Guest: Adam Smith, Roy Sekoff, Brad Blakeman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Maria Menounos, Lynn Sweet, Ashlan Gorse, Aissa Wayne
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Tonight: A showdown in the Senate over a wiretapping bill causing headaches for Obama from the left.
And a member of the House Judiciary Committee is here to tell us what Congress will do, now that Karl Rove has said he won‘t abide by the subpoena calling for him to testify on Thursday.
Plus, for the first time, we hear from Barack Obama‘s children. Among our guests: Representative Adam Smith, Roy Sekoff, and Brad Blakeman. VERDICT starts now.
Hi, everyone, welcome to the show.
Tonight: A major showdown on the Senate over the government‘s authority on wiretapping. The so-called FISA Bill, a bill that is suddenly creating major headaches for Barack Obama from many on the left. In particular, one provision of the bill expected to pass, and which Obama has said he now supports. It gives legal immunity to phone companies that help the Bush administration monitor Americans‘ phones and computers without a court order.
Some key Democrats spoke out against it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: We cannot place the interests of the companies—and, frankly, of this administration that doesn‘t want the truth to come out—ahead of the constitutional rights of our citizens who seek justice in our courts.
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD, (D) WISCONSIN: If we want companies, Mr. President, to follow the law in the future, doesn‘t it send a terrible message? And doesn‘t it set a terrible precedent to give them a “get out of jail” free card for allegedly ignoring the law in the past?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: At this point, it seems clear they‘re fighting a losing battle, but for Obama it represents a shift. In February, he said, quote, “There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of American people—we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.” But now, he is supporting the compromise bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRES. NOMINEE: The compromise that came out of the House was not the compromise necessarily that I would have designed, but it met my basic criteria that FISA, the FISA court was going to be involved exclusively in overseeing that program. And so, I made a judgment that at this point it was important for us to go ahead and get that program in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So, what does this mean for Obama?
Joining me now is Representative Adam Smith from Washington, who voted for the FISA compromise and the “Huffington Post‘s Roy Sekoff.
All right. Roy, let me start with you. Look, I think that Barack Obama has said it‘s not a perfect bill. I think you‘re going to hear Representative Smith say it‘s not a perfect bill. But isn‘t it one of the things that Barack Obama is running on is the ability to reach across the aisle and say, “We‘ve got to make compromises, we have to deal with realities.”
He‘s talked about bringing people together. And it sounds like what you‘re saying is, “No, don‘t cross the line, don‘t make the compromise.”
ROY SEKOFF, THE HUFFINGTON POST: What I‘m saying is, I‘m all for compromise, I‘m all for bipartisanship, I‘m all for reaching across the aisle, but there are certain things that you don‘t compromise on and one of them is the Fourth Amendment and one of them is the Constitution. I think, there are certain things that you draw the line on and, I think, this is one of them.
ABRAMS: But, Roy, the FISA, you know, this court has existed for years. I mean, it‘s not that there‘s this new court out there—what it is is that the Bush administration ignored it. The Bush administration basically assumed we don‘t have to care about the court.
ABRAMS: What this bill seems to me says—let me go to Congressman Smith on this—is this bill effectively says, “Look, there‘s going to be some oversight here. It may not be perfect. It may not be all the oversight that people want. But there‘s going to be accountability.”
REP. ADAM SMITH, WASHINGTON: Well, there‘s two parts to this bill. And certainly, the telecom immunity I‘ll get to in a second. But the first and most important part of this bill is the part you reference and that is, we have gotten rid of the warrantless search approach in this bill. We require a warrant with probable cause to get any wiretapping of a U.S. person either in the U.S., and then in addition in this bill, which is in addition to the law, for any U.S. person overseas.
Furthermore, to get wiretapping authority for foreign persons which prior to this, prior to any of this discussion, prior to 9/11 even, you didn‘t need to go to the FISA court, you didn‘t need a warrant. In this bill, we say you have to get pre-approval from the FISA court on how you‘re going to go about tracking those foreign persons and you have to put in place mitigation to make sure that you don‘t track U.S. people.
The bottom line on this issue, the reason I voted against all the FISA bills before this, was they allowed for warrantless searches. This bill specifically prohibits them in a variety of ways. And that‘s a significant improvement for civil liberties.
SEKOFF: Congressman, isn‘t the fact, though, that the FISA law that has been there for 30 years, specifically was designed to keep the telecom companies from going along with illegal requests from the administration?
And that bring us—to let that happen is—let me finish. It‘s like saying to a bank robber -
SMITH: I don‘t agree that that‘s what happened.
SEKOFF: “Hey, you know what? You robbed the bank but not only we‘re not going to put you in jail but we‘re going to let you keep the money.” Because don‘t forget, the telecom companies that went along got the good contracts and the ones that didn‘t, didn‘t get the good contracts.
ABRAMS: Representative Smith, you have know that Roy prepares these lines ahead of time. So, you have to let him finish it.
SMITH: I‘m sorry.
ABRAMS: He spends a lot of time on that, preparing that line. We‘ve
got to let him -
SEKOFF: Oh, Dan, that hurts.
ABRAMS: I‘m just kidding.
SEKOFF: Dan, you‘re off the top of your head, right?
ABRAMS: We‘re getting back to the substance—Representative Smith.
