof (ph), or Sheeya Laboeuf (ph).  It‘s funny.  They mispronounced that (ph).  That‘s coming up in Beat the Press.

Your VERDICT, email us at: Verdict@msnbc.com.  Your emails are in the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing.  Back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First up: Sometimes it‘s funny to hear news folks report on the entertainment industry, in particular about people they don‘t know, like actor Shia Laboeuf, in the news on a DUI charge.  But it seems his name was reported in all sorts of different ways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Shia Labouf (ph), right?  Shia Labouf (ph) is arrested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What is it (INAUDIBLE)?

MEGYN KELLY, FOX ANCHOR:  Labuff (ph)?  Is it Shia Labuff (ph)?  I think that‘s how you pronounce it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shia Labuff (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And Shia Labuff (ph).

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST:  Actor Shia Labuff (ph).

KELLY:  Sheya Laboff (ph) is in deep trouble tonight.  Who is the actress

that was reportedly with Labuff (ph) -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I wasn‘t (ph), my producers had to spell it out phonetically because I had no idea either.

Next up: My pal, CNN‘s Campbell Brown pulling double duty last night.  And she showed one of the perils of being asked to host the 8:00 and 10:00 o‘clock shows.  It can sound alike.  Here now is Campbell Brown at 8:00 and Campbell Brown at 10:00.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

CAMPELL BROWN, CNN HOST:  And Sanjay, Senator McCain has a history of melanoma.

Sanjay, Senator McCain, as we mentioned, has a history of melanoma.

How much do you think people should we be concerned?

How concerned should we be?

And Dana, McCain called this a routine checkup.

And Dana, McCain called this a routine checkup.

It did seem to come completely out of the blue especially to people like you.

But it seemed to you and to a lot of other people covering to really come out of the blue, didn‘t it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Campbell, please don‘t be mad at me, please.  We air the same show at 8:00 and 10:00 on most nights.  So, we‘re not in a position to throw stones.

Finally: it can be distracting when other folks here on the studio will anchoring a live show and FOX‘s managing editor, Brit Hume found out that last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SPECIAL REPORT”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS MANAGING EDITOR:  He was taken to the local hospital with minor injuries.  Novak was cited for failing to yield the right of way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

HUME:  We‘re in the middle on the segment here.  Excuse me - Barack was in Israel on the West Bank today -

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Up next: A judge refuses to block the release of jailhouse phone calls by the mother who waited over a month to report her two-year-old missing, including conversations where she lashes at her family and maintains her daughter is OK.  Her attorney is with us.

And later: The Texas Supreme Court rules that a girl allegedly held down and pummeled, held captive for two days cannot sue the church who did this because of the First Amendment?  We‘ve got an inside look at the controversial practice of exorcism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  New details in the case of the Florida two-year-old Caylee Anthony who has been missing since mid-June.  Caylee‘s mother, Casey Anthony, waited more than four weeks to report her missing.  She remains behind bars for allegedly lying to authorities. 

Now there‘s a storm of controversy - has the family tried to stop the release of jailhouse phone calls?  A judge today ruled on the motion to prevent the public release of the calls made by Casey. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE STAN STRICKLAND, ORANGE COUNTY CIRCUIT JUDGE:  Your position, Mr.  Baez, seems to be, “Just trust us.  We‘re trying to do an investigation here.  And if we get anything, we‘ll tell you about it.  Just trust us.”  Well, it just doesn‘t work that way.  Push comes to shove in a case like this, I‘m going to err on the side of First Amendment every time, and I‘m going to do so here by denying your motion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  We put together some pieces of conversation Casey had with various family members.  And you can probably see why at least they may not want those calls released. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CINDY ANTHONY, CAYLEE ANTHONY‘S GRANDMOTHER:  I don‘t know what your involvement is, sweetheart.  You‘re not telling me where she‘s at. 

CASEY ANTHONY, CAYLEE ANTHONY‘S MOTHER:  Because I don‘t (EXPLETIVE DELETED) know where she‘s at.  Are you kidding me? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Casey, don‘t waste your call to scream and holler at me. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  No!  Waste my call sitting in the jail in this bunk? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Whose fault is you sitting in the jail?  You‘re blaming me that you‘re sitting in the jail?  Blame yourself for telling lies. 

LEE ANTHONY, CASEY ANTHONY‘S BROTHER:  We‘re going to find out.  Something, whatever is going on.  It‘s going to be found out.  So why not do it now, save yourself. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  There‘s nothing to find out.  There‘s absolutely nothing to find out.  That‘s even what I told the detectives. 

