updated 8/1/2008 11:41:02 AM ET 2008-08-01T15:41:02

Guests: Andrea Mitchell, Sergio Avila, Brad Blakeman, Tanya Acker, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, David Iglesias, Clint Van Zandt, Catherine Crier, Michelle Suskauer, Alex Ferrer, Kim Serafin

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show, coming to you from Los Angeles.

John McCain accuses Obama of playing the race card.  The latest ugly turn in what had become daily attacks by Team McCain.  McCain‘s campaign manager leveled the explosive charge after Obama warned his supporters that the McCain camp would try to scare Americans out of supporting him.

McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, released this statement, quote, “Barack Obama played the race card and he played it from the bottom of the deck.  It‘s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

McCain himself was asked about the allegation during an interview tonight and he didn‘t back down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SITUATION ROOM”/CNN)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Is that a fair criticism for Rick Davis to say the Obama campaign is playing the race card?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It is.  I‘m sorry to say that it is.  It‘s legitimate and we don‘t—there‘s no place in this campaign for that.  There‘s no place for it and we shouldn‘t be doing it.

KING:  They say that‘s not the case.

MCCAIN:  OK, John.

KING:  OK.  So, I -

MCCAIN:  I‘ll let the American people judge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell has the back-and-forth from what was a nasty day on the trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  John McCain in Wisconsin today was challenged by one of his own supporters about his latest attack ad which tries to trivialize Barack Obama as just another Paris Hilton or Britney Spears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MCCAIN AD)

NARRATOR:  He is the biggest celebrity in the world—but is he ready to leave?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  This, after promising to run a respectful campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When yesterday, you—comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.  Like, I was like, OK.  So, it seems like to Americans like me and other people that you may have flip-flopped on what you said earlier.

MCCAIN:  Campaigns are tough, but I‘m proud of the campaign that we have run.  So, all I can say is that we‘re proud of that commercial.

MITCHELL:  Barack Obama in Iowa fired back.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  So far, all we‘ve been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.  I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with?

MITCHELL:  Obama‘s campaign launched a new Web site to rebut attacks and responded with an ad of its own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OBAMA CAMPAIGN AD)

NARRATOR:  The low road, baseless.  John McCain: Same old politics, same failed policies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL:  And it escalated further.  John McCain said Obama was playing the race card with this comment yesterday.

OBAMA:  So what they‘re going to try to do is make you scared of me.  “He‘s got a funny name.  You know, he doesn‘t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.”

MITCHELL:  In fact, Obama often uses similar lines.  Aides say it has nothing to do with race.  The risk for McCain, some say, it could hurt his good guy image.

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR:  They can soiled (ph) that brand and at the same time reinforce the Obama message.  This is the old politics, it‘s going to return, and these are the Bush people back in the saddle again -

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  When you have a negative attack that scatter shot like that, outside of the context of a powerful positive message, it generally doesn‘t work.

MITCHELL (on camera):  Still, the McCain campaign thinks portraying Obama as just another pop celebrity, famous only for being famous, is the best way to make voters doubt that he could be presidential.

(voice over):  But by going negative, the McCain campaign known for straight talk could be going into risky territory.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  And I think the honest question is—was it a race card or just an honest reference as to whether race is going to be significant?  But, let‘s see what our guests think.

Former judge and author, an Obama supporter, Catherine Crier; former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman; and, Democratic analyst, Tanya Acker.

All right.  Tanya, let me start with you.  You‘re in house here with me.  I mean, look, it seems pretty clear, do you disagree that Obama was referring to race when he said, you know, “I don‘t look like the rest of these presidents”?

TANYA ACKER, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST:  He was referring to a number of things.  He was referring to race, he‘s referring to age, I mean, there are a whole number of things that make Barack Obama different from the presidents who have preceded him.

ABRAMS:  But the bottom line is, I mean, look—you‘re not going to disagree that he is—I mean, they can call it the race card, that‘s the most pejorative way to describe it.  The bottom line, though, is, in that sentence, he is saying, “I don‘t look like the rest of them, “he‘s not talking about age, right?  I mean -

ACKER:  Of course not.

ABRAMS:  Right.

ACKER:  But, look, if the shoe doesn‘t fit, don‘t wear it.  I don‘t think John McCain is a racist, but there‘s no question that they‘re just partisans and certainly his partisans in state Republican committees have engaged in the most offensive and egregious race-baiting.

So, I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with Obama pointing to those tactics and saying they‘re going to be at issue in this campaign.  I think that‘s completely true (ph).

ABRAMS:  Brad, I think, we‘ve got to be honest about this, alright?  Let‘s start from a position of honesty which is to suggest—all right, look, clearly, there is either an implicit or explicit reference there to race.  But, you know what, so what?

