Guests: Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, Tony Blankley, Jaxon Van Derbeken, Michelle Suskauer, Daniel Horowitz, Fabian Pacheco, Renee Schafer-Horton, Danny Bonaduce
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Good evening, Keith. Tonight, with only hours until the Iowa caucus, the negative campaigning kicking into overdrive, the one attack that may not be working - fear mongering. Has the public finally and thankfully tired of one of the Bush administration‘s favorite tactics?
And the co-chairman of the 9/11 commission calling out the administration and the CIA on another tactic, obstruction with regard to the CIA interrogation tapes. This is what prosecutors appointed today to investigate what really happened.
And a high-profile lawyer for two men mauled by a zoo tiger says he‘s investigating what really happened. But with new reports that the animal may have been taunted, is he now using legal tactics and a negative campaign to try to shade the story about why the tiger attacked?
But first, less than 24 hours now until the campaign‘s first battleground, the Iowa caucuses. And as many of the candidates raise the stakes going ugly and negative, it seems there may be some signs that fear-mongering, one staple of the Bush administration, may not be working this time around.
First, the newest “Des Moines Register” poll shows Barack Obama up seven points over Hillary Clinton with John Edwards a close third. Other recent polls show a toss-up. On the Republican side, it appears to be a two-man battle between Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. But today‘s story may be John McCain, suddenly surging and in the enviable position of being viewed a winner if he finishes a strong third. So why would he stoop to the scare tactics that have defined and deflated the Bush administration?
Sure, President Bush used it to beat John Kerry in 2004, running an ad with wolves circling to pounce on America and constantly suggesting Kerry would be weak on terror. But this time around Rudy Giuliani whose campaign is almost entirely linked to the terror threat has been falling fast in the polls. Nationally, Giuliani overwhelming advantage evaporating. In Iowa, he‘s at about 5 percent, barely outside the margin of error. Huckabee and Romney, two former governors with little foreign policy experience, are on top. So with that in mind, why would McCain try to take a page from what may be an outdated playbook, launching this Web ad attacking Mitt Romney to ring in the New Year?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Mitt Romney says the next president doesn‘t need foreign policy experience. Here he is in his own words.
FMR GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, if we want somebody who has a lot of experience in foreign policy, we can certainly go to the State Department.
ANNOUNCER: Is he serious? We live in a dangerous world, and these are serious times. America needs a president who is serious about foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Well, you‘ve got the scary pictures up again. Joining us live from Iowa is MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of “The Nation” and MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell.
All right. Pat, let me just ask you straight out, McCain now seems to be sort of the story emerging out of Iowa on the Republican side. Why would he be going with this fear-mongering. If you see the Giuliani campaign appears to be sinking, other issues appear to be dominating. Is this the right move?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, for McCain it is. I don‘t think - look, I‘m hearing myself in my ear here. Look, for McCain, this is the right move in a sense because foreign policy, security policy, that is John McCain‘s issue. He‘s running third here. What he‘s trying to do is tear down Romney here in Iowa. And frankly, by rerunning his ads that are on the Internet, the MSNBC has given him a little bit of a hand, and he‘s doing the same ones in New Hampshire. That‘s where he can win, and he can win on the issue of, “It‘s a dangerous world, and neither Huckabee nor Romney is fit really to lead, and I am.”
If there is a McCain/Obama race, you will see this emerge as really a tremendously big issue, Dan, because McCain will say it‘s just too dangerous to take a kid out of the state legislature and put him into the White House.
ABRAMS: All right, but this interested me, all right? The top issues for Iowa Republicans, all right? We‘ve got, on the Republican side, immigration, number one, 20percent. Pat told us from the beginning this would be a key issue. Religious values, 13 percent; the Iraq war, 13 percent; terrorism, 13 percent. Top issues for the Iowa Democrats, 28 percent say the war; 22 percent health care; 20 percent, economy. Katrina, the fact that immigration in Iowa - and look, I know that there is a large immigrant community in Iowa, but it‘s not even a border state, that you have the number one issue for Iowa Republicans is immigration. That seems to me to be startling.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER OF “THE NATION”: Well, Dan, I think, you know, we‘ve lived through some savage fear-mongering in these last eight years. I think finally we‘re coming to the end of playing the fear card out of the Karl Rove toxic playbook. But John McCain has hitched his fate to this surge, which, in the end, will be a disaster. And I think he‘s also trying to avert attention from one of his same positions which is his stance on how to deal with 12 million undocumented workers in this country. What he doesn‘t understand, I think, and the Republicans don‘t understand is that for millions of Americans, economic security is what they care about. And the banks may be the new ones people fear in this country as people lose their homes and their jobs.
ABRAMS: You know, Lawrence, again, when we showed that ad from McCain with the pictures, with the fire and the militants with their guns raised up, et cetera, I mean, that is a classic fear-mongering ad, whatever you want to say. Does the demise of Rudy‘s campaign - and I say demise, doesn‘t mean that he‘s out of the game, it just means comparative demise - of Rudy‘s campaign teach a lesson at all about what fear-mongering/the terror threats/running on 9/11 can or can‘t do for a candidacy?