SMITH: Let me make the two points. First of all, that first part of the bill that locks in place that there will be no warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens is incredibly important. Second of all, as I‘m sure Roy knows, existing law, pre-9/11, already gave immunity to telecom companies if they obeyed a warrant but also if even in the absence of a warrant, if they were obeying the requests of the attorney general. That was in the law before any of this happened.
Now, in this particular case, the problem that cropped up is the Bush administration in lawsuits, refused to turn over any information, even acknowledging that they made the request. And as you well know, that‘s why these lawsuits continued to go on.
This bill does not give retroactive immunity. That is a really misnomer in terms of how this bill handles it. What it says is, the Bush administration has to provide that information to the courts and it sets up a very elaborate structure to make sure that any top secret information is protected. But they have to turn it over. And if the –
ABRAMS: But congressman, doesn‘t -
SMITH: Let me just finish.
ABRAMS: Let him finish, Roy. Roy, hang on, let him finish.
SMITH: If the telecommunications companies were obeying a request from the attorney general prior even to this FISA law, they are immune. Now, we can argue about whether or not that‘s a good law, but it‘s not retroactive immunity. It was in the law.
ABRAMS: Roy, quick response, then, I want to bring it back to Obama.
SEKOFF: All I‘m saying, hasn‘t it already been established that the request was made, and then that is going to give them, you know, immunity automatically?
SMITH: It hasn‘t been. It hasn‘t been established.
SMITH: Well, I mean, yes.
SEKOFF: But it has.
SMITH: But, again, two points, first of all, it hasn‘t been established. That‘s why these things are still going on in court, because the Bush administration won‘t turn over information.
SMITH: Second of all, if, in fact, you have the pre-existing law that said, a request from the attorney general gives them immunity, I mean, we could argue about whether or not that should be the law, but this isn‘t something new that Congress is creating. And we‘re not coming in after the fact in giving immunity. That‘s the critical point.
ABRAMS: Roy, let me ask you a political question now, Roy. A lot of folks on your site and elsewhere, have been furious about this, particularly from the left, furious at Barack Obama. But politically, do you think it would have been better—now I‘m asking you to put your political hat on for a moment.
SEKOFF: OK. Yes.
ABRAMS: Politically, for Barack Obama to win the general election, are you satisfied with the position he‘s taking here?
SEKOFF: No. I‘m not. I think that Obama is a different kind of politician. And when he acts like, you know, a typical kind of politician, it doesn‘t help him. I mean, when you have him standing next to Russ Feingold making that great speech in Wisconsin when he wanted the progressive votes, and then turning around and having the opposite said on two different Web sites, you know, I don‘t think it works to his favor.
ABRAMS: Well, let‘s ask a typical politician who is on Obama‘s camp.
SMITH: That‘s not the fact, OK? The bill that I and Senator Obama oppose was a dramatically different bill than what is before us. And I‘ve read some of the stuff on the Huffington Post, and one of the things they‘re outraged about is they say that Senator Obama decided that warrantless wiretapping was OK. That‘s what it says that some of them put (ph). That‘s not what we decided -
SEKOFF: Well, yes, I don‘t think that‘s what anybody -
SMITH: He got a bill that required warrants in an expanded way, even beyond what was in existence prior to 9/11.
SEKOFF: But the Bush administration used that -
ABRAMS: But Representative Smith, you‘d agree that Barack Obama has changed his position on the issue of immunity for the telecom companies, correct?
SMITH: I don‘t agree with that.
SMITH: Because what he said—let me explain. What he said was, you know, if I had it to write, I would have written the second portion of this bill different, but the first portion of this bill is so strong that it -
ABRAMS: But previously said that the second portion was so important that he was going to fight.
SMITH: Yes, what he said was, giving retroactive immunity. But if you look at what this bill does, it does not give retroactive immunity.
SEKOFF: Well, we might disagree on whether it does that practically.
SEKOFF: I mean, Russ Feingold is where he was, Chris Dodd is where he was, Barack Obama is not where he was.
SMITH: It‘s a different bill. It‘s a totally different bill.
ABRAMS: Congressman Adam Smith, good conversation and an important one. I appreciate your coming on the program.
SMITH: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Roy is going to stick around.
Coming up: Bush League Justice. Karl Rove‘s attorney still says he won‘t testify before Congress on Thursday about whether he was involved in the prosecution of a prominent Democrat. The question now: What is Congress going to do? We‘ll ask a member of the House Judiciary Committee, up next.
And for the first time, Obama‘s daughters speak out, including what they think about the possibility of living in the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SASHA OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA‘S DAUGHTER: It would be very cool.
MALIA OBAMA, SEN. OBAMA‘S DAUGHTER: I think my most excitement about it is that I get to redecorate my room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We got more of the exclusive interview.
Plus, Senator David Vitter trying to use campaign contribution to pay the legal bills for his, you know, D.C. madam legal questions—another reason Why America Hates Washington is coming up in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s edition of Why America Hates Washington: Louisiana Republican senator, David Vitter, asking the FEC to use more than $200,000 of campaign contributions to pay legal bills, in connection with accusations that he was a client of a D.C. prostitution right. Then his attorney is trying to justify the request by essentially saying the legal and public relations costs concurred from the D.C. madam scandal wouldn‘t have been so high if Vitter wasn‘t an elected official.
Senator Vitter satisfying his own needs with other people‘s money: another reason Why America Hates Washington.
We‘re back with more on Karl Rove and Congress. Remember the House Judiciary Committee will tell us whether they may hold him in contempt.