So Barack Obama is saying, “I look different than the other presidents” and you know what?  They‘re going to try—they—not necessarily being McCain, but they, McCain or McCain supporters, or people who don‘t want Barack Obama to be president are going to try and exploit that.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  No, it‘s explicit and Obama himself played the race card.  He didn‘t only say, “I don‘t look like every other president on the dollar bill,” and he didn‘t mean he doesn‘t wear a powdered wig, he also said that the McCain people are trying to scare people.

And people know what that means.  Hillary Clinton used it when she was running as a woman, “Everybody is attacking me because I‘m a woman and this wouldn‘t happen if I was a woman.”  The people get it and I don‘t think it‘s going to be (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  But they are trying to them.  I mean, they are trying to scare people about it.

BLAKEMAN:  No, they‘re not.  This only tells people he doesn‘t have the experience (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What are all these attack ads?  Wait, wait, let‘s even just - and let me go to Catherine.  Let‘s even just take straight their attack ads, right—about the patriotism.  That‘s an effort to scare American people saying, “You don‘t want this guy as your president.”

(CROSSTALK)

CATHERINE CRIER, FMR. JUDGE:  Dan, last week, we were just talking about “The New Yorker” cover which was a parity of all the things being passed around the Internet, being said on television about both Barack and his wife—and what do we got?  Her portrayed with this giant afro, gun at her side, looking like a ‘60s radical; he looks like a Muslim.  They‘re burning the Constitution, all these sorts—or burning the flag, all these sort of things.

Give me a break.  This has been the elephant in the room, so to speak. 

It‘s been clearly the topic of conversation among Republicans.

ABRAMS:  But here‘s what I don‘t.  What I don‘t get is why the Obama camp isn‘t just saying, yes, he was talking about—listen it this piece of sound from Obama.  This is Obama at a fundraiser in June, explaining—you know, what some of the issues are going to be.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We know what kind of campaign they‘re to run.  They‘re going to try to make you afraid.  They‘re going to try to make you afraid of me.  He‘s young, and inexperienced and he‘s got a funny name.  Did I mention he‘s black?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, look, Catherine, that‘s an honest assessment by Obama

of what the issue.  I mean -

CRIER:  Dan, I think what you had today is an explicit response from the McCain campaign and I think Obama was saying, “The McCain campaign hasn‘t made the issue of black relevant,” but it is all over the Internet.  We know that this is coming from a lot of the sort of “swiftboat-type” groups.  It‘s something he needs to address.

But today, I think he was making it clear—I‘m not saying -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me let Brad respond.  Go ahead, Brad.

BLAKEMAN:  He doesn‘t have to address it this way.  He‘s lowering himself.  He doesn‘t have to bring race into it.  Everyone knows he‘s an African-American.  Why does the candidate portray himself in this light?

ACKER:  The candidate -

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

BLAKEMAN:  And, Dan, may I say on the patriotism issue.  It was Barack Obama himself who brought that issue into play by taking off his American flag lapel pin and by associating himself with people like Reverend Wright.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

ACKER:  Brad, before we go to the all-important issue of flag pins, what I would point out is that, it‘s not Obama who‘s raised this issue. 

The Tennessee GOP came out with a press release called “Anti-Semites for Obama,” we have seen—excuse me, one second.  We‘ve seen right-wing partisans constantly engage in this type of race-baiting -

BLAKEMAN:  And we see left-wing partisans doing the same thing (INAUDIBLE).

ACKER:  And, excuse me, Brad, when the African-American candidate responds to it, he‘s accused of race-baiting.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But, Brad, here‘s why you just can‘t suggest that they‘re equivalents, all right?  Because the McCain camp in the last week and a half has been on the attack on everything.  They‘ve been the ones who claimed this wasn‘t going it be negative, both he and Cindy McCain went public saying, “We are not going to go negative.”

Now, don‘t tell me about who started, who—they said they weren‘t going to go negative and now that has become the heart of the McCain campaign—right or wrong?

BLAKEMAN:  No, you‘re wrong.  These are adults and it‘s a national campaign.

ABRAMS:  They‘re adults?

BLAKEMAN:  And it is going to get dirty.  That‘s the way it is.  It‘s the fact.

ACKER:  Race-baiting is OK in a national campaign?

BLAKEMAN:  And they‘re going to get dirty.  And we‘re going to get dirty.  But we‘re going it get dirty on the facts and we‘re going to get dirty on innuendo.

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  No, Karl Rove minions came in and started and took over this campaign and you had noticed in the last couple weeks -

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Hang on, one at a time, one at a time.

CRIER:  And that‘s exactly what happened.  When those people, I mean, there were plenty of articles.

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  The people that have moved over and run this campaign, the character has changed.

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Wait a second.  Hang on, everybody wait a second.

Brad made a point and I‘m going to play another piece of sound which is Andrea Mitchell having a little bit of a testy interchange with McCain‘s campaign manager.  But, Brad, you say they‘re talking about issues, right?  That‘s what the McCain camp, the issues have been, explain to me what issue is relevant in the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton ad that the McCain camp most recently released.