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think Rudy‘s campaign teaches you how many times you can be married before running for president. The McCain ad on Romney is really just McCain pouncing on a stupid thing that Romney said in the campaign. Now, what Romney said is absolutely true of his predecessors, which is when they got elected president, what they did was rely on their advisors. I mean, Bill Clinton didn‘t know anything about foreign policy. He relied on his advisors. Romney‘s saying, “I‘ll rely on my advisors. I don‘t really know anything about this,” completely honest, but a very stupid thing to say in the campaign and McCain jumped on him.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Dan, could I say something? “The Nation” reports today that John McCain, who spoke out about the swiftboaters, who defined smear and fear in 2004, he spoke out in those years, he has taken close to $63,000 in this round to save his floundering campaign. And I think that says something, one, about the nature of the Republican party today, the fact Romney has taken $70,000, and the fact that the swiftboaters may play, again, a very ugly role because Karl Rove may be out of the White House, but he‘s not out of the toxic DNA of this Republican party.
BUCHANAN: OK, but look - Dan, let‘s stop the Republican/Democrat thing. Both campaigns and both parties run on two things, fear and hope.
The fear is if you vote for Republicans, you‘re going to lose your
healthcare, you‘re going to lose your job, it‘s going to China. If you
vote for the Democrats, America won‘t be secure, that you‘ll have another
9/11. And if this goes on -
ABRAMS: But if you‘re talking about fear and hope - But Pat, if you talk about fear and hope, how does the fact that the Republicans in Iowa name immigration as their number one issue relate to hope?
BUCHANAN: Let me tell you something, Dan. Come out to Iowa. It‘s a number one issue because the people of Iowa make it number one. Sam Brownback was an amnesty guy. He came out here, and after his first 45 minutes, he said, “Does anybody want to ask me anything about immigration?” Dan, people make issues. You‘ve got to understand that. Sitting in that studio up there in New York, but the folks out here decide often what people talk about.
ABRAMS: Look, Katrina, to give Pat his due, he has been saying since the beginning of this campaign, don‘t forget about the immigration issue.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You can‘t forget about it.
ABRAMS: It is going to be the crucial issue. And he says in the general election as well.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I don‘t think it‘s going to be the crucial issue in the general election. I think it‘s going to play and play hard and play tough and play mean in congressional districts in this 2008 race because don‘t forget, we have some tough senate and congressional races. Those are crucial. And I think around this country there is a lot of pain. But if there isn‘t a sane response and a humane response to immigration, all workers in this country are going to suffer, undocumented and documented.
ABRAMS: Lawrence, let me ask you this. And Pat refers to it as up here in the studio in New York, and let me refer to it, as almost an outsider, OK, as someone looking from the outside in, there‘s a big deal being made about something that Hillary Clinton just said on the campaign that we‘ve just gotten taped in of. And it‘s supposedly of here maybe taking what Barack Obama‘s tag line was. Let me play it for you. Do we have the tape? All right. This is from Hillary Clinton today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we are fired up, and we are ready to go because we know that America is ready for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. So Lawrence, some people are saying, oh wait, that‘s Barack Obama‘s line, “fired up, fired up.” I mean, do we really care? Is that really a big deal? Are we really going to suggest that somehow because Hillary Clinton is saying that they‘re fired up, that she‘s stealing the line from Barack Obama?
O‘DONNELL: It just shows you how bankrupt the campaigns are at this point. You know, the word “change” polls well among Democrats. And so, you know, Obama has it on all of his posters, and now Clinton wants to use the word. It‘s the cheapest kind of campaigning, just taking the poll-tested words and throwing them out there for the audience. And that‘s what she‘s got left at this point.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But Lawrence, there is a hunger. There is a hunger for change in this country.
O‘DONNELL: Oh, come on.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Lawrence, how can you say there‘s not a hunger for change? And you know who‘s speaking to it most effectively in my view? John Edwards is speaking on the economic inequality, the corporate power and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) war most powerfully.
O‘DONNELL: Yes. Yes. Yes.
ABRAMS: Pat - all right. Hang on a second. Hang on.
BUCHANAN: Let me talk about fear.
ABRAMS: Pat, I‘ve got to wrap it up. Pat, real quick, and then I want to ask you - at the end of your thought, I want you to tell me who you predict who is winning for Democrat and Republican. Go ahead, real quick and finish up with that thought.
BUCHANAN: All right. On fear, Kennedy ran on a missile gap that didn‘t even exist against Nixon and won. LBJ ran the daisy commercial, the world‘s going to blow up if you vote for Goldwater. And they did that on fear because they were the incoming president or because they were the party of security.
