Guests: Jason Rae, Michelle Cottle, Peter Beinart, Michelle Suskauer, Susan Filan, Michelle Sigona, Carolyn Robbins-Manley
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: Senators Obama and Clinton battle for votes in tomorrow‘s primaries. But that may matter a lot less than the so-called, superdelegates now being courted behind the scenes. We talk with a 21-year-old college student who has never voted for a presidential candidate, ever, but he is a superdelegate—with a vote worth the equivalent of almost 10,000 voters.
And: The “New York Times” begins to smear job on Obama about his past drug use. He‘s admitted it, but since the “Times” couldn‘t find anyone to talk about it, they suggest, maybe he made it up.
And: Barack Obama didn‘t just beat Hillary Clinton over the weekend.
He also beat her husband at the Grammies.
But first tonight: In public, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton rallying voters in and around the nation‘s capital. Behind the scenes, around the capital and elsewhere, courting, kissing up to and cultivating those all too influential superdelegates, the Democratic Party insiders who may ultimately have the votes to determine the party nominee. Both Virginia and Maryland are holding democratic primaries tomorrow. Obama is trying to continue his hot streak after a weekend where he added Louisiana, Washington State, Nebraska, Maine and the U.S. Virgin Islands to his win column. In the latest polls from the mid-Atlantic also look to be in his favor. In Maryland, Obama up 53 to 35 over Clinton. A similar story in neighboring Virginia, Obama is with a 16-point advantage according to the latest polls. Obama is also expected to run strong in the District of Columbia. The victories there tomorrow could help Obama add to what appears to be a 50-delegate cushion.
But that number doesn‘t mean too much, when you tally up the all too important superdelegates. NBC News estimates that Clinton leading because she‘s got over 80 more of the committed superdelegates than Obama, giving her a 29-delegate edge. But who knows how the rest of those insiders will vote and who it will end up helping. Big-name Clinton and Obama supporters are now frantically contacting uncommitted superdelegates including our next guest, the 21-year-old Wisconsin college student, who‘s never voted in a presidential election and no offense to Jason Rae, and the other coveted Democrats sprinkled across the country, but this is nuts.
After this past weekend‘s contest, the superdelegate is now the equivalent of about 9,500 voters. It has gone down a bit. Once again, I‘m calling for superdelegates to step aside and support whoever the primary and caucus voters had chosen. They have to act now before it becomes a purely battle. Once we know for sure who‘s one of the 1,796 superdelegates, that‘s going to be trouble. Here is Jason Rae, a senior at Marquette University, he‘s 21, he‘s a Democratic superdelegate. Michelle Cottle, senior editor of “The New Republic” and Peter Beinart, senior at the Council on Foreign Relations. All right. Thanks to all of you for coming on the program. Appreciate it. Jason, let me start with you. Before we talk about this whole appropriateness, not appropriate superdelegates, you‘re getting a lot of phone calls from a lot of very important people, aren‘t you?
JASON RAE, 21-YEAR-OLD SUPERDELEGATE: I am. I have received several phone calls from you know, key supporters of both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. For example on Senator Obama, I‘ve received a phone conversation for Senator Kerry. For Senator Clinton, I have had conversations with Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Chelsea Clinton and former President Clinton himself.
ABRAMS: So, you get a call, what, on your cell phone and they say, hey, Jason, Bill Clinton is on the line to talk to you?
RAE: I do, that‘s exactly what happened actually about two weeks ago or so. I was getting ready to go to dipper with some friends on a Friday night about 6:00 o‘clock, I look down my phone, my cell phone is ringing. The number says withheld. And I‘d say, I wonder who‘s this could be, so, I answer it, the other end says, Jason, please hold for the former president and there is Bill on the other ready to talk.
ABRAMS: And what did he say?
RAE: We just talked about general election strategy. He was on the ground, this was the Friday before the South Carolina primary. And one of the things that I was able to talk to him about and that I‘d talk to all of those who called me about is just how things are going on the ground. I think because I‘m only here in Wisconsin and I can‘t get out to all the states, I use these surrogates as eyes on the ground to see what voters are actually thinking, what actually happening on the field.
ABRAMS: Now, let me ask you. You had lunch today with Chelsea Clinton?
RAE: I did. I had a quick breakfast meeting with Chelsea Clinton this morning.
ABRAMS: Jason, do you sometimes think this is nuts. The idea that, you know, look, you‘re an active guy in politics. You care about politics. But you are 21 years old and you never voted before and you‘ve got Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Senator Kerry, Madeleine Albright all calling you to try to get Jason Rae on their side. I mean, isn‘t there something about that that makes you say this is crazy?
