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'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for Tuesday, June 17

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guest: Linda Sanchez, Julian Epstein, Pat Buchanan, Julie Roginsky, Lynn Sweet, Pat Buchanan, Kinky Friedman

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: The McCain camp is suggesting that Obama made it clear he‘d be soft on terrorists.  Tonight, Obama is striking back.

And flip-flop alert: John McCain announces he‘s now for offshore drilling for oil.  He‘s been against it for years.

Plus: Bush League Justice is back.  Karl Rove is under new pressure to tell Congress what he knows about the Bush Justice Department going after the former Democratic governor of Alabama.

Our all-star panel: Columnist Lynn Sweet, Pat Buchanan, Kinky Friedman, and Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

The McCain camp tries to paint Barack Obama as soft on terror.  Team Obama attacks McCain hard today for flip-flopping on a major campaign issue.

Tonight as always, we assess who won and lost this fiery day out on the trail.

First up: McCain attacking Obama as weak on terror.  It stems from

Obama‘s support of a recent Supreme Court ruling that Guantanamo Bay

detainees should have some access to U.S. courts.  During an interview with

ABC News last night, Obama said this -


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  Let‘s take the example of Guantanamo.  What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial.  They are currently in U.S.  prisons, incapacitated.


ABRAMS:  That answer unleashed a firestorm on both sides.  First, the McCain camp unloading on Obama calling him naive and saying he‘s living in a pre-9/11 world.  Then, Obama is responding to the attack tonight.


RANDY SCHEUNEMANN, MCCAIN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR:  If Senator Obama did receive that 3:00 a.m. phone call that was so often talked about in the primaries, I guess his response would be to call the lawyers in the Justice Department.  Once again, we have seen that Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mindset.



OBAMA:  These are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11.  In part, because of their failed strategies, we‘ve got bin Laden still sending out audio tapes.  And so, I don‘t think they have much standing to suggest that they‘ve learned a lot of lessons from 9/11.


ABRAMS:  So, who won on this one?

Here now: MSNBC political analyst, Pat Buchanan, author of the new book “Churchill, Hitler, and The Unnecessary War”; Democratic strategist, Julie Roginsky; former independent Texas gubernatorial candidate, Kinky Friedman, author of the new book, “What Would Kinky Do?: How to Unscrew a Screwed-up World?”; and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief and columnist for the “Chicago Sun-Times.”

All right.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Let me start with you, Pat.  How big a deal is this for one side or the other?  Who won, who lost?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it‘s a very big deal for the Republicans and the conservatives because the Supreme Court has just dealt John McCain two aces.  The Supreme Court said, in effect—terrorists caught abroad and held abroad have constitutional rights and rights to appear in American courts.  I think that makes the Supreme Court a huge issue for conservatives and so that fifth justice will be a great issue.

Also, it enabled—because Barack Obama embraced this decision to paint him as sort of a McGovernite liberal, soft on terrorism, somebody that doesn‘t understand the war on terror.  This is exactly how McCain can get into, Dan, those Hillary Democrats and Reagan Democrats in central Pennsylvania, those working class folks who say we really ought to be tough on terrorists.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, Julie, I think just the opposite in terms of talking about the courts.  I think when you talk about the Supreme Court, in any view, that‘s bad for John McCain with all the Hillary Clinton supporters, with the Reagan Democrats.  I think to talk about the court is bad news for John McCain.  But with that said, what about this back-and-forth on this issue of Obama being soft on terror with the statement that he made and McCain‘s response?


Oh, my God, break, you know, break the presses open.  The reality is, of

course, we‘re a nation of laws.  And I can‘t believe over the past eight

years it becomes trendy -

ABRAMS:  But let‘s focused on this though.


ABRAMS:  Yes.  What happened that McCain is now blasting Obama over this?

ROGINSKY:  Remember that Roosevelt thing of nothing to fear but fear itself.  Unfortunately, George Bush has exploited that where it has become a nation of fear.  The American people are too smart for this.  It‘s been you since 2006, American people realized -

ABRAMS:  So, you don‘t think this is a lose for Obama?

ROGINSKY:  No.  In fact, I think it‘s a win for Obama because sanity has finally prevailed.  The American people are going to Obama since 2006 on this issue.  John McCain needs to stop running the 2004 election.  It‘s four years later.  People realize that the rule of law needs to be re-established in this country, of course.

ABRAMS:  Kinky, Rudy Giuliani said today exactly what Julie‘s saying, “Barack Obama appears to believe that terrorists should be treated like criminals—a belief that underscores his fundamental lack of judgment regarding our national security.  In a post-9/11 world, we need to remain on offense against the terrorist threat which seeks to destroy our very way of life.”

Look, even if that‘s overstated, they are taking a statement that Obama made and they‘re blowing it up, right?  It‘s politics.

KINKY FRIEDMAN, AUTHOR, “WHAT WOULD KINKY DO?”:  Yes, they‘re doing that and that‘s going to be happening on McCain, too.  I mean, that‘s the problem that Obama has got as he‘s only been a senator what—a year and a half.  He does everything for about a year and a half.  I mean, the only thing he‘s supposed he can‘t do is that -

ABRAMS:  He‘s been a senator longer than a year and a half.