Who‘s going to win out here in Iowa? The question is, I would say Romney and Huckabee are much closer than the Des Moines poll shows. And if I had to be pushed very, very hard and had to bet, I would probably bet, I think, on Romney. Because I think he‘s got the momentum now. However, on the Democratic side, I‘ll tell you, any one of those three could win it. I don‘t think Barack Obama is seven points ahead.
ABRAMS: Yes. Well, that‘s what all the pollsters are saying for the campaigns there in Iowa. We‘re saying it‘s too close to call. Pat Buchanan, Lawrence O‘Donnell, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Katrina‘s going to stay with us.
Coming up, the Justice Department trying to get out of the Bush lead, launching a criminal investigation today into who destroyed those CIA interrogation tapes. This is the 9/11 commission co-chairs go public using the word “obstruction” to describe what they say the CIA and the White House did.
And those brothers who survived the tiger attack at a zoo hire Scott Peterson‘s attorney. But now there are reports the animal may have been taunted first, and the brothers are not cooperating with the police investigation.
And later, a former beauty queen, now a law school student, charged with kidnapping and torturing her ex-boyfriend. Be right back.
ABRAMS: Breaking tonight, the Justice Department has launched an investigation into the destruction of those CIA interrogation tapes, tapes that President Bush has, quote, “no recollection of being told about until last month.” According to “The New York Times,” at least four White House lawyers knew about them, including Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Cheney‘s chief of staff, David Addington.
But in a sign of progress at the justice department, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed a prosecutor from outside of D.C. to oversee the case, saying in a statement, quote, “The Department‘s National Security Division has recommended, and I have concluded, that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter, and I have taken steps to begin that investigation.”
The investigation comes as the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, Republican and Democrat, accuse the CIA and the White House today of obstructing an official U.S. Commission. Writing in an op-ed piece in this morning‘s “New York Times,” quote, “Those who knew about those videotapes and did not tell us about them, obstructed our investigation,” adding, “There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the CIA or the White House of the commission‘s interest in any and all information related to Al Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot.”
Still with us is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, and joining us now, syndicated columnist Tony Blankley. Tony is also a former prosecutor. All right, Tony, let me start with you. First on this issue of the investigation, and they‘re getting a guy from outside of D.C. This says to me that Mukasey recognizes there‘s been trouble in this Justice Department, that no one trusted Alberto Gonzales, and this is my effort to say, we‘re taking this seriously. I‘m going to try to keep this out of D.C.
TONY BLANKLEY, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, actually, it‘s kind of a fairly minimal act on his part. I‘m arguing arguably against my own interests on this, but just to bring a person in from a different office doesn‘t strike me as completely avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest. This new prosecutor‘s employer is the attorney general whose employer is the president.
So I don‘t think it‘s necessary, but I understand that the politics requires that. One point to make, by the way, about this article in the “New York Times” by Kean and Hamilton, explicitly they say in the last paragraph, they‘re making no legal judgment as to obstruction.
ABRAMS: They‘re not lawyers. They‘re not lawyers.
BLANKLEY: Well, but the point is, this article is being quoted all over the Internet and cable as if these men are charging the CIA with obstruction of justice. They‘re explicitly saying, “We make no opinion about the law.” They‘re just complaining they didn‘t get the stuff they wanted.
ABRAMS: Yes. Tony -
VANDEN HEUVEL: That‘s parsing words, Tony. I mean, they -
ABRAMS: But they‘re using the word “obstruction.”
VANDEN HEUVEL: It‘s a very heavy word.
BLANKLEY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) word “banana.” But it doesn‘t matter. They explicitly say they‘re making no legal judgment, just so the viewers understand, that no legal judgment has been made.
ABRAMS: So Katrina, who don‘t you - they are distinguishing - he is distinguishing, then, between obstruction and the legal obstruction of justice.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I‘ve heard Tony parse words before, but for Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton, two very measured men, to write what they did, which is that this is - accuse the White House and the CIA and implicitly the Department of Justice of an obstruction of justice, these are damning words. They may not be legal words.
I think the appointment of this prosecutor today is an indication, as you said, Dan, on the part of the department of justice that there is a real conflict of interest here. But with the complicity reaching into the White House, it seems to me that you need a special counsel to conduct a criminal investigation. And that is still far off the Department of Justice‘s radar.
ABRAMS: Senator Kennedy said this, all right? Senator Kennedy, Ted Kennedy said, “I would strongly urge Attorney General Mukasey to take this investigation away from a main justice to appoint a prosecutor and to have the FBI lead the investigation. I commend him for taking these steps.” So you have even Ted Kennedy coming out and commending the steps that Mukasey‘s taken.
I have to tell you, Katrina, this seems to me - you can argue whether a special counsel is necessary, and I think there‘s a legitimate argument to be made for why it is, but this seems to me a big concession/effort on the part of Attorney General Mukasey to say, “I am not going to be Alberto Gonzales. You‘re not going to have what is a borderline corrupt Justice Department you had before.”