RAE: But Dan, the thing is, I‘m just a regular party activist like
everyone else. I mean, those superdelegates such as myself, we‘re party
activists who are out there on the field, volunteering for campaigns. I
mean, I‘ve been riding my bike to county party meetings since I was about
14 years old. I volunteered for my first campaign at 15. I made my first
donation at 16. I mean, most of these DNC members, we‘re regular party
activists. You know, we come from all positions. We‘re college students,
we‘re clergy, we‘re military - it‘s kind of crazy but -
ABRAMS: How did you become a superdelegate?
RAE: In June of 2004, I ran a statewide campaign at our state convention to be elected to one of Wisconsin‘s two male spots to the Democratic National Committee. I was only 17 at the time. I ran a really aggressive grassroots campaign that focused on my central message of trying to represent America‘s next generation of voters.
ABRAMS: Well, that worked.
RAE: I ended up coming in first in the race and got a DNC spot.
ABRAMS: So, Jason, this the real deal now. You got 796 superdelegates who very well may decide Obama versus Clinton. All right. So, we are at the convention. Jason Rae is there with the rest of the superdelegates. It‘s close. It‘s coming down to the wire. The superdelegates are being asked which side they are going to go for. It is split. It comes down to Jason Rae to decide who the Democratic nominee is going to be. Jason Rae, who would it be?
RAE: Well, Dan, first of all, we have never had a convention -
ABRAMS: I know, I know.
RAE: Where the superdelegates have decided. I know. For me, what I‘ve got to do is I‘m going to look in my heart. I think my one vote as a delegate is equivalent to any other delegate‘s vote.
ABRAMS: So, who are you going to vote for?
RAE: You know, I honestly don‘t know yet.
ABRAMS: Come on.
RAE: We have two qualified candidates.
ABRAMS: Come on.
RAE: I have to tell you I don‘t know.
ABRAMS: You had lunch with Chelsea Clinton and you still don‘t know?
RAE: I still don‘t know. I‘ve met with Senator Obama. I have my absentee ballot at home. So, I can vote in Wisconsin in February 19th primary, I have not decided where the check mark is going to go. We do have two very qualified individuals.
ABRAMS: But is it possible, Jason, you would vote for someone different in your personal vote than your vote as a superdelegate?
RAE: It‘s possible. I don‘t want to make any prediction because, you know, when it comes down to the convention I have to do what I think in my heart is best for the direction of this country. I mean, as a party activist, you know, I have, you know, a close inside look of where this party should go and where this country needs to go.
ABRAMS: Stick with us, Jason. You are a good sport. And I appreciate you. You stick around.
ABRAMS: Let me bring in Michelle and Peter. I mean, you know, Michelle, there is something crazy about this. Jason Rae seems like a great guy. He is someone who obviously follows politics closely. But the idea that he is going to be one of a handful of people who could ultimately decide is it Obama versus Clinton, to me, seems absurd.
MICHELLE COTTLE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, that‘s because it is absurd. I mean, you know, it‘s important that we occasionally remember that while all Americans are created equal, some are more equal than others. I mean, you know, the Iowa caucuses and a lot of the caucuses are specifically geared so that they benefit party activists and people who sink a great deal of time and money into all the political activism. You know, this is same kind of thing. You know, I‘m sure Jason is a great guy and this is not so say that any of these superdelegates themselves are not fabulously involved political people. But we have a system that‘s a little absurd.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. I mean, Peter, again, Jason, you know, Jason couldn‘t be giving more of the right answers here as to how he‘s going to move forward. But he‘s 21 years old and he‘s never voted in an election before and he‘s going be one of the handful of people picking Obama versus Clinton.
PETER BEINART, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think the good news is Jason Rae, as nice a guy as he is, is not going to be choosing the next president. Look, this is what we know about politicians. They are lemmings. They will go with the winner. They are staying uncommitted until they see what happens in the big primaries in early March and then, they will grow like sheep to whoever seems like there on the lead.
ABRAMS: Let‘s talk about that, alright? So, right now, the superdelegate count. Hillary Clinton got 261 supposedly of the pledged superdelegates. They can always change their minds later. Barack Obama has got 176. All right? So, you would think that by saying, we need to get rid of the superdelegates—that hurts Hillary Clinton. But I‘m not so certain. When you got 359 unpledged, Michelle and I think that there is still a real possibility that one or the other, I don‘t know who‘s going to end up with more superdelegates. I do think it‘s going to end up being this sort of lemming-like behavior unless it gets really close.
