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Burden of Proof

Bush Debate Prep Material: FBI Investigation

Aired October 11, 2000 - 12:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: Debategate 2000. Who sent a videotape of the Texas governor practicing his debate skills? The FBI wants answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know. I will tell it is not one my supporters, somebody who is for me is not going to be sending tapes to the Gore campaign.

I believe that we are going to get to the bottom of it, and I look forward to finding out who it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRES. AL GORE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When he opened it and saw that it was the inside or material from the Bush campaign, he immediately closed it back up, and he said: Look, I don't know what this deal is, but I am not supposed to see this. It could be stolen. He called his lawyer. They immediately turned it over to the FBI.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

This evening, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush will sit down for the second of three presidential debates. Meanwhile, a pre-debate investigation continues. FBI agents want to know who sent Bush planning materials, including a videotape, to a Gore adviser.

COSSACK: Now, a federal grand jury has subpoenaed documents from the Bush campaign and its media consulting firm, as it considers whether a crime was committed. A Bush aide says, the FBI informed the governor's campaign that none of its officials are a target of the federal probe, but agents are looking closely at Yvette Lozano (ph), an assistant to the owner of a Maverick Media consulting firm. Joining us today from Houston, Texas is former FBI special agent Don Clark. And in Austin, we are joined by reporter Pete Slover, "The "Dallas Morning News." And here in Washington, former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, who is now a spokesman for the DNC; former federal prosecutor Angela Williams; and Mark Braden, former chief counsel for the RNC.

And in the back row, Lowell Harrison (ph) and Piri Agull (ph).

Pete, first to you, can you tell me the background on the woman who has now been sort of the focus of the investigation, who is she?

PETE SLOVER, "THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS": Well, she is an employee of a company called Maverick Media, which is Bush's chief media consultant. The principal of that company is man named Mark McKinnon, and she is a close personal friend of Mark McKinnon's as well, he stuck up for her throughout this investigation.

Her background is is that she is a secretarial-type employee, someone who doesn't have the ability to make decisions and that sort of thing. But interestingly, we have also found that her background includes, having been fired from a number of jobs in the past, she has usually worked for Democratic politicians or organizations, and her dismissal have been related to issues of truthfulness. So those are all sort of interesting elements of her background.

VAN SUSTEREN: Pete, what is this tape? Why is this...

COSSACK: It is interesting how she got hired.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that is another -- Pete, what is this tape? Why is this tape have any sort of value?

SLOVER: Well, the value is intangible. There are some production costs, and costs for physical, for the physical videotape itself. But obviously, the real value would be the confidential contents which, basically, it was Bush practicing his debate skills at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and it included some back and forth with his advisers, as I understand . But it was highly confidential proprietary planning material. There was a tape and there was about 200 pages, we're told, of accompanying printed material.

COSSACK: Pete, the investigation, I understand, is centering around this employee, as you have indicated. There is supposedly some videotape of her mailing a package in the post office; what's that all about?

SLOVER: Well, the post office, especially post offices where there are stamps, and things of value out in lobby, have surveillance videotapes much as a retail store would. And when the agents started looking into the period of time during which this package would have been mailed, they went to the post office, where it was shown to have been mailed from, pulled the videotape, and, apparently, saw this woman, Yvette Lozano (ph), mailing a package during the time in question. VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, she has made a statement, has she not, a sort of an alibi statement, as to why she was there and what she was mailing?

SLOVER: Yeah, she told us, and other news organizations, that she was mailing the package, it was a pair of khaki 1999 Gap trousers, that her boss Mark McKinnon was returning to the Gap.

VAN SUSTEREN: And have you followed you up on that, or has anybody to find out whether, A, she did mail something back to the Gap? and whether she perhaps mailed two packages that day?

SLOVER: Well, it is hard to tell. I do know that McKinnon opened the package that he received in return that contained the corrected pants -- he opened it in my presence, it appeared to be the actual package, and inside of it was a packing slip, on which it showed that the returned pants were mailed almost a week and a half after the -- she supposedly returned the pants, suggesting that the pants that were mailed back may have been mailed back sometime after the mailing that was caught on the videotape.

But, that is really what the FBI is focusing on, and we are not sure what they are finding.

COSSACK: Mark, you know, this now "Pantsgate" maybe we should call it, seems to be, is it much ado about nothing?

MARK BRADEN, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL, RNC: Well, in the end, probably it will. I would be surprised if this has any real effect on the election. But if it turns out there was a mole planted by the Gore campaign in the Bush campaign that would be a huge story. We don't have evidence of that, but that has happened in the past, so it is something to be suspicious of.