FRIEDMAN:  No, wait a minute.  He‘ll be a senator two years in November, I understand.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know how you figure that.

FRIEDMAN:  I‘m talking about federal (ph), U.S. senator.

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:  He was sworn in January of 2005.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  OK.  But let‘s get -

FRIEDMAN:  All right.  So, the kinkster‘s (ph) wrong on that.


ABRAMS:  Let me play a little bit -

FRIEDMAN:  Twenty years with a crazy church, so that‘s one thing.

ABRAMS:  Let me play a little bit more of Obama today talking about this issue, responding broadly and in depth to these McCain attacks.


OBAMA:  Let‘s talk specifically about my statement around Guantanamo.  The question is whether or not, as the Supreme Court said, people who are being held have a chance to, at least, suggest that—hey, you have got the wrong guy or I shouldn‘t be here.  It‘s not a question of whether or not they‘re freed.

And the simple point that I was making, which I will continue to make throughout this campaign, is that we can abide by due process and abide by basic concepts of rule and law and still crack down on terrorists.  The fact that you‘re allowing habeas does not necessitate that you are suddenly putting terrorists in a full U.S. trial court.  That‘s not—those two things aren‘t equivalent.


ABRAMS:  Lynn Sweet, look, he‘s right.  I mean, there‘s no question that‘s a correct analysis of the Supreme Court‘s ruling.  But it‘s tough to translate that stuff sometimes, isn‘t it?

SWEET:  Hello, he‘s running for president, not for senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.  And that‘s why, Dan and everyone, I would think today is a short-term loss for Senator Obama because McCain put him on the defensive.  It‘s kind of a simple message that they put out, he‘s naive, he‘s delusional.  He doesn‘t want to crackdown.

Obama has a very good point when he says that this loss of standing that the U.S. has by not giving due process, which I think is a better word to use than habeas, because you probably lose people there, it‘s a tougher message to explain.

ABRAMS:  But Pat, let me get back to something you said before.  You really think that to get—and you‘ve been focusing I thing correctly on these Reagan Democrats, Hillary Clinton Democrats, however you want to call them, you think that the Supreme Court is a good issue, that the right wants to talk about for them?  Forget about the base.  For them, it seems to me that the focus is not going to be on Guantanamo.  It‘s going to be on abortion rights and that‘s going to be bad news for John McCain.

BUCHANAN:  Well, no, the strongest—look, if you take polls and the conservatives have two really good issues.  One is we‘re for tax cuts, second, we‘re for constitutional jurist on the Supreme Court, not judicial activist.

ABRAMS:  When you say good news, what does that mean?

BUCHANAN:  I mean, there have always been winning issues for us. 

We always run on them.  Our guys are always out front on them.

ABRAMS:  You guys don‘t win because of them, Pat.  You don‘t win elections because of the Supreme Court, no way.

BUCHANAN:  Don‘t tell me.  We did it with Richard—we did it with Nixon.


ABRAMS:  You‘re not going to win elections based on the Supreme Court, Pat.  You may be campaigning on them.

BUCHANAN:  Well, Dan, let me explain something to you.  We campaigned on them with Nixon, and with Reagan, and with Bush, and we won all three times.

Now, let me tell you why McCain—McCain, why is he piling on this?  Kicking this guy around?  He knows he stumbled.  This guy comes off as somebody who is soft on these characters in Guantanamo who are terrorists.  He wants to bring them into court and give them rights.  Did we bring the German POWs give them rights in American courts when they said, “Hey, I didn‘t have a rifle when they caught me.”  What kind of - he‘s making a fool out of himself.

ABRAMS:  But, Julie, isn‘t it a perception problem?  Forget about whether—because again, I agree with the courts ruling here that Obama supports, but isn‘t there a perception issue?

ROGINSKY:  No, I truly—I mean, I‘ve never been prouder of Barack Obama than I was today because he restored the fact that we‘re a nation of laws, Pat.  I‘m sorry.  You don‘t want to give rights to criminals?  Where do you live?  Nazi, Germany, I mean, of course, you have to give rights to -


ABRAMS:  See, but that‘s the problem.  You‘re going to lose on that argument.

ROGINSKY:  No, we‘re not.

ABRAMS:  You are.  When you refer to them as criminals, you‘re going to lose.

ROGINSKY:  What are they?  Of course they‘re criminals.

ABRAMS:  When you arrest people abroad, I‘m telling you, that the Democrats will lose politically whether they believe it or not.

ROGINSKY:  I don‘t agree with you.

ABRAMS:  You think that it‘s politically, a good position politically for Democrats to say—anyone arrested on a battlefield abroad should be brought to United States and -

ROGINSKY:  What makes us Americans, Dan?  What makes us Americans is the fact that we give rights to people.

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m a lawyer, you‘re a political strategist.  I‘m giving you political advice and you‘re giving me legal advice.  I don‘t know.

All right.  I mean, Lynn, you tell me as the objective observer here.  I mean, isn‘t that a losing issue for Democrats politically?

SWEET:  Yes.  And for all my respect for the Obama defender there, I think you need to understand that any time that McCain is able to throw the Obama campaign off what they want to talk about today, when they‘re put on the defensive, that the Democrats have a different position than the Republicans on Guantanamo is well known that, you know, both Obama and McCain wanted to close Guantanamo.