BLAKEMAN:  Here‘s the issue.  The issue is -

ABRAMS:  What‘s the issue, Social Security?

BLAKEMAN:  No.  And the fact that the guy has no experience.

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, it‘s health care?

BLAKEMAN:  Experience is probably the most important issue.  This guy paraded around Europe.  The average American spends more time in Europe on their summer vacation than he did and he speaks to a crowd in Germany of 200,000 people who can‘t even vote for him.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  (INAUDIBLE).  All right.  Hang on a second.

CRIER:  No, in fact, the ad is talking -

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the McCain—manager for McCain, all right?  He had had been talking about how Obama likes Arugula and protein bars and he goes to the gym, et cetera.  And here‘s the interchange that NBC‘s Andrea Mitchell had with him earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK DAVIS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN MANAGER (through phone):  And we‘re not the ones who report those things.  Those come out of news reports by folks like you, you know, who make a regular habit of talking about the every detail of our candidates‘ lives both John McCain‘s and Barack Obama‘s.  And so, it‘s not like we are out there digging up what kind of iced tea he likes to drink.

MITCHELL:  But you really think, but, Rick, do you think that focusing on whether or not he eats peanut, protein bars and all of this is part of a dialogue?  I mean, is that really what you want to be campaigning about?

DAVIS:  Oh, I don‘t think, honestly, Andrea, I don‘t think we are focused on it.  You‘re the one bringing it up today, it‘s in the course of the ongoing dialogue that these things are all on the public domain.  And all we‘re doing is accumulating the interesting amounts of information generated by the news media about Barack Obama and putting that together in a public domain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I have been surprised, Tanya, I mean, at how negative it‘s gotten.  And, look, the bottom line is that you hear people who are straight about this, and they‘ll tell you, negative campaigning works.  McCain is behind right now.  He needs to paint Obama in a particular way and, I think, that‘s pretty clear that that‘s what‘s happening.

ACKER:  No question.  And I‘m surprised, too, Dan, I mean, I was really one of those folks who, not withstanding my Democratic credentials thought that John McCain would run a much more above board campaign than he seems to be doing right now.  I‘m surprised that it‘s gone so negative and so fast.

BLAKEMAN:  Where have you been?  Have you been in a cave the last 10 years?  Negative campaigning is effective when it‘s accurate.  Come on, you guys do it and we do it because it‘s effective.  But it‘s not effective all the time; it‘s effective when it‘s selectively used.

CRIER:  Then, Dan, why is it effective to talk about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton?

BLAKEMAN:  Don‘t you have a sense of humor?

(CROSSTALK)

CRIER:  What you‘re dealing there are airheads known for sort of their sexualized, ditsy, obnoxious behavior.  If you want to make a claim the man is not experienced, that is hitting way below the belt.

BLAKEMAN:  Oh, come on, get a sense of humor.  It was—it was a funny ad.  Come on.

ABRAMS:  All right, Brad.  Brad, I‘m going to remember those words very carefully.  Get a sense of humor, OK, because I‘m not—all right, I‘m just going to make sure that sense of humor applies with you down the road because I‘m guessing there are going to be a lot of times that I‘m going to say to you—let‘s have a laugh about it.

Catherine Crier, Brad Blakeman, Tanya Acker, thanks a lot.

BLAKEMAN:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: A federal judge appointed by President Bush ordered senior Bush aides to testify before Congress and that ruling certainly should include Karl Rove.

And the FBI is now involved in the search of Caylee Anthony, the two-year-old whose mother waited more than a month to report her missing.

Plus: A Republican congressman who railed against Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake for their infamous Super Bowl moment, held a fundraiser at a Vegas burlesque club.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  Can you say hypocrisy?  Republican family-values congressman, Pete Sessions, who scolded Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake in 2004 for trying to, quote, “force their liberal values upon the rest of the country.”  Well, we now learned he held a fundraiser at a Las Vegas burlesque club, reportedly spending more than $5,000 on the less than family friendly fundraiser and another $2,100 on hotel rooms.

I‘m sure groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council would bestow with the words (ph), “We‘d be proud.”  Hypocrisy with a capital “H” is another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with a major federal court ruling that senior Bush aides cannot avoid testifying in front of Congress that almost certainly include Karl Rove.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

A huge blow for the White House tonight as a federal judge appointed by President Bush rules the administration is not immune from congressional subpoenas.  President Bush had been repeatedly invoking these immunity claims to keep aides from testifying about whether U.S. attorneys were fired for purely political reasons.

Of course, the White House has also said Karl Rove should not testify before the House Judiciary Committee as they investigate what role he may have played in the politization of the Justice Department.

Judge John Bates declaring, quote, “The executive‘s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law.”

So, President Bush has finally been called on his bluff.  Time and again, we watched top White House aides call to testify, the White House refuses, making immunity an executive privilege claims.

Well, today, a federal court said that‘s not the law.

Joining me now is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and, former U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, one of the U.S. attorneys allegedly fired for not being partisan enough.

