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'Verdict with Dan Abrams' for Wednesday, July 23

Guest: Contessa Brewer, Lester Holt, Don Siegelman, Julian Epstein, Jeff Gardere

DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone. Barack Obama's visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem has somehow led to the latest McCain camp attack.

Roy Sekoff, Chrystia Freeland, and Kevin Madden, are with us. Obama traveled to Israel today, talking Middle East peace and assuring Israelis he understands the threat from Iran.

First up: NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, is traveling with Obama tonight in Jerusalem.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On a day filled with symbols, including a visit to Israel's Holocaust memorial-Barack Obama took a guided tour of the country's vulnerable borders to signal his support for Israel's security.

With a message aimed both at Israelis and voters back home, he went to ground zero for Israel's conflict with Hamas, Sderot, barely a mile from Gaza. Until a ceasefire last month, it was hit daily by rockets and artillery shells from Gaza.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here to say as an American and as friend of Israel that we stand with the people of Sderot and with all the people of Israel.

MICHELLE: Sending a powerful, emotional message to Israel-the Democratic nominee visited a family whose homes and lives were shattered by an attack a year and a half ago.

The fact (ph) of spent rocket parts and artillery shells fired by Hamas as a backdrop, only one year after arousing concern in Israel by saying he will sit down with Iran's President Ahmadinejad, Obama then toughened his message to Iran.

OBAMA: A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

MICHELLE: The Democratic senator spent hours with Israel's many political leaders.

And unlike John McCain, who avoided the West Bank when he was here in March, Obama also went briefly to Ramallah, to promise Palestinians he would not rule out their right to negotiate for Jerusalem.

While his rival continues overseas, McCain was in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, if you could grab one of those -

MITCHELL: Also trying to appeal to Jewish voters by warning about the threat to Israel from Iran.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My feeling about Israel today is that they are probably, in many respects, under greater threat than they've been since their independence.


MITCHELL: Obama's visit is an important chance for him to show his knowledge of Middle East diplomacy, and also try to reassure some Jewish voters back home who have doubts about his commitment to Israel-Dan.

ABRAMS: Thanks, Andrea.

For the second time in as many days, Obama held a Middle East press conference-this time, appearing with Israel's defense minister in a rocket-shelled Israeli town near the Gaza border.


OBAMA: My goal is to avoid the hypothetical by moving rapidly to mobilize the international community, to offer a series of big sticks and big carrots to the Iranian regime to stand down on nuclear weapons. What I have also said, though, is that I will take no options off the table in dealing with this potential Iranian threat.

I would, at my time and choosing, be willing to meet with any leader, if I thought it would promote the national security interests of the United States of America. And that continues to be my position. That if I think that I can get a deal that is going to advance our cause, then, I would consider that opportunity. But what I also said was that there's a difference between meeting without preconditions and meeting without preparation.

I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. And so, I can assure you that if-I don't even care if I was a politician-if somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I am going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.


ABRAMS: Before that press conference, Obama took a trip to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. An event the McCain camp used to blast him.

As his (ph) customary, Obama left a comment in the guestbook there. He wrote, quote, "Let our children come here and know this history, so they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.'"

Somehow, the McCain camp jumps all over that comment. A McCain aide is saying, quote, "Today he says 'never again.' A year ago stopping genocide wasn't a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Doesn't that strike you as inconsistent?"

Apart from the absurdity of that comparison, is it appropriate for the McCain camp to use a visit to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem as campaign fodder and doesn't this top off what has been a disastrous week for McCain as the campaign desperately tries to change the subject?

Here now: Roy Sekoff, founding editor of "The Huffington Post";

Chrystia Freeland, U.S. managing editor for the "Financial Times"; and, Kevin Madden, former press secretary for Mitt Romney.

All right, Kevin, let's start with question number one. Isn't this totally inappropriate for a McCain aide to be blasting Obama's signature in a book at the Holocaust museum?

KEVIN MADDEN, FMR ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY: Look, Dan, I would disagree the word inappropriate should be applied. I think it certainly lacks a lot of relevance. I just don't see how that particular entry by Barack Obama deserves that kind of response. I mean, it's trying to connect A to Z. It really doesn't really make that much sense and I think it muddles the message that they're trying to draw; the contrast that they're trying to draw on the bigger issues.

ABRAMS: Yes, but here's the problem. Kevin, the problem is that all week, it hasn't been about the message. It's been about attacking Obama, trying to find little minor-suggesting, for example, that he was insulting General Petraeus. When he was, I mean, when he was traveling with him. Again, and again, they're taking pot shots at Obama.