You‘re talking about a narrow issue here.  And I think the problem is—here‘s how you analyze something like this.  One, did what happened today become a political ad to be used against Obama?  Perhaps.  Can Obama -- Obama always does this, though.  When someone calls him, as they did today, delusional or naive, he‘s going to come back in a day or two, with a speech turning that around.  OK.  But the short term loss is that -

ABRAMS:  Kinky, final thought on this.

FRIEDMAN:  Yes, I don‘t think this is a big deal.  I think it‘s a - I agree, it‘s a minor loss for Obama and a major—what I think is going to be a real uphill battle for him.

ABRAMS:  Well, look, I agree that this—I think this is a short-term loss for Obama.  I agree with Obama‘s stance on the Gitmo ruling.

FRIEDMAN:  I‘m with you.

ABRAMS:  He‘s right.  He doesn‘t suggest in any way that terror suspects should be tried in federal courts, but I think his wording here was sloppy.  And I think that politically, this is a potential problem for today, at least.

Coming up: McCain out with new ads pushing his credentials on the environment as Al Gore endorses Obama?  More Winners & Losers are coming up and eventually, all our guests will tell us who won the day.

And: The far right smear of Obama steps in the high gear from completely unproven rumors about a video with Michelle Obama to racist buttons for sale at a Texas Republican Party convention.

Plus: An army official allegedly lost his job because he refused to authorize $1 billion in questionable charges to contractor in Iraq.  Another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington.  The Pentagon is allegedly bumping off an official who tried to save taxpayers from wasteful spending in Iraq.  Charles Smith spent three decades in the army but was relieved to his post in 2004 after he refused to authorize more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR—the contractor with ties to Vice President Cheney.

Smith said that as he was getting tough with KBR about their charges, he was replaced by someone who approved most of the payment he‘s tried to block.  Army officials denied Smith was moved because of the dispute but confirmed they went ahead with payments to KBR because they didn‘t want to interrupt basic services to troops in Iraq.

The army allegedly firing one of their own as big payment may have gone unchecked, another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more of our Win, Lose, or Draw, including the new ads from both McCain and  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  We continue with our Win, Lose, or Draw edition of On Their Trail: Assessing who won the day on the campaign trail, McCain or Obama.

Pat Buchanan, Julie Roginsky, Kinky Friedman, and Lynn Sweet are still with us.

Next up: John McCain is caught in a flip-flop as he tries to make high gas prices a campaign issue.  McCain announced during a major speech today that he would now be in favor of drilling for oil off the coast of states like Florida and California.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States.  But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production.  And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.



ABRAMS:  The problem—up until now, McCain was against that very same idea.  It‘s one of the reasons he‘s had some support among environmental activists.  Obama today, wasted no time pouncing on the flip flop.


OBAMA:  This is yet another reversal by John McCain in terms of his earlier positions.  And I think we could set up an interesting debate between John McCain 2000 and John McCain 2008.


ABRAMS:  And the White House says tonight, that President Bush is going to call on Congress tomorrow to lift the ban on offshore drilling.

Pat, was it worth the flip-flop on this?

BUCHANAN:  Sure was.  The Republicans have polled these things, Dan.  And clearly, the vast majority in the country now want drilling, in a lot of places, they didn‘t want drilling before.  Gasoline prices are the big issue.  McCain has moved, no doubt it‘s a flip-flop.  But it‘s a winner for McCain.

And I think that Barack Obama, if he wants to stick on that idea, can‘t drill in ANWR, can‘t drill off the coast.  That is not a winner when gasoline is $4 to $4.50 a gallon.

ABRAMS:  Julie?

ROGINSKY:  Well, first of all, we‘re allowed to drill—oil companies have 80 percent of the oil they‘re allowed to drill, is actually they have a legal right to drill on it but only 10 acres of the 10 million acres of that out of 44 million that are actually drillable.  So, to me, it means, if they want to drill it, why don‘t they drill it?  I mean, the reality is that they‘re obviously not doing this, and not exploring the leases they have right now.

ABRAMS:  All right, let‘s talk - I want to politics though.

ROGINSKY:  Politically, well, politics, essentially, John McCain, Pat, we talked about it last week, wave bye-bye to New Jersey, wave bye-bye to a lot of these coastal states that you thought you had a shot in because this is a killer for the coast.  Politically, there‘s no way that McCain is going to win states—New Jersey about last week and I talked about you thought he had a shot in, because these are actually political dead ends for John McCain in states like that.

ABRAMS:  Kinky?

FRIEDMAN:  Well, John McCain‘s listening to the people.  He did the same thing with immigration, when he discovered that people want to protect the borders.  This has to be a multifaceted approach.  I mean, Hitler used synthetic fuels to fuel his whole panzer divisions in World War II.  Brazil, as we know, is energy independent.

I mean, we‘re going to need biodiesel.  We‘re going to need offshore drilling.  We‘re going to need nuclear.  You know, this is something we‘ve ignored for a very long time.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, we‘re getting all sorts of interesting - somewhat off point politically.   


ABRAMS:  It‘s interesting.  Look, it‘s interesting, it‘s just, I want to talk, Lynn, about the politics here, all right?

SWEET:  Yes, I can do that.