Thanks for both of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Representative Wasserman Schultz, let me ask you about this ruling.  This is a very big ruling, is it not?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  It‘s a huge ruling.  I mean, it demonstrates what I‘ve said before when I‘ve been on your program that the House intends to pursue our oversight role in the most aggressive way possible and that there is a separation of powers issue that this very conservative judge—I mean, remember, Dan, this is the judge that decided GAO versus Cheney in the energy secrecy case.  So, we‘re not talking about a liberal here.

The bottom line is that Congress has the right to subpoena, and the executive branch has to respond to that subpoena, show up and testify and assert the privilege question-by-question.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to play in a moment a piece of sound of Karl Rove mocking your committee and I‘m going to ask you to respond to that in a moment.

But, Mr. Iglesias, the judge said in this ruling, “The executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisors on this or in any other context.”  So, as a practical matter, what does that mean for you?

DAVID IGLESIAS, ALLEGEDLY FIRED FOR NOT BEING PARTISAN:  Well, what it means is this is really a huge win.  I‘m extremely gratified.  I know my colleagues are also.  But what this means is—hopefully, we‘re a lot closer to actually finding out the real basis for our improper removals and I‘m very gratified that Judge Bates ruled in the way he did.

I was initially a little bit concerned.  I was afraid he was going try to find some way to duck it and he did not.  He met it head on.

ABRAMS:  I mean, look, this is, you know, this is your life.  You were fired from your job and you believe and there is some evidence to support that the reason was purely political.  What are you hoping that the testimony will show?

IGLESIAS:  Well, you know, what‘s going to happen here is they‘re going to show up, they‘ll testify, and then they‘ll claim immunity, multiple times—executive immunity.  And ultimately, what‘s going to happen is the judge is going to have to actually in-camera inspection, look at the documents, look at the e-mails and make a determination, does privilege cover this or not.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

IGLESIAS:  I‘m hoping that he actually produces—makes the White House produce those documents, which I believe will show a pattern of improper politization.

ABRAMS:  Look—let me play a piece of sound from Karl Rove.  This is Karl Rove last night on FOX after the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold him in contempt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES”/FOX NEW/WEDNESDAY)

KARL ROVE, FMR. AIDE TO PRES. BUSH:  Well, look, this is ludicrous.  The Congress of the United States, the House Judiciary Committee is doing this because they‘re concerned about an issue that is being litigated in court.  I have not exerted any personal privilege on this.  The White House has said, “We want to stand up for the doctrine of separation of powers or for the right of the president to not have his aides and former aides called up to the convenience of the Congress for no good reason at all.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It sound to me, Representative Wasserman Schultz, like what the court has said is, “No, Mr. Rove, actually, you‘re wrong about just about everything you just said.”

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Pretty much.  I mean, this is, really, what it comes down to is that this judge stood up for the Constitution and for the separation of powers but erred on the side of the Congress‘ authorities in terms of the separation of power.

ABRAMS:  Is this going to embolden you more?  I mean, a lot of people have said, “Look, Congress is still not going to do anything.  They‘re going to wait until September and then maybe they‘ll vote on contempt, but, you know, they‘re not really going to force Karl Rove to do anything.”  Does this ruling embolden you in any way?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Dan, I even remember arguing with you about that when I‘ve been here before.  No, on the contrary, it doesn‘t embolden us.  We have been—we have been given a mandate when we took the majority by the American people to reassert Congress‘ appropriate constitutional oversight role.

That‘s what we‘ve been doing and the bottom line for Mr. Iglesias and the other U.S. attorneys and all of the issues that we‘ve been trying to pursue and get to the bottom of, is that we need transparency from an opaque administration.  I mean, and that is what we are trying to do.

And, you know, Mr. Rove can mock us as long as he‘d like, but this, he needs to read this 93-page ruling very carefully because he is coming to a judiciary committee near you.

ABRAMS:  Yes, well, we shall see.  We shall see.  I think we‘re many steps away from that.  Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks a lot.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  David Iglesias, as always, appreciate it.

Coming up: Test results from items found in Casey Anthony‘s car could be coming at any moment, as the search for her two-year-old daughter continues.  Now, the FBI is involved.  Can they help figure out why she waited a month to report her daughter missing?

And: Courtroom brawls on tape.  They seem to be happening more and more often.  We‘ll take a look.

Plus, amazing how many times FOX‘s Bill O‘Reilly made references to rappers last night.  We put together our own riff.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.

What‘s your VERDICT?  E-mail us at: Verdict@mnsbc.com.  Your e-mails are on the P.O.‘ed box at the end of the show.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.

We‘re back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press: Our daily look back at media hypocrisy agendas and the amusing perils of live TV.