VANDEN HEUVEL: The record of this administration is such that unless you have true subpoena power by an independent counsel, you will not get to the bottom of what is an ongoing cover-up. This is an ugly cover-up, Dan. The Wall Street Journal” reported the other day that there is apparent evidence that there are high-level CIA people who were on those tapes, not just low-level interrogators. And you may well see an attempt to scapegoat one man which has been the record of this administration instead of metastasizing the scandal of torture which is undermining security.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to let Tony respond.
BLANKLEY: Let me suggest that I do agree with Katrina for the first time in both of our lives, I think, that this is not a true special counsel because he does work for them. But let me go to another point, which is I don‘t think there are many people in this town who really want to see waterboarding considered torture and prosecuted because you‘ve got Speaker Pelosi who was informed of the waterboarding back when she was on the Intelligence Committee.
And this, in fact, investigation is going to kick over to the next presidency because this is going to take more than 10 months to get to the bottom of things. And the next president, particularly if it‘s a Democrat, is not going to go to war against the CIA and their capacity to protect us. So I think this is an awful lot of window dressing. They‘ll get us past the election and then nothing much will happen.
ABRAMS: That may be true.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Tony, you make a good point, though. The mechanisms our government at every level failed which is why we need an independent counsel. And it‘s not about war (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It‘s more for our values.
ABRAMS: The independent counsel is not going to happen. This is what they‘re going to live with for now. And I think Tony‘s right. This is going to go on for a long time. Katrina Vanden Heuvel, great to have you back. And Tony Blankley, appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the two brothers mauled by that tiger hired a high-powered attorney as they seem to be prepared to sue the San Francisco Zoo. But now a new report suggests the animal may have been taunted. And why are the brothers refusing to cooperate with the authorities?
And “beat the press” is coming up next.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat The Press.” First up, our friends over at CNN “American Morning” were getting ready for the New Year when anchor Kiran Chetry wondered this about those ridiculous New Year‘s glasses everyone wears in Times Square.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Enjoy this evening, Kiran.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: I‘m just wondering -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: It‘s going to be a cold one.
CHETRY: What are we going to do in 2010 when there‘s not two round eye holes for the glasses? We‘ve got to get creative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Let me start by saying I love Kiran Chetry. But Kiran, aren‘t there two round holes in 2010 also? Coming up, it appears CNN, once again needs the basic world geography knowledge of a seventh grader. With Pakistan in the news so much these days, you‘d think Wolf Blitzer‘s staff might know where it‘s located. Apparently not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN‘S SITUATION ROOM: Joining us on the phone from Islamabad is the top army spokesman for Pakistan, Major Gen. Wahid Arshan (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Pakistan is not on the western coast of Africa. Finally, it seems a lot of people including many at Fox News have it out for new anchor reporter Courtney Friel in part because she‘s very attractive. But who knew the list of haters might also include some on the inside? Your heart has to go out to Courtney when the prompter mysteriously goes down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COURTNEY FRIEL, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: From America‘s newsroom, I‘m Courtney Friel. It‘s back to work this week for David Letterman and his writers. Letterman‘s production company signing an interim deal with the Writers Guild of America which has been on strike since November 5th. That means Letterman‘s show will be back on the air Wednesday with the full writing staff.
President Bush is using his weekly radio address to talk about economic concerns for American families. He pointed to examples such as a new energy bill and a measure to help families win - all right. We are going to come back with more news after this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Hang in there, Courtney. Don‘t let them get you down. We need your help feeding the press. If you see anything right or wrong, amusing or absurd, go to our Web site, Abrams.MSNBC.com. Leave us a tip in the box. Please include the show and the time you saw the item.
Up next, new questions tonight in that Christmas day tiger attack in San Francisco. A new report says the men involved had slingshots. Now, the police and the victims new high-powered attorney say it‘s not true.
But today, the zoo director says a stone and stick found in the area had no reason to be in there. And it‘s reported the brothers are not cooperating in the investigation. Is this big cat story smelling a little fishy?
Plus, a former beauty queen turned calendar model charged kidnapping and holding her ex-boyfriend hostage and torturing him for hours, allegedly biting him and holding the tip of a butcher knife to his ear..
ABRAMS: Coming up, a former beauty queen and current law student charged of kidnapping and torturing her ex-boyfriend for hours, pointing a gun at him and threatening his life.
And Paris Hilton, poor and apparently on the prowl after her grandpa announces he‘s leaving his billions to charity. She was spotted then cozying up with Anna Nicole Larry Birkhead and canoodling with Britney Spears‘ ex, K-Fed. Those crucial stories coming up in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”
But first, after spending four days in the hospital, two brothers attacked by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo have come out swinging, hiring high-profile attorney Mark Geragos. Geragos unleashed a blistering attack today on the first responders, the zoo authorities and personnel for allegedly brushing off his clients‘ frantic cries for help that left 17-year-old Carlos Sousa dead and brothers Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal severely wounded.