ABRAMS:  McCain is flip-flopping on this.  But the question is—is it worth it?  Because—go ahead.

SWEET:  It is not going to be worth it.  He won‘t know what hit him.  And if it might not be today, it might not be tomorrow.  If he‘s looking for moderates and independents, crossover Democrats, the environment was a good issue.  Vice President Gore last night standing with the other boy, it‘s a minus for him.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve got to move on.  I‘m going to call this one as a draw.  McCain starting to develop a major flip-flopping problem, but the fact is, gas prices will be a crucial issue this fall, this type of pandering might help him.  It‘s a draw.

Next up: The left wing group, unveiling a new ad today hammering McCain.  The ad plays off McCain‘s comments earlier this year that U.S. forces might be in Iraq for 100 years.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, John McCain.  This is Alex.  And he‘s my first.  So far, his talents include trying any new food and chasing after our dog.  That and making my heart pound every time I look at him.  So, John McCain, when you say you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex because if you were, you can‘t have him?

NARRATOR:  Over 3 million members of political action are responsible for the content of this ad.


ABRAMS:  I‘m glad we included the disclaimer at the end.

Kinky, what do you make of it?  Is it going to work?

FRIEDMAN:  No, it‘s not going to work.  I‘ll tell you the history of America, England and Israel shows us that war-makers, warriors, make the best peacemakers.  They are the peacemakers.  They are the ones.  It is not just people who come to the game lately.

And McCain hates war as much as anybody.  I mean, this guy‘s at least been tested in one theater.  And I‘m afraid that‘s more than we can say about Obama.  I would like to like Obama more than I‘m able.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but I think, Lynn, we learned, at least, from the Democratic primary is that experience may not be the defining issue in this campaign.  The question is going to be - and look, Iraq is going to be a crucial issue.  You know, I think that that ad is, while a little over the top, it has the potential to be kind of effective.

SWEET:  Well, we‘ll think of a new term, it‘s swiftboatian-like, because it clearly distorts McCain‘s issue.  He doesn‘t - you know, he was talking in the sense that we have troops in Korea and Germany, that‘s different than a warrior force fighting everyday and we‘re taking the incoming.  Move on though is willing to take the hit for being a demagogue on the issue.  But it does -

ABRAMS:  But I don‘t understand, I mean, how you can keep people in Iraq in a war zone and expect that it‘s going to be like sitting in Japan right now.  But you know -

SWEET:  No, you can‘t.  That‘s why I think Moveon, that is helpful to Obama even though if we‘re doing the civics lesson thing, I would have to give it a demerit because it is demagoguing and distorting his views.  Will it still help Obama?  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Look, I think it‘s a lose for McCain.  It‘s a bit over the top.  Maybe it was demagoguing, but it was this type of independent ad.  And I think you‘re right in comparing it to the swiftboat that hurt John Kerry four years ago.  And if they do a lot of this, it could hurt McCain this time around politically.

BUCHANAN:  No, Dan.  It appeals to the Democratic base.  They‘ve already got, for heavens sakes.  The kid is not going to Iraq if he‘s not drafted.

ABRAMS:  Next up: John McCain unveiling a new TV ad of his own today on global warming.  Maybe not so coincidentally, coming just one day after Obama was endorsed by “Captain Climate Change,” Al Gore.


NARRATOR:  John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming five years ago.  Today, he has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse gas emissions, a plan that will help grow our economy and protect our environment.

Reform.  Prosperity.  Peace.  John McCain.


ABRAMS:  Lynn Sweet, what do you make of the timing of that ad?

SWEET:  I am baffled.  Why they wasted money on this ad when the free media is questioning why he‘s opening the door to drilling, which is anathema to conservationists and the very people he‘s appealing to, I don‘t know why they just didn‘t yank this and do it another day because it‘s just mixed messages.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘m out of time here.  What I want to go around is I want to go around the horn here and declare the day as a win or a loss for Obama or McCain or a draw.  Win, lose or draw—Julie?

ROGINSKY:  Draw, for both.

ABRAMS:  Draw.  All right.  Kinky?

FRIEDMAN:  Yes, draw.

ABRAMS:  Lynn?

SWEET:  Draw.

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  Pat?

BUCHANAN:  McCain, you got Obama talking about his issue, you know, terrorists, national security, and Obama on the defensive.  It‘s a pretty big win for John McCain.  And the stuff, that appeals to people.

ROGINSKY:  Guess what, Pat, it‘s the whole terrorism thing if you‘ll see your base, but I think rational people know that probably not -

ABRAMS:  All right.  Thank you to our -

BUCHANAN:  Terrorism is bigger than


ROGINSKY:  I don‘t know about that.  It‘s shrinking every day.

ABRAMS:  Thanks to our guests.  Appreciate it.

Coming up: The far right smear machine kicks into high gear.  The latest new racist button sold at a Texas Republican Party convention about Obama.

Plus: Congress sends a new letter to Karl Rove, demanding he testify about whether he pushed prosecutors to go after Alabama‘s former Democratic governor.

And: FOX‘s New York station did some award level investigative reporting on dogs relieving themselves in a park and the people who picnic there afterwards.  That‘s coming up in Beat the Press.


