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'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for Monday, July 7

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Lisa Caputo, David Corn, Brad Blakeman, Michael Waldman, Julian Epstein

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight: Karl Rove says he will defy a congressional subpoena to testify this week.  Will the House Judiciary Committee now take steps to force Rove to testify?

And we are On Their Trail: Conservatives going after Obama on abortion.  Is that really an issue that will help McCain?  As always, we ask who won the day.

Lisa Caputo, David Corn, and Brad Blakeman are among our guests.

Plus: Let Snow White and Goofy pack heat, the NRA and some of the Florida legislature now accusing Disney World of violating state law by refusing to allow employees to bring guns to the theme park.

VERDICT starts now.

Hi, everyone.  Welcome to the show.

We begin with more of our Bush League Justice series.

Tonight, it‘s official.  Karl Rove just says no to a congressional subpoena.  His lawyer is informing the House Judiciary Committee in a letter that he will not even appear on Thursday, the date the committee set for his testimony.

Members of that committee, including on this program, have threatened to arrest Rove if he does not appear.  The question tonight: Will they follow through with the threats?

Rove was subpoenaed in May to answer questions about whether he played a role in the prosecution of former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman.  The Democrat has alleged that Rove and some top Alabama Republicans improperly worked to bring him down for political reasons.

Rove wrote me an angry letter, claiming he didn‘t meet with anyone at the Justice Department about the Siegelman case, but what about anyone in Alabama?

The committee also wants to ask broader questions about politicizing the Justice Department.  In a letter to the committee, Rove‘s attorney, Robert Luskin wrote, quote, “Mr. Rove will respectfully decline to appear before the subcommittee on July 10th on the grounds that executive privilege confers upon him immunity from process in response to a subpoena.”  Luskin again said Rove is willing to talk to the committee but not under oath and without a transcript.

In response, the committee again cited an email Luskin wrote to this program where he told us Rove would testify if subpoenaed.  It seems pretty clear now he‘s not coming.

So, what will the House do now?  Will Karl Rove really be the subject of contempt proceedings?  Does the House really have the stomach for it?

Joining me now: Michael Waldman from the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law and the author of, “A Return to Common Sense”; and, former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein.

All right.  Michael, let me start with you.  Look, it is clear, Karl Rove is not coming.  I mean, the House Judiciary Committee can say as much as they want, “We‘re still hoping; we‘re still encouraging him to come; we‘re still insisting that he come.”  He‘s not coming.  So, what do they do now?

MICHAEL WALDMAN, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW:  Well, it‘s really quite remarkable, as you say, that you can just say no to lawful subpoena from Congress.  Congress has a bunch of tools that they can use.  They can, of course, throw him in jail.  There‘s a jail in the basement of the Capitol.  That‘s probably the extreme remedy.

There are all kinds of other things.  They can cut off funding.  They can hold up nominations.  They can bring a lawsuit, has been in the case in the Harriet Miers contempt case.  But what Congress really has to have when it looks in its tool box is not any of these tools, but some backbone.  Congress is a co-equal branch of government and it needs to stand up for its rights in this.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, Julian, look, you‘ve been the guy behind the scenes as the lawyer advising the House Judiciary Committee on what they do in situations like this.  Bring us behind the scenes.  I mean, look, we keep hearing them talk about and I‘ll play in a minute, one of the House Judiciary Committee members on this program, talking about the possibility of arresting Rove, but behind the scenes, what are they saying?

JULIAN EPSTEIN. FMR. JUDICIARY CMT. COUNSEL:  Well, we‘re in an era now where the Independent Counsel Statute has elapsed and what Congress is left with, in most cases such as this, is to enforce subpoenas through contempt citations; it‘s a very onerous process.  I think what you‘re going to see the House do on Thursday and Mike, I think, hit it right on the head by pointing to the Miers case.

In the Miers case, it looks like a federal judge, a Republican-appointed judge, may actually issue an injunction to former White House counsel Harriet Miers to appear before the judiciary committee to testify.  That really gets you around a lot of the stickiness of enforcing a contempt citation.

And, I think, what they will do in this case is they will go to court and they will follow exactly what they did in the Miers case and they will try to get a federal judge to issue an injunction.  And I think that‘s probably the smartest way for the committee to proceed at this point.

ABRAMS:  But, in effect, look—in effect, Michael, it seems to me that Karl Rove has called the bluff of the judiciary committee.  I mean, again and again, they‘ve been saying, “You must testify, you at least, must show up and invoke executive privilege.”  He‘s saying, “I‘m not even going to show up.”

WALDMAN:  Well, what you have to rely on in something like this, is some basic respect for the rule of law.  And as Julian says, if you have two branches that you‘re in contempt of, that makes it even more onerous.

I mean, all the administrations in the past, the very fear of looking like you are stonewalling and obstructing justice was enough to get White Houses of both Democratic and Republican presidents to cooperate.  Tons of senior officials from the government have testified.  I worked in the Clinton White House, practically, everybody there testified.  It‘s just part of what goes on in Washington.  What this White House is doing is really unusual in the extreme.

ABRAMS:  I asked judiciary committee member, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whether they will follow through on a threat by Chairman Conyers to arrest Rove and here‘s what she said.


REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA:  Well, I think we‘ll pursue it, you know, to the maximum extent possible as Chairman Conyers said that we -

ABRAMS:  Arrest him.

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:  But, Julian, as a practical matter, that‘s exactly what‘s going to happen, right?

EPSTEIN:  Well, it‘s always been the case that it is very hard to enforce contempt citations.  Remember, in all of the years when Michael was in the White House, it was worked out through an accommodation process.  You also had an Independent Counsel Statute which was a check on the executive branch.

Now, at that point, you have a very, very different situation legally right now, and that‘s why I think you‘re actually going to see in the federal districts court make new law in the Miers case.

But, you know, for your viewers, there are some very important things to keep in mind here.  Remember, there are allegations that senior White House officials were using the Justice Department in an attempt to undermine their political opponents.


EPSTEIN:  Not just in Alabama, but in the state of Washington and a number of other places.  And so, this is something that gets very close to Watergate.  Secondly, I think this show has done a very responsible job, Dan, not to suck up to you on air, but I think the media plays a very, very, very important role here and a lot of what you saw during the Clinton years when Michael was there, was a result of very, very intense media pressure combined with a very strong backbone on the part of Congress to actually get some type of resolution that you didn‘t see here.

ABRAMS:  And, Michael, finally, I mean, I‘ve talked about the fact that Robert Luskin, the attorney for Karl Rove, had told us when we asked him if he would testify, he said, “Sure, if he was subpoenaed.”  But we also asked him this question: “Did Mr. Rove ever talk to the Department of Justice, anyone in the White House or anyone in Alabama about the investigation and prosecution of former governor, Don Siegelman?”

That Luskin responded to us, it‘s on April 7th, 2008: “As Mr. Rove has repeatedly stated, he did not speak with anyone in the White House or the Justice Department concerning the prosecution of Governor Siegelman,” but he leaves out Alabama.  And that remains, I think, the most important issue in this particular case is: Did Karl Rove talk to anyone in Alabama?

And since he said he didn‘t talk to anyone in the White House, that‘s always baffled me about how that‘s executive privilege, but, Michael, quick response and then I have to move on.

WALDMAN:  Well, that‘s a non-denial denial.  But look, you‘re exactly right.  This is a major scandal, if it‘s true, which is conspiring with political opponents in Alabama to wire a prosecution.  It‘s a very big deal.  And why he can‘t just get up and deny it under oath if he didn‘t do anything wrong is beyond me.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘re hoping that we‘ll get someone from the judiciary committee tomorrow to figure out what they‘re going to do.

But, Michael Waldman, Julian Epstein, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.

ABRAMS:  Moving on to another heated day out on the campaign trail.  As we do every night, we‘re On Their Trail: Assessing who won and lost the day, McCain versus Obama?

First up: The ad wars have begun.  The Democratic and Republican national committees unveil new ads attacking the presumptive candidates.  First, the DNC painting McCain as another Bush when it comes to the economy, and then, you‘ll see the RNC attacking Obama over energy.  Winners or losers?


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  The fundamentals of our nation‘s economy are strong.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE:  The fundamentals of America‘s economy are strong.

MCCAIN:  I know NAFTA was a good idea.  It‘s created millions of jobs and it has helped the economies of all three of these nations.

BUSH:  We analyze it in an objective way.  It benefits and beneficial to America.  It helps create jobs.



NARRATOR:  Record gas prices, a climate in crisis.  John McCain says solve it now.  For the balance plan, alternative energy, conservation, suspending the gas tax, and more production here at home.  He‘s pushing his own party to face climate change.

But Barack Obama, for conservation but he just says no to lower gas taxes, no to nuclear, no to more production, and no to new solutions.  Barack Obama, just the party line.


ABRAMS:  Here now: former Hillary Clinton campaign senior adviser, Lisa Caputo; former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman; and David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” magazine.

All right.  Brad, so, those are the initial salvos from the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.  It seems that when you look at the key issue there, I would think that the one on McCain is going to stick more than the one on Obama, no?

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE:  No, not at all and I‘ll tell you why.  The McCain ad is very positive.  It tells you what John McCain stands for on energy.

ABRAMS:  So, when he said, no, Obama says no, Obama says no, Obama says no, that‘s positive.

BLAKEMAN:  But it also tells you what he stands for.  Not in the DNC ad.  The DNC ad is painting McCain as a third coming of Bush.  I think that‘s a flawed strategy.

I don‘t think the American people are going to buy it.  Not since 1952 have we not have an heir apparent, and they‘re trying to make McCain that heir apparent, it‘s not going to work.

ABRAMS:  Lisa?

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. CLINTON SENIOR ADVISER:  Well, I respectfully disagree.  You know, Dan, a wise man once said, “It‘s the economy, stupid.”  And it‘s true, it‘s true today.  We‘re in dire economic straits and Senator McCain has yet to put out any kind of robust economic plan.  And I think what you saw there is the replication of the Bush policies of the past eight years.  And those are failed policies.

What Senator McCain has proposed to do, anybody who‘s following this race, he‘s trying to give tax breaks to the wealthy and to the big corporations and, I might add, you know, there‘s no middle class tax cuts whatsoever.