ABRAMS: Welcome back.
In just over 36 hours, Karl Rove is supposed to arrive at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, raise his hand, and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth before the House Judiciary Committee.
But Rove‘s lawyer said he won‘t be there to testify on Thursday morning. He continues to object to the subpoena, claiming executive privilege. This comes as the powerful chairman of another committee considers legislation to ban Karl Rove-type advisers in future White Houses more on that in a minute.
But my question for the judiciary committee tonight, as it continues to investigate allegations that Rove had a hand in the prosecution of a prominent Democrat, Don Siegelman, the former Alabama governor—will they call Rove‘s bluff, hold him in contempt or even follow through with a threat to have him arrested?
Joining me now is a member of the committee, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Thanks very much for coming back on the program. I appreciate it.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D) FLORIDA: You‘re welcome. Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: All right. Now look, I know you‘re going to tell me you‘re still hopeful that he‘s going to show up. I can promise you, Karl Rove is not coming. You guys can dress up, you can put the cameras there, but he‘s just not that into you. He‘s not coming. So what do you do?
SCHULTZ: Well, listen. It is Karl Rove‘s legal responsibility to come and testify to what he knows.
ABRAMS: He‘s not coming.
SCHULTZ: Well, it‘s his responsibility to do that. So we‘re expecting him to come. And, quite honestly, the executive privilege that he‘s complaining—that he‘s claiming, he has to come to the committee and claim it there. He‘s not allowed to let us know—I realize that that‘s your opinion. Today is Tuesday.
ABRAMS: You disagree—honestly, you think there‘s even a chance that Karl Rove‘s going to show up?
SCHULTZ: You know what? That‘s not even the point.
SCHULTZ: The point is, well, he‘s been subpoenaed. And we expect him to come. And then at the point that he does not comply with that subpoena, then we are going to take the, I think, explore our options, take the next appropriate steps.
We have a variety of options available to us. I‘ve talked to you about them when I‘ve been on the show before. And we‘re going to explore all of those options; all of those options are on the table. And I‘d like with Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, we certainly didn‘t hesitate to move on their contempt citation, and I have expected that we won‘t hesitate here either.
ABRAMS: So, you would expect that he will be held in contempt if he doesn‘t show up?
SCHULTZ: Well, that decision hasn‘t been made. And I‘m not a chair of the judiciary committee and I‘m not the speaker of the House. But I know that those decisions have not been made. And I know that we are going to explore all of the options available.
This is very serious. I mean, we‘re talking about somebody who has intricate detailed knowledge not just about the Don Siegelman case but a variety of things. And it is high time, long past time that he come in front of the judiciary committee and answer those questions, especially because he‘s answered them on national television.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you this—is there any pressure from the leadership in the House to the judiciary committee to say, “Look, don‘t arrest Karl Rove, don‘t hold Karl Rove in contempt, don‘t make too big a deal about this”? Have you heard it all or has the committee heard it all from the leadership there saying, “Look, let‘s take this down a notch”?
SCHULTZ: Not one bit. I mean, let me just tell you, we are all deadly serious about making sure that we can get the information that we believe we need.
Congress, since the Democrats took over, has re-engaged in terms of our oversight role, which was nonexistent under the Republicans. And so, we take our oversight role very seriously. We‘ve had a number of significant administration officials come before us, including, you know, the vice president‘s chief of staff just a couple of weeks ago. He‘s not (ph) comfortable enough responding to us, to the subpoena, and coming and testifying. Karl Rove is no different.
ABRAMS: You say you‘re going to consider your options. Look, as a practical matter, everyone on the committee knows Karl Rove is not coming. His lawyer said he‘s not coming. And I know there are two issues here.
First of all, there‘s—whether he‘s going to testify, which he won‘t. And the second issue is whether he‘ll even show up to invoke the privilege, which he also won‘t, based on his lawyer‘s letter to you.
And, you know, I can assure you, I can promise you, he‘s not coming.
SCHULTZ: Well, Dan, it‘s not responsible (ph).
ABRAMS: You said you‘re going to explore your options. I got to believe that those options have already been explored.
SCHULTZ: There are a variety of options available. There‘s inherent contempt, this (INAUDIBLE) contempt, I mean, we have, you know, sub-categories of options under those possibilities. It is, you know, a couple days premature. He hasn‘t not shown up yet. So, we are carefully examining those options.
And honestly, we want whatever action we take to be taken seriously and to be effective. I mean, I really feel strongly about, you know, zealously guarding the legislature‘s responsibility as a co-equal branch of government and so do my colleagues on the judiciary committee and so does the speaker. So, we want to make sure that whatever option we move on, that it is the one that‘s going to be the most effective and it‘s going to preserve Congress‘ authority.
ABRAMS: Let me bring in “Huffington Post‘s” Roy Sekoff, and former Bush aide, Brad Blakeman.
All right. Look, Roy, you hear me, I‘m pushing the congresswoman on this.
SEKOFF: A little bit.
SCHULTZ: That‘s OK.
ABRAMS: No, look, she can handle it.
SEKOFF: Just a little.
ABRAMS: Yes, I‘m not worried about her at all. She can certainly handle me. But let me ask you this, Roy, I mean, what do you think that Congress should do? I mean, do you think and when you use the words “inherent contempt,” that can mean, and let me read this, “Under the inherent contempt power, the individuals brought before the House or Senate by the sergeant-at-arms, tried at the bar of the body, and can be imprisoned in the capitol jail.”