COTTLE: I think you do have this kind of buffer. These guys don‘t
want this to go to the convention. They are savvy in terms of what‘s going
hurt the party and I think a long, grinding primary is a bad idea. I think
totally, the lemming effect will kick in and what you‘ll find is that the
momentum they will latch on to and it will not come down to poor Jason Rae
sitting in a room with all eyes on him so -
ABRAMS: Yes, all right. You know, I want to play what Barack Obama had said about the superdelegates and I will ask all three of you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates from the most voters in the country that it would be problematic for the political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters. It is also important for the superdelegates to think about who will be in the strongest position to defeat John McCain in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Jason, as one of those political insiders, isn‘t there something problematic about the idea that the insiders like you, are going to potentially overturn the decision of the voters?
RAE: But, Dan, I don‘t consider myself a political insider. I think I‘m just a regular party activist like everyone else.
ABRAMS: But you are a superdelegate. Don‘t fool yourself. You are a superdelegate.
RAE: My one delegate vote, though, my one delegate vote is equal to
every other delegate vote that happened, that came out of Iowa, that came
out of New Hampshire. My vote is like everyone else‘s and I think with all
those voters they‘ll decide for themselves, who they thought was the best
nominee for the party was and that‘s what it comes down for me as well that
I have to decide for myself who I think -
ABRAMS: All right. I want a quick question of Michelle and Peter, prediction. Michelle, is this going to come down to the superdelegates in the end or do you think this is going to be a sense before that?
COTTLE: I think the superdelegates will kind of go with what the sense is. So, yes, there will be a sense.
ABRAMS: Peter, do you think that there will be a kind of a decision before the superdelegates get to weigh-in.
BEINART: Yes. I think so. Look, even the superdelegates who are pledged, I wouldn‘t count on that very much. Politicians break their pledges all the time. They will go with the person who seems like they are on the road to winning.
ABRAMS: All right. But not Jason Rae, what did you have for lunch with Chelsea?
RAE: I just had a banana and a glass of apple juice.
ABRAMS: You are like right out of a book—apple juice and a banana with Chelsea Clinton. I love it.
RAE: I had about 20 minutes and I need to get back for a class that I don‘t want to skip though.
ABRAMS: So, you had to leave early. You‘re the one -
RAE: I left right as she—we ended it mutually and then, she went on to a speaking engagement and I ran off to class.
ABRAMS: Did she say straight out, I want your vote?
RAE: You know, that‘s one of the nice things. None of these people have asked straight up for the vote. They‘ve encouraged but they never asked. There‘s never been a hard stuff.
ABRAMS: I want your vote, Jason. I want you to say you will go with whoever wins in the primaries and caucuses. I want that commitment from you. Can I have it?
RAE: Dan, what I‘m going to tell you is I need to decide for myself when I get to the convention who I think the best nominee is for our party.
ABRAMS: Jason, I have to say that of all the 21-year-olds in America who have never voted before, who are college students who get to decide the future of our republic, you are one of the good ones to be in there. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. I appreciate it.
RAE: Thanks, Dan. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Peter Beinart, thank you as well.
Coming up: The media‘s soon to be obsession with Obama‘s admitted drug use began this weekend with a front page story in the “New York Times”. They could not find anyone who knew about it, so instead, they speculated that maybe he exaggerated his drug use in his memoir. This issue is going to get ugly and unfair. That is next.
And: President Bush sticks up for former President Clinton and for Bush‘s critics. Why? Because the questions were so far right wing that Bush became the moderate. FOX News back in tonight‘s Beat the Press.
And your e-mails at: Abrams@msnbc.com. Tell us what we‘re doing right, wrong. Be sure to include your name and where you‘re writing. I‘d be back in a minute.
ABRAMS: Did you know Barack Obama had a vetting committee for his second book but not his first, the one written before running for a public office. The one where he talks about his drug use as a high school and college student? Coming up a front page “New York Times” piece on the candidate‘s drug use speculates that maybe Obama exaggerated his drug use to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic? Really? That‘s next.
ABRAMS: I figured it was only a matter of time before the media became obsessed with Barack Obama‘s admitted drug use. This weekend, the “New York Times” stir the pot with a front page, non-story about the issue. The ‘Times” spent a lot of resources investigating, talking to more than three dozen friends and this is their grand conclusion. “Mr. Obama‘s account of his younger self and drugs significantly differs from the recollections of others who did not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago were fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.” So, the “Times” found out not much but still managed to suggest that Obama may have purposely overstated his drug use to offer a better contrast to his later successes? In his 442 page-book, Obama devoted a page and a half in to using drugs as a student. He wrote, quote, “Pot had helped and booze and maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Junkie. Pothead. That‘s where I‘d been headed: the final fatal role of the young would-be black man.” Any article about his drug use is bad news for Obama. But for the “Times” to claim deceitful motives just because they couldn‘t find anyone to corroborate his youthful indiscretions is the ultimate and media arrogance and sadly, I predict this story will be just the first in a series of non-stories about his drug use. Joining me now MSNBC.com media analyst, Steve Adubato and back with us is Michelle Cottle, senior editor for The New Republic. Steve, this article is an outrage.
STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC.COM MEDIA ANALYST: No. I don‘t think it is.
ABRAMS: You think it is fair to suggest that maybe Barack Obama exaggerated his drug use because the “New York Times” couldn‘t find anyone to corroborate.
ADUBATO: The “New York Times” and everyone in the media is trying to
find a way to be as unfair to Barack Obama, as they are with the other
candidate. What do I mean by that? George Bush‘s military record or Al
Gore‘s son whether he had a drug problem or not, or alcohol -
ABRAMS: So, you just tell me that it‘s not as bad as other people. Tell me how you can possibly justify the “New York Times” putting this sort of non-story on the front page of the paper.
ADUBATO: Because it‘s about his background. Because he said it
publicly in the book. Because they‘re questioning the authenticity, the
interesting word here, as to whether he‘s accurate or not and potentially -
ABRAMS: Based on what?
ADUBATO: By talking to other people.
ADUBATO: They‘d asked the question not to whether he did it.
COTTLE: I‘m sorry. Guys, I have to jump in here. Do you understand how through the looking glass this is? We are sitting here arguing about whether Barack Obama exaggerated being a druggy for political gain? That‘s so twisted.
ABRAMS: I agree with you. I completely agree with you and I think this is - I mean, apart from the absurdity of it, it‘s also just horrible journalism because they went out and because in their arrogance, they couldn‘t find anyone to corroborate it. Well, you know what that must mean, it must mean that they should suggest that maybe Barack Obama lied.
ADUBATO: In fact, in this story, Dan, as it goes on, as a negative story of Barack Obama, half the story is positive that people they talked to said he was studious. He worked hard. Yes, he may have done a little pot, maybe cocaine, drank a little bit. My point is this, there‘s tremendous pressure is on the “Times” and everyone else, maybe on the “Times” because they lean to the left, to do a story like this. And here‘s a good part, even if you think they are going overboard, Barack Obama, they are playing catch-up with him. Meaning, they need to do some stories on him, that are tough, that are negative. They‘re unfair.
ABRAMS: Fine. Do tough stories but once you investigate his drug use and your conclusion is: we didn‘t find a lot.
ADUBATO: Which they said.
ABRAMS: You pull it off the front page. You don‘t say, we‘re going to keep on the front page of the paper. Why? I don‘t know, because we‘re going to speculate now that he lied to suggest that he overstated his drug use.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Michelle.
COTTLE: If you‘re on the Obama campaign though, you need to whip this out if you make it to the general election when Republicans start talking about it. And you just go back to the “Times” and you say, look, they searched me and they found virtually nothing. You know, but there there‘s a drug story.
ABRAMS: But again, he‘s admitting it. I mean, this is the guy who‘s come forward and said, I had done cocaine. I was smoking pot. He‘s not denying it. And it‘s as if everyone wants to play got you. Aha. We‘ve shown that, what did we show, maybe he didn‘t do as much as he said.
ADUBATO: Dan, it‘s not unique to Barack Obama. Listen -
ABRAMS: I haven‘t seen another story about a candidate that is this crazy. I compliment Michelle saying through the looking glass. This is backwards.
ADUBATO: I‘m only saying that there are a series of stories across the board including John Kerry and whether he fought and what he did in the war.
ADUBATO: I‘m saying the line has been crossed a long time ago into people‘s personal lives.
COTTLE: I think the media though has a responsibility to go ahead and get everything out there.
COTTLE: Because the Republicans are going to throw everything they‘ve got at him unless the Clintons do it ahead of time. People want to see if he can take a hit.
ABRAMS: And Michelle, I expect the media is going to spend a lot of time in the general election at the—assuming if Barack Obama were to win, that they would spend a lot of time focusing on this drug use issue at the request of his opponent.
COTTLE: Oh, I‘m sure. I mean, drug use, whether or not everybody likes to raise their eyebrows and say, oh, everybody did it or Bill Clinton did it or you know, George W. Bush was young and foolish.
ADUBATO: No. Excuse me for jumping in. This is like all the work that was done in the media and we could say it was unfair about Bill Clinton and his womanizing. How is it different?
ABRAMS: I will tell you how it‘s different. Because it would be like Bill Clinton coming out and saying, I was womanizing and the “New York Times” doing a front page story and says, we haven‘t been able to corroborate it.
ADUBATO: If that was the case it would have gone away. Dan if this is the case, then, it will go away.