ABRAMS:  And let me just read you this, David.  This is a Gallup Poll.  The title is, “Are You Concerned McCain Will Pursue Bush Policies?”  Sixty-eight percent are concerned, 31 percent are not concerned.  It seemed to me that‘s probably a pretty good issue to put out as your first ad.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  Brad has his work cut out for him tonight. 

I mean, if you -

BLAKEMAN:  Every night, if you look at the -

CORN:  Well, that may tell us something, Brad.


CORN:  If you look at the McCain ad, you know, which you pointed out, Dan, it says that Barack Obama has no solutions.  If you go to Barack Obama‘s Web site, you can find plenty of solutions -- $150 billion in tax credits for alternative energy.

Now, Brad and McCain are free to argue that that‘s the wrong way to go, but no one can look at Obama‘s Web site and say that he has no ideas, no policies on this.  And Obama, when you have 82 percent of the country saying we‘re going in the wrong direction, and you have the poll that you just read, you know, connecting Bush to McCain or McCain to Bush seems like a pretty good strategy, if you can make it stick.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a broad, political question—how important are the first ads that are put out?

CAPUTO:  They‘re very important.  I mean, the general election campaign is under way.  These are very important.  You start to plant the seeds.  That‘s why you see Obama embarking on a 50-state strategy and both committees are up on the air, obviously.  This is important.  You‘re laying the groundwork.

And one thing you‘ve got to remember here, Dan, I mean, there is a stark contrast here.  Senator McCain is adamantly opposed to renewable energy sources.  He voted against the ‘05 energy bill.


CAPUTO:  He had voted against this 2005 energy bill, which put money into renewables.

BLAKEMAN:  John McCain is for nuclear power, something that Obama is not.  He‘s for renewables, he‘s for drilling and comprehensive, all comprehensive plan on energy, something Obama is not.

CAPUTO:  Where?  Why he had vote against the ‘05 energy bill?

ABRAMS:  Let‘s even assume Brad is right.  I still think that these two, when you compare these two ads, I still think it‘s a slight win for Obama.  Look, Americans—the polls show, when 68 percent of people say they are concerned that he‘s going to be another Bush, and that‘s the ad they do, as opposed to a sort of debatable ad about energy, that goes down as a win for Obama.

Let me—everyone‘s staying with us.  You get another, Brad, you‘re going to get plenty of time.

Coming up: Conservative group prepares to call Obama the, quote, “Abortion President.”  Could this mean they‘re concerned Obama is making end roads with the evangelicals?

And who won the day?  Up next.

And: The NRA attacking Disney World because it won‘t let employees bring guns to the theme parks.  Let Goofy have his gun.  Yes, they‘re serious.

Plus, State Department employees under fire for snooping on the passport files of more celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears: another reason Why America Hates Washington, up in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Government employees snooping on their favorite celebrities.  An internal audit found that employees at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security accessed the passport files and personal records of more than 100 famous Americans thousands of times.

Five contractors have already been fired for spying on entertainers, athletes and other high-profile folks and dozens more under investigation.  The audit initiated after word got around that the presidential candidates had their passport records breached.

Government workers peeking at personal records because they can:

Another reason Why America Hates Washington.

We‘re back with more Obama versus McCain, a new ad which has Barack Obama as Uncle Sam telling people that he wants to pay for their abortions.  Is that going to help him?  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.

We‘re On Their Trail: assessing who won or lost the day, Obama or McCain.  Right now, on my score card, I have a win for Obama.

Still with us: Brad Blakeman, Lisa Caputo, and, David Corn.

Up next: A right-wing religious organization is now targeting Obama over his pro-choice stance on abortion.  The Christian Defense Coalition is planning to distribute this flier, calling Barack Obama, quote, “The Abortion President.”  It depicts Obama as Uncle Sam with the headline, “I want you to pay for abortions.”

Brad, good one?

BLAKEMAN:  Look, it‘s good to remind people that Barack Obama has take a stance on abortion that is not favorable to a lot of people in this country, including conservative Democrats.  Now, whether this issue is going to win the day, I don‘t think it is.  I think people are more concerned with the economy, energy, health care, but it‘s an important issue to remind people, but this isn‘t what‘s going to turn this election.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, an interesting poll that says that when women, in particular, independent women, views changed on McCain when they were told about his position on abortion.  Initial vote: 53 percent for Obama, 35 percent for McCain.  After they were informed of McCain‘s position on abortion, 66 percent were for Obama, 26 percent for McCain.

CAPUTO:  Yes, this goes right to that squeak spot in this election.  The women‘s vote is huge.  That‘s why you see the Obama campaign making moves now to lift up the Clinton women‘s operation and put it into their campaign.

This ad goes right to the cracks of the women‘s issue and it‘s why you see Democrats out there on the stump for Obama saying, “Hey, this is about a women‘s right to choose and do we really want John McCain at the top of the ticket because he would reverse the scale on the court, overruling a woman‘s right to choose?”



BLAKEMAN:  This is such a non-issue.  It really is.  Come on.

CAPUTO:  That‘s the Republican spin.  It‘s just that a woman‘s right to choose is a non-issue.  You‘ve got to be kidding me.