LEE ANTHONY:  Well, you know, everything you‘ve been tell us is a lie. 

CASEY ANTHONY:  I have no clue where Caylee is.  If I knew where Caylee is, do you think any of this would be happening?  No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE OF CASEY ANTHONY:  How come everybody‘s saying that you‘re not upset, that you‘re not crying, that you showed no caring of where she is at all?

CASEY ANTHONY:  Because I‘m not sitting here (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crying every two seconds because I have to stay composed to talk to detectives, to make other phone calls, to do other things.  I can‘t sit here and be crying every two seconds like I want to.  I can‘t. 

LEE ANTHONY:  Do you think Caylee‘s OK right now? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  In my gut, she‘s still OK and it still feels like she‘s close to home. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Here now is Casey Anthony‘s attorney, Michael Walsh, MSNBC analyst.  And former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt is here with as well.  Thanks to both of you for coming on. 

All right.  Mr.  Walsh, you listened to those tapes which you all fought very hard to have not released.  Your client, again and again, is denying any involvement certainly in a homicide.  Why fight so hard to keep them quiet? 

MICHAEL WALSH, CASEY ANTHONY‘S ATTORNEY:  Because the main purpose of this is to make sure that little Caylee is alive.  As you can tell from the phone calls, Caylee‘s been kidnapped.  Without going into what the kidnappers told Casey, obviously, you can imagine Casey‘s main concern is the welfare of her child, not whether or not she gets bad publicity.  I don‘t think she could get any more bad publicity.  But the focus of the motion was to protect little Caylee‘s life.  We believe she‘s still alive. 

ABRAMS:  Well, but you say it‘s to protect Caylee and what is it about the release that you‘re concerned about?  I mean, I would think that the problem for you, for your client, is that it seems from these calls that a lot of the family members believe or at least believed that Casey had done something wrong. 

WALSH:  Sure.  At first glance, that‘s exactly what it looks like.  And it‘s odd that somebody would report their child missing after 31 days.  But as the facts in this case come out, there will be - I don‘t want to say a good reason but certainly a very compelling reason why Casey did that. 

ABRAMS:  You guys keep saying that and I hear it, and I‘m just trying to figure out what possible good reason, even theoretically, there could be to not report your child missing for 31 days.  Now, again, the operative word is “good reason.”  Can you give us any sort of insight into - even if you don‘t want to get specific - what type of good reason there could be to not report your child missing for 31 days? 

WALSH:  Sure.  If the people who had her told her, “Look, if you go to the police, we‘ll kill her.”  And if you believe that and you believe that very bad, very dangerous people have your child and they‘re going to do bad things to that child if you go to the police, it tends to have a very chilling effect.  And I think the welfare of the child is a very good reason to not come forward. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clint Van Zandt, what do you make of that? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  You know, this is like some bad B movie or something, Dan, that the mother allegedly says, “I can‘t go to the cops because I‘ve seen television and I know if you go to the police or the FBI, your family‘s in danger.”  Hey, reality is she‘s been sitting there 31 days before this information came out. 

Supposedly, there are some reports that she took or stole or borrowed a credit card from her mother and ran up $40,000, $45,000 worth of bills on that credit card.  There were friends who were saying she‘s at a bar, she‘s at a disco.  Her boyfriend says, “She never told me about a missing child.”  When she‘s surrounded by friends and surrounded by her mother‘s plastic and credit cards, you would think somebody might have come out, like, “Oh, by the way, I ought to be out looking for my daughter, too.” 

And in a worst case scenario, if she stole the credit card to take cash advances to pay the kidnappers, there ought to be some financial trail.  Dan, this is one more time I‘ll follow the money. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Walsh, I‘ll let you respond and then I want to ask you a follow-up question.

WALSH:  Those facts are spurious at best.  There‘s no proof of that.  And the fact that she was at different places at different times, we‘re talking over the course of a month.  Of course, she was at different places at different times. 

ABRAMS:  I mean, look, I was going to play the 911 call that she made where she named the person who she believed had the kid.  Is that who kidnapped Caylee? 

WALSH:  I‘m afraid to say the name because if the person‘s watching, who knows what effect it will have on him. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Well, I won‘t say the name.  I‘ll play the 911 tape then from Casey when she was talking about this. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CASEY ANTHONY:  My daughter‘s been missing for the last 31 days. 

911 DISPATCHER:  And you know who has her? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  I know who has her.  I‘ve tried to contact her.  I actually received a phone call today.  Now, the number is no longer in service.  I did get to speak to my daughter for about a minute. 