VAN SUSTEREN: Pete, is there any evidence that Yvette Lozano -- did she -- would she have had motive? Do you -- have you figured out whether or not it is possible, we don't even know that she did do this, but let's assume for a second that she did do it. Would she have had a motive?

SLOVER: Well, in talking with people who have known her her entire life, she has been a very sort of politically aware person. And she's -- I looked at her voting record, and she registered literally on the day she was eligible to vote, two months before her 18th birthday, and hasn't missed an election since, contrast that with Dick Cheney's record. But, she -- I mean I am talking about little nothing, school bond elections, everything, she is very politically involved.

So, if she was a longtime Democrat working in the heart of the Bush campaign, she might have just felt motivated to subvert the campaign, but, that is pure speculation on my part because she says she didn't do it.

COSSACK: Pete, there is a grand jury that has been empaneled in this matter. Are they active? are they subpoenaing things? SLOVER: That is a standing grand jury, and I think that they are just basically using the subpoenas to -- I don't know that that grand jury is actually going to hear the matter, but there are subpoenas out.

The FBI has gathered a lot of documents informally, we know just from talking to people, but beyond that, they have subpoenaed materials from the Bush campaign, and the McKinnon media consultant, mainly focusing on confidentiality agreements, and also things that could help establish the value of the tape because that could affect whether or not it is a federal crime.

COSSACK: Michael, when there is, as Peter points out, there is not really a grand jury who is specifically investigating this, it is sort of a standing grand jury, does that mean that they haven't really focused in on anything yet?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, SPOKESMAN, DNC: No, they are focusing on evidence gathering. They just have not empaneled the specific grand jury for the purposes of evaluating the evidence toward an indictment or a non-indictment charging decision. But the normal process is to use the standing grand jury because it takes a long time to empanel a grand jury. You gather the evidence, the FBI agents and the prosecutors will look at it, and make determinations as to whether or not interstate transportation of stolen property, or mail fraud, or interference with a federal election, or any of the statutes that may arguably be covered by this type of activity.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. Up next: How does the FBI investigate a case like Debategate? and will it determine if a crime was committed? Stay with us.

(BEGIN LEGAL BRIEF)

A Court TV reporter was taken hostage at a New York state prison yesterday by convicted murderer Kenneth Kimes.

The reporter was released after about four hours when guards were able to wrestle Kimes to the ground.

(END LEGAL BRIEF)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Good news for our Internet-savvy viewers: You can now watch BURDEN OF PROOF live on the World Wide Web. Just log on to cnn.com/burden. We now provide a live video feed, Monday through Friday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you miss that live show, the program is available on the site at any time via video-on-demand. You can also interact with our show and even join our chat room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK FABIANI, GORE DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There is a very low- level staffer, a 28-year-old administrative assistant to the field direct who boasted to a friend outside the campaign that he knew about a mole.

We have explored that completely; we've done an internal review. There is no evidence whatsoever that there is -- we know of any kind of a mole within the Bush campaign.

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We have been assured by the person in charge of the FBI, the director of FBI, that the FBI will conduct a thorough investigation, and no one wants to know more who took our debate materials than people who support Governor Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: As the presidential candidates prepare for tonight's debate in North Carolina, an investigation continues in Washington. A grand jury is now subpoenaing information from the Bush campaign and its media consulting firm.

Federal agents are investigating the source of the Bush debate preparation material, which was sent to an adviser of the Gore campaign.

Angela, let's talk about what crimes, if any, would be committed by the facts that are alleged to have happened; that is, someone took this material and sent it through the mail to someone from the Gore campaign.

Is that a crime?

ANGELA WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It can be a crime, depending on the facts. And based on what I've known and what I've heard in the media so far, it could be theft of property, and stealing it and sending it through interstate commerce.

It is a crime to steal something and then use the mail to send it across state lines.

VAN SUSTEREN: Angela, what if I worked on the campaign, and someone said, here Greta, you take this because we think this would be good for you, to help you do your job on the campaign -- they gave it to me, it's now mine.

Or is it mine -- and then I send it off to somebody else. Is it a crime, then, if it's my material?

WILLIAMS: Well I think, again, that's still crossing the line. It is not yours. It belonged to the Bush campaign, it was paid for by the Bush campaign. This woman did not work directly for the Bush campaign, she worked for the media consultant.

Therefore, even if she had access, even if someone in the media company gave her the materials, it was not hers.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, in other words, it really is, sort of, like, you know -- assuming this woman or somebody else, obviously, sent it -- I don't known who did it; but if the person knew that it might have been given to them to do the particular job, if the person knew that it belonged, generally, to the Bush campaign and she went beyond, sort of, what it was expected to be used for.