ABRAMS:  But if this an non-issue, then why are they putting -

BLAKEMAN:  You‘ve been saying this for 30 years.  And the fact of the matter is, it hasn‘t worked.


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me let Lisa finish her thought.

CAPUTO:  One thing I want to add, which is, I think it‘s really, really important that they‘re out there with this ad because Obama is making end roads into the far right.  Remember, he‘s appealing to young voters.  There‘s a story out today online, I mean, go on the web and surf it -

BLAKEMAN:  Yes, it‘s a story.

CAPUTO:  Well, facts are facts.  He‘s making end road.  It‘s why he‘s making end roads into battleground states that are Bush battleground states.

ABRAMS:  But let‘s even talk about the moderates.  I‘ll get to you in one second, David.  But let me—Brad, let‘s even talk about independents, the Reagan Democrats, right?  I would think abortion is a bad issue for McCain.  I would think it‘s an issue he doesn‘t want to talk about.  I would think it‘s an issue where he would say to people that he can control, “Please, don‘t bring this up.”

BLAKEMAN:  Look, it‘s important, it‘s an important—it‘s an important issue for our base.  I don‘t believe it‘s the issue that‘s going to turn this election.  I think that women in this country realize that abortion is become a superprism (ph) with Roe v. Wade.  It‘s likely not to be overturned.  What we‘re worried about with Obama is expanding those rights.

CAPUTO:  So, are you saying if Senator McCain‘s elected he would not make a move on the court to overturn that decision?


ABRAMS:  He said he would -

BLAKEMAN:  There‘s not going it be a litmus test, I believe, to any Supreme Court nominee.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to let David.  Go ahead, David.  Yes.

CORN:  Well, he‘s only supported justices who would vote to over turn Roe v. Wade.  That‘s pretty clear.  And I think, listen, Brad, if you could have the election defined with John McCain and everyone knowing, everyone who votes knows that he‘s for criminalizing abortion and everyone who votes knows that Obama is not for criminalizing abortion.

BLAKEMAN:  You guys have been trying this since Ronald Reagan.  It hasn‘t worked.

CORN:  I‘m not saying, listen, it‘s not Obama making abortion the issue today.  It‘s these groups that Dan‘s talking about.  And that‘s the point.  Does this help John McCain for more women to know his position on abortion than Barack Obama?  I think, politically, I think, you hinted it, that it doesn‘t help John McCain if the election becomes about abortion.

BLAKEMAN:  I think it‘s a non-issue.  I don‘t think it‘s something

that the American people -

ABRAMS:  You hope it‘s a non-issue.

BLAKEMAN:  No.  I believe that the American people are not going to go in the voting booth worrying about abortion.  This time, they‘re going to be worrying about the economy, health care and keeping America safe.

CAPUTO:  If you don‘t think women are not going to not enter to that election booth and think about their rights, it shows you‘re smoking something.


BLAKEMAN:  No.  You‘re smoking something if you think it‘s going to change.  It‘s not going to change.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Look, the reason I‘m going to call this ad a draw is, I don‘t think this is a topic McCain wants to be discussing at all.  It may get him support among the far right, get him a little bit of gain there.  But his abortion position, I think, is a dangerous one for him among mainstream voters and I think it‘s dangerous for me to call that one a draw.

Next up: Team Obama announcing today they‘re changing the venue for his acceptance speech during the Democratic convention next month.  Rather than speaking at the 19,000-seat Pepsi Center in Denver, Obama is planning to give his acceptance address in front of 76,000 at the football stadium where the Denver Broncos play.

The last time that was done for an acceptance, JFK in ‘60, he delivered his address in front of thousands at the Los Angeles Coliseum.  If the comparison to Kennedy isn‘t enough, Democrats scheduled Obama‘s speech on the 45th anniversary of MLK‘s “I Have a Dream” speech.

All right.  David, win or lose for Obama?

CORN:  This is the big story of the day.  It‘s a big win.  This is going to happen right before the Republican convention and the explicit message here is, “Hey, could John McCain do this?  Could you even get 76,000 people into a stadium in Colorado to listen to John McCain?”

Remember, Colorado is a swing state.  There‘s going to be very little news out of the Democratic convention, maybe more news out of the Republican convention if there‘s a platform fight over global warming and other issues.

So, this is a big, dramatic, you know, gesture at the end of the convention, people are going to be looking and there‘s going to be a lot of curiosity and a lot of buzz about this.  I don‘t see anything that John McCain can do to come close to matching this.

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s the question.  Brad, what can John McCain do, Brad?

BLAKEMAN:  He doesn‘t have to do anything.  He can beat John McCain, that‘s what he can do.  America does not want a celebrity for president.  Bruce Springsteen sells out these venues all the time.  Do we want him as president?  Maybe David does.  But I don‘t.

CORN:  That wouldn‘t be so bad (ph), Brad.

ABRAMS:  It sort of like saying, “You know, all these people, they are voting and they‘re going to get there and support people and, you know, it‘s craziness, all the attention surrounding this guy.”

BLAKEMAN:  No, I think -

CORN:  Attention and excitement doesn‘t matter in politics.  Attention, you‘re saying that attention and excitement doesn‘t matter in politics?