ABRAMS: Fine. Anyway, this is just, shame on the “New York Times.” And Steve, I got to wrap it up. Michelle Cottle, thanks a lot. Steve, to you as well, I appreciate it.
ADUBATO: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up: Obama cleaned up on more than just delegates this weekend. He also beat out a Clinton to win a Grammy. That‘s coming up.
And: A former cop accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend. He stunned the court. He took the stand at his defense, last year, he‘s denied he had everything to do with it. Now, his on the stand, crying claiming it was all an accident. And FOX‘s so-called premier business show takes on all the important subjects like sugar mamas and boy toys. Beat the Press is next.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.
First up: Who would have thought that President Bush would serve as the voice of moderation? In the media interview, well, when FOX‘s Chris Wallace seem to be throwing some right wing softballs for the president to hit, he didn‘t swing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, TV HOST: Are you ever puzzled by all the concern on this country about protecting the rights of people who want to kill us?
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: You know, that‘s an interesting way to put it. I wouldn‘t necessarily define some of the critics of my policy that way.
WALLACE: Your father never did any of that against your opponents back in 2000.
WALLACE: Do you feel that he has acted inappropriately as a former president?
BUSH: First of all, my father‘s wife is not running. There is a difference between father and son and father and wife.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I guess compared to FOX News President Bush is the political center.
Next up: On Friday, the premier business show on FOX did a segment on the all important business related questions surrounding sugar mamas and boy toys. I‘ll admit, I was uncomfortable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, TV HOST: So, I guess you are the young hot guy, you are the older woman looking for the young hot guy. So you are looking for a sugar mama.
You are just a sex toy that‘s what -
UNDIENTIFIED FEMALE: We had a great time.
CAVUTO: None of this was a cheap ploy for sex.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Maybe a cheap ploy for ratings. Come on. This is man is the face of the FOX business network.
Finally: I like Greta van Susteren. So, I thought it would be interesting to her interview with Paris Hilton. But I‘m guessing Greta couldn‘t actually stomach watching Paris‘ movie before the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, TV HOST: I don‘t want to give it away, but I want you to sort of tease so, they know. So, what is this movie about? I read about it. So, I know a little bit but I don‘t want to give it away for the viewers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Oh, please, tell us what happened. It‘s a Paris Hilton movie and it‘s called “The Hottie and the Nottie.” What‘s there to give away? Maybe tickets, since the movie gross just $25,000 on a 111 screens. Please give away the endings. Spare the rest of us.
Up next: Former police officer accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend takes the stand in his own defense. Bobby Cutts finally admitted today, that, yes, he might have killed Jessie Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY CUTTS, SUSPECT: (INAUDIBLE) I just started crying. And I collapsed. (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Cutts also admitted that dumping her body but still says, he‘s not guilty.
And later: Amy Winehouse won five Grammies last night. Some of for her big hit called, “Rehab” but had to perform in London because, she‘s, yeah, there. Coming up in tonight‘s Winners and Losers.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Dramatic testimony from former Ohio police officer Bobby Cutts who long claimed he did not kill his girlfriend, 26-year-old Jessie Davis, the nine-month pregnant mom whose body was found severely decomposed in an Ohio park. Today, Cutts shocked the jury by taking the stand and admitting in chilling detail his role in her death. Cutts repeatedly broke down on the stand and admitted he was there and that he dumped her body.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY CUTTS, ON TRIAL FOR KILLING GIRLFRIEND: I went to step around her and she grabbed me and said I couldn‘t leave and I pulled my arm from her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: OK.
CUTTS: I pulled my arm and I threw my elbow back and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: Were you trying to get her arms off of you?
CUTTS: I just wanted to move my elbow so she couldn‘t grab me anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: And where did that elbow land?
CUTTS: In her throat area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: In her throat area?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: What happened as a result of that?
CUTTS: She hit the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: How hard did she fall?
CUTTS: She fell pretty hard, harder than I expected her to in the first place. But she fell pretty hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The problem for Cutts is the overwhelming evidence the prosecution has built up against him. First, witness‘ testimony from his high school friend and alleged accomplice who testified earlier that Bobby showed her how he strangled his girlfriend.
Second, a long time friend testifying saying that Cutts said, “I‘m going to kill the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and throw her in the woods,” just a month before Jessie‘s death. And third, his son Blake is quoted by witnesses as saying, “Mommy‘s crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy‘s in the rug, and Daddy‘s mad.” Heartbreaking.
Joining us now, defense attorney Michelle Suskauer, MSNBC senior legal analyst Susan Filan, Michelle Sigona from “America‘s Most Wanted,” and jury consultant Carolyn Robbins-Manley. Thanks to all of you for coming on. I appreciate it.