MADDEN: This has much more to do with the mechanics of the campaign. Look, you're right. The Obama campaign has set the tone for this week. They set the tempo. The McCain campaign is doing everything they can to try to disrupt Barack Obama's message over there and the contest of images between the two campaigns. They're doing everything they can to compete.

ABRAMS: All right, Roy, -- Roy, I mean, look, I do find, I have to tell you, I find the fact that McCain is making that comparison of a good well wishes effectively, that Obama's leaving a book at the Holocaust museum comparing that to policy on Iraq, I find that to be inappropriate.

ROY SEKOFF, HUFFINGTON POST: Dan, I mean, Kevin as a long-time campaigner knows there's a technical term for this and it's called "jaw-dropping desperation." I mean, to take a solemn visit to a Holocaust museum and try to score a cheap gotcha on it is really beyond the pail.

And what are they going to do next? They're going to go and look back in his high school yearbook to see if he ever called the girl sweet so that they can bring back the "bitter" comment. I mean, it's really outrageous and it is part and parcel of what they've been doing all week and then saying that Obama would rather lose the war and it's outrageous.

ABRAMS: Look, I'm going to get to that comment in a minute because I know Kevin wants to talk about that, too. But, broadly, let's talk about the week. Obama's trip abroad has been, at the least, a bad week for John McCain; and at the best for Obama, an incredibly good week for him. And it seems to me there's no other way to spin it.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, FINANCIAL TIMES: That is absolutely right. I think that we should remember that some people were saying ahead of this, people in the McCain camp that this was going to be really dangerous for Obama. That he should be at home, Americans were feeling the economic pain, and Middle America didn't really care about the rest of the world and I think that this gamble by the Obama campaign has really paid off and it's quite audacious.

You know, Obama is, this week, looking much more presidential and much more on top of foreign policy than Senator John McCain. That's an amazing thing for the Obama campaign -


ABRAMS: Kevin, I'll let you respond but I'll tell you this, I think this is the worst week John McCain has had in this campaign yet.

MADDEN: It's been a tough week to break through. But I think Chrystia's right.

Look, the McCain campaign raised the stakes for Barack Obama here and they tried to paint this as a very political trip. But I think why Barack Obama did very well this week and why the images work is because they embraced it. They embraced those expectations and they said, "Look, we're in a political campaign. The idea that this is not going to be viewed through a political lens is absurd so we might as well run with it."

And they used it to their advantage and did a good job on the imagery. I still think there are a lot of openings on the substance side.

ABRAMS: All right, hang on one sec, Roy. Roy, hang on one sec, because I want to talk about this statement that McCain made, this controversial statement that he made about Obama being willing to lose a war, et cetera.

Let's play the piece of sound and McCain responded to it a couple hours ago on ABC. Let's listen.


MCCAIN: I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.




DAVID WRIGHT, ABC NEWS: That's pretty strong language. Do you really think he's that craven?

MCCAIN: I think that it's very clear that Senator Obama has refused to recognize that the strategy in Iraq called the surge has succeeded. And the fact is -

WRIGHT: But what you seemed to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him, and not what he honestly thinks is right for the country?

MCCAIN: I do not believe that any objective observer can conclude that the surge did not work. And he should know better if he wants to be commander-in-chief and certainly behave differently, as far as this-our presence and our strategy in Iraq.


ABRAMS: All right, Roy, sorry, I interrupted you before, go ahead.

SEKOFF: No, I mean, you know, McCain, you know, is just desperately trying to say, "The surge worked, the surge worked, the surge worked," as if that's the answer to everything. I mean, does he really believe that Barack Obama sincerely doesn't care how the war turns out? Just doesn't care, it's all about political calculation? I mean, I find that an outrageous statement.

ABRAMS: Kevin-let me let Kevin answer that. Kevin?

MADDEN: Just real quick, I think this is a very relevant and substantive argument that McCain is making. And I think he flourishes in this debate when he makes sure that there is a very clear contrast between his motives and Barack Obama's. When he paints his motives as being above politics and country first, John McCain wins.

And when he offers the contrast that Barack Obama and the criticism that Barack Obama will always put pandering and his political instincts first before principle, that is where the contrast where he's most comfortable.


ABRAMS: What I don't get, Chrystia, is why is that a good argument? I mean, it would seem to me, when you talk about flip-flopping, right, you've got, you know, McCain on immigration, abortion, Bush tax cuts, the list goes on and on and Falwell-is that really where he wants to be on the issue of who's flip-flopping more?

FREELAND: I totally agree, Dan. I mean, I think that looking at the surge and focusing on the surge is smart for McCain. He is right to say, "It was a courageous move for me to support the surge at a time when not very many people were doing that" and it looks like it could be a campaign killer.