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

First up tonight: Thank goodness there are still some great investigative journalists out there willing to tackle the issues you need to know.  Here‘s Andrea Day from FOX‘s New York station.


ANDREA DAY, FOX CORRESPONDENT:  And what you‘re about to see will probably make you think twice before lying down or even sitting down to enjoy a nice day here in the park.

This dog is taking its morning bathroom break.  Just a little while later, this woman takes a little break, too.  The disgusting part is she‘s napping on the very same patch of grass where this dog did his business.  And check out the spot this guy decided to have lunch on.  Just a little while earlier, it‘s the very same spot where this dog decided to leave its mark.


ABRAMS:  I hope it‘s being submitted for some awards.  Her next report maybe—the dangers of swimming in a pool with your kids.

Next up, Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine Pirro, now a FOX analyst, is a friend of the show and a good and tough prosecutor.  But maybe sometimes she‘s too tough.


JEANINE PIRRO, FOX ANALYST:  He decided to take this child‘s life.  And law enforcement, make no mistake, Geraldo, will be extremely tough on him.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX HOST:  Extremely tough.  He‘s dead.


ABRAMS:  Can‘t be much tougher than that.

Finally, sometimes a well intentioned reporter from the field may not see why the use of props could be considered funny.  This is from Friday on CNN.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR:  A few other things while you‘re shopping at the grocery store.  Hello, Zain Verjee.  

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN REPORTER:  Good morning, Kyra Phillips.  How are you? 

PHILLIPS:  I‘m doing just fine.  We‘re a little distracted by your live shot.  I‘m not quite sure why.  I don‘t know, maybe -


ABRAMS:  Clearly, the reporter did not get it.  But Kyra Phillips then offered her a clue. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR:  Very own little produce manager. 

PHILLIPS:  That‘s right.  Zain Verjee, the most melons in the morning. 


ABRAMS:  Up next, the House Judiciary Committee upping the pressure on Karl Rove sending him a new letter demanding he testify about whether he was involved in the prosecution of Alabama‘s former Democratic governor.  A member of that committee is with us.

And later, new right wing smears against Obama, including racist buttons sold at a Texas GOP convention.  Coming up. 



ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  An update in our “Bush League Justice” series.  The House Judiciary Committee fires off yet another letter to Karl Rove saying, quote, “We are writing with respect to the pending subpoena for Mr. Rove‘s appearance on July 10th.  We want to re-emphasize that we expect Mr. Rove to attend the hearing.” 

The committee continuing its investigation into allegations that Rove played a role in the prosecution of prominent Democrat and former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.  Karl Rove‘s attorney Robert Luskin continues to stonewall on whether Rove will testify, thus far only offering to have Rove show up for a conversation with committee members and only if it was not under oath. 

So what happens if he continues to refuse to testify?  Well, I asked Judiciary Committee member Debbie Wasserman Schultz if they would follow through on a threat by Chairman Conyers to have Rove arrested. 


DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ, MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER:  Well, I think we‘ll pursue it, you know, to the maximum extent possible as chairman Conyers said.  

ABRAMS (on camera):  What? 

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ:  Well, if that‘s what it takes.  I mean we really cannot allow the co-equal branch of government, the legislative branch to be trampled upon by the executive branch.  


ABRAMS:  The Justice Department‘s Office of Professional Responsibility is also conducting an investigation.  Today, Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney whose first case against Gov. Siegelman was thrown out by a federal court telling this program, quote, “We are cooperating in that investigation.” 

Joining me now is Judiciary Committee member, Rep. Linda Sanchez who wrote this latest letter to Karl Rove.  Also joining us is former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein and back with us Pat Buchanan.  Thanks to all of you, I appreciate it. 

All right.  Rep. Sanchez, look.  Karl Rove‘s lawyer is still not directly responding to your letters.  I mean, up to this point he has said, willing to come up for a conversation.  He‘s not going to testify under oath.  The White House is citing executive privilege.  It is not going to happen, is it? 

REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D-CA), MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  We don‘t know.  Again, we wrote a letter to his attorney saying that we fully expect him to comply with the subpoena and appear before the subcommittee on July 10th for the hearing.  And, you know, if he has any kind of claims of privilege of any sort, he has to exert them on a question-by-question basis once he‘s in front of the committee, but we do expect him to be there. 

ABRAMS:  To use your words, I fully expect he won‘t be there.  Let me read from you the White House.  This is what the White House said in response to your subpoena, “The committee has now subpoenaed him for the apparent purpose of asking questions already covered by the president‘s prior assertion of executive privilege.  They know he can‘t answer, but they want their political theater.  We will review the subpoena, assess its relationship to currently pending matters.” 

I mean, they‘re not going to allow him to testify.  He doesn‘t want to testify in my view.  And as a result, I don‘t think there‘s any chance.  I mean, do you really believe that there‘s even a tiny chance that Karl Rove is going to show up to assert his privilege?  He‘s going to do what he did last time and say, “Sorry, it‘s not happening.”  

SANCHEZ:  Again, we‘ve made very clear that we expect him to be there.  And again, if he has any kind of privilege that he wants to assert, he has to do it on a question-by-question basis.  He cannot simply say, “Oh, it‘s all covered by executive privilege.”  Because interestingly enough, in comments that he‘s made to written and media press, he‘s said that the president wasn‘t involved in any discussions.  Therefore, how can he even possibly assert presidential executive privilege?  It doesn‘t follow.