BLAKEMAN:  It does matter, but at the end of the day, David, substance will trump style.  Bottom line.

CAPUTO:  There‘s the Republican line of attack, right?  All Obama does is, you know, speeches.  This is just so not true.  Barack Obama has a movement.  There‘s a movement sweeping the country and I think he needs to be commended strategically for getting out there in front and making this move.

I think it‘s a smart move on their point.  I think the McCain campaign and the Republican Party are on the defensive.  Obama is up in the polls, 12 points, 15 points and they outsmarted the McCain campaign strategically.

BLAKEMAN:  Well, maybe when McCain is president, he can go on tour.



ABRAMS:  I think this goes down as a win for Obama.  I think, Brad, you would agree this is a good idea for Obama.

BLAKEMAN:  It‘s a great idea.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  So, bigger is better (ph).  It gives me a final score in my scorecard of two wins for Obama and a draw.  But the question is, who won the day?

David, let me start with you, who won the day?

CORN:  Obama, just on the speech decision alone, Lisa‘s right, a big strategic plus there.  This will have, I think, we‘ll have somewhat of an impact when we get into the political season at the end of the (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  Brad, are you willing to concede the day?

BLAKEMAN:  No, I‘m not.  I think that, again, the substance trumps style.  And when McCain rolls out his economic plan that‘s going to help Americans.

ABRAMS:  So, you‘re going to call it a draw?

BLAKEMAN:  No, I call it a win for McCain today.  Take a look at his economic policy and you‘ll see it‘s a win for almost every American.

ABRAMS:  Lisa?

CAPUTO:  If McCain‘s economic policy is a win, then I would love to see the substance of it because there isn‘t any.

BLAKEMAN:  You‘ve got to read it.  Read it.

CAPUTO:  I think it‘s a big win for Obama today and I might add, you know, he‘s on a roll.  He‘s up, you know, in all the polls.  He‘s making inroads to Republican states and I think that they‘ve had a great news cycle.

ABRAMS:  Brad Blakeman, Lisa Caputo, and David Corn—thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

CAPUTO:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: The NRA now taking on Disney World, yes, Disney, because it won‘t allow employees to bring guns to the theme park.  Let Cinderella bring some Dirty Harry justice to Disney.  But they‘re serious.

And: Madonna under fire for allegedly breaking up Yankee star A-Rod‘s marriage.  This is Christie Brinkley takes the stand today in her divorce trial and forgives the woman who had sex with her husband.

Plus, CNN‘s Anderson Cooper finds another word he said is overused, but, again, repeatedly ignores his own advice and uses that word.  That‘s next in Beat the Press.


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

First up: It seems sometimes those of us in the media aren‘t particularly creative when describing certain events like the hostage rescue in Colombia last week.


JEFFREY KOFMAN, ABC CORRESPONDENT:  Hollywood movies don‘t have endings this dramatic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is straight out of the movies.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR:  It sounds like something out of the movies.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN HOST:  A plot fit for an action movie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A rescue mission out of the movies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unbelievable like a movie, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  An operation straight out of a Hollywood movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is something straight out of a movie.


ABRAMS:  We had to cut some, too.

Next up, I‘ll admit I‘m a fan of CNN‘s Anderson Cooper but sometimes he tends to wax on about terms the media should or shouldn‘t use.


COOPER:  Our latest poll shows most Americans think both these guys flip-flop on issues and not much light between them.  I think we overuse the term flip-flop.  It‘s a political attack term.


ABRAMS:  Maybe it is but that poll only asked whether the candidates change their mind, not quote flip-flop, so at least practice what you preach.  This is from the beginning of that very same show.


COOPER:  So was it a flip-flop or a smart move or something else?


ABRAMS:  If you believe it, just clean up your own show first, that‘s all I‘m saying.

Finally to a story in Sunday‘s “New York Times” business section which made reference to Democratic Senator Carl Levin and former Republican Senator Jesse Helms.  Remember Helms died on Friday morning and the “Times” reported in the Sunday paper that, quote, “Mr. Levin and Mr. Helms didn‘t return calls for comment.”  Hardly surprising.  They say the section went it press before Senator Helms died.

Up next, Disney World under fire tonight.  Was Mickey rude to a child? 

Did one of the dwarves not take enough time for a picture?  No, no, no.  Many on the right in Florida are trying to force Disney to allow Dumbo and Goofy to pack heat inside the park.  The NRA and many in the state legislature say Disney World is violating state law by refusing to allow employees to bring guns to the park.  We debate.

And later the fallout from Madonna and A Rod.  Alleged late-night visits her New York City apartment.  Plus Christie Brinkley took the stand in her divorce trial today.  Coming up.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I‘m Milissa Rehberger.  Here‘s what‘s happening.  Vermont authorities rule a 12-year-old‘s death a homicide death there.  The body of Brooke Bennett was found near her uncle‘s home last week.  Today a judge ordered her uncle, Michael Jaques, held into his kidnapping trial.  The registered sexual offender is accused of abducting his niece.

The first hurricane of the season is expected to remain a strong storm, at least for the next two days.  Forecasters say Bertha is heading towards Bermuda.  But it is too soon to tell if it will hit the island.  Now back to Dan Abrams.

