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Attorney General Delays Execution of Timothy McVeigh; Congress Passes Budget Resolution

Aired May 11, 2001 - 17:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Judy Woodruff.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have made a decision to postpone the execution of Timothy McVeigh for one month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm obviously concerned about an incident where documents have been misplaced.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can see McVeigh sitting there in his cage and he's laughing himself to death.

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ANNOUNCER: Death delayed for the Oklahoma City bomber after the disclosure of an FBI error. We'll have extensive coverage of the new and surprising turns, in a case that still haunts the nation.

Also ahead: the president tries to make a connection between gas prices and tax cuts.

And later: the gag is off, and the lawyers are spitting fire in Giuliani v. Hanover.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a man who has been flaunting his mistress. Look at that if you want to know who wants publicity.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's on a vengeance raid to destroy the mayor.

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ANNOUNCER: Now, Judy Woodruff takes you INSIDE POLITICS.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno. Judy is off today.

It was supposed to happen just five days from now, which helped make the postponement of Timothy McVeigh's execution all the more dramatic for some and frustrating for others. Now, many questions are being asked: how did the FBI fail to turn over thousands of pages of documents to McVeigh's attorneys? Why wasn't that discovered until now? And will the convicted Oklahoma City bomber change his course and fight his execution?

We begin our coverage at the Justice Department with CNN's Kelli Arena.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Those hoping for closure following the Oklahoma City bombing will have to wait at least another month.

ASHCROFT: I have made a decision to postpone the execution of Timothy McVeigh for one month from this day, so that the execution would occur on June the 11th 2001, in an effort to allow his attorneys ample and adequate time to review these documents and to take any action they might deem appropriate.

ARENA: This decision just a day after more than 3,000 pages of FBI investigative documents, not turned over for McVeigh's trial, were provided to defense attorneys. They surfaced during the archiving of the FBI's Oklahoma City-related material.

ASHCROFT: I believe the attorney general has a more important duty than the prosecution of any single case, as painful as that may be to our nation. It is my responsibility to remote the sanctity of the rule of law and justice.

ARENA: Ashcroft says the FBI failed to comply with an agreement to share the material with McVeigh's defense team, and has directed the Justice Department's inspector general to conduct a review of FBI procedures.

The Bureau has not said why the documents did not surface until now. They include witness interviews, photographs and tapes gathered immediately following the bombing. An FBI official says Director Louis Freeh was advised Thursday of the existence of the documents, though the first indication of the problem was passed on to FBI management on Tuesday.

While an obvious embarrassment, one former McVeigh prosecutor says the incident should not be blown out of proportion. PATRICK RYAN, FORMER MCVEIGH PROSECUTOR: I mean, you have to take, I think, in the context that we had over a billion documents that we were reviewing and analyzing in connection with this case. So, if you look at 3,000 documents not having been produced, you are talking about three for every million, and people make mistakes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Attorney General John Ashcroft says attorneys at the Justice Department have reviewed the documents and are confident that they do not create any reasonable doubt about McVeigh's guilt -- Frank.

SESNO: Kelli, one thing we are hearing, though, is that these documents touch on the question of John Doe number two. Was someone else involved in this?

ARENA: Yes, there were questions that were asked of eyewitnesses, there were correspondents sent in, phone calls made to the FBI. All of this documented on these papers, talking about the possibility of another person.

Was there someone else there? Can we have a description? Was he wearing a hat? So, that is very much a part of these documents, which is why they are controversial to some extent, even though Justice insists that they wouldn't have any bearing on the case.

SESNO: Again, Justice officials insisting, right, as you say, no bearing on the case. Kelli Arena, thanks.

President Bush says he supports the attorney general's decision to delay McVeigh's execution. The president spoke to reporters today about McVeigh and about the death penalty, an issue that has been politically sensitive for the president. Here is our White House correspondent Major Garrett.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush said the delay in Timothy McVeigh's execution proves the government he hated and the lives he took stand for something important.

BUSH: He should say he's lucky to be in America. That's what he ought to say. That this is a country who will bend over backwards to make sure that his constitutional rights are guaranteed.

GARRETT: Guarantees extended even at the expense of McVeigh's victims.

BUSH: There's a lot of lives he's affected. There's a lot of people in Oklahoma City. I went to the memorial. I got to see the faces of people, the pictures of people whose lives were lost. I talked to relatives who still weep when they think about a relative.