But he's just a little too desperate. I think his whole campaign this week has felt too scared. And he overreached in saying Obama is willing to lose the war to become president. There's no evidence to support that. And Obama himself took a courageous stand in opposing the war in the first place.

So, I think McCain should stick to the political substance and not press too hard on how he is more noble than Barack Obama.

SEKOFF: Dan, don't you think he also tries to make it black and white like it's winning or losing? Obama, you know, has said what has worked about the surge, what are some of the other elements, the uprising you know-all these other elements have played into it.

ABRAMS: But, Roy, you have to concede that he's been putting to-

Obama is put in a tough spot on this issue of the surge. I mean, he hasn't, he can't say, politically, "Yes, it was a good idea, and, yes, it worked." And that's a tough position for him, right?

SEKOFF: Right. But I think he has shown that there are our gray areas, there's other factors that have led to this, and, I think, that's the position that he's saying and I don't think he's robbing the credit. I mean, Katie Couric asked him six times and he said again and again, that the soldiers are doing good things. He appreciates what Petraeus did.

MADDEN: Let me disagree with you there. I think he starts to argue with nuance and he starts to use very amorphous language, he looks less ready, he looks less decisive. And what people are looking at for a commander-in-chief, they look for that decisiveness.

ABRAMS: Everyone is sticking around. Everyone is still here.

Because, coming up: Barack Obama prepares for his major speech in Germany tomorrow. A new NBC Poll suggests that speech could be crucial to Obama's chances of winning the election. We'll look at why.

Then: Bush League Justice is back. Karl Rove finally answers questions about whether he played a role in the prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. It's not under oath. No, of course not. But he does go after the former governor. Governor Siegelman joins us live to respond.

We're back in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS: Tonight's edition of Why America Hates Washington: Where's the beef? The Agriculture Department is under fire for losing track of hundreds of Canadian cattle coming into the country despite a string of mad cow disease cases north of the border. An audit by the USDA inspector general also found some animals came into the U.S. without proper identification or health records. The audit covered the fiscal year ending in September 2006, when a million cattle were imported from Canada and where officials last month discovered a 13th case of mad cow disease.

The Department of Agriculture is out to lunch to save cattles. Cattle and that's no bull. No bull part was mine someone changed the rest of this-is reason why America hates Washington.

We're back with more Obamamania sweeping Germany. One magazine has already dubbed him "American Idol." We'll be right back.


ABRAMS: We're back.

Not since David Hasselhoff have Germans been so smitten by the arrival of an American, and Barack Obama seems to have unleashed Hasselhoff-like hysteria in Germany and all across Europe during his overseas trip. Berlin is bracing tonight for Obama's visit there tomorrow. Tens of thousands of Germans are expected to attend Obama's speech at the famed Victory Tower. Local shop owners are even selling Barack Obama dolls ahead of his arrival which look nothing like Barack Obama.

But brand new polls out tonight show just how popular Obama is across Europe. In the U.K., Obama leads McCain, 60 to 15; in France, 64 for Obama, 4 percent for McCain; and in Germany, Obama holds a commanding 62 percent to 10 percent lead.

But the question tonight, is Obama's rockstar status in Europe a positive or negative for him back home? Back with our panel: Roy Sekoff, Chrystia Freeland, and Kevin Madden.

All right. Roy, you guys have written have about this. Is it possible that these enormous spreads in Europe don't help Obama here?

SEKOFF: Dan, someone has to explain to me what the value-added of having our closest allies not like our would-be leader. I just find this entire line of discussion not only amusing, but very condescending-the whole idea that Americans can't stand it, that tens of thousands of Europeans might turn out for Obama like we're some kind of jealous girlfriend, we can't stand the idea that somebody else finds our guy attractive. It's crazy.

ABRAMS: Before I go to Chrystia, and that she works for a European magazine, let me ask Kevin, do you want to condescend?

MADDEN: No, I just want to see Barack-I want to see Barack Obama show up in the "Knight Rider" car. That would be pretty great.

But, look, I think-here's the challenge for Barack Obama is that anti-anti-Americanism is a very powerful thing here in the United States. So, if in any way, there are signs or there are people who may be chanting slogans that seem anti-American, and they seem to be rallying behind Obama, it could cause a little bit of peril here for Barack Obama.

But, you know, I think there is some merit to the argument that there are people who are looking for a new page of transatlantic relations and that this could be a new day. So, it could break either way and that's the tough thing for the Obama campaign.

ABRAMS: Chrystia, is he that big, I mean, in Europe? I mean, everyone-you can tell by the polls. It seems a vast majority of Europeans are hoping Obama wins, but does he have that sort of rockstar status?