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Why shouldn‘t Mickey, Minnie and Donald be allowed to show up for work packing heat?  The National Rifle Association and some prominent Florida lawmakers say they should.  They say a new Florida law says employers can‘t stop workers from bringing legal guns to work, including to Disney World.  Executives at Disney don‘t see it that way in an internal memo, “This law does not apply to Walt Disney World Company owned and leased property due to an exception.  Walt Disney World Company continues to maintain a zero tolerance policy for guns and workplace violence.”

The NRA hit back with this statement.  “Disney is a prime offender when it comes to firing employees for exercising Second Amendment rights.  There has never been any intention to exempt any part of Disney from the new law.”  Really?  Disney should be forced to permit guns at Disney World?

Joining me now, Florida Republican Representative Dan Mayfield, he helped pass the Florida Law and Brian Siebel from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  All right, Representative Mayfield, you‘re really fighting to make sure all employees can bring guns to Disney World?

STATE REP. STAN MAYFIELD, SUPPORTS NEW GUN LAW:  Well, it‘s not just Disney World, Dan.  It‘s constitutional rights for everyone.  It‘s a right to bear arms and, you know, provide self-defense for you and your family.

ABRAMS:  At Disney World, right?  At Disney World.

MAYFIELD:  Well, they happen to be at this particular case in Disney World.  These are guns locked up in a glove compartment in a parking lot.  These are not guns inside the theme park.  These are in the parking lot locked up in the glove compartment.  That‘s a huge difference.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  Disney is claiming basically that there was an amendment to a law that you helped pass that “property owned or leased by an employer who obtained a permit to engage in importing manufacturing or dealing with explosive material on such property doesn‘t apply,” and they say they deal in explosives and then the “Orlando Sentinel” says and they quote you.  Because I want to know if they‘re not telling the truth.  “State Representative Stan Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, also involved in crafting the final legislation said lawmakers had agreed to insert that exception after a small group of lawyers representing several businesses and business groups, including Disney.”

So, you guys knew what Disney was up to and you agreed to put it in.

MAYFIELD:  No, no, that‘s just not true.  The law was never intended to exempt Disney.  The provisions you‘re talking about are manufactures, these are corporations that may handle or manufacture, handle or transport explosive materials.  It‘s not intended to exempt parking lots.  It‘s intended to exempt justified employers who handle these kinds of materials.  Not a theme park that happens to be launching fireworks on the other side of their property.

ABRAMS:  But is this really the fight you want to be having to force Disney World to allow the guns?

MAYFIELD:  Well, we‘re not forcing Disney World to do anything.  We‘re, we‘re protecting Second Amendment rights.  That‘s what this is all about.  This is about you being able to provide self-defense.  You have an extension of your home.  You know, the Constitution guarantees you as an individual to the right to bear arms.  Just because you work at Disney World, that right should not be forfeited.  We‘re focusing on Disney.  There are a lot of other corporations that are impacted by this.

ABRAMS:  Look, Brian, I‘m not going to have a Second Amendment debate.  As you know, that is a topic that I wrote my law review article about.  I think it‘s a very interesting and fascinating topic, but this is about a state law in the State of Florida.  Don‘t you think that this is sort of a great topic for you guys to be put, and I would assume, look, whether I agree with the policy matters, a lot of what you do is debatable, but isn‘t this a great argument for you to make to say that people like Representative Mayfield and the NRA are now saying let‘s insist that people can bring guns to Disney World?

BRIAN SIEBEL, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE:  I think so.  I say hooray for Disney here.  I mean thank goodness the Magical Kingdom doesn‘t want to have guns on its property and is willing to fight for that.  I work for the Brady Center, but I‘m also a father, I have kids.  I like to go to Disney World and take them there and I don‘t really have to think twice if 60,000 employees of Disney can bring guns to work every day.  You know, just two weeks ago there was a Kentucky employee that went out to his car.  This is another state that has one of these guns at work laws.  He went out to his car after he got, you know, upset at work, got the gun out of the glove compartment and came back and murdered five employees.

OK, he didn‘t go to work with the intent to kill these people.  He got in a fit of rage during the work hour and went out to his car.  The availability of that gun made that shooting incident possible.  And Disney, like every other employer in America has the duty to protect, not only its employees, but the guests who come on its property and how are they going to protect those people if they can‘t decide who gets to have guns on their property?

ABRAMS:  Representative Mayfield?

MAYFIELD:  Look, you know, again, I think you articulated the issue with respect to Second Amendment rights.  This does not apply to all Disney employees.  It applies to Disney employees who have concealed weapons permits.  Which is a higher standard.  We craft a compromised piece of legislation that protected people‘s rights to bear arms and at the same time not go over board.  So you have a conceal weapon permit.

SIEBEL:  I have a list of hundreds of concealed carry licensees in Florida who have committed crimes all the way from rape to robbery to murder.  OK?  Just having a concealed carrier license in Florida does not mean you‘re a law-abiding citizen.  There is a “Sun Sentinel” series that shows the licensing department issued licenses to 1,200 felons in the state.

MAYFIELD:  We can argue .

SIEBEL:  So just .