According to Geragos, the zoo took 30 minutes to respond to calls for help and a female security guard appeared, quote, “diffident” to the Dhaliwal brothers‘ claim that a tiger was loose inside the zoo. But there are red flags being raised. Now, look, there‘s no doubt in my mind that the brothers will sue the zoo and will probably receive a big judgment just based on the fact that the tiger was able to leap the wall which experts say was four plus feet shorter than the national recommendations.
But questions remain. Number one, the brothers have reportedly refused to cooperate with the authorities. Why? Point two, a report indicated the victims were carrying slingshots and then an empty bottle of alcohol was found in their car. Now, Geragos denies the report about a slingshot. The police have also denied the victims were carrying slingshots. But an investigator has said an empty vodka bottle was found.
And this is point three. Today‘s zoo spokesperson made it clear he thinks the animal was provoked. He said that a rock and branch were found in the zoo enclosure that did not belong inside the tiger habitat. Plus, a forensic team is investigating a shoe print found on the enclosure railing, possible evidence the animal was taunted.
Point four, Attorney Geragos in an interview with “The San Francisco Chronicle” was ready and willing to talk about everything the zoo did wrong after the fact, but refused to talk about the actual details of attack, saying he is, quote, “still investigating.”
Joining us now, “The San Francisco Chronicle” reporter, Jaxon Van Derken, who interviewed Geragos, defense attorney Michelle Suskauer and San Francisco attorney Daniel Horowitz. Thank you to all of you for coming on. I appreciate it.
All right. Jaxon, let me start with you since you got a chance to speak to Mark Geragos. Did he explain to you anything more about why he wouldn‘t discuss what happened in the actual attack?
JAXON VAN DERBEKEN, REPORTER, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE” (on the phone): I think his concern was that given the sensitive nature of what occurred and the emotions involved and his feeling that his clients hadn‘t emotionally come to grips with what had happened, he felt that it would be best to have more opportunity to talk about what happened to them and, you know, get a better understanding, you know, through his own investigation as to what really occurred.
ABRAMS: See, Daniel, here‘s my problem. And I think that Jaxon is probably exactly right as to how Mark Geragos is playing this now. But it seems to me that you‘ve got all of this evidence that something else may have happened. You‘ve got these allegations, again, of a stone and a stick being found in the enclosure, Geragos denying the report about slingshots. But it seems he‘s picking and choosing which aspects of this he wants to respond to and then leaving open a lot of questions about what led to the actual attack.
DANIEL HOROWITZ, SAN FRANCISCO ATTORNEY: Well, Dan, that‘s true, but, you know, he‘s really shooting a ghost at this point. Nobody‘s really stepping forward and taking responsibility for the attacks on his clients. Who is saying that they used a slingshot? Who‘s saying that they taunted this tiger? There‘s just this kind of buzz about it.
So for Mark to shoot at somebody who‘s not willing to stand up and say, “I accuse you,” I don‘t think he should defend somebody that‘s not on the table.
ABRAMS: But Michelle, look - but there‘s no description from Geragos or the team as to, (A) why these young men aren‘t really cooperating with the authorities.
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right.
ABRAMS: And (B), you have Geragos unwilling to talk about what
actually happened in the events leading up to the attack. If these clients
are so distraught by this - and you can understand why they‘d be distraught
then why is he only talking about what he said the zoo did wrong?
SUSKAUER: Because he knows there‘s more to the story here, and he‘s pointing the finger in every direction except at his own clients, and that‘s, of course, his job. That‘s the way he‘s spinning it.
But Dan, you‘re exactly right. It‘s very significant that these boys are not cooperating with authorities. The big question, why aren‘t they? Because, you know what? We need to look at the toxicology reports, was there alcohol in the system, really need to be getting the forensics as to the scene, what was found. There‘s a lot more to this that we don‘t know.
ABRAMS: Jaxon, do we know why these young men are not cooperating or exactly what that means?
VAN DERBEKEN: Well, we do know that there were some questions early on about the - who - were they identifying themselves or Carlos to the first responders. We know that they have given statements. They most recently gave a statement to the police about what happened.
Perhaps, whether they were cooperating at one given point or not, the police feel that they have - basically, they know what happened. They‘re the only two people who do. And until they‘re, you know, able or willing to say what a lot of people suspect, they don‘t have any support to the accusations related to taunting. There‘s no corroborating evidence, if it occurred, only these two young men can say.
And so they‘re at an impasse essentially. It‘s up to - if they want to say that it occurred, if they don‘t. There were no eyewitnesses independent at this point. They‘ve found none.
ABRAMS: Here‘s what Geragos has said in “The Chronicle” article. “As far as I‘m concerned, that‘s an urban legend,” with regard to the slingshots. “There was no taunting of the tiger.” I mean, again, I‘m just troubled by what I view as the picking and choosing by Mark Geragos. And, again, I invite him to come on the program and explain all of this.