FREELAND: Absolutely. And what has been really interesting for us we publish around the world-our European readers are as interested in the U.S. presidential campaign as our U.S. readers are. I think that this tour is really, really helpful for Barack Obama. I agree with Roy that the notion that ordinary Americans somehow don't want America to be liked is really off.

But what I do think that we should expect tomorrow is Barack Obama and his team are smart. And I think that they are going-there's going to be a sting in the tail. He's going to be very careful. He knows there are more votes in Boston and in Boise for him than in Berlin. And he's going to be very careful to make clear he's speaking to a U.S. audience.

ABRAMS: Do they not know how to make dolls over there?


ABRAMS: You see that dolls of Obama? It looks nothing like him.

SEKOFF: It looks like Gary Coleman.

ABRAMS: It looks like Webster. I mean, it looks -

FREELAND: What is your angle (ph) American doll look like though, Dan?

ABRAMS: But, yes, I mean, Barack Obama, you think you could make a doll that looks something like him as opposed to just-it looks like a kid.

SEKOFF: I want to see the McCain dolls.

ABRAMS: Yes, it looks like a kid with a suit on.

All right. While Obama may be wildly popular abroad, the latest NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" Poll just out tonight, shows he still has problems at home -- 53 percent now say McCain would make a better commander-in-chief, only 25 percent say Obama. Fifty-three percent say McCain has more knowledge and experience to be president, only 19 percent say Obama.

Roy, how do you explain it?

SEKOFF: Well, Dan, let's look at when the poll was taken. It was taken last week before Obama's had this tremendous week where he's been shown to be right on Afghanistan, shown to be right about negotiating in Iran, shown to be right about his position on Iraq with al-Maliki agreeing with him.

ABRAMS: It was through Monday, Roy-that the poll was taken through Monday. The poll was taken through Monday.

SEKOFF: Through Monday, right.


SEKOFF: But that was before, you know, and before McCain had sort of imploding on the areas that supposedly his area of expertise. I mean, it started well before Monday and ended on Monday. So, I think, it's basically worthless poll.

ABRAMS: Well. Chrystia, look, the Obama camp has to be concerned, though, that the numbers-they're up by six points, as they've been up by six points for a while now. And, you know, some people are saying, "Well, the media is so obsessed with Obama, et cetera, why isn't the meter changing in terms of the polls?"

FREELAND: Well, let's see what it's like next week. I don't agree with Roy. I don't think that's a worthless poll and I think it points to exactly Obama's central weakness and the reason he's taking this trip. You know, he is going out and attacking this central area where Americans don't have a lot of faith in him, and maybe they shouldn't. He doesn't have a track record. He does have to prove to the people he can do this.

ABRAMS: All right. Kevin Madden, take us inside the McCain camp now, all right? They've seen what's happened this week, if you're leading the meeting there, what are you saying are the key things that you need to do in the next few days?

MADDEN: Well, look, I think, first of all, you keep hampering away on the flip-flopping, the changing of positions. I think that, you know, Obama has shown that there's a soft underbelly there, he's largely still undefined in the American electorate and that if you continue to hit home on those attacks, that they will give a lot of Americans pause.

And then, lastly and most importantly-readiness. What I read from that poll is that a lot of Americans are looking at the attribute of who's ready to be president whether it's lead on economy or lead on national security. And there is a great deal of trepidation that Barack Obama is just not ready.

ABRAMS: I've got to end it, Roy. I know you don't agree with that. That's the McCain -

MADDEN: Roy, just say no.

ABRAMS: Yes, exactly.

SEKOFF: No, I was just going to say the poll is not worthless, but 43 percent of McCain supporters who say that he's the lesser of two evils, then I'll go with that as not worthless part of the poll (ph).

MADDEN: So, that's the good part.

SEKOFF: It will make a political ad.

ABRAMS: Roy gets to pick and choose which parts of the polls he likes.


SEKOFF: I'm saying, (INAUDIBLE) it's not worthless, I'm willing to throw it all out.

ABRAMS: All right. Roy Sekoff, Chrystia Freeland, Kevin Madden, thanks a lot.

MADDEN: Thanks guys.

ABRAMS: Coming up: Karl Rove finally answers questions about whether he had anything to do with the prosecution of Alabama's former Democratic governor, but not under oath and only in a letter to a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Governor Siegelman joins us live to respond.

And Bill O'Reilly proving, once again, that the spin starts there. This time, he goes as far as to manipulate numbers to try to make McCain look better than he is. That's next in Beat the Press.

What's your VERDICT? E-mail us at: We read (ph) your e-mails during the P.O.'ed box at the end of the show. Please include your name and where you're writing from.