Is that what you think should happen to Karl Rove?
SEKOFF: It sounds good.
ABRAMS: I mean, no, entirely, seriously.
SEKOFF: Yes, I don‘t think it‘s going to, clearly. But, you know, they have the system really well-gauged. So, you know, Rove is charged—they want to explore the idea of how he‘s politicized the Justice Department. So, if he doesn‘t show up, they hold him in contempt.
They report it to the Justice Department which then will do the same thing they did with Bolton and Miers, which is not act on it. And then, we‘re all, you know, into this long delay of game in the court system.
I mean, this is very significant, Dan. This is a real question, as the congresswoman says, about the checks and balances, and the contempt really being shown, is the contempt that this administration has for the American people‘s right to know what‘s going on in their government.
ABRAMS: Brad Blakeman, Karl Rove has said he didn‘t talk to anyone in the White House about this case, and yet he‘s invoking what is called executive privilege, which is designed to protect his private conversations with the White House. Explain that one to me.
BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER BUSH AIDE: No, that‘s actually the president‘s privilege to invoke. And the president can prevent a former staff member, a current staff member from disclosing conversations that that person had while they were in service of their country.
ABRAMS: Even if there were no conversations about it, right? He says there were no conversations about this at the White House?
BLAKEMAN: Exactly. And this is a dog and pony show that the judiciary committee should be ashamed of themselves for. There are judges who are not sitting where they should be sitting around the country because the Bush nominees are being held up by these ridiculous charades trying to get Karl Rove. I mean, get over it.
ABRAMS: Roy, hang on. I‘m going to let the representative respond.
SCHULTZ: Let me remind you that the House of Representatives doesn‘t confirm judges. So, making sure that Karl Rove comes in front of the House Judiciary Committee has nothing to do with—let me finish—has nothing to do with confirming judges that are before the United States Senate.
BLAKEMAN: Yes, it does, because it‘s a pattern of behavior by both committees to obstruct justice and let the president have these nominates -
ABRAMS: Don‘t let him change the subject.
BLAKEMAN: It‘s a pattern of behavior on both houses. You know that.
ABRAMS: Brad, I know you want to change the subject, alright? I know you want to change—how badly you want to change the subject away from Karl Rove. But the reality is -
BLAKEMAN: I don‘t want to change the subject.
ABRAMS: Of course you do. You‘re talking about judges. We‘re talking about Karl Rove being subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee, alright? I mean, they are two totally separate topics and it‘s a fact that he won‘t—I know why he doesn‘t want to show up. He‘s claiming that there‘s still litigation ongoing with regard to Bolton and Miers. And as a result, the same sort of executive privilege has been invoked by the president.
But the reality is, he is now a private citizen. He is no longer a part of the White House. That doesn‘t mean that he can talk about whatever he wants whenever he wants, but on an issue where he has said he had no conversations with the White House, explain to me how it makes sense that the White House should be able to invoke executive privilege so he can‘t testify about conversations he says he never had.
BLAKEMAN: The House Judiciary Committee wants a show. And they want Karl to sit in a chair and ask him a ton of ridiculous questions, many of which he‘s going to have to invoke his privilege and the president‘s privilege and that‘s just ridiculous. This is not going to be day for the testimony (ph) -
SCHULTZ: You‘re right, it really is ridiculous for Congress to be exercising our legitimate constitutional oversight role.
BLAKEMAN: You don‘t have a legitimate right when the privilege is invoked. No, you don‘t.
SCHULTZ: Karl Rove has to come to the judiciary committee and assert that privilege. He doesn‘t get to say that and then not show up. That‘s not how it works and you know.
BLAKEMAN: Congresswoman, do you remember what you said on MSNBC? Well, you said we‘re going to punish the president, we‘re going to deny him that which he‘s entitled to, and we‘re going to show him that we have power over him if he doesn‘t do what we want him to do. That‘s wrong. The Supreme Court -
SEKOFF: Wait. The Supreme Court in the United States versus Nixon defined that it was, you know, military matters and diplomatic matters, that is what executive privileges. For a bunch of staunch conservatives, you have a very, very liberal definition of executive privilege.
BLAKEMAN: There‘s a remedy here. You can go to court. There‘s a remedy. Go to court.
ABRAMS: Brad is again changing the subject away from Karl Rove.
SCHULTZ: This is not about punishment, Dan. This is about preserving Congress‘ constitutional oversight role.
ABRAMS: All right. I got to wrap it up.
SCHULTZ: This administration has no respect for the legislative oversight role.
ABRAMS: But, Representative Wasserman Schultz, I will say this, in regard to the point you just made, you talk about respect, all right? I‘m going to tell you he‘s not showing up, he‘s not going to testify, and he‘s not even going to invoke privilege.
And as a result, I don‘t know what you‘re going to do, I don‘t know what exactly you should do, to be quite honest with you. But I do think that it‘s got to be taken very seriously. And I think that we‘re going to continue to follow very closely what happens on Thursday when he doesn‘t show up.
Representative Wasserman Schultz, Roy Sekoff, and Brad Blakeman - thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
SEKOFF: All right, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, for the first time, we hear from the entire Obama family on everything from the kind of candy Obama likes to what his daughters would do if they got to move to the White House. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: It‘s time for tonight‘s Beat the Press.
First up: Former Beatle drummer, Ringo Starr was on CNN last night.