But it seems to me that to be the picking and the choosing, Daniel Horowitz, of what it is he wants to talk about and what he doesn‘t. I understand that lawyers have to be careful. But when you‘ve got two clients who are refusing to cooperate with the authorities in the context of their investigation and then you have their attorney tossing these bombs out about what the zoo supposedly did wrong, I‘m troubled by that.
HOROWITZ: Well, Dan, first of all, you have to realize that this is very political here in San Francisco. You cannot trust the higher-ups in this police department. The men and women on the ground are good cops, but this is a very political administration. And he knows that anything his clients say to the police is probably going to be filtered through a spin machine that Gavin Newsom and Heather Fong have used again and again. It‘s not a standard police department, the way it‘s being run here, so he‘s cautious.
In terms of what happened, all you need to know is that a tiger leapt out and attacked these people. It doesn‘t matter if they were drinking or taunting or what.
ABRAMS: Actually, that‘s not true, Daniel.
SUSKAUER: You know, it does matter. It does matter.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you a question, Daniel. If there were two men - let‘s assume if these two men who survived and were attacked, if they taunted the tiger, whatever it was with, be it a rock, be it a slingshot, be it a stone, et cetera, it is possible that legally they could get charged in connection with their friend‘s death, no?
HOROWITZ: Fine. So they can be charged with a misdemeanor, taunting a tiger, but not with the friend‘s death. The negligence of the City of San Francisco having an antiquated system is what ultimately led to his death. It‘s just like a car. If you drive a car with no seat belts, no air bags and the brakes are old-fashioned, you know, that‘s a risky purpose to undertake. They could not know this wall was too low. That‘s the city‘s fault.
SUSKAUER: But, Dan, you‘re right, though, there is a culpable negligence. If they did something that led to this, you know, by taunting the tiger - this is a wild animal and they were doing something. It is relevant. Their conducted is directly relevant here, and their credibility is going to be at issue because they put themselves in this lawsuit. They‘re going to be deposed. They‘re going to be cross-examined.
ABRAMS: And let me just be clear, I‘m not accusing these two brothers of anything. I don‘t know what they did or didn‘t do there. I‘m just saying at the information that‘s being released by their attorney and their unwillingness to cooperate with the authorities, those two things trouble me. It troubles me a lot. And I want more information about this before we hear only Mark Geragos going out and making all these accusations against the city and the zoo and the officials and the first responders and everyone involved.
But with that said, as I said before, I think that as a legal matter in a civil case, the zoo is in big trouble simply because that tiger was able to escape no matter what anyone was doing. All right, Jaxon Van Derbeken, sorry, mispronounced your name there, and Dan Horwitz, thanks a lot. I appreciate it. Michelle‘s going to stay with us.
Up next, a law student and former beauty queen accused of holding her former boyfriend hostage and torturing him, allegedly biting him, holding the tip of a butcher‘s knife to his ear.
And later, Paris Hilton may be suddenly strapped for cash after grandpa decides to give 97 percent of his $2.3 billion to charity. Not to Paris.
A former beauty queen and University of Arizona law student is charged tonight with allegedly kidnapping and torturing her ex-boyfriend. Twenty-five-year-old Kumari Fulbright is accused along with three other men of tying up her 24-year-old ex with plastic cables and duct tape, holding him captive for up to ten hours.
According to court papers, the four pointed pistols at the victim and threatened his life. There are also reports that the former beauty queen held the tip of a butcher‘s knife to the victim‘s ear and bit his hands and arms. Fulbright was released on $50,000 bail. She looks a lot different in that picture. Another suspect, Bruce Hammond, remains jailed while police are searching for two other men allegedly involved in the crime.
Joining us on the phone because of technical difficulties, is Tucson Police Sergeant, Fabian Pacheco, Renee Schafer-Horton, a reporter with the “Tucson Citizen” newspaper joins us as well. Thank you both very much. I appreciate it.
All right. Sergeant Pacheco, let me ask you. How was this victim ultimately able to get free? Sergeant, you there?
SERGEANT FABIAN PACHECO, TUCSON POLICE SERGEANT: I‘ve lost connection.
ABRAMS: All right. We‘ll try and get that connection back. Renee, can you hear me?
RENEE SCHAFER-HORTON, REPORTER, “TUCSON CITIZEN NEWSPAPER”: Yes, I can hear you.
ABRAMS: OK. Can you tell me, how did the victim allegedly get free?
SCHAFER-HORTON: Well, the police tell us that he was able to wrestle one of his arms out of the ties. And then when Kumari Fulbright came close to him, he was sitting in a chair. He grabbed her with that arm and wrestled with her with the gun. The gun went off. No one was injured.
And then he wrestled with her and dragged her out front. And when onlookers came and saw what was going on, she ran back inside her house, and he ran to the next-door neighbor and made a phone call to the police.
ABRAMS: Now, do we know how these three guys are connected to her?