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

First up: Barack Obama has been doing the interview rounds during his trip abroad these past few days. So far, two with CBS, two at ABC, and apparently each and every interview has been a, quote, "exclusive."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: We have an exclusive interview with Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: Lara Logan interviewed him exclusively.

TERRY MORAN, CBS CORRESPONDENT: My exclusive interview with Senator Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: He spoke exclusively to ABC's Terry Moran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: Katie Couric of the "CBS Evening News" will have an exclusive interview with the senator.

UNDENTIFIED MALE ANCHOR: In an exclusive interview with Charlie Gibson.


ABRAMS: Definition of exclusive sure has become flexible. Good thing it doesn't apply in relationships.

Next up, many have been claiming the media is in love with Obama, often treating him, they say, "Like a prophet. But alas, it would seem according to CNN, "The prophet has fallen." Watch the graphic.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The fall of polygamist leader. New charges against him, stunning new legal developments, we'll bring you all of that.


ABRAMS: Obviously a mistake. If that had been FOX, we'd be asking more follow-up questions.

Speaking of which, FOX's Bill O'Reilly showing again why facts are not his strong suit. Here he is trying to assign batting averages to Obama and McCain on the war.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX HOST: In hindsight, Obama was correct about entering Iraq and wrong about the surge. So, he's batting .500 on the issue. John McCain was correct that the war was fought ineptly for years and correct about the surge. So, he's batting .750. The one strikeout for McCain and for most of us was going into Iraq in the first place.


ABRAMS: Apart from the absurdity of comparing the decision to go to war with any of those other decisions, two out of three isn't .750. It's .667. And that was scripted. The no-spin zone is serving up another bean ball to try to help McCain.

Coming up: Karl Rove is still refusing to answer questions under oath, defying a congressional subpoena, but tonight, he is answering questions about whether he was involved in the prosecution of Alabama's former Democratic governor. Rove in lengthy answers goes after Governor Siegelman. The former governor joins us live to respond up next.

And later, we get a glimpse at a new documentary about the man who imprisoned his daughter for more than 20 years in an underground dungeon and fathered seven children with her. Tonight, how he went about building that dungeon.



ABRAMS: We're back. Karl Rove finally answering questions about the prosecution of former Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, who has long claimed Rove was behind the corruption charges against him. Rove still refusing to answer questions under oath; he defied a subpoena to appear before the House Judiciary Committee and instead he attended a paid speaking engage in the Ukraine.

Rove is, though, giving written answers to questions served up by a Republican member of the committee, Lamar Smith of Texas. Smith asked Rove, quote, "Before Former Alabama Governor Donald E. Siegelman's initial indictment in May 2005, did you ever communicate with any Department of Justice officials, State of Alabama officials or any individual regarding Governor Siegelman's investigation or potential prosecution?"

Rove's response, "I have never communicated either directly or indirectly with Justice Department or Alabama officials about the investigation, indictment, potential prosecution, prosecution, conviction or sentencing of Governor Siegelman or about any other matter related to this case nor have I asked any other individual to communicate about these matters on my behalf. I never attempted either directly or indirectly to influence these matters."

Well, it sounds like a firm denial. Although, Rove did not address specifically the question of whether he contacted any non-government officials about the case and specifically whether he ever spoke to his old friend Bill Canary about the Siegelman case, an influential Republican in Alabama who just happens to be married to the U.S. Attorney, Laura Canary whose office brought the case against Siegelman.

Here to respond directly to Rove, former Alabama governor, a Democrat, Don Siegelman and former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein. Thanks to both of you for coming on. Appreciate it.

All right. Governor, let me read you specific comments that Karl Rove made about you and your allegations and I want to give you a chance to respond.

Karl Rove says about you, "Despite his repeated public statements that I played a role in his prosecution and despite being called upon to substantiate that charge, Gov. Siegelman has not offered a single piece of evidence that I played any role whatsoever in his case. Before giving credence to Siegelman's baseless allegations of impropriety, the committee should require Siegelman to substantiate his allegations about my involvement in his prosecution, something he failed to do in either media interviews or court filings." Your response?

FMR. GOV. DON SIEGELMAN (D-AL): Dan, there is no question that Karl Rove is showing contempt for Congress by ignoring the subpoena and refusing to testify under oath. I'm not sure I would believe Karl Rove even if he swore on a stack of bibles, but we should start with at least one for the sake of the fact that he has been subpoenaed. But we know that this Department of Justice has been political. We know that to get a job with the Department of Justice you had to pass a political test and ask David Iglesias. To keep a job with the Department of Justice, you had to be political. He was fired because he refused to file a case against a Democrat right before an election.