And Larry King continually brought up Ringo‘s age.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/MONDAY)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Today is his—hard to believe—his 68th birthday. He‘s 68 years old. It‘s his 68th birthday. His 68th birthday. The 68th birthday. This is your 68th birthday. The 68th birthday. His 68th birthday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Ringo eventually got a little tired of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE”/CNN/MONDAY)
RINGO STARR, HOST: Could you stress my age enough, for Christ‘s sake? How old are you, 102?
STARR: Well -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Next up: This morning, the gang of “FOX & Friends” are discussing Barack Obama‘s plane and it‘s unscheduled landing yesterday. An emergency slide deployed and inflated inside the plane, making the plane harder to control. But the tail cone did not pop off, the chute never left the plane itself. Why did that stop FOX from overly dramatizing the event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FOX AND FRIENDS”/FOX NEWS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s shooting across the sky and the chute deploy (ph) like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was as if he were driving an airplane dragging a balloon from the Macy‘s Thanksgiving Day parade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Or maybe not.
Up next, Obama‘s kids speak out for the first time, opening up about everything from fashion to what it would be like to live in the White House. Maria Menounos conducted the interview and she joins us live.
And later: Christie Brinkley cross-examined in her divorce trial as new details come out about just how many women her husband slept with.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. For the first time the entire Obama family, including their two children, sit down together for a wide-ranging interview discussing everything from Barack Obama‘s fashion sense to what inspires him out on the campaign trail. Barack and Michelle Obama were joined by their daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha. They sat down with “Access Hollywood‘s” Maria Menounos over the Fourth of July weekend. She‘s here tonight to tell us all about it.
But first, let‘s take a look at some of that interview.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Malia is much better talking on the phone than Sasha. Sasha gets bored with talking to me.
MALIA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF BARACK OBAMA: Love you.
B. OBAMA: Love you.
MA. OBAMA: And sometimes I count it when I‘m—you know, I‘m sitting next to Sasha and we‘re just talking, sometimes I kind of feel bad for you.
B. OBAMA: Do you?
MA. OBAMA: And I‘m like, come on, Sash.
B. OBAMA: Give daddy a little more attention.
MA. OBAMA: He hasn‘t seen you in like three days. And she‘s like, bye. I usually try to have a conversation.
B. OBAMA: You make an effort.
MARIA MENOUNOS, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”: What could you guys do that mommy and daddy would get really mad at?
MA. OBAMA: Whining.
SASHA OBAMA, DAUGHTER OF BARACK OBAMA: Whining.
MENOUNOS: Whining, yes, whining is bad.
MA. OBAMA: And arguing I think is the worst thing, because then they sit us down and say, you know, you guys are the best thing that you have in your life and you know that. You know, we‘re never going to get something as good as each other. And I think that‘s the worst thing.
This is what you do, daddy, you.
B. OBAMA: Uh-oh.
MA. OBAMA: When you—it‘s not that bad. But when you come home, you know, you know, you have your big gigantic bag and you leave it in the bedroom, sometimes I trip over it.
MICHELLE OBAMA, WIFE OF BARACK OBAMA: Yes, and you leave your bag.
S. OBAMA: You leave your bag right there!
MI. OBAMA: . everything, and it‘s heavy.
B. OBAMA> I‘m putting it down because I‘m.
MI. OBAMA: It‘s right in the front door.
B. OBAMA: I‘m so eager to come and see you guys.
MI. OBAMA: It‘s like, he‘s home! That‘s a good—good one, that‘s one. I stubbed my toe on that bag.
MENOUNOS: OK, well, fair is fair.
S. OBAMA: And, daddy—and daddy, you always.
MENOUNOS: Senator, do you have any.
MI. OBAMA: Wait, wait, we‘ve got one more.
S. OBAMA: ... put your bag on my shoes.
MENOUNOS: What have you guys thought about the possibility of living in the White House some day?
MA. OBAMA: It would be very cool. I think my most excitement about it is that I get to redecorate my room. I enjoy decorating.
MI. OBAMA: OK. What‘s the big deal that‘s going to happen when all this is done?
MA. OBAMA: A dog.
I read People magazine and everything and they always have those sections, like, you know, how much (INAUDIBLE) cost. And so I saw that magazine and I was like, oh, mommy, you‘re in this. Because I‘ve never seen mommy in that.
MENOUNOS: Is it cool?
MA. OBAMA: Which was pretty cool, because I usually see people like Angelina Jolie...
MI. OBAMA: Real important people.
MA. OBAMA: And they are real important people, no offense.
MI. OBAMA: I‘ve always loved clothes. He knows that. I think it‘s funny that he‘s involved in this fashion icon stuff because these pants he has had for probably about 10 years.
MA. OBAMA: And that belt.
MENOUNOS: The belt is a little worn, too, actually, now that I look at it.
MI. OBAMA: And don‘t pan down to the shoes because we‘ve talked about getting new shoes for him. So I think.
MENOUNOS: Senator, I don‘t know, I think they got you here. I mean, I don‘t want to jump on the bandwagon or anything.
MI. OBAMA: Just don‘t look too closely.
B. OBAMA: I‘m baffled by this whole thing myself, because hate to shop.
MENOUNOS: What is the most recent romantic gesture you guys have done for each other?
MI. OBAMA: Barack is very romantic. I mean, you brought me flowers the other day. He always brings me flowers. And we always go on dates. When he‘s home, we usually have—we always had date night.