First up: Bill O‘Reilly has really become obsessed with rappers Nas and Ludacris.  This is all from last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX HOST:  The vial (ph) rapper Ludacris.  Another ridiculous rapper—Nas.  About Ludacris.  Our pal Nas.  To the rapper Ludacris, Nas is a bad guy.  This idiot Ludacris.  On Ludacris.  He chained (ph) himself, Ludacris.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Culture warrior just keeping it real.

Next up: FOX‘s Sean Hannity really wanted to insult Speaker Nancy Pelosi last night.  He talked about “The Hill” newspaper‘s 2008 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill list.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “HANNITY & COLMES”/FOX NEWS/WEDNESDAY)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST:  Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi—Nancy Pelosi.  Nancy Pelosi ranks in at number four.  Several aides, by the way, who are far more deserving than Nancy Pelosi.  This is supposed to be the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The problem—Nancy Pelosi isn‘t on the list this year.  She was on last year‘s list, but why should that stop Hannity from insulting her again?

Finally: Here‘s one of the perks of being on television.  You can propose marriage in front of thousands, millions.  This is reporter, Sergio Avila, from NBC‘s Yuma, Arizona affiliate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, KYMA-TV)

SERGIO AVILA, KYMA REPORTER:  You know that I love you very much and that, I want you to be a part of my life forever and, so -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re doing it on TV.

AVILA:  I want to ask you -- (INAUDIBLE) -- will you marry me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Yes.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Congratulations to them.  I really would have been amusing peril of live TV if she had said no.

We need your help Beating the Press.  If you see anything right or wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site: Verdict.msnbc.com.  Leave us a tip in the box, please include the show and the time you saw the item.

Up next: The grandmother of two-year-old Caylee Anthony is now angry at the police.  Remember, her daughter waited a month to report her missing, now, the FBI is joining the search.

And later: Courtroom brawls on tape.  They seem to be happening more often than ever.  TV‘s Judge Alex and Catherine Crier take a look at them with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  The FBI has now joined the search for two-year-old Caylee Anthony.  Caylee last seen in the middle of June; her mother Casey waited over a month to report her missing.  She‘s now in jail, charged with, among other things, lying to authorities. 

Now, the FBI has been brought in at the request of the Anthony family.  Local authorities today confirm the FBI met with the family yesterday.  So, does this mean the Anthonys don‘t trust the local authorities?  What does it tell us that the FBI is getting involved?

Here now, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt, defense attorney Michelle Suskauer, and back with us is Former Judge Catherine Crier. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clint, put us behind the scenes on this.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  What does it mean that the FBI has been brought in? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, number one, the FBI would have been there from day one offering to help the local authorities run out of state leads or anything like that.  But where I‘m involved in this interview today, Dan - I‘d sit down and say, “Mr. and Mrs. Anthony, this is a new day.  I have a clean slate.  I have a new piece of chalk in my hand.  I don‘t care what you‘ve told anybody, what you said and haven‘t said.  It starts from this point forward and I‘m sure your attorney has told you that it is a federal violation to lie to an FBI agent.  I know you‘re going to be truthful with me.  We‘re here to find your granddaughter and to help your daughter.  Let‘s move on from this point and let‘s start from the last time you saw your granddaughter.” 

ABRAMS:  You know, Catherine, one of the most interesting figures in this story to me is Cindy Anthony, the grandmother who initially was very hard on her daughter in the prison phone calls but now seems to be really becoming one of her great defenders.  Let me play you a piece of sound.  This is from Cindy Anthony speaking first yesterday. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CINDY ANTHONY, CAYLEE ANTHONY‘S GRANDMOTHER:  She painted a picture every day that I spoke with her while she was looking for Caylee and I think I put almost everything together last night.  And I think I have a good understanding of what‘s going on.  The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall together, I believe.  Remember I said that jigsaw puzzle‘s coming together. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yet, this morning, she wouldn‘t discuss exactly what those details were. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY ANTHONY:  Unfortunately, I can‘t.  I‘ve spoken to authorities with that and that is in their hands. 

MATT LAUER, HOST, “TODAY” SHOW:  But you must know something today or have learned something today that you didn‘t know a couple weeks ago and yet you can‘t share any of that, especially if it might lead authorities to finding this little girl? 

CINDY ANTHONY:  Especially for that because Caylee‘s out there and I am not going to jeopardize her safe return home. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, Catherine, what troubles me is she‘s saying “We don‘t want to jeopardize the investigation by talking about this,” and yet her daughter is currently sitting behind bars because she lied to the authorities. 

CATHERINE CRIER, FORMER JUDGE:  Correct.  Well, the grandmother obviously wants her granddaughter home.  But if hope springs eternal and if believing what her daughter is telling her is helping her maintain that hope, that‘s an understandable thing.  But when the daughter is, is telling the press, is speaking to others saying, “There are details of this I can‘t reveal to keep my daughter safe,” it‘s a bit ludicrous.  Authorities are in on this, that is their job.  And the whole notion that some kidnapper might have this child and harm this child if she speaks out, is beyond nonsensical, and certainly doesn‘t ring true with anyone who spent time in law enforcement. 