ABRAMS:  Look, I get it.  I‘ve made that point many times on this program that he has said he had no conversations at the White House about this, so I don‘t understand how executive privilege can be asserted.  But again, executive privilege in the end belongs to the White House and not to him. 

SANCHEZ:  Right.

ABRAMS:  But you say how can he possibly not show up.  He‘s already done it once before.  I mean you guys have issued subpoenas in connection with the U.S. attorney scandal.  Executive privilege was asserted.  He didn‘t come and he‘s not going to come again.  Isn‘t this turning into just sort of wishful thinking? 

SANCHEZ:  Well, again, we saw some very early hopeful signs in communications and negotiations with his attorney that he might be willing to present himself for questioning.  They want it a very limited scope, simply to the Siegelman matter.  We want it on a much broader scope, relating to all the issues with respect to the politicization of the Justice Department.  So, you know, we‘re trying.  We‘re working.  We‘re trying to be reasonable.  We‘re trying to work something out.  And if it doesn‘t happen, well, then, we have to take the next step.  

ABRAMS:  And what is the next step? 

SANCHEZ:  The next step would be pursuing contempt, contempt for not complying with the legal mandate to present yourself in front of a committee and testify.  And there are two types of contempt.  I‘m sure that you‘ve been over them. 


SANCHEZ:  But there‘s inherent contempt, and then there‘s statutory contempt. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So you - we‘ve had Conyers and we‘ve had Rep.  Wasserman-Schultz on this program as well, both talking about the possibility of arrest.  And I don‘t thing anyone believes that there‘s any chance that the u.s.  Congress is going to haul Karl Rove in there and arrest him.  Is there really a chance that will happen? 

SANCHEZ:  Well, it‘s kind of an interesting question because the law governing inherent contempt is sort of arcane.  It hasn‘t been used in a long, long time, so it would be very interesting to see under modern circumstances.

ABRAMS:  It would be more than interesting.  

SANCHEZ:  Under modern circumstances, you know, could we do it?  Would we

do it?  And you know -

ABRAMS:  Would you do it?  Would you do it?

SANCHEZ:  It‘s an option that‘s still on the table at this point.  

ABRAMS:  But would you do it? 

SANCHEZ:  We‘d have to discuss it, but it is an option that‘s still available to us.  

ABRAMS:  Julian Epstein, look.  You‘ve been there.  You‘ve been the lawyer advising the House Judiciary Committee. 

What do you advise them in this kind of situation?  You know Karl Rove‘s not going to come.  They‘re demanding that he come.  They‘re writing another letter.  What do you advise?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, first of all, there‘s a very legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee to get involved here.  You‘ve got serious allegations including 54 former state attorney generals who have said that this case looks politically motivated including what public (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  

ABRAMS:  Right.  Let‘s assume that to be the case.  


EPSTEIN:  You‘re talking about something here where if the White House is using the Justice Department as a political cudgel, you‘re talking about what happened during Watergate.  You‘re talking about a very, very serious accusation, that‘s point one.  Point two, on executive privilege, only the president can exert executive privilege, not Mr. Rove. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

EPSTEIN:  And that privilege is now waived if Mr. Rove, as he indicated through his attorney, is willing to have nonpublic conversations with the Judiciary Committee and staff.  So effectively, that privilege is gone.  I think it‘s very difficult for him to do it. 


ABRAMS:  Let‘s assume all that to be the case, what do you advise him to do now? 

EPSTEIN:  It‘s a tricky thing and there is no good answer.  There is the honest answer.  There are two ways of proceeding here.  There is a criminal contempt where you would take a criminal contempt citation to the floor.  But then you have to have a local U.S. attorney enforce the criminal contempt citation and this Justice Department would unlikely enforcement. 

There is inherent criminal - inherent contempt whereby the House could hold a trial and hold Mr. Rove - literally the sergeant at arms could literally put him in jail for the duration of the congress as a compulsory means of getting the information.  I don‘t know how likely it is that they would do that.  The House hasn‘t really used that kind of inherent contempt in a long time.  Certainly not -

ABRAMS:  Julian, would you advise them - if you were the counsel now, knowing what you know - knowing Karl Rove‘s not coming, would you advise them to use inherent contempt? 

EPSTEIN:  I would advise them probably to use criminal contempt, get the criminal contempt citation passed on the House Floor, let the Justice Department say they‘re going to continue to obstruct the proper investigation into this case.  Because guess what?  I think Sen. Obama is going to be President Obama in six months and the truth of this matter will come out.  

ABRAMS:  Pat, what about the fact that Rove is saying - he said, “I didn‘t have any conversations at the White House about this?”  What‘s the executive privilege? 

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, the White House has invoked it.  And if I were Karl Rove, I would just tell them, “Look, my conversations in the White House were not - they‘re really privileged.  I‘m not coming out.  Go ahead.  Vote your contempt citation.”

ABRAMS:  He didn‘t have any conversations. 

BUCHANAN:  “Vote your contempt citation, take it to the floor and vote it there.  Send it over to the U.S. attorney, send me a copy and I‘ll hang it up on my wall.”  They‘re not going to arrest anybody.  This is going to expose the impotence of this committee and the fact that this is political theater.  