911 DISPATCHER:  Who has her?  Do you have is a name? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  Her name is Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez. 

911 DISPATCHER:  Who is that - baby-sitter? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  She‘s been my nanny for about a year and a half, almost two years. 

911 DISPATCHER:  Why are you calling now?  Why didn‘t you call 31 days ago? 

CASEY ANTHONY:  I‘ve been looking for her and have gone through other resources to try to find her, which is stupid. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s a name that‘s been out for weeks now.  I mean, this is not I‘m not disclosing this on this program ... 

WALSH:  No. 

ABRAMS:  As you know, Mr. Walsh.  Is that the person who you believed kidnapped Caylee? 

WALSH:  In part, but that‘s not the main person - no. 

VAN ZANDT:  Dan? 

ABRAMS:  Yes, Clint? 

VAN ZANDT:  Where are the - for two years, this was the babysitter.  Where are the pictures of the nanny and the child?  Where‘s a canceled check?  Where‘s a credit card receipt?  Where‘s the driver‘s license?  Where‘s a gas or electric bill for the apartment that she took the police to that had been unoccupied for five months where she said the nanny lived?  This just doesn‘t make sense. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, Mr. Walsh, I mean, that is the problem is that it does seem that all the circumstances - I mean, both you and your co-counsel are being very cagey.  And look, I understand you‘ve got to be careful about what you disclose and what you don‘t disclose.  But it‘s pretty clear that your client didn‘t tell the authorities the truth, that she didn‘t tell anyone in her family about this.  And so I think you can understand why there‘s a lot of suspicion around your client. 

WALSH:  Of course, as there should be, but when the so-called expert has his child kidnapped and held and threatened, then we‘ll see how he reacts. 

ABRAMS:  So you expect that they‘re going to find Caylee alive? 

WALSH:  I hope so. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michael Walsh, thanks very much for taking the time. 

Clint Van Zandt, appreciate it. 

VAN ZANDT:  OK, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  If you‘ve got any information on Caylee‘s whereabouts, please call the Orange County sheriff‘s crime tip line 1-800-423-TIPS. 

Up next, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that exorcisms are protected by the First Amendment even though this woman claims she was physically and emotionally abused as part of the practice.  We‘ll show you what an exorcism looks like. 

And a cop allegedly slams a cyclist to the ground during a protest in the middle of Times Square.  That‘s coming up in 60 seconds. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  This is a video of a cycling event in Times Square.  It‘s “Critical Mass Ride” which is supposed to promote nonpolluting forms of transportation.  But what it surely looks like is an NYPD officer knocking a cyclist off his bike.  The officer‘s been stripped of his badge and gun while the department investigates.  The cyclist was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.  We‘ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  The Texas Supreme Court has made a pretty stunning ruling that a woman cannot sue her church for allegedly pinning her down for two days as they performed exorcisms on her. 

Laura Schubert was 17 years old when she says her youth pastor, his wife and other church members pinned her to the floor, held her against her will for a two-day exorcism that left her physically and emotionally damaged.  The Texas Supreme Court threw out a jury ruling in her favor that held the church liable for the injuries, saying, quote, “Finding the church liable would have an unconstitutional ‘chilling effect‘ by compelling the clutch to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs.”

Core principles of its religious beliefs?  Before we debate this one, first, a look at an exorcism looks like up close.  NBC investigates, tackled the issue, followed ministers who perform exorcisms almost every day. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MINISTER:  You will come out of her in the name of Jesus.  I command all thoughts of suicide.  I command all thoughts of loss and anger and bitterness and self-pity.  I command you.  Come out!  In Jesus‘ name. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was in my face and was screaming at me.  And I remember the demons telling them that I belonged to them. 

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  You will all come out.  I called you by name.  Yes, I called you by name, Satan.  I called you by name, yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Then that was it. 

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  There it is.  There it is. 

If you want to really exorcise a demon from somebody, then take your holy water, your candles, your holy books, and go to the nearest garbage can and throw it away, because you are depending on a thing to help someone. 

So when we drive out a demon, we don‘t use anything except the word that comes out of our mouth. 

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  Are you going to let her go? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No!

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  Yes, you are.  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  Yes.  You‘re not going to hide.  You‘re not going to get away with this.  You understand me?  You‘re not going to get away with this.  I‘m getting in the face of the devil.  I‘m getting out the devil.  I stand in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  That‘s the authority from which I come.  That‘s why stuff starts happening.  That‘s why people scream.  That‘s why demons manifest. 