ABRAMS:  Michelle, I think you would maybe even agree with that, right?  Or no? 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Oh, absolutely.  I think - unfortunately, there are so many things that have leaked and there isn‘t a lot of client control in terms of all these conversations and conflicting timelines, et cetera.  So you‘d think that she‘d want to get out some positive spin, some positive information to say, “Look at how I‘m cooperating.  I want my daughter back.  She‘s alive.  She‘s out there somewhere.” 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I want to show - Clint, we talked about this a little bit last night. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  These pictures that have come out of Casey Anthony partying on June the 20th.  She had initially said that it was June the 15th or at least it seemed it was June the 15th when her daughter went missing.  And yet, when we were on the program last night with her attorney, he kept saying again and again well, “Well, there‘s an explanation,” when it seems that everyone is saying there‘s an explanation on their side.  The lawyer, the grandmother - but it is very hard to put together the pieces here in a way that does not look bad for the mom. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, the lawyer last night and the grandmother Cindy, every - you know, they‘ve all said that everybody else is lying except for Casey.  And when you pushed him, Dan, to say what about all these lies that Casey has told the police, he wouldn‘t even go so far.  It was like, “Well, it was a matter of semantics or something.  It is not semantics if you take law enforcement to an apartment and say this is where the babysitter lives and nobody has lived there for six months.  That is a lie and that is the challenge that law enforcement is trying to do, Dan.  Casey has got the key to the castle. 

ABRAMS: Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  She won‘t give it up and law enforcement has to try to climb over these 60-foot walls without that key. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And Michelle, what‘s troubling me is the fact that, you know, they keep saying well, you know, they‘re now pointing the finger at law enforcement and blaming law enforcement, et cetera. 

Look, let‘s assume that‘s true, right?  Let‘s assume law enforcement is to blame.  Then what would you do?  Your automatic reaction then would be to get the word out on your own, meaning if law enforcement is blowing the investigation into your missing daughter, what are you going to do?  You‘re going to go directly to the public and you‘re going to say, “Here‘s what we know.  Please, help us.”  Instead, they‘re saying nothing. 

SUSKAUER:  That‘s right.  Well, what they‘re saying - they‘re saying too many things.  There are too many voices coming out that are saying absolutely nothing.  I mean, conflicting stories, “It smells like a dead body.  It smells like a pizza.”  I mean - and so many conflicting stories and the problem is there‘s too much chatter and the lawyer is talking too much. 

(CROSS TALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  I don‘t agree with you that it‘s about talking too much.  It seems to me - and Catherine I‘m going to give you the final word.  It seems to me if the goal here is to find Caylee that the family is not doing what it would take to help do that. 

CRIER:  How many cases - of course, during my time at Court TV, we used to see this all the time where you had families begging for the press to pray attention ...

ABRAMS:  Yes, right.

CRIER:  ... holding press conferences, doing whatever they could do to work with authorities and get the message out to the public.  And when that doesn‘t happen, you cannot help but have a lot of questions. 

ABRAMS:  And that‘s it, questions.  That‘s all we‘re saying.  Clint, Michelle, Catherine, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

VAN ZANDT:  Thanks.

SUSKAUER:  Thank you.

CRIER:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Again, if you‘ve got any information on the case, the Orange County sheriffs, they want to hear it - 1-800-423-TIPS.

Up next, a recent courtroom outburst caught on tape, the latest in a line of courtroom commotion.  Up next, TV‘s Judge Alex and Catherine Crier take a look at them with us. 

And illusionist Chris Angel shackles himself to a hotel balcony as the building is about to implode.  What happened next in 60 seconds.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape, to Florida where illusionist Chris Angel shackled himself to a balcony at the Spy Glass Resort in Clearwater.  His latest stunt, to escape before the building‘s implosion.  To make it out alive, Angel has less than four minutes to pick locks on three doors, run up four flights of stairs and grab on to a ladder suspended from a helicopter.  He did it, stumbling out of the ashes to the cheers of thousands of fans.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A string of outbursts and brawls have left courthouses across the country more chaotic than ever.  A recent example making the rounds on YouTube show a courtroom in Kansas earlier this month when an HIV positive man already in prison for robbery was convicted of battery for spitting in a deputy‘s eye.  At the sentencing, prosecutors recommended 10 years for the defendant Michael Gaines, a hefty sentence but not the max.  Here‘s how he responded. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL GAINES, CONVICTED OF BATTERY:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  I didn‘t hock up no saliva, OK?  That‘s (EXPLETIVE DELETED), and you‘re going to believe those lies. 

You‘re going to raise your voice at me?  You raise your voice at me, I raise my voice at you.  You just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going roll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE:  I appreciate Mr. Gaines making my point now.

GAINES:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you, punk. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE:  Very well received. 

GAINES:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE:  You‘re a tough guy. 

GAINES:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED) punk.  You should have died when you were a baby.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE JUDGE:  Any time, Mr. Gaines.