And I know that my case was politically motivated. "Time" magazine, in their expose on selective prosecution, went to the court records of - and the testimony of a key witness, the key witness to the government who pointed out that he had told the investigators of criminal activity of two high-level Republican office holders. The investigators told the key witness that they didn't believe him when it came to the Republicans.

ABRAMS: Right. All right.

SIEGELMAN: So why did they believe him when it came to the prosecution of me as a Democrat?

ABRAMS: It's a fair question about selective prosecution, right? And I think that's one of the reasons that this case needs to be investigated more thoroughly. But you haven't responded yet to the question specifically that Rove lays out, which is he is basically saying that you have not offered a single piece of evidence with regard to your case that Karl Rove was involved.

SIEGELMAN: Well, I disagree. There is - unlike Karl Rove's written answers to the wrong questions, there has been sworn testimony before the United States Congress Judiciary Committee by a Republican lawyer who places Karl Rove at the scene of the crime in the decision making that went on in my case. And if you notice, Karl Rove did not answer that question in his answers today.

ABRAMS: What do you -

SIEGELMAN: He did not answer, Dan, the question as to whether or not he had spoken to the husband of my prosecutor, Bill Canary. He refused to answer that question.

ABRAMS: Look, that question wasn't asked. It should have been asked. I was troubled by the fact that he was asked any individual that question wasn't specifically addressed there.

But with that said, there is - look, Julian Epstein, let me ask you about what the House can do here. Look, there are problems. Rove lays out all the credibility problems with Dana Jill Simpson, the key witness that Gov. Siegelman and others have relied on. But does that change the fact that he hasn't testified in front of Congress that it's not under oath? Do these answers, do you think, alleviate any of the pressure on Rove to come in and testify?


ABRAMS: Let me ask Julian. Let me let Julian go ahead.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER: Governor, I think - First of all, with respect to your question of the governor, The Judiciary Committee lays out quite clearly in the report several months ago about the allegations of Karl Rove's alleged involvement and it's quite detailed. Secondly, I think what the Republicans try to do with this letter is to give Rove an excuse for not coming before the committee. Let's send him a softball letter and he can send us evasive answers and we can pretend that he's actually responding to the committee.

I think you really hit it on the head. He actually incriminated - or his lawyer, I think, actually incriminated himself in the answer because he distinctly refused to answer the question about whether he had contacted other individuals, meaning non-state officials, non-Justice Department officials, about this case? Did he contact the husband of the prosecutor? Did he contact the son of the former governor that Gov. Siegelman was running against?

So I think the questions that Karl Rove did not answer in the cases is kind of incriminating, at least on its face. I think what is happening now is that the Judiciary Committee - and, look, this is a case about the Justice Department fixing prosecutions.


EPSTEIN: I think even Republicans off camera will agree that the case on Don Siegelman was a case that was fixed. It was a bogus case. It was agreed - you know, a number of former state attorney generals have all pretty much come out and said that. And I think what will happen with the Judiciary Committee now is they're going to proceed with this. They'll go in and file civil contempt in a federal court. I don't think this will get revolved in the next six months before the end of this Congress.


EPSTEIN: But I think this will get resolved at the end of the day. I Gov. Siegelman will see justice done here.

ABRAMS: And finally - I've got to wrap this up, Governor, but the Bill Canary thing, I think, is the key question here, which is whether Karl Rove - and I asked this in my letter to Karl Rove. When he wrote that five-page letter blasting me, I wrote a letter back to him and one questions I asked him was, "Have you ever talked to Bill Canary about the case?" That was not one of the questions that was laid out. Final thought on this, Governor, then I've got to wrap it up.

SIEGELMAN: Well, perhaps that's why she didn't get her pink slip like David Iglesias is because she did prosecute for political reasons.

ABRAMS: Gov. Siegelman, Julian Epstein, thanks very much.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us, Dan.

SIEGELMAN: Thank you.

ABRAMS: Up next, a new documentary is out about the man who imprisoned his daughter and had seven children with her. Tonight, we look at how he built that underground bunker. We're back in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS: Welcome back. Josef Fritzl's daughter Elisabeth imprisoned in this underground prison for 24 years. He has forced to father seven of his children, three of whom were also held in the secret bunker that Fritzl built. A new documentary airing Sunday on MSNBC chronicles the dark and really unbelievable details. Here, we get into the look in the mind of Fritzl and his meticulous plan to build the dungeon. Here's NBC's Lester Holt.


LESTER HOLT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Born in 1935, when the Nazis were taking over Austria, Josef Fritzl was brought up as an only child by a strict and cruel mother, a woman he worshipped, telling the Austrian magazine, "She was the best woman in the world. I suppose you can describe me as her man, sort of." He admits he had sexual longings for her, but says, "I was capable to keep my desires under control."