All right. Michelle, look, this is a strategy clearly by the defense. We‘re going to play some more sound of him in a moment on the stand. But they made a risky move here deciding to put him on the stand and admitting what he wasn‘t willing to admit before, which is that he was there and he was effectively responsible. Is that going to work?
MICHELLE SIGONA, CORRESPONDENT, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”: You know, it
may work for him at this point -
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. We‘ve got two Michelles. I‘m sorry, let me go to Suskauer first. Yes.
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is difficult. You know, it obviously was not their strategy to begin with because you have defense lawyers promising a jury that they‘re not going to see any connection here. And then they go ahead and do something completely different. So they either felt like they had absolutely no hope here, or that they‘re client was insisting to take the stand. And this is going to be now basically their only chance to try to convince the jury, “Hey, listen. Forget about what I said before.” It is risky, but to humanize him.
ABRAMS: Susan -
SUSKAUER: He was just trying to explain this away.
ABRAMS: I want you to listen to another piece of sound I think that the idea that he dumps the body is just - it‘s almost impossible to explain away. Here, he‘s talking about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUTTS: You know, it‘s like I‘ve got to do something but I can‘t keep driving around with her body in the back of this truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: So what do you do?
CUTTS: I kept driving and I see this dirt road. I pull on to the dirt road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: And do you leave Jessie at that location?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You know, Susan Filan, no matter how much it‘s supposed to matter, I‘ve got to believe that when jurors go back there and they think about the fact that he‘s driving around in his truck with his nine-month pregnant girlfriend, that‘s going to be trouble.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, Dan. You just don‘t understand. I‘ve got kids and they cry better than that. Yes, it‘s a problem. It was a real bad idea to put him on the witness stand. He may have had some kind of a shot before, but it‘s over today.
ABRAMS: Let me play another piece of sound, this is number seven, actually. This is where he‘s talking about his child, all right? And this is the part of the story, I think, that got a lot of people interested, upset, angry. This is why - this is him explaining why he goes back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUTTS: My friend decided to leave. I headed down the stairs and I said, I can‘t leave Blake to find his mom the way she is. I went in Blake‘s room and he was still asleep then, that he had his cover (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I walked back out.
ABRAMS: Michelle Sigona, do you agree that this possibly sort of last minute strategy here to put him on the stand?
SIGONA: Oh my goodness. Absolutely. I mean he‘s talking about his two-year-old child that obviously saw something, that obviously knew that something was wrong with mommy. So he takes the child‘s mother out of the home after he allegedly killed her and dumps her body and never goes back for his two-year-old child. If you know anything about children, you know that they‘re not going to get up, get out of their bed, witness something, go back into their room by themselves with the lights off and so on and so forth.
So he‘s definitely trying to gain some sympathy here and to show people he‘s a real person and that he does have feelings and that he was concerned about the child at the time that the remembered. The grandmother did not even find the child until Friday morning with the soiled diaper and he had to go downstairs and find bread off the counter.
ABRAMS: Carolyn, a lot people were analyzing how he appeared. You heard Susan saying she thought it was fake crying. I had other people say that today. I would assume that is going to become crucial as this jury watches him is how believable he seems.
CAROLYN ROBBINS-MANLEY, JURY CONSULTANT: Absolutely. I agree. I don‘t think he came off credible, not only due to his demeanor or maybe his fake crying, but also in the content, in the inconsistencies. You know, he‘s a police officer. I can‘t help obviously all the things that everyone else in the panel said are very strong.
But they are going to hold him to a higher standard and they may think he knows how to play the game and he‘s trying to play the game. But when you promise something in the opening and then by the end of the trial, take a completely different strategy and it‘s inconsistent, that really aggravates jurors when they see that inconsistency.
ABRAMS: Well - and the problem is even in a radio interview here. Back in June of 2007, he was lying like crazy about it. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE RADIO REPORTER: Do you believe Jessie will be found alive?
CUTTS: Hopefully she‘ll be found alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE RADIO REPORTER: Bobby, did you have anything at all to do with the disappearance of Jessie? .
CUTTS: No, I didn‘t.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Lie, lie, lie, lie. All right. Everyone is going to stay with us because up next, the prosecution got its chance to question, grill Bobby Cutts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Does he have a cold?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Because I don‘t see any tears.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE ATTORNEY: Objection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And that is where the prosecution was going easy on him.
More of the cross-examination, next.