GAINES:  Shut up, punk. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Shocker, the judge did not take kindly to that

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Gaines, giving him then the max of 13 years.  Before we look at other serious courtroom brawls that took place on tape, joining me now Judge Alex Ferrer, former Florida circuit court judge and the host of “Judge Alex.”  And back with us is former Texas judge and prosecutor Catherine Crier. 

First, let me ask you, Catherine, legally, when someone goes after a judge just with words, insults the judge, mocks the judge, et cetera, it‘s not a good idea if you haven‘t been sentenced yet.  But is it a crime? 

CRIER:  Well, it‘s not a crime.  What it‘s doing is indicating to the judge that there are psychological factors that ought to be considered whether or not this person is appropriate for rehabilitation, all of the factors that a judge might analyze in reaching a sentence.  That outburst then becomes legitimate fodder to consider and possibly raise the punishment that‘s about to be imposed. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Judge Alex, I want you to watch what I‘m about to show here.  Because there have been a lot of cases where the defendant or family member loses it.  I want to ask you what you do to prevent that inside the courtroom. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get back. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get off!  Get off!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Judge Alex, what we‘ve done here is probably a little bit unfair in the sense that we‘ve combined cases where a victim‘s family member got very upset and cases where you know, family members of a defendant lose it in the courtroom.  But what do you do when you‘re the judge and you know that there‘s the potential for something to happen?  What can you do to prevent that from happening? 

JUDGE ALEX FERRER, FORMER FLORIDA CIRCUIT JUDGE AND HOST OF “JUDGE

ALEX”:  Well, the key to that is have adequate security in the courtroom.  I mean, a lot of times because of the nature of the case - sexual offenses against children and crimes committed by serial killers, the judge has a good inkling that there is a possibility for some problems in the courtroom and having adequate number of correction officers. 

In a number of videos I saw the correction officers just coming in late.  I mean, I had a defendant try to lunge at a prosecutor before he got two steps away from the defense table.  My correction‘s officer had him pinned to the ground like a pancake.  The correction officers in the courtroom need to be available or the liaison officers to make sure they maintain order and to control a defendant that is unruly. 

If you know a defendant is going to be violent, there are a lot of things that you can do, especially at a sentencing.  The defendant can be shackled at sentencing.  You don‘t have to be worry about jury impressions and things like that.  There are security belts that we sometimes put on violent prisoners, as well. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Catherine, I‘m going to ask you what it was like to be a prosecutor though when this sort of thing can happen in a minute. 

But first, California man lost it after being convicted of first degree murder for the stabbing death of his girlfriend.  And when his brother got involved, that‘s when it really all got crazy. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JUROR:  We, the jury, in the above-entitled cause, find the defendant, Jesus Pablo Vazquez, guilty -

(COMMOTION AND SCREAMING)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get down!  Out!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Knock it off!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Catherine, I‘ve got to believe that there‘s a concern sometimes about the size of the defendants.  I mean, you see there a number of court officers needed just to hold one person down. 

CRIER:  Well, that‘s what Alex was saying.  If you‘ve got some sort of forewarning, it‘s great that you can be overstaffed.  But most of the time in those courtrooms, you have one deputy sheriff, and oftentimes, they‘re retired from street work.  So sometimes, they‘re older, this kind of thing.  You‘ve got to be very, very careful.  It‘s foreshadowing that you can prepare for.  It is the unexpected event that can really become seriously dangerous, if not deadly. 

ABRAMS:  And judge, you‘ve also got to be concerned about the prosecutor, right?   I mean, you made the point about the prosecutor being lunged at.  I‘ve got to believe the prosecutor is the enemy to many criminal defendants.  Let me -

CRIER:  I remember times when in fact we would try to provoke on final argument this sort thing.  You get a little too close.  You‘d say a few things.  So, the prosecutors aren‘t always disappointed when this occurs. 

ABRAMS:  Unfortunately, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Judge Alex and Catherine Crier, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, the day‘s “Winners and Losers” and the “P.O.‘d Box” coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Back with me again - Kim Serafin, senior editor at “In Touch Weekly.”First up, Lindsay Lohan‘s little sister auditions for a porn director.  Yes, in the latest episode of “Living Lohan,” 14-year-old Ali is up for a role in sci-fi flick that will probably go straight to DVD.  And as the editors at TMZ noticed, one of the guys she‘s auditioning for is legendary porn director Peter Davy, whose credits include, “Breast Wishes 14” and “Fun Busters.”  Lohan‘s reps say 14-year-old Ali was unfamiliar with Davy‘s smutty body of work.  But reportedly, she‘s been offered a role.  So, Kim, did she take it?  Does it make her a -

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  First, I‘d like to say, it‘s apparently “Bun Busters 12,” not just “Bun Busters.”  And I -

ABRAMS:  Good to see that you‘re up on the “Bun Busters” series.

SERAFIN:  It‘s the research that I did.