MENOUNOS: What‘s the most recent romantic thing you‘ve done for him?
MI. OBAMA: Oh.
B. OBAMA: Yes.
MI. OBAMA: I take care of your children.
MI. OBAMA: That is love.
MENOUNOS: That is love.
B. OBAMA: It is pretty romantic.
MI. OBAMA: I think it‘s the little, you know, kisses, the little—you know, he likes to get attention, you know. Just coming and sitting on his lap and telling him I‘m proud of him.
MA. OBAMA: It also makes me feel good when you guys.
MI. OBAMA: See, yes, kids like.
MA. OBAMA: Kids like it when their parents, you know, are all—except sometimes when you get to be a teenager like.
MI. OBAMA: It‘s a little embarrassing.
MA. OBAMA: Sometimes the whole thing is embarrassing. I like it, though. I like it when you guys.
MI. OBAMA: Yes, you—they like it when mommy and daddy hold hands and we hug and we cuddle.
ABRAMS: All right. Before we play some more of that interview, Maria, let me ask you the question that I think a lot of people are asking, how did you get the Obamas to allow you to interview the kids as well?
MENOUNOS: Well, I take no credit for that. My producer at “Access Hollywood,” Steve Forrest (ph), had been working really hard on getting this exclusive interview. And they called me two days before. I was on vacation, as was kind of everyone at “Access Hollywood” at the time, and said, are you available?
And I jumped on a plane and there I was. Now the interview originally was just supposed to be the senator and his wife. We get there, and it was the Fourth of July, it was Malia‘s birthday. The circumstances surrounding that day I think kind of lended themselves to a more comfortable atmosphere for the girls.
And I had time to hang out with them before. And it just became something where it was just that kind of a chill situation. And they just jumped into the interview. We had no idea.
ABRAMS: Literally? Come on. I mean, because you know what people are going to say, they‘re going to say, there‘s no way a campaign is going to allow an interview like this to happen without thinking about it, planning it, et cetera. You‘re saying.
ABRAMS: You‘re convinced it was spontaneous.
MENOUNOS: It was. I mean, from everything that we were being told, I had been reaching out to the campaign on behalf of my candidate‘s kids series for “NIGHTLY NEWS” to try to get them. And I had been dealing with the same publicist that Steve had been dealing with and they had said no to me.
It was not something that they had told us was going to happen in any kind of way. We showed up that day. And they said, you know what, the girls really love The Jonas Brothers, and they‘re kind of intrigued at the fact that we‘re going to be doing this interview, they may want to say something at the end about The Jonas Brothers.
And I said, hey, anything from the girls will be great, you know, wonderful. And the senator and his wife sat down, they were right next to each other, and all of the sudden after their miked and we‘re about to go, the girls pop in.
And Sasha sits in between. She like wedges her way in. And the senator goes, you look like you figured out where you want to sit. OK.
MENOUNOS: So it just kind of happened. And I know that they may have discussed the possibility of it behind the scenes before, but it was not something that was intentional. When I first met the girls, they were very sweet but very shy and quiet.
We had the whole day to kind of—not the whole day, but at least an hour before where a friend of mine who had traveled with me was taking them on a tour of the Mining Museum and had great rapport with them. And they kind of got comfortable with us. That‘s just how it happened.
ABRAMS: I want to play another piece of sound. And afterwards I‘m going to ask you about the question of why “Access Hollywood.” I know people have been asking you, you know, why would they do this with “Access Hollywood”? But (INAUDIBLE), and then we play another piece of sound from Maria‘s interview.
This is where the girls were talking about how Barack Obama interacts with kids on the trail and the food he likes.
MA. OBAMA: You know, daddy, you don‘t really shake kids‘ hands that much. You shake adults‘ hands. He‘s like, then what do you do? And I was like, you know, you just wave or say hi. So I do that kind of stuff.
MENOUNOS: She keeps you cool.
B. OBAMA: She essentially avoids me embarrassing her by giving these tips, especially when I‘m around their friends.
S. OBAMA: My dad doesn‘t like sweets.
B. OBAMA: I‘m not a real sweets guy.
MA. OBAMA: You like pie.
B. OBAMA: I like pie. Pie is a big essential.
MA. OBAMA: Like pumpkin pie.
S. OBAMA: He likes, like, minty gum. He doesn‘t like, like, bubble gum.
MI. OBAMA: Boring.
B. OBAMA: I don‘t really break out, I‘m pretty conservative when it comes to my gum.
ABRAMS: You had said to me earlier that some people had said, well, he went to “Access Hollywood” because it was the safe place to be.
MENOUNOS: Well, I mean, the hard thing about that is—and the kind of unfortunate thing is why can‘t “Access Hollywood” get an exclusive like this and why can‘t it be held to the same standards of—as any other interview would be. What else could I possibly ask these girls? I mean, how hard could I get with them? Am I going to ask them something that‘s going to make them cry?
I mean, why would people thing that you have to tackle a 10- and a 6-year-old with tougher questions than, you know, what is the thought behind, you know, maybe being at the White House someday, or you know, what could you do to make mommy and daddy mad?
What else are you going to ask them? Yes, I have endless questions I could ask them, you know, about how their mom and dad police their Internet use or their TV use and things like that, but time ran out.