And later, Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher, feels no sympathy for the woman she shot in the face 16 years ago, comparing the bullet in her head to the silicone in Amy‘s chest. That‘s coming up in tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”
But first, “Reality Bites,” the sometimes painful dose of reality caught on tape. Tonight, a drag racer walked away from a fiery crash in California yesterday. Amazingly, Tony Pedregon only suffered second-degree burns after flames burned through six layers of his protective suit. You can hear Tony‘s story tomorrow morning on the “Today” show. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: Do you know according to the University of California study, up to 93 percent of communication is determined by nonverbal cues? Coming up, the former Ohio cop accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend broke down in tears on the stand today. We look at the body language as he now claims it was an accident. We‘ll also watch as the prosecutor gets a chance to grill him. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back with more of the stunning testimony from Bobby Cutts, the former Ohio police officer accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend last June while their two-year-old son was in the house. He now admitted on the stand. He was there and dumped her body. But he‘s saying it was an accident. His surprise testimony was just the beginning. The prosecutor went after him about his supposed attempts to help Jessie after Cutts says he hit her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: So you haven‘t called 911. You tried CPR and that is not successful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: And so Jessie‘s dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: So now, because you‘re concerned about Blake finding his mom like that, you roll her up in a comforter.
CUTTS: No. I didn‘t roll her up in anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: How did you put her in a comforter?
CUTTS: I took the comforter and I wrapped it around her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: And how did you carry her down the steps?
CUTTS: I carried her by her upper torso.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: So you got her by the upper torso and you are dragging her down the steps one step at a time, her feet are flopping down the steps.
CUTTS: I brought her down the steps as gently as I could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: And you threw her in the back of your pickup truck.
CUTTS: No. I did not throw her in the back of my pickup truck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Curious - why did you put the comforter around her before you took her out to the truck?
CUTTS: Actually, the comforter made it easier to carry her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Or was it because you didn‘t want the neighbors to see you carrying a body out?
CUTTS: I wasn‘t worried about what the neighbors were thinking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: If you weren‘t worried about what anybody was thinking why didn‘t you call the police?
CUTTS: I attempted to call the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: I‘m sorry?
CUTTS: I attempted to call the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: You did? When you got to your truck?
CUTTS: No, in the house and I had to use her phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Do you know how to turn the earphones on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He‘s claiming that her cell phone - he didn‘t know how to turn it on. Michelle Suskauer, look, you are a seasoned defense attorney. I think you made the point before this has got to be something of a desperate act on the part of the defense here to do this.
ABRAMS: But it is so hard to listen to him trying to explain how he wrapped his girlfriend‘s body up in a comforter and put it into his truck.
SUSKAUER: That is such a hard thing to get out of. And the only thing that I can think of here is they‘re going to just throw as many things out and claim that he was confused. It made absolutely no sense and they are going to hope the jury is coming back with a lesser offense, because he‘s not walking from this.
There‘s just no way, but that‘s what they‘re looking for. They are trying to save this guy‘s life and this is the only way that they‘re going to do it. They are going to throw out as many things and try to justify this crazy behavior.
ABRAMS: Susan, why not wait until the penalty phase if you are going to do that? I mean, you know, it seems that now they‘re going for broke at an early phase in this case. And they‘re making a lot of very damaging admissions.
FILAN: Yes. They‘re making a lot of mistakes. But the answer to your question, Dan, it‘s because, sometimes by the penalty phase, it‘s just too darn late. They‘ve already have voted to convict for murder. And they‘re backs are up. They understand he murdered her and her pregnant - you know, fetus and her body. And by then, they‘re looking to give him the death penalty.
If, at this point, they soften him up, he gets murder but maybe they find some mitigation. That‘s the best I can come up with. I don‘t buy that. The thing that bugs me so much is he comes off as both the smartest guy in the world, because he‘s got an answer for everything. But the stupidest cop in the world that he doesn‘t know how to turn on a cell phone. He doesn‘t know what CPR stands for and he is training it?
SUSKAUER: Because - wait a second. Because they are trying to show here that he was completely dazed and confused. I don‘t know if this jury is going to buy it or not, but they‘re going to say, he wasn‘t acting normally. He wasn‘t acting like a cop. He was acting like someone who was shocked and completely confused.
FILAN: Well, here‘s the problem with that. When the prosecutor has him stand up and they do this demonstration, which was so brilliant. He has Cutts be Jessie and he says, “Show me how Jessie grabbed you.” And this big arm comes out that just testified it can lift 60 pounds of dumbbells and grabs the prosecutor so hard. Forget it.
ABRAMS: Here‘s a little more of the cross-examination today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE PROSECUTOR: Did you have any idea when you left Jessie there, her body would decompose to the extent that it did?