UNIDENTIFIED EXORCIST:  So in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I command you.  In Jesus‘ name, the spirit of fear.  Come out! Come on, come on.  There it is.  In Jesus‘ name.  Yes, in the name of Jesus, you will come out.  You will not torment my sister now.  Yes, you will come out.  Come out, I said, in Jesus‘ name.  Thank you, lord.  She is going to feel so liberated.  She‘s going to feel so happy. 

And so I command all unhappiness and depression, go in Jesus‘ name. 

People don‘t understand the reality of Satan.  They don‘t understand the reality of demons presently at work in people‘s lives.  Come out.  Are you ready to lift up your hands right now?  I take dominion right now over this spirit that has tormented my sister, that has brought this fear, these panic attacks, in the name of Jesus.  I command you, Satan, leave her alone.  Come out now.  Now.  There it is.  Let it go.  Come out once and for all in the name of Jesus.  There it is, there it is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  What we just saw is tame compared to what Laura Schubert says happened to her.  She says she was held against her will, pinned to the ground and pummeled by church members.  And she was left with cuts, bruises and carpet burns and she was so emotionally traumatized by the event that she started cutting herself.  The Texas Supreme Court is letting the people who did that off scot-free. 

Joining me now is Texas Defense Attorney Nicole DeBorde. 

All right.  Nicole, I want to be very clear.  What we saw in the videotape is not what we‘re talking about in the context of this lawsuit.  But are you telling me that the allegations that were made in this lawsuit should be deemed to be religious freedom? 

NICOLE DEBORDE, TEXAS DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I don‘t think they‘re as clear-cut as we‘ve been describing.  Unfortunately, it sounds like she had a lot of sort of emotional distress-type allegations that she alleged in the lawsuit.  And basically, what the court said in this particular case was if the church believes in exorcisms, they are allowed to perform exorcisms under their First Amendment right, and that‘s all they‘re saying. 

Here‘s where there are some questions some questions about exactly what happened to her and -

ABRAMS:  Right.  But a jury resolved those questions.  I mean, the U.S.  Supreme Court has ruled, right, in 1990, that Native Americans can‘t use peyote in religious ceremonies, all right?  So they can‘t use peyote, but the Texas Supreme Court is saying you can pummel someone as part of an exorcism? 

DEBORDE:  Well, they‘re saying that you can perform an exorcism.  And basically, what they‘re describing or what the case described as the potential injuries which resulted from the attempted exorcism don‘t rise to the level that they feel that they should disturb the church‘s First Amendment right to practice their religion. 

ABRAMS:  But a jury resolved that.  A jury said that they believed that she was mistreated.  And what the court is coming in and saying is, as a legal matter, we don‘t think that juries - we don‘t think that anyone should be deciding what a church does or doesn‘t do.  I mean, think about all of the awful things that people can do in the name of religion which we say no to. 

DEBORDE:  Sure. 

ABRAMS:  I mean, female circumcision, right?  That‘s done theoretically in the name of religion.  Of course we say no to that. 

DEBORDE:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Absolutely not. 

DEBORDE:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  We are not going to let you do that. 

DEBORDE:  Well, there is a dissenting opinion in this particular case which actually agrees with what you are saying.  And the judges, however, that wrote the majority opinion in this case are saying simply that we don‘t believe the conduct that took place in this particular case rises to the level of a sexual assault or female circumcision or something of that nature. 

ABRAMS:  I hear you.  I think it is a horrible decision.  I hope the U.S.  Supreme Court takes a look at it and throws it out.  Nicole DeBorde, thanks very much. 

DEBORDE:  Thanks so much. 

ABRAMS:  Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Miley Cyrus, who a condom company wants for a run as their spokesperson; Ryan Seacrest who had a run-in with a shark; or Dan Quayle reportedly in the running for a spot in “Dancing With The Stars.”  Plus your E-mails - we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” and here to help make the call is Ashland Gorse of “E! News.” 

All right.  First up, teen sensation Miley Cyrus growing up.  She suggested to “E! News” today this may be the last season of her hit show “Hannah Montana.”  Plus, she‘s reportedly the choice spokesperson for condoms.  According to “New York Daily News,” Lifestyle Condoms is offering Cyrus $1 million and lifetime supply if she will peddle the brand.  The VP of marketing reportedly told the paper that Miley is, quote, “the obvious choice to get the message out of safe sex to teens across America.”  A rep for Cyrus said, shocker, she is not considering the offer.  First of all, she is 15. 