ABRAMS:  I want to give Representative Mayfield an opportunity to respond.


MAYFIELD:  OK.  We can argue about the quality of the concealed weapons process, but the fact of the matter, it raises the bar.  This is about basic Second Amendment rights.  You know, we can debate Second Amendment rights, the pros and cons.  The Supreme Court has recently found that an individual has the right to do ...

SIEBEL:  The gun in your home .

ABRAMS:  Yeah, but look .

SIEBEL:  You have a right to a gun in your home.  And I have no problem with that.  But you don‘t have a right to bring that gun to an amusement park that caters to millions of kids.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to give Representative Mayfield the final word. 

I‘ll let him respond to that and he gets the final word on that. 


MAYFIELD:  Again, the fact of the matter is, your automobile is an extension of your home.  It‘s the right to privacy.  You ought to have, you ought to have the right to bear arms in your car.

ABRAMS:  Not when .

MAYFIELD:  The gun has to be locked in a car in the glove compartment and that‘s not going to have any impact on your ...

ABRAMS:  Let Goofy have his gun.  Representative Mayfield, Brian Siebel, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

SIEBEL:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Up next, Yankee star A-Rod‘s wife files for divorce.  The last straw may have been a quote, “affair of the heart” with Madonna.

And Christie Brinkley takes the stand in her divorce case and forgives the young woman who had an affair with her husband.

Plus, you heard of running with the bulls, how about the running of the horses?  We‘re back in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  Now to “Reality Bites,” a dose of reality caught on tape.  Tonight it‘s man versus beast in Spain.  First in Pamplona for the running of the bulls, 13 people were trampled as the bulls chased them down on the streets on opening day.  They chose to be there.

Then in northwestern Spain at the wild horse festival, cowboys wrestled bucking broncos to the ground trying to cut their manes.  What do the Spaniards have against fishing?  We‘ll be right back.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Supermodel Christie Brinkley took the stand today in her divorce trial from hubby Peter Cook.  And emotional Brinkley made her case as the better parent, portraying herself as the ideal mom, a mom who wants full custody of her children.  WNBC‘s Greg Cergol was in the courtroom today and has details.


GREG CERGOL, WNBC-TV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Her every move still says supermodel but Christie Brinkley said her primary role in life is a mother who cooks for and reads to son Jack and daughter Sailor.  At one point the 54-year-old broke down in tears while telling the court “family is the most important thing.  That‘s the only thing I ever wanted.  A big, happy family.”

BOB COHEN, CHRISTIE BRINKLEY‘S ATTORNEY:  The judge needs to and will understand how Christie‘s life is so wrapped up with these children.  Her job is secondary, her life is her kids.

CERGOL:  With custody of those kids on the line, Brinkley described herself as a caring, involved parent providing an idyllic life of travel and recreation.  That was destroyed, she said, by her husband Peter Cook‘s affair with an 18 year old.  When asked how she explained that to her kids, Brinkley said, “I think daddy‘s fallen out of love with me, but that doesn‘t mean that mommy and daddy don‘t love you.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have no experience in this.

CERGOL:  Cook‘s lawyer insists he is an ideal father and that Brinkley is trying to alienate the children from him.  She denied that, but on one than more occasion referred to Cook‘s affair as “the betrayal” and insisted she‘s the family‘s sole financial support even saying when Cook bought clothing for his daughter he billed half the cost to Brinkley.

COHEN:  She couldn‘t possibly not possibly have contrived anything and this is all real.


ABRAMS:  That was Greg Cergol reporting.

Here now Jo Piazza who is a “New York Daily News” columnist who was in the courtroom today covering the Brinkley case.  Joe, thanks for joining us.  Joe, how did she do today on the stand?

JO PIAZZA, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Brinkley came off great on the stand today.  She‘s very poised on the stand and she was on there for about six hours just detailing exactly how perfect a life she had created for these kids.  She has dedicated everything she has to these children.  She‘s constantly doing activities with them, helping them with homework.  And she is also this kind of ubermom.  After 9/11 she bought gas masks not just for everyone in her household, but for the entire neighborhood.  So if there‘s ever a Sarin attack in East Hampton, everyone is going to be safe at the Brinkley house.

ABRAMS:  Additional women expect today come out and testify against Cook, as well?

PIAZZA:  There are, yeah.  We‘re hearing on Thursday there‘s going to be at least two more women taking the stand that have dated Cook since his split from Brinkley.

ABRAMS:  All right, moving on to another story that we‘re covering here.  Yankee star Alex Rodriguez‘s wife filed for divorce.  In the divorce papers she called her husband adulterer who quote, “emotionally abandoned his wife and children.”

According to the “New York Post” A-Rod‘s estranged wife believes Madonna is using a mystical religion to brainwash her husband.  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi has those details.


MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The 49-year-old Madonna, mother of three and an international pop icon, says the screaming headlines about her seven year marriage to film director Guy Ritchie are as untrue about her would-be relationship with A-Rod.  “My husband and I are not planning on getting a divorce,” she said in a statement Sunday.  I am not romantically involved in any way with Alex Rodriguez and have nothing to do with the state of his marriage.”

Rodriguez‘s marriage to wife Cynthia is headed to divorce.  But “Us Weekly,” among other publications, says Madonna is part of the story.