CUTTS: No. There is no way I ever thought that her body would do that. I want to prove that I didn‘t try to kill - I didn‘t do what they were saying. Aggravated murder - I didn‘t kill anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Carolyn, before the break, we saw the prosecutor challenging him on the tears factor. And I‘ve got to believe that is going to be it. I mean, he just seems kind of odd as he‘s sort of crying but sort of not.
ROBBINS-MANLEY: Yes. It‘s not genuine. It is not a full-blown, full-body emotional cry. It‘s very stilted from the neck up kind of thing. But you know what? That, in combination with everything, it reminds me of Scott Peterson in a way. It‘s not just what we‘re talking about. It‘s before the murder, during the murder, and after the murder when you look at all the behaviors coupled with him being on the stand and acting the way he is and all the inconsistencies. I mean face it, they‘re looking to say, “Hey, this was an accident.” You know, to really get down.
ABRAMS: Yes. No question.
SIGONA: And there‘s only one side of the story there.
ABRAMS: Michelle Sigona, when does this go to the jury?
SIGONA: Well, if I‘m not mistaken, it will before the end of this month at this point. But you know, again, there is only one side of the story here. The medical examiner cannot prove exactly how she was murdered and he‘s trying to save his life. He‘s stepping up to the plate, doing his best to humanize him (UNINTELLIGIBLE) draw some emotions.
ABRAMS: And it worked for Robert Durst. We shall see. Michelle Suskauer, Susan Filan, Michelle Sigona, and Carolyn Robbins-Manley, I appreciate it.
Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Heather Mills now representing herself in court today. She may even get to cross examine Sir Paul. Amy Fisher who did a really bad job of representing herself in a magazine interview about the woman she shot in the face 16 years ago. Or Amy Winehouse who couldn‘t even represent herself at the Grammys last night because she‘s stuck in rehab in London. “Winners and Losers,” coming up.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 11th day of February, 2008.
Our bronze loser, Heather Mills, the unpopular ex-wife of Paul McCartney in court today, now representing herself after turning down a reported $50 million settlement offer. She‘s not just fighting with Sir Paul, but with her lawyers who she fired. That means she‘ll have to fend off new accusations that cheated on Paul during their relationship on her own.
Our silver loser, Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher, who posed for this photo and said in the interview about the woman she shot in the face 16 years ago, “Mary Jo Buttafuoco made more millions off what I did than what I made. I feel no sympathy for Mary Jo, the multimillionaire! The fact that Mary Jo has a bullet in her head means nothing! I still have silicone in my boobs and you don‘t hear me complaining. She can‘t feel her bullet, and I can‘t feel my silicone.” You stay classy, Amy.
But the big loser of the day, Amy Winehouse. Yes she won five Grammys last night. But the “Rehab” star couldn‘t accept her awards in person because the State Department initially denied her visa to enter the U.S. because she‘s a train wreck who allegedly was caught on camera last month smoking crack.
And our big winner of the day? Barack Obama. No, not for defeating Hillary Clinton in all five contests over the weekend, but for beating Hillary‘s husband Bill for the Grammy for best spoken word for audio version of his recent book.
It‘s time for our new E-mail segment, your chance to tell me what you love or hate about this show. Still a very real possibility the Democratic nomination will ultimately be determined by superdelegates party insiders, VIPs. I continue to call for them to step aside and let the voters choose their own nominee.
K Gaert from Ellicott City, Maryland writes, “Please continue to lead with the superdelegates story. I have been registered as a Democrat my entire life and am appalled by this whole superdelegate scheme.”
But from Bernetha George from Florence, South Carolina, says, “Who gave you the authority to create the kind of chaos and mayhem you are currently creating around the superdelegates? The time to change the rules is before the game starts, not in the middle of it when you fear you are going to lose.”
Bernetha, an election isn‘t a game. If these superdelegates wind up picking the nominee, we will end up with another Bush versus Gore situation where many will claim the political system and the rules were rigged. Whether those rules existed at the beginning or not, it‘s about maintaining faith in our democracy.
Frank Pace from Bonita Springs, Florida, “Dan I‘m with you 100 percent. Unless there is an exact tie, we should not use these so-called superdelegates.”
Finally, Dolores Nordin from Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania says, “Changing the rules now seems like a move by Obama because he thought being anointed by the press was all he needed.”
First of all, Dolores, I‘m not sure who will end up with more superdelegates. And second, are you suggesting that I‘m out to get Hillary Clinton? Night after night, I went I went after the D.C. media for being anti-Clinton. So don‘t even suggest that my criticism of the superdelegate system has anything do with some pro-Obama Agenda.
As always, thanks for your feedback. We‘re going to read E-mails every night. And we are going to announce the new name of our E-mail segment this week. A winner is going to win a prize on this one. See you next time.
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