ASHLAND GORSE, “E! NEWS”:  Fifteen.  She‘s 15.

ABRAMS:  Right, and this condom company is trying to get her to be the spokesperson.  What‘s the deal with her stepping down?  She is - at the “Today” show, when she was there the other day, I mean, the amount of people who were, like, calling in for like VIP, my kid - why is she leaving?  Is she like Menudo - you‘ve got to leave when you reach a certain age? 

GORSE:  No.  I think, for her - she actually told one of “E‘s” writers, Marc Malkin, that she was not like a normal show.  They actually shoot 30 episodes per season.  She is not like a normal 16 episodes. 

ABRAMS:  So she is working too hard? 

GORSE:  She‘s working so hard (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  since she was 11. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, I am making fun of her, but then, she is a kid. 

GORSE:  She‘s a kid. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  I take that back, all right?  If she were an adult, I would mock her for having to work so hard.  She is a kid.  She shouldn‘t have to work. 

GORSE:  She has movies coming out, albums.  She‘s a busy girl, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  She‘s huge. 

GORSE:  She is.

ABRAMS:  Is she as big as Olsen twins? 

GORSE:  Oh, bigger. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

GORSE:  She‘s the Olsen twins combined into one.

ABRAMS:  Next up, shark bait Ryan Seacrest, the “American Idol” host says he was nipped on the toe by a shark this weekend while swimming in the Pacific off the coast of Mexico.  He recounted the shark tale on his radio show this morning, describing the injury to his co-host a rip pattern that is, quote, “definitely infected.”  Seacrest said he was too busy to see a doctor after the attack.  Instead, he has been popping Advil for the pain.  Actually, I like Ryan Seacrest. 

GORSE:  I love Ryan Seacrest. 

ABRAMS:  You work with Ryan Seacrest. 

GORSE:  I love you, Ryan. 

ABRAMS:  So you have to be careful about this.  But what does it mean like getting bitten on the toe?  What did he tell you happened? 

GORSE:  He said that he was out in the water.  He was only about eight feet out, that was only about four feet deep of water.  So, he‘s just by the surface.  He said something went by that he thought was a stick.  It started swimming.  It bit him on the toe and actually left a shark tooth in his toe.  But it‘s just his toe.

ABRAMS:  Right.  You know the way people make up a story and they‘ve a big scar, “It‘s bitten by a shark.”  Now he can say that.

GORSE:  “I was nibbled on by a baby shark.”  That‘s a better way to say it. 

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  Last but not least, former vice president Dan Quayle - I‘ve got to tell you.  Before I go on, I‘m going to tell you I do not believe this, all right?  I don‘t believe it is true. 

GORSE:  OK.  Now, I‘m going to start laughing.

ABRAMS:  He‘s rumored to be on the shortlist for the fall, no, not as presidential running mate but as a contender on ABC‘s “Dancing With The Stars.”  “Extra” reporting today the former VP is rumored to be under consideration for the show‘s seventh season which premieres in September.  No official word on the rest of the cast.  But socialite, Kim Kardashian, former pop star Lance Bass are supposedly being vetted as well.  Now, while I‘m sure he dances better than he spells, Ashland, the idea of Dan Quayle joining Kim Kardashian, Lance Bass, and others, is almost impossible for me to believe. 

GORSE:  I would tend to say that this is a little good PR for Dan Quayle. 

I think he might have put the story out there himself. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Yes.

GORSE:  Because why?  What demographic is he going to get? 

ABRAMS:  Well, Tucker Carlson was on the show.  I mean, you know -

GORSE:  That‘s true.  That‘s true.  But Dan Quayle - come on.

ABRAMS:  I think he‘d  be crazy to do it.  But anyway, I would love it. 

GORSE:  I would rather see you on the dance floor. 

ABRAMS:  Well, thank you so much. 

GORSE:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Ashland Gorse, good to see you. 

ABRAMS:  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  First up, Mike Stewart from Montebello, California writes about CBS editing an answer from John McCain, “I was surprised to see you defend CBS‘ handling of the McCain gaffe.  Do you really believe CBS simply committed an editing mistake?  You were closer to the mark last month when you were talking about Teflon John.” 

Yes, I do.  The notion that CBS intentionally edited it to help McCain is absurd to me.  But that does not change my opinion that the media as a whole has tended to be soft on McCain.  Look, a lot of you wrote in about this.  I am telling you I don‘t believe for a second that CBS did it on purpose.  Inadvertent?  Maybe.  On purpose?  No way.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail us at verdict@msnbc.com.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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

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