IAN DREW, “US WEEKLY”:  She was going to Yankees games.  He was going to after concert parties.  Suddenly all of these random sightings started popping up.  People started putting two and two together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Down the line into the corner.  Home run!

TAIBBI:  Rodriguez, a material match for the material girl with his latest $275 million contract, spent the weekend trying to keep his team within shouting distance of the Boston Red Sox while not shouting or even speaking publicly about his personal life.  His wife, Cynthia, though, told reporters the couple‘s long troubled marriage is over.

And she reportedly sought the shoulder of rock ‘n‘ roller Lenny Kravitz to cry on.  Both denying they‘re romantically involved.

DREW:  Cynthia has just leaned on him as a friend.

TAIBII:  But it is A-Rod and Madonna who have the tabloids salivating, perhaps the most provocative real or imagined paring since Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Camera flashes sparkling all around Yankee Stadium.

TAIBBI (on camera):  There is another New York angle to this story.  Madonna‘s brother said in an unauthorized book that his sister is determined to move back to New York to live while husband Guy Ritchie is equally determined to remain in England with the couple‘s children.

(voice-over):  For now the intertwined stories are more speculation than fact.  Though given the histories of all the boldfaced names involved it is virtually certain the stories are not over.  Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.


ABRAMS:  All right, Jo, so A-Rod‘s wife filed for divorce today.  Is it really about Madonna?

PIAZZA:  How could this be about Madonna?  Come on.  We have had A-Rod out with floozies and strippers for the past several years.  What, Madonna, just had to be the last straw, I guess.

ABRAMS:  Yeah, probably the shame for her, right, if all the reporting and et cetera.

PIAZZA:  Exactly.  Exactly.  Because such a media mess now.  And she‘s embarrassed.

ABRAMS:  Jo Piazza, “Daily News”, thanks a lot for coming on.

PIAZZA:  Thank you for having me.

ABRAMNS:  Next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser of the day be Eliot Spitzer‘s alleged prostitute Ashley Dupre who has dropped her lawsuit?  America‘s tourists dropped as the world‘s least desirable travelers?  Or President Bush and other world leaders who dropped the ball by eating two elaborate meals with the Global Food Crisis at the top of their agenda?  Plus, your e-mail, we call it the “P.O.‘ed Box.”  We‘ll be right back.


ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Our first loser, alleged prostitute Ashley Dupre, who also went wild in those “Girls Gone Wild” videos and then sued the producers of the videos for millions.  She claims she technically never gave consent she was 17 and intoxicated.  Now, she is dropping her suit, her lawyers saying she wants to quote, “focus on the positive.”  My translation, maybe they had proof of her consent and her lawyers must have come to the conclusion they had no case.

Loser, former Mossad agent Yossi Alpher.  The former top Israeli spy apparently got duped by, none other than Borat‘s alter ego Bruno who has taken his antics to Jerusalem, setting up unsuspecting folks who think they‘re being interviewed by a gay Austrian fashion journalist.  The flamboyant Bruno, played by actor Sasha Baron Cohen for his new Borat follow-up movie reportedly tricked the spy into comparing the Islamic terror group Hamas to the chick pea dipped hummus.

Our big loser, President Bush and other world leaders in Japan at the annual G-8 summit.  At the top of the G-8‘s agenda, solving the global food crisis.  So what did they do on their first day?  They enjoyed an elaborate six course lunch and eight course dinner.

Our big winner, American tourists who get to lose the rap as some of the world‘s least desirable tourists.  According to a new poll of international hotels that dishonor goes to tourists from France, India and the least desirable according to the poll, Chinese tourists.

Time for the “P.O.‘d Box,” a chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show.  Last week we debated Obama‘s apparent post primary shift off to the center.  I said I would think those coming at him from the left would support his effort to win.

First up, Dave from Florence, Wisconsin.  “You missed the point as to why some of us are now becoming a bit leery about Senator Obama.  If he is willing to lie to win the general election was he telling the truth during the primary process?”

Lie?  Dave, I would think if you are an Obama supporter you would focus on his ability to work with both sides on an issue like FISA, as he promised, rather than the fact he is supporting a bill that did not say what you would have hoped.

Carrie Lybecker, “Obama is not moving to the center, he is moving to the right.  You claim this is just politics.  I can accept small changes and positions that differ from mine but not a major change on a major issue.”

Jeremy Coleman writes, “As a Democrat, the more Obama moves to the center, the more he will have my vote.” And finally Ron Russell says, “How many who voted and worked hard for him in the primary are going to get disgusted and not participate in November.”

Come on, Ron, my guess?  Not many.  I mean you really believe that? 

There are going to be that many people who are going to say, you know what?  I worked for him during this campaign, but now that he has shifted slightly to the center on some issues I am not going to vote for him?  I don‘t know.  Just my take.

That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  You can e-mail me about the show.  Please include your name, where you are writing from.

If you want to tomorrow morning, TODAY SHOW about 7:30.  If you didn‘t get enough Christie Brinkley and A-Rod news today, I will be talking divorces tomorrow morning on THE TODAY SHOW.  I‘ll see you tomorrow night.



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