ABRAMS:  All right.  Rep. Sanchez, that sounds like a challenge from Pat Buchanan.

SANCHEZ:  Yes.  It wouldn‘t be the first time that he would have issued a ridiculous challenge.  Hey, look, the problem is there needs to be enough American outcry to say, look, these are legitimate concerns.  There are facts that support these allegations.  We need to have the information.  And congress, as a co-equal branch of government, deserves to get to the bottom of this. 

Nobody in this country wants to feel like the Justice Department can be used as a political cudgel. 

BUCHANAN:  Ms. Sanchez -

SANCHEZ:  And I‘m going to tell you that people in the streets should be outraged ...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but -

SANCHEZ:  ... at the assertion that this is executive privilege.


BUCHANAN:  People are not outraged, Ms. Sanchez. 

ABRAMS:  They‘re not outraged.  Hang on a second, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  They‘re like me.  They‘re laughing.  

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s the problem.  But that‘s the problem.

EPSTEIN:  I kind of disagree of that either.

ABRAMS:  But that‘s problem, Rep. Sanchez, is that I think that if nothing is done, there‘s going to be a sense that there‘s been no accountability at all for this administration and in particular when congress has demanded that these people testify, that they‘re simply, you know, saying we don‘t care. 

EPSTEIN:  Dan, there‘s something missing -

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to give Rep. Sanchez a final word on this, then I‘ve got to wrap it up.  

SANCHEZ:  Yes, I agree.  We really need to set our foot down and show that there are consequences to people who laugh in the face of congressional subpoenas.  Otherwise, congress is looked at as a dog without any teeth.  And there will be repercussions and we are working on laying out the case and making sure that we can hold this administration accountable for all of the wrongdoing they‘ve done within the Department of Justice.  

ABRAMS:  You said that to Pat Buchanan, too, because he‘s laughing, too. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Rep. Sanchez, Julian Epstein, Pat Buchanan, thanks a lot. 

Up next, new right-wing smears against Obama including racist buttons sold at a Texas GOP convention.  It‘s coming up.  


ABRAMS:  The far right-wing smear machine is kicking into gear.  Racist buttons being sold at a Texas GOP convention.



JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  We‘re just getting in some Barack-ing news right now.  Oh, this is interesting.  “SomeGuyI‘” is reporting presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama has lady parts. 


ABRAMS:  Jon Stewart taking shots at the rumor mill.  The right-wing smear machine, though, is hitting new lows with a blatantly racist button being sold at a Texas Republican convention or this racist doll that a Utah couple tells a local newspaper today they might still be planning to sell even after an uproar over the clearly racist message of the doll. 

And Jon Stewart has a name for the many Obama-bashing Internet rumors out there and the people who buy into them. 


STEWART:  Baracknophobia - It is defined as the irrational fear of hope, the irrational fear that behind the mild-mannered facade, Barack Obama is intent on enslaving the white race.  It‘s true, wake up, white people.  The sickness manifests itself through rumor, often in the form of the only E-mail your grandmother has only been able to successfully forward. 


ABRAMS:  So is Obama going to have to spend the rest of the campaign fighting off these smear tactics and baseless rumors?  Is this the far right-wing strategy? 

Back with me is Pat Buchanan and Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky. 

All right.  Pat, is this - look, McCain is not behind this racist stuff, all right?  But the far right is engaging in this stuff.  Is this going to be happening throughout the campaign? 

BUCHANAN:  Look, I don‘t know.  Look, what McCain ought to do is keep the focus of the - Republicans ought to keep the focus on the radicalism of Obama in certain areas, the fact that he‘s out of touch with Middle America ...

ABRAMS:  Look, Pat, I don‘t want you to change the subject, though. 

BUCHANAN:  ... that he‘s not qualified to be commander-in-chief.  

ABRAMS:  Pat, I don‘t want you to change the subject. 

BUCHANAN:  No.  No.  But I don‘t know - Look, what are they doing now - and just tell me what they‘re doing and I‘ll suitably condemn whatever it is. 

ABRAMS:  Well, no.  Fair enough. 

BUCHANAN:  What are we, moonlighting for Barack here, Dan? 

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Let me give you a hint of what they‘re doing?  They‘re selling buttons in Florida saying is the White House still going to be able to be called the “White House” if Barack Obama‘s president?  How about condemning that?  I think that‘s disgusting.  I think you agree with me, right?

BUCHANAN:  Well, that sounds like - that sounds like a dumb third grade joke and I don‘t think we ought to be talking about it on national television.  There‘s a lot of important things to talk about, Dan.

ROGINSKY:  Why don‘t we condemn it on national television, Pat?  Why don‘t we all agree that it‘s not the right thing to do? 

ABRAMS:  Look, Pat, we‘ve talked about this before with regard to -

BUCHANAN:  I think the kid should be sent to the corner who wrote the joke. 

ROGINSKY:  And I think that they should stop selling the buttons and profiting off that.  How about that?