But there‘s a sense of people saying, you know, they got a safer interview or a softer interview with us. And that‘s just not true. What would you ask a 10- and a 6-year-old? Would you go at them really tough, Dan?
ABRAMS: Here‘s what I would do. I would call Maria Menounos and say, hey, Maria, I‘m about to interview a 10- and a 6-year-old, what do you think I should ask them?
MENOUNOS: I mean, it just—and you know, it was funny because it was a really beautiful kind of situation. It was just kind of organic. It was happening. And I kind of sat back at different points and let the girls be themselves, because we never get to see that. And we‘re probably never going to get to see them in a situation like this again.
And rightfully so, they‘re young. They‘re not supposed to be put out there. And it was just—it just happened. But to see them interacting with each other and to see the family dynamic I thought was beautiful. I watched this footage of these girls and I think they were so adorable.
ABRAMS: I‘m going to play another clip in a minute. Let me bring in Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief of The Chicago Sun-Times who has covered the Obamas for years; and MSNBC political analyst and Michelle Bernard. I want to do a little political analysis here.
Michelle, what do you make of the decision by the Obamas to allow the kids to be interviewed?
MICHELLE BERNARD, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I think it‘s a good decision. I understand why they did it. The Obama campaign has been working very hard now that we‘re in general election mode to introduce the American public not only to Barack Obama but really to his entire family. And who could not possibly fall in love with his two daughters? They‘re adorable.
You know, and it is sentimental. It‘s—how patriotic to have one of your daughters actually born on July 4th and celebrate her birthday virtually with the entire nation on July 4th with Maria Menounos on “Access Hollywood.” They‘re reaching out to different voters.
You know, probably the people who are watching this interview and who are going to be talking about it for the rest of the week, it is not inside baseball anymore. They‘re reaching out to middle America and I think that it was good strategic...
ABRAMS: Yes, I mean, the notion that because—that somehow it‘s less significant because it was on “Access Hollywood” to me is absurd. I mean, Obama has gone on all the late night shows. I mean, everyone is doing interviews. So the notion that—and Maria did a great interview.
Hey, Lynn, let me ask you, you know the Obamas well, do you think this was a tough call?
LYNN SWEET, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: No, it wasn‘t a tough call because we‘re in the phase of the campaign where they want people to get to know him and the family was together anyway. And Maria confirmed the question that I wanted answered as to whether or not the campaign had—you know, the campaign and the family decided to put the girls out there. It wasn‘t a prearranged part of the deal.
And that showed that the Obamas very deliberately wanted this picture of their family together, and what a great picture. The girls are terrific. I first met them a few years ago when they were in Africa.
And of course they‘re so bewitching, they kind of took over the whole interview. I can‘t blame anyone for taking their scoop and running with it.
ABRAMS: Let me play one more clip from Maria‘s interview.
MI. OBAMA: You know, we‘re usually doing picnics and fairs and ice cream parlors and things that are fun for the kids and obviously fun for us, and a lot more fun than listening to daddy talk.
B. OBAMA: They basically cut out when I start my...
MI. OBAMA: It‘s like, is he talking?
MENOUNOS: You get ragged on a lot.
B. OBAMA: I do. What can I do?
MENOUNOS (voice-over): And oops I think we just hit Sasha‘s “blah blah” limit.
S. OBAMA: Mommy, when are we getting ice cream?
MI. OBAMA: When are we getting ice cream? Later on.
MA. OBAMA: We‘re getting ice cream?
B. OBAMA: I‘m sure we can.
ABRAMS: They at all concerned with what the kids might say? You never know what kids may say.
MENOUNOS: You know, no more than any father or mother in a situation where everyone is kind of listening, would be like, oh, gosh, you don‘t need to tell that story. It was very genuine and very authentic. They are a wonderful, lovely family.
ABRAMS: Maria Menounos, a great interview, a big scoop. And really well done. Thank you very much for coming on the program.
MENOUNOS: Thank you, appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Appreciate it. Lynn Sweet and Michelle Bernard, thank you.
You can see more of the interview tomorrow night on “Access Hollywood.”
Up next, Christie Brinkley breaks down in tears on the stand today while being cross-examined in her divorce trial. We‘ll talk to someone who was in court coming up.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Christie Brinkley was ready to let everything come out in public in her divorce from Peter Cook. And today she got her wish. But that included her breaking down on the stand as she was grilled by Cook‘s attorneys on everything from why she wanted the trial public to her anger with her estranged husband, the intense questioning came after a court appointed psychiatrist said both Brinkley and Cook need therapy.
Joining me now, Ashlan Gorse, correspondent with E! News who was in the courtroom today. And family law attorney Aissa Wayne who also happens to be the daughter of John Wayne, which I thought was a fun fact.
Thanks very much for coming on. Appreciate it. All right. Ashlan, you were inside the courtroom today. How tough was the cross-examination?
ASHLAN GORSE, E! NEWS: You know, Peter‘s lawyer was really trying to get Christie to break down. He wanted this picture perfect model, this beautiful—this perfect mother to totally break down to make their side look better. He was going after her over and over again. It actually became very awkward and—in the courtroom. And I think everybody felt that. But Christie passed with flying colors, I think.
ABRAMS: Aissa, let me read you one of the things that we saw today in court. Cook‘s lawyer said: “You wanted this trial so you could publicly flog your husband.” Brinkley says: “Absolutely not, I didn‘t want this trial, it‘s humiliating for all of us. I really, really wanted to settle this.”