ABRAMS:  Yes, exactly.

SERAFIN:  Yes.  I would say “Bun Busters 12” sort of on the level of how her sister starter, you know, “Parent Trap” and Disney‘s “Freaky Friday.”  This is just really “Freaky Friday.”  But anyway -

ABRAMS:  Does she take it?

SERAFIN:  “Troll?”  I would she‘s probably going to take it, but kids grow up fast these days.  There‘s a different -

ABRAMS:  But if it‘s a sci-fi flick, it‘s not like she‘s got some big acting career.  I‘d say that would make her almost - and I can‘t quite say a winner.  I couldn‘t get the words out, but almost a winner. 

SERAFIN:  Yes.  If the director didn‘t direct porn films, it‘s just the producer.  So, yes -

ABRAMS:  Oh, my bad.  My bad.

Up next, John McCain taking a shot at his own celebrity constituents.  His latest campaign ad entitled, “Celeb,” aims to attack Obama by comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEMALE VOICE OVER:  He‘s the biggest celebrity in the world.  But is he ready to lead?”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, McCain must have forgotten that Paris‘ parents, Rick and Kathy Hilton, are maxed out McCain campaign donors who probably don‘t appreciate his mocking their little girl.  Now, I don‘t think they‘re going to actually ask for the money back, but you know, probably not the best of moves, if you care.  My guess is he doesn‘t really care about the Hiltons.

SERAFIN:  I think he probably didn‘t do the research and probably didn‘t even put the two together.  Now, apparently, somebody from reporting found out that Paris‘ grandfather, Baron Hilton, gave to Rudy Giuliani‘s campaign.  So maybe this is a little payback for that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Do you think that they care, the Hiltons?  Do you think that they - they‘ve probably gotten so immune, I would guess, to attacks on Paris.

SERAFIN:  Yes, and even - No, it‘s true.  I mean, even TMZ said, “You know, this is so 2007 to use Paris as an example, which is kind of true.  But there is no one really other than Britney who has kind of taken her place.  Maybe Lindsay Lohan, but not as recognizable, so until there is another celebrity, until, you know, Miley Cyrus goes out of control, Paris is still the person.

ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m willing to call McCain a loser on this one.

SERAFIN:  No, I don‘t think -

ABRAMS:  I‘m calling him a loser just because I think the ad is ridiculous.  But anyway, separate issue.

SERAFIN:  I think so people would associate Britney and Paris in that world. 

ABRAMS:  Next up, Sharon Stone gets mocked.  Now, she gets sued.  Christian Dior dumped her from the Chinese ads earlier this year for blaming an earthquake that killed thousands on China‘s, quote, “bad karma.”  Stone issued an apology but it looks like sorry is not enough. 

“New York Post” reporting, 1,000 Chinese earthquake victims are suing Stone for $1 billion, saying her comments caused them extreme emotional distress.  As the Chinese welcome us to Beijing, I guess, we‘re welcoming them to our absurd legal system. 

SERAFIN:  I‘m going to say Sharon Stone is a winner in this, because apparently, there are people that still think that she could possible be worth $1 billion ...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SERAFIN:  ... that she has had successful movies when she really hasn‘t. 

ABRAMS:  But I would say, from a legal perspective, the guy who actually filed his lawsuit, the lawyer - that guy is a loser. 

SERAFIN:  Loser. 

ABRAMS:  Sharon Stone has only been a loser a number of times for this comment. 

SERAFIN:  And she‘s lost the Dior campaign ad. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SERAFIN:  So she certainly doesn‘t have $1 billion to pay. 

ABRAMS:  $1 billion. 

SERAFIN:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  Kim Serafin, good to see you.  Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SERAFIN:  Thanks. 

ABRAMS:  Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.”  Here‘s where you tell me what you love or hate about the show.  It seems many of you are P.O.‘d at Congress for failing to reprimand Karl Rove. 

First up, John Horkulic from Toronto, Ohio, “Speaker Pelosi and Sen.  Reed have no intentions of holding Rove in contempt.  The lame excuse from Rep. Sanchez that they have to set legislative priorities is just a delaying tactic, as they never intend to bring it up for a vote.”

Paul Katzowsky from Maricopa, Arizona writes, “Could Congress be smart enough to put off any action on Rove so as not to have any resolution until after the inauguration?  It seems obvious to me that there are a stack of pardons waiting to be passed out next January.”

That‘s an interesting thought, because people have been talking about whether he may try to pardon people before they actually get charged of anything. 

Finally, Katherine McCulley from Beaverton, Oregon, “We can‘t count on Congress to hold Rove accountable.  I‘m extremely disappointed in Nancy Pelosi.  Dan, you are my hero.  Keep it up!”

Well, that is a great E-mail right there.  Finally.  Thank you. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show verdict@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you are writing from.  You can also catch me on the “Jimmy Kimmel Show” tonight, live from Los Angeles.  I will see you next week from New York.  Have a good night.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2008 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2008 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,