COSSACK: That's a good point, because I'm not so sure whether or not if -- once you get under your hypothetical; once you get complete possession of it -- you know, it might be wrong to do, but I don't know if Greta turning over possession of something that she now owns would be against the law.

VAN SUSTEREN: But to question whether I own it -- that's a problem.

ZELDIN: She's a fiduciary, and you're talking about...

VAN SUSTEREN: What's a fiduciary?

COSSACK: You pull out the nickel words on us.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I went to school with Michael, which is scary.

Let me go to Don -- let's go to Don -- I'm going to go to Don where we're not going to talk fiduciary.

Don, you're a former special agent in Texas. If you were still with the FBI -- assigned to this -- where would you begin?

DON CLARK, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, Greta, first of all, you've got to know that the agent in charge, all the way up to the director, are going to really be giving this their attention; and they're going to be doing exactly what everybody has been talking about, trying to figure out if there was a crime committed, and where does this crime fall.

How they're going to be able to do that is by conducting some type of preliminary investigation to gather as much evidence as they can. And that will minimize these various arguments as to whether or not someone owned it or not and shipped it.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what's so interesting, though, Don -- when you have, like, an armed robbery at a bank, you know a crime has been committed and then you go out and investigate it.

Here we have, sort of, a unique situation. We don't even know if a crime has been committed, yet we are devoting federal resources in the FBI to investigate. Is that unusual?

CLARK: No, I don't think that's uncommon at all, because you've got to -- someone has claimed that something has happened. There was an allegation made that properties were shipped from one camp to the other camp.

If that allegation comes forward, then the FBI is going to take that responsibility if it falls within their jurisdiction; and in this case, you really don't know that it falls in that jurisdiction until you do some type of preliminary investigation. The FBI frequently does preliminary investigations, only to determine that, either a crime was not committed, or it's not one that's within the FBI's jurisdiction. This is not like the Watergate case.

COSSACK: All right, Don; now, one of the things we've heard is that, allegedly this individual -- the woman was seen in the post office mailing a package. Now...

VAN SUSTEREN: Sounds like game of "Clue."

COSSACK: Yes; she claims, of course, that she was returning a pair of pants to the Gap -- that's what was in that package. Now that's the information that the FBI has.

What do you do to start finding out who is telling the truth? You know, who do you talk to?

CLARK: Well, there are a lot of things that's going to take place here.

First of all, I think one of the best things that happened was that the facility did have some technical equipment there to at least give an initial lead as to what took place. And I think there will be a number of other leads that the FBI will follow to, probably -- talking to everybody within the camps, or as many people as they possibly can within the camps, to see if they can develop any clues or any veracity to any information about this particular person or anybody else.

I don't think for a moment that the FBI is going to stop with this one person that we've heard about in the press. Clearly this person might be in the spotlight at this point, but I think the FBI is going to extend itself and make sure that they don't leave any stones unturned; primarily to see if, in fact, a crime was committed.

There are also minimums, too, on the value that the statue says that would determine whether or not a crime has been committed.

ZELDIN: Greta, one thing that is going to be very important is that the FBI, or the prosecutors office through the FBI, has subpoenaed the Gap. And so you're going to see what the Gap has with respect to when the package was received and whether that receipt marries up to the time of the mailing on the surveillance.

So if there is a gap there, between...

VAN SUSTEREN: A gap in a Gap. A gap in the Gap.

ZELDIN: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: We need to take a break.

ZELDIN: If there is that gap, then that will undermine her story and that will be the most telling aspect of this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then she's got bigger problems, at least in the short run. But we have to take a break.

Accusations of a mole, an FBI investigation and a sitting federal grand jury, who -- when we come back, we're going to talk about who might be responsible for Debategate 2000.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Two Virginia teenagers charged with abandoning their newborn in a portable toilet last March pleaded guilty to manslaughter yesterday in Delaware Superior Court. What prison sentence did they accept with their guilty plea?

A: Five-year terms.

(END Q&A)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: The Federal Bureau of Investigation has interviewed and fingerprinted several Bush campaign staffers, as well as employees of Maverick Media, which was hired as a consultant to the Bush campaign. Federal agents are trying to find out who sent a package containing Bush debate prep materials to the Gore camp.

Mark, you know, we make sort of light of this. We talk about "Debategate 2000," the "gap gap" and, you know, we sort of sit around here and laugh about this, but this is actually pretty serious, is it not? when in terms of -- I mean, what would you tell someone who's walking down the street it's like, you know, why is this important?