SCHAFER-HORTON: You know what? I‘m going to hand the phone to the Sergeant Pacheco because I think he‘d be better to answer that question. Just one second.
ABRAMS: All right. Please, hand it over. Sergeant.
PACHECO: Good evening, Dan.
ABRAMS: Hey there, Sergeant. Sergeant, I was just asking, do we know how the three other guys were connected to Fulbright?
PACHECO: Well, the investigation has revealed that Robert Ergonis was an ex-boyfriend of Ms. Fulbright. That is his connection there. The other individual, Michael Ergonis, is Robert‘s brother. And the third individual identified as Larry Hammond happened to be an associate of Mr. Robert Ergonis.
ABRAMS: So what is the motive here? What is the alleged motive as to why she would want to join these guys in tying up and effectively torturing her ex?
PACHECO: Well, what I can tell you is that the investigation reveals that this stems from some argument over jewelry. Allegedly, the victim is telling us that Ms. Fulbright accused him of stealing some of her jewelry. Once the Ergonis brothers arrived, they accused him of taking Ms.
Fulbright‘s jewelry -
ABRAMS: Sergeant, I‘m going to ask you to stand by. I‘m going to ask us to cut off that mike for a minute. We‘re beating the press ourselves here with some technical problems. We‘ve still got Michelle Suskauer and Daniel Horowitz with us.
Michelle, let me read you what we know about this woman, all right? She was a university of Arizona law student, a volunteer for a U.S. District judge, Miss Pima County 2005, Miss Desert Sun 2006. She was up for Miss Arizona in 2005 and 2006. She was Miss May in a 2008 swimsuit calendar.
You know, I don‘t know, how does all of that fit in, do you think, in the legal case against her? Michelle? All right. Now we don‘t have Michelle either. How about Daniel? Daniel, you there? Thank god somebody‘s around. Because then I‘m going to have to talk to Danny Bonaduce for six minutes if we don‘t get this segment going. Danny Bonaduce is the only one we‘ve got in house. Who do we have? Who‘s laughing there?
SUSKAUER: I‘m here. I‘m here. It‘s Michelle.
ABRAMS: Michelle. Go ahead. Take it away.
SUSKAUER: Yes, Dan.
ABRAMS: This woman‘s background, all right, she‘s a law student.
Worked for a law clerk. All the beauty queen stuff probably doesn‘t matter
much, but she‘s got to know, as a law student and working for a law clerk,
you know, that tying up your ex-boyfriend with cable and allegedly biting
SUSKAUER: Is wrong.
ABRAMS: Yes, I mean, you‘ve got to know you‘re maybe going to get into some trouble.
SUSKAUER: Well, you know, Dan, diamonds are a girl‘s best friend, OK? So you don‘t mess with a girl and her jewelry, and obviously this is what happened here. But, you know, there obviously are some psychiatric issues that this girl has. Can you hear me? Am I there?
ABRAMS: All right.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. We‘re having all sorts of problems here. So here‘s what we‘re going to do. I‘m going to say thank you and apologize to Sergeant Pacheco and to Renee, Michelle and Daniel Horowitz, thank you very much.
But hey, this just means that up next in “Winners and Losers,” we have got more time for Danny Bonaduce. Coming up in a moment.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 2nd day of January, 2008. Our bronze winner, famed Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani. No, not for weathering the change in trends with some new hot clothing line, but for wearing very, very little clothing in hot weather.
The 73-year-old designer has become an Internet hunk/joke after being spotted on the beaches of St. Bart‘s wearing this. Yes, it‘s Armani.
Our silver winner, conservative commentator Bill Kristol. The neocon‘s credibility received a major boost after “The New York Times” hired him to write a weekly column. It seems “The Times” is doing anything they can to seem fairer, now, even paying a man who once suggested the paper be prosecuted for exposing a secret anti-terror program.
But the big winner of the day - former “Friend” Jennifer Aniston who topped “Forbes” new list of 2007‘s savviest celebrity businesswomen. Aniston pocketed at least $10 million in an endorsement deal she signed to hawk a product most can get for free, water. That‘s on top of the $10 million she pulled in for film and the $7 million a year she still gets in “Friends” royalties.
Now to the losers. Our bronze loser, Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek. The 61-year-old now being mentioned in the same breath as Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson. Yes, the married minister who‘s preached the virtues of fidelity has turned up on a sex tape. He was forced to resign in disgrace today after 100 minutes of footage of him having sex with another woman was distributed across the country. The promiscuous (UNINTELLIGIBLE) says he‘s proud of himself for admitting the wrong and described his lover as a personal friend.
Our silver loser, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who tried to take a stand against negative campaigning, pulling an attack ad his campaign cooked up against rival Mitt Romney. But apparently Mike‘s minions never got the be-nice memo.
His national campaign chairman, Ed Rollins, quoted today saying he wants to knock Romney‘s teeth out. And TV tough guy and Huckabee supporter Chuck Norris told reporters he‘d like to choke out Huck‘s rival.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK NORRIS, TV ACTOR: Chuck Norris approved.