Josef Fritzl was a successful electrical engineer who owned several properties that he rented out. His only hobby seemed to be home repair.

HERBERT PENZ, JOSEF FRITZL'S NEIGHBOR (through a translator): Herr Fritzl was always very hard working. We often heard the noise of the cement mixer. I think that Herr Fritzl did most of the building work himself. We thought he was adding an extra room to rent out or something like that.

HOLT: According to the police, years before imprisoning his daughter, Fritzl carefully planned and built his maximum security prison. Fritzl has told investigators that his decision to incarcerate his daughter was to rescue her from what he described as persons of questionable moral standards and that ever since she started puberty, Elisabeth had ceased to obey his rules.

Fritzl admitted that he had other reasons to lock up his daughter, "My desire to have sex with Elisabeth also got much stronger as time went by. We first had sex in spring 1985. I could not control myself any more."

To this day, there is no video footage available of the basement, but using evidence from police photos, we have rendered a computer animation of what that awful cellar compound might look like.

To access it, one needed to go down the cellar stairs and

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) rooms. There were eight locked doors before reaching the living area. The final door was concealed behind a shelving unit. There was no natural light and little fresh air.

Inside their tiny prison, there was a kitchen, a bathroom and a living area. And beyond this, two bedrooms. The ceilings were low because of all the soundproofing required to muffle the cries of the imprisoned. Meanwhile, Fritzl fabricated a believable cover story, telling family and friends that Elisabeth fled her home to join a cult, insisting she didn't want to be found. He even presented letters from her that he forced her to write.

Fritzl's careful web of lies worked. No one came looking for Elisabeth - not her mother, not her friends, not the neighbors, not the police.


ABRAMS: Here now is clinical psychologist, Jeff Gardere. Doctor, what does it tell us about him that there was so much meticulous detail that went into planning and building this?

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: This is a person whose life has been about control, controlling his own sexual impulses, controlling his daughter, controlling his family and everyone around him. So, therefore, everything had to be planned in a very meticulous manner so that he could be the absolute ruler of his universe, a universe of his own making.

ABRAMS: Let me play another piece of sound from the documentary.


HOLT: Fritzl talked proudly about his secret family, "I was delighted about the children. It was great for me to have a second proper family in the cellar with a wife and a few children."

Like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Herr Fritzl always made sure to celebrate birthdays and holidays with his cellar family, even bringing down a Christmas tree.


ABRAMS: What do you make of that?

GARDERE: I think that this is a guy, again, in his own universe, had to control even the holidays, how they went down, how his family enjoyed it. And if they didn't convince them that they actually enjoyed it, convince them that they were actually having a normal life, even though we know everything about this individual was inappropriate, was absolutely horrible.

ABRAMS: Dr. Gardere, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

GARDERE: Pleasure, Dan.

ABRAMS: Tune in tomorrow night for another preview of "The Longest Night:

Secrets of the Austrian Cellar" which airs Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern on MSNBC.

Up next, will tonight's big winner or loser of the day be Matthew McConaughey who talked in disturbing detail about the birth of his baby boy. "The View's" Sherri Shepherd who talked in disturbing detail about her numerous abortions and saving Barbara Walters. And new disturbing details emerged about the arrest of actor Christian Bale. "Winners and losers" are next. Plus, your E-mails in the "P.O.'d Box."


ABRAMS: It's time for tonight's "Winners and Losers." And again, back by popular demand, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer. Contessa?

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: All right, Dan. First up, new details emerging today on the arrest of Batman star, Christian Bale, accused of assaulting his mother and sister the night before his London premier of his mega-hit movie, "The Dark Knight."

Well, according to the "Daily Mail," the actor confronted his mother because she allegedly insulted his wife. Well, Bale says, no. He claims he did not lay a finger on anyone. That's according to a source close to Bale, that he just cursed at his mother. He says she was saying outrageous things about him and his wife. TMZ is reporting that his relationship has been strained for two decades.

By the way, his mom, a former circus clown. His parents - apparently their relationship got bad when his parents divorced and Bale left the U.K. to live with his dad in the United States. And they say that Bale's camp is saying this could be nothing more than a shakedown for money.

ABRAMS: You know, when you talk about the winners and losers here, I think the rest of us are winners, because we may think our own families are dysfunctional. And we see this and we say to ourselves, "You know what? I'm not doing so bad. I'm not doing so bad. "

BREWER: It makes us all feel better about ourselves.

ABRAMS: Right? Right?

BREWER: I've got to agree.