BRADEN: Well, it's very serious because it's possible -- there isn't any evidence of it -- that this might be an actual campaign effort to subvert the other campaign. But more than that, this document would be of incredible use to the other campaign, so its an effort to sort of play unfairly with what's our basic, you know, our government.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, it's sort of funny. I mean, I sort of first laughed about it and thought, oh well, you know, one camp might have done one thing, or a person, rather, to another person. But then I thought, you know what makes the America a little different than other countries is that, you know, we police these things for fair play. You know, we don't like, you know, the sort of the improprieties. And so in some ways, this became -- you know, when I had that sort of realization, I realized how much more important this is.

You're smirking.

COSSACK: No, I'm not smirking. I, you know, I guess, maybe my faith in what these things happen and dirty tricks and all that kind of thing is sort of what I expect. But you're right and I'm not smirking and I do think that this is an important thing.

BRADEN: There's a line, though, you draw.

COSSACK: No, I agree, I agree.

BRADEN: And this one is clearly across the line.

COSSACK: All right, let me ask Angela.

(CROSSTALK)

COSSACK: Let me just ask Angela a question, Mike, and we'll be with you.

And in terms of a -- now you've got to prosecute this case, OK? And I've been accused of smirking, and I take that smile off my face. Into your office comes the FBI agent and says, Angela, you know, this is our -- do you want to prosecute this case on your top 10 of things that you have to worry about? Is this one of those things that U.S. attorney's office is going to say we've got to devote a lot of time and effort to, perhaps put someone in jail for doing this?

WILLIAMS: Well, I would say the answer is yes, and simply because of the implications of it, the national implications, the fact that, as Greta mentioned, we're dealing with a federal election, a vice president and a potential new president, or at least the governor of a state. So, yes, this would be one of the top 10 that the U.S. attorney's office would prosecute.

Now, if this were something else between two businesses locally, no, we probably would not put this in the top 10.

VAN SUSTEREN: Pete, what -- give me the sort of the pulse of Texas. Do the people down in Texas think this is important or not?

SLOVER: I think people are a little bit jaded about the political process and they've come to expect that this sort of thing goes on all the time. I think there's an intense curiosity, especially among the illuminati, you know, those who are close to these things and watch them because they know a lot of the players. But I don't think that this is real big on the public screen right now.

COSSACK: Call me Tex.

All right, go ahead, Michael.

ZELDIN: I just wanted to go back to something that Mark had said. The one thing that I think is important to remember is that the Gore campaign did do what was the right thing to do when they received it. Tom Downey sent it right to the FBI, and he stepped down.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they -- and the Bush people have been very up- front in saying that, you know, Tom Downey did exactly the right thing, you know.

ZELDIN: So I mean, just -- because there was sort of an implication that this may have been some trickery. And I think to call a spade a spade, this was handled exactly as it should have been handled by the Gore campaign and they should be credited for that.

COSSACK: Angela, how do you prevent somebody who is a zealot, if you will, someone who says, I got to help my candidate, I got to take care of this, well-meaning, never been in trouble. How do you prevent somebody from doing is?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this here is well-meaning and criminal, though.

COSSACK: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, that's the whole problem.

COSSACK: OK, and I agree with you that if it's a crime, it's a crime. But, you know, in terms of the U.S. attorney's office, what do you take into consideration about that? I mean, suppose we just have a person who got carried away?

WILLIAMS: The bottom line is, if the person violated a federal criminal statute, then they must be prosecuted and they must bear the responsibility for their actions.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, Angela, it's sort of interesting: Does a prosecutor making a decision to prosecute consider this, is that this may not be a hugely significant crime in the fact it was immediately turned back over to the Bush, but it certainly sends a signal to everybody out on state and local and federal level for the election? Does the prosecutor ever think, look, this may not be -- you know, this may not have had a huge effect, but we need to tell the nation our elections don't have corruption, we don't have crime. Would a prosecutor prosecute her or him, whoever it was, based on that fact or sort of an incentive?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. One of the things that you look at as a prosecutor is you take a case, and is it going to send a message to the rest of society that these type of crimes, these type of behaviors will not be tolerated?

ZELDIN: The deterrent value just can't be underestimated in a case like this.

COSSACK: And you know what I think, since I get the last word? I say if this things goes on past the election, we'll never hear from it again.

But I do get the last word. That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests and thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE," a different kind of debate: Should English become the official national language? E-mail Bobbie Battista with your opinion and tune in at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.

VAN SUSTEREN: And send Bobbie lots of e-mails today.

COSSACK: You got it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But tomorrow on our program, who won on the legal issues posed in tonight's presidential debate? Join us at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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