ABRAMS: But the big loser of the day, Paris Hilton. No, not because she was caught cozying up with Anna Nicole ex Larry Birkhead on New Year‘s Eve. No, not because just a day earlier she was spotted canoodling with part-time pal Britney Spears‘ ex, K-Fed, and not because “People” reported he visited her hotel room later in the night.
No, because her grandfather announced he‘s leaving 97 percent of his $2.3 billion fortune to charity, and not to his children and grandchildren. Paris, who once stood to collect $100 million in the will, may now end up with only one-20th of that.
Here now, former child star, Danny Bonaduce, the host of the “Danny Bonaduce” radio show 97.1 on the west coast. Danny, you were saying to me are you upset we declared her as a loser?
DANNY BONADUCE, FORMER CHILD STAR AND RADIO HOST: I‘m not upset. I just disagreed vehemently that she‘s a loser because you think she just got the $5 million, right?
ABRAMS: $5 million instead of $100 million.
BONADUCE: OK. $5 million, first of all, is not nearly enough. My girlfriend is a substitute school teacher and makes $90,000 a year, has a cute apartment and a new car. I, on the other hand, am a raving lunatic and I‘ve burned through $5 million at least three times. It‘s expensive to be crazy. So $5 million not nearly enough. But did you notice that is a charities that Baron left the money to? Ones for the mentally ill. Where do you think Paris is going? That‘s $32.3 million she‘s going to get. And not only that. She‘s hanging out with K-Fed.
ABRAMS: Larry Birkhead. There‘s a nice (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BONADUCE: Here‘s the thing. When you go to a hotel and they give it to you free, it‘s called comped. She‘s just been given mentally ill money, $30 million. She now gets to take her crazy friends and go, don‘t worry. It‘s on me.
ABRAMS: What about K-Fed? I mean -
BONADUCE: There‘s an unwritten rule, you cannot date your friend‘s ex, you just can‘t. If it‘s unwritten, I‘ll write it and you will have to obey. But the fact of the matter is he‘s not a real guy. First of all, Britney‘s going, “If she dates him then I don‘t look like such an idiot.” And second, he‘s not a person. Nobody really cares about him. He‘s a party favor. You walk with K-Fed, everybody laughs and he‘s like a party favor. You pull on anything that might dangle and confetti shoots out of his mouth.
ABRAMS: Chuck Norris, saying that Mike Huckabee. He‘s saying -
BONADUCE: I have a real problem with this because Chuck is a childhood idol of mine. He was my first karate instructor. I studied at all his schools.
ABRAMS: He talked (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I know he‘s a karate - I didn‘t know he‘s actually there teaching.
BONADUCE: He owns hundreds of schools. The fact of the matter is that he‘s going to come out a liar. And you‘re hero of mine, Chuck, and I don‘t want you to lie. I‘ve never threatened to punch anyone in the nose and I‘ve not gone right to their house and punched them in the nose. You‘ve now threatened to choke people, but you‘re not going to. So now I‘ve decided I am going to support Hillary Clinton.
BONADUCE: This is the first announcement. Up to this point, no candidate.
BONADUCE: No candidate.
ABRAMS: Has gotten the blessing of Danny Bonaduce.
BONADUCE: No. Because if you really like a candidate, you want to keep the fact that I like them to yourself. You‘re not doing any candidate a big favor by saying Danny Bonaduce likes him.
But what I want to do is save Chuck from being a liar. So what I like to do is support one of his adversaries, and then he has the opportunity to choke me out which is an open invitation. I work at 5700 Wilshire Boulevard, and you can catch me on every commercial break at 97.1 FM, smoking cigarettes at parking elevator 2. And if you‘d like to come by and give a shot at choking me out, it‘s an open invitation so one of my heroes doesn‘t come off a liar.
ABRAMS: And Hillary Clinton thrilled to hear, I‘m sure, just on the eve of the Iowa caucus - This could change everything, that Bonaduce is supporting Hillary.
BONADUCE: Yes. It would ruin her. And the other thing is, I‘d be way more afraid if Hillary said she was going to choke me out. I‘d believe her.
ABRAMS: Real quick, we talked about this Malaysian Health Minister and the sex tapes, the Bonaduce sex tapes.
BONADUCE: I‘m going to make a sex tape. I feel left out.
ABRAMS: Thank goodness, because I think there are many people who
have been hoping that Danny Bonaduce -
BONADUCE: I‘ve got to get a big star. You don‘t get out and Danny Bonaduce sex tape might as well, “Being a Sex Tape,” right on it. Who‘s going to buy it? Who‘s going to pay good money for a B-List sex tape. I‘ve got to get an A-Lister.
ABRAMS: Danny, good to meet you.
BONADUCE: Dude, you‘re so cool actually in person with you. You always have me on. You‘re so kind.
ABRAMS: That‘s all the time we have tonight. See you - whatever.
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