Up next, "The View's" Sherri Shepherd had a lot of explaining to do after she told a Christian magazine - she said she had more abortions than she could count long before she became born again and said she'd like to get two prominent televangelists on the show so they could, quote, "lay hands on Barbara Walters and get her saved."


SHERI SHEPHERD, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": It was a joke that I made. You know, it didn't come off the way I wanted it to. Barbara, if I offended you in any way, I apologize.



ABRAMS: Barbara Walters is Jewish, I think. I think that's part of the problem here.

BREWER: Awkward.

ABRAMS: That she's talking about having these televangelists come in and save her, and the implication is save her because she's Jewish. Now, Sherri Shepherd has again and again been like the flub queen over there, right?

BREWER: Yes. I mean -

ABRAMS: She's the one who said the world - she didn't know the world was round.

BREWER: She thought it was flat.

ABRAMS: B.C. - she didn't realize it meant "Before Christ."

BREWER: I mean, she's a comic. She's a comic.

ABRAMS: Really? Is that what she was?

BREWER: Maybe she truly was feeling like she didn't want Barbara Walters to end up some place for the ever after. Loser, Sherri Shepherd.

ABRAMS: My favorite Sherri Shepherd is when she said Shirley Caesar was the black Patti LaBelle, and Shirley Caesar is black.

BREWER: Do you think that Barbara Walters - here's the bottom line - apparently, she got a phone call from Sherri Shepherd saying, "I'm so sorry that I said you needed to get saved." And Barbara Walters laughed it off and said, "Honey, I'm in Paris. I'm already in heaven."

ABRAMS: Really?

BREWER: Sherri Shepherd said that Barbara Walters has a great sense of humor.

ABRAMS: Well, she'd better.

BREWER: Yes. Barbara Walters.

ABRAMS: She'd better. Yes.

BREWER: OK. Up next, Matthew McConaughey who might have shared a little too much. In an "OK" magazine interview, he was reportedly paid $3 million for chronicling the birth of his son Levi. In the interview, McConaughey said, quote, "We got tribal on it, we danced to it. I was DJing this Brazilian music. Having a baby is a bloody, pukey, sweaty, primeval thing. I said, 'Come here, little man.' I saw the - " I'm going to say pee-pee here, another word for it - "and screamed that we'd been right all along about him being a boy."

I mean, what is up? Last week, I called him a winner. This is the worst part.


ABRAMS: Last week, I told you he wasn't a winner.

BREWER: Matthew McConaughey says, "We found a great rhythm. Contractions started kicking in." We? Matthew? We've got a great rhythm going on. I think your girlfriend may have something to say about that. What is -

ABRAMS: Did you learn a lesson, Contessa? Do you remember why you called him a winner?

BREWER: Dan Abrams is always right.

ABRAMS: You called him a winner because he's hot and because you liked his body, OK?

BREWER: I was momentarily insane.

ABRAMS: And now - wait. Have you now learned your lesson ...

BREWER: I have.

ABRAMS: ... that there's more to life ...

BREWER: There is no more Matthew McConaughey for me.

ABRAMS: ... than just good bodies?

BREWER: Really?

ABRAMS: I mean, this is like - what is up with him?

BREWER: He got tribal on it. You know what she was probably thinking, "Turn off the darn music. Just come hold my hand. Be quiet and behave."

ABRAMS: Yes, exactly. Right, exactly.

BREWER: That's my rant for the night.

ABRAMS: Thanks, Contessa.

Time for the "P.O.'d Box," your chance to tell me what you hate or love about the show. Last night, we debated the McCain camp's assertion the media is giving Obama a free ride.

First up, Doug Rich from Jacksonville, Alabama, writes, "You seem to think Obama is not getting more press coverage than McCain. Newspapers and TV give Obama twice the coverage that McCain gets and will not say anything negative about him."

Oh no, Doug. I think Obama does get more coverage. After all, he's the first African-American candidate and he's less known - he's less of a known entity than McCain. But that can cut both ways, as Diane Meadows points out, "Ah, yes, the love affair that the press has with Obama. I've followed it closely. The wonderful adulation provided with the three-week coverage of the Rev. Wright sermon and who can forget the fawning over the senator after his 'bitter' remark. It was such a love fest."

And Contessa, for your benefit, I did not include all of the E-mails from people who said that they like my ties and in particular they liked the tie I wore last night that you were making fun of, OK?

BREWER: I've got to say the tie you have on now is sharp.

ABRAMS: Oh, whatever.

BREWER: It's gorgeous. It looks good.

ABRAMS: It's too late. It's too late.

BREWER: Did your sister pick it out? It looks good.

ABRAMS: That's all the time we have for tonight. You can E-mail me about the show at Please include your name and where you're writing from. Our Web site is See you tomorrow.



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