ABRAMS:   Look, we all agree that these buttons, et cetera, are offensive.  I think that we all agree about, you know, these dolls, et cetera.  But the question - I want to talk about the macro-picture, Pat.  There is no question when you have “The National Review Online” asking Obama to dispel a whole bunch of untruths about him, et cetera.  It seems to me that there is a campaign on the part of the far right here to keep the discussion going about Barack Obama and race, and Barack Obama and his country of origin. 

BUCHANAN:  Wait a minute, Dan.  I think - Dan, I cannot believe this.  When Barack Obama went over the top, we celebrated the first African-American ever.  It‘s in the newspapers and it‘s in the headlines.  Everybody‘s celebrating what fact - the first African-American, history was made.  And now, you‘re telling me somebody is mentioning that he‘s African-American and that‘s racist? 

ABRAMS:  No, no.  Pat, we‘re talking about the racist -

BUCHANAN:  What are you talking about? 

ABRAMS:  Pat, we‘re talking about racist -

BUCHANAN:  What about the beam in your own eye? 

ABRAMS:  We‘re talking about - yes.  Pat, look.  If you watch my coverage - you know, I get accused of being pro-Hillary Clinton one day.  I get accused by you the next day of being pro-Obama.  And today, I just -

BUCHANAN:  Well, perhaps both are true.  

ABRAMS:  And you know what else?  And today I sit there telling you that McCain - that a number of things were big losses for Obama on the trail. 

But the point isn‘t about me.  That point is about -

BUCHANAN:  But why are we raising a silly - Look, you‘re not a good -

ABRAMS:  Look, it‘s not silly, Pat, that Jon Stewart has touched on something.

BUCHANAN:  Some guy is selling a button with a dumb joke on it and you got it on national television? 

ABRAMS:  It‘s not about a button, Pat.  It‘s not about a button.  I didn‘t put the button on national television for a reason because I don‘t want to give the guy the publicity.  I didn‘t put the button on television.  What I‘m doing is talking generally about this issue.  And I think it‘s important and I want to know if you think that there is a strategy on the part of members of the far right to keep this issue in the national discussion? 

BUCHANAN:  No, I think it‘s a case more of liberal paranoia. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  Someone was in my ear.  What did you -

ROGINSKY:  Fake liberal paranoia. 

BUCHANAN:  I said, it‘s not a right wing strategy.  It would be stupid. 

It‘s liberal paranoia.  


ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan -


ROGINSKY:  That‘s not paranoia.  That‘s reality.  Your party is selling this.  

ABRAMS:  Pat Buchanan -

BUCHANAN:  Lady, look at a mirror. 

ROGINSKY:  Look at a mirror?  What are you talking about? 

ABRAMS:  Pat, Julie, you know, this has been a heck of a show.  It has been kind of a mess, this show.  Pat, Julie, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

BUCHANAN:  Take it easy.

ABRAMS:  Up next, a safer subject.  Will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Anne Hathaway who may have finally gotten smart about her controversial boyfriend who allegedly had dough problems; Joan Rivers who made the British say “Don‘t!” on live TV; or Ed McMahon who might get some big-time dough, thanks to Britney Spears. 

Plus your E-mails, we call it the “P.O.‘d Box.”  We‘ll be right back. 


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this 17th day of June, 2008.  Our first loser, Bill Clinton, now caught up in a new scandal involving a Betty.  Crocker, that is. 

Last night we called out Cindy McCain for submitting a suspiciously similar butterscotch cookie recipe to the recipe found on the Hershey‘s Web site.  Now, the chips may be falling for the former president who submitted a recipe to the same bake off as Mrs. McCain, presumably from his chief.  It turns out it‘s an almost exact copy of the one found in the Betty Crocker cookbook.  We still do not know whether Clinton had any relationship with that woman, Betty Crocker. 

Loser, Raffaello Follieri.  Who?  The controversial boyfriend of actress Anne Hathaway.  Last week, it was reported that the Italian-American businessman‘s charity was being investigated, that on top of criminal charges filed against him after he allegedly bounced a $200,000 check.  Those charges were dropped.  He‘s a real loser tonight, though, because the “Daily Mail” reports he got dropped by Hathaway.  The star of the upcoming movie “Get Smart” may have finally gotten smart. 

Our big loser - Joan Rivers, kicked off a daytime talk show in Britain, was kicked off for this. 


JOAN RIVERS, TV PERSONALITY:  You get someone like Russell Crowe, and you

want to say to the camera, “He is a piece of - get ready to bleep this -

(EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He is just -


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CO-HOST:  We are going out live. 


ABRAMS:  She got kicked off. 

Our big winner of the day - Ed McMahon.  The TV icon‘s financial troubles have made news because he has not been able to unload his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills home.  He was facing foreclosure.  One of the reasons the house wasn‘t selling, he lived down the streets from Britney Spears and her home was constantly mobbed by paparazzi. 

Well, now, Ed may have just won the real estate equivalent of the Publisher‘s Clearinghouse jackpot.  TMZ is reporting that Britney is moving out of her current pad and buying a place in the valley.  We hope so, for Ed‘s sake. 

Do we have time for any E-mails?  No.  Out of time tonight.  You can E-mail me about the show at  Thanks for watching.  We‘ll have the “P.O.‘d Box” back tomorrow.  I‘ll be in Washington tomorrow night to attend the funeral of Tim Russert.  I‘ll see you from there tomorrow.



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