How significant a legal issue is it going to be? I mean, the judge is the one who agreed to allow it to be public. How does it help Cook‘s lawyers to argue to the judge that it shouldn‘t have been public?
AISSA WAYNE, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, if it was Christie Brinkley‘s idea to make it public, it was probably a bargaining tool. First of all, the psychiatrist didn‘t have very good things to say about Mr. Cook. Usually in those kind of examinations they say—they have to balance it out by saying something about the better parent, which here was Christie Brinkley.
So he made a couple of comments about Christie Brinkley. But sometimes you have no choice, if there is no settling and the other person is completely unreasonable there is nothing much you can do but to have it tried.
ABRAMS: Well, Ashlan, I want to read you another, it‘s number four here. Christie Brinkley said: “I have done my best to hide my feelings from my children. For two years I tried to give my children the stable life they had before this deception. Our life was destroyed by this man‘s greed and lust.”
Cook‘s lawyer says: “You‘re angry right now.” Brinkley: “This isn‘t angry. This is me trying to describe my feelings to you with passion.”
How aggressive was he when he was questioning her?
GORSE: Well, ironically, those are the two times that Christie got choked up. Those two quotes you just read were the two times she got choked up in the courtroom. And she was really trying to hold her stature. But he was trying to break her. That‘s what he was doing.
They were—he was just going after her, after her, asking specific dates, specific times, trying to confuse her, trying to get her to backpedal. It was really hard. It was really hard for her. You could see it. But she really—she really held her own against kind of a vicious lawyer.
ABRAMS: Because, Aissa, isn‘t the key issue here—I mean, it‘s about custody, right? I mean, that‘s the key, the key question.
WAYNE: Well the key question is about custody. But these people have seen the psychiatrists‘ reports ahead of time. So, Cook‘s lawyer knows, we have to just see if we can break her, see if we can make her say something terrible. Because they pretty much lost, the evaluator recommended Christie Brinkley. So they have nothing to lose by being as obnoxious as they want. And the real surprise.
ABRAMS: That‘s sort of a somber view of the legal system isn‘t it?
WAYNE: Well, not really. Everybody has a right to cross-examine the people that are accusing them or saying things about them. And so, I do think the lawyer was aggressive. But that‘s why she has a lawyer to object to those type of things.
ABRAMS: Let me read one more. This is Christie Brinkley talking about defacing Peter Cook in a wedding picture. “When I drew a little black on his face it looked like an empty wedding outfit with no person in it. That‘s how I felt. There was a person I knew I loved and didn‘t know where he went.”
Based on what you saw today, they‘re not going to be settling or agreeing on anything anytime soon, I assume.
GORSE: They‘re probably not going to be talking to each other any time soon. And I think that was the biggest problem in court is everybody realized that it is in the kids‘ best interest to have both parents in their lives, but there is no way they can ever work something out and try to get custody arrangement and even share the kids on the weekends because they hate each other.
ABRAMS: Yes. That‘s pretty clear. Ashlan, Aissa, thanks a lot, appreciate it.
Up next, will tonight‘s big winner or loser be Eliot Spitzer, whose alleged call girl is reportedly shopping around a dating show; Heather Mills, who may not be dating guys, looking to get the cash she won from Paul McCartney; or suspect Drew Peterson, who claims he might have a date with 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.” Our first loser, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer whose alleged call girl does not appear to be fading away any time soon. According to E! Online, Ashley Dupree may be shopping around something new, a dating show. Yes, instead of women vying for the affections of some multimillionaire, men will be able to compete for the chance at a freebie with her.
Loser, Paul McCartney‘s ex, Heather Mills, reportedly telling friends she would make any future spouse sign a prenup. Why would she want to let some guy walk away with the $60 million she weaseled from Paul McCartney because they didn‘t have an agreement? The Daily Express reporting that friends said: “Heather realizes she could attract the kind of man who isn‘t with her because he loves her but because he loves the lifestyle.” Right. If only Paul had had those kind of friends.
Our big loser of the day, suspect Drew Peterson, who is not searching for his missing fourth wife but is exchanging e-mails in a chat room. The former cop says: “Guess who I might get with a date with as a publicity stunt, Britney Spears.” His publicist—yes, Drew has a publicist, says it is a joke. “I mean he‘s Drew, he‘s a jokester.” Yes, it‘s just kooky Drew. You know, the suspect in the death of one wife and disappearance of another who just loves to party.
Our big winner, volunteer firefighter Chris Clear (ph) who survived having this in his head. He was helping a friend move a rototiller when he heard something pop. The 19-year-old thought he had been hit by a rock. Instead, a pin shot out of the tiller and right through his nose to the back of his brain. Doctors removed it 24 hours later.
Time for the “P.O.‘d Box.” Last week I called it a lose for McCain that his wife racked up $750,000 in credit charges in a month. Kevin McConnell: “I‘ve a problem with your story on Cindy McCain and the $750,000 credit card bill. She‘s worth more than $100 million, would we object if someone with $50,000 in savings put $500 on their credit card?”
Kevin, I am not objecting to her spending habits. I‘m just saying that politically it doesn‘t help McCain relate to the financial struggles of the average voter.
Nancy Markle gets it: “Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars in one month, I don‘t make that much in 30 years, $50,000 for the kid? Another two years of my wages.”
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. You can e-mail us about the show, email@example.com. Thanks for watching. See you back here tomorrow night.
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