GARRETT: To the frustrated, Mr. Bush said McVeigh can be an example.

BUSH: They must understand that we live in a country that protects certain rights.

GARRETT: Texas carried out 152 executions while Mr. Bush was governor. Twenty-one federal death penalty cases, including McVeigh's, are pending. The last federal execution occurred in 1963. At a time of increasing ambivalence about the death penalty, more federal death penalty cases are moving to Mr. Bush's desk.

BUSH: At the federal level, I am pleased to report, that on the first case that came toward my desk, my administration reacted the way it should have.

GARRETT: Despite this and other mistakes in death penalty cases at the state level, Mr. Bush said his faith in the justice system has not been shaken.

BUSH: I think by and large the system is healthy.

GARRETT: And on the death penalty, no second thoughts.

BUSH: Not as far as I'm concerned, so long as the system provides fairness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GARRETT: The president learned of the FBI mistake on Thursday, and he conferred with Attorney General John Ashcroft mere moments before he announced the delay in McVeigh's execution.

Despite this and as embarrassing as it all is, the White House hopes that this will erase doubts about Mr. Bush's pursuit of justice in other pending federal death penalty case -- Frank.

SESNO: And Major, as you said, this would have been the first death penalty case, federal death penalty case, in nearly 40 years?

GARRETT: That's right, since 1963. Twenty-one are pending, and what is clear is that an issue that was very much a part of the Texas governorship of Mr. Bush will now also be a part of his presidency.

These federal death penalty cases have been moving very slowly through the system, but many are maturing. Several will come to his desk in the not-too-distant future. This case, the White House hopes, will at least reinforce, even to a country that's becoming more ambivalent about the death penalty, that the president is willing to absorb some embarrassment to pursue justice and make sure all the facts are established, and so there is no doubt, when the federal execution has to occur, that it was executed in the proper way -- Frank.

SESNO: OK. Major Garrett at the White House. And again, the White House joining Justice and other officials here in Washington are saying that the delay, while embarrassing, is not likely in their view to affect the outcome. Well, not long after Mr. Bush defended the death penalty, Timothy McVeigh's lawyer called for a moratorium on all federal executions, in light of the FBI's errors in his client's case. He also said McVeigh is keeping his legal options open.

For more on that, we go to CNN's Bob Franken. He's outside the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana where McVeigh is awaiting his fate -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And where Robert Nigh, his attorney, met with McVeigh for over five years today, discussing this latest development. Came out to report reporters that McVeigh was distressed, that's a quote: "Distressed that people have made their plans and made their peace with the fact that there was going to be an execution, and now that has been disrupted; people that ranged from the people of Terra Haute to family members and family members of the victims, as well," he said, "as the media."

Now, what about McVeigh and his strategy of giving up on the strategy of trying to block his execution? Has that exchanged?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH'S ATTORNEY: In light of these recent failures in the system of justice and equally prevalent failures in other federal death penalty cases, not only is a stay appropriate in Mr. McVeigh's case, I believe that a moratorium on all federal executions is in order.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN; Now, what Mr. Nigh said is that McVeigh might abandon his strategy. That is one possibility that, given this information, he may, in fact, decide to appeal.

What's important is to study the documents. They were not able -- either McVeigh or his lawyer -- they were not willing to accept the Justice Department's description of the material as not being relevant, not being exculpatory, that is to say material that might have helped McVeigh. They want to see what the legal strategy should be. McVeigh, he said, is resilient, he'll decide his strategy after he is able to digest the documents -- Frank.

SESNO: And when you say after he is able to digest the documents, Bob, what do we know about the course of the attorney and the condemned from here?

FRANKEN: Well, their course will be to, in fact, read the documents, analyze them, meet, decide what McVeigh's wishes are, and decide what the legal strategy should be. This is really something that throws the entire case in turmoil, and McVeigh, who had presented himself as somebody who was almost defiantly ready to accept his execution, might now decide that -- according to his lawyer -- might decide to abandon that and fight this.

SESNO: All right. Bob Franken in Terre Haute, thanks very much. And we're joined now by Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, someone who has been touched so very deeply by these events of not just this past day but these past six years.

Governor Keating, thanks very much for joining us.

GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: My pleasure, Frank, thank you for having me.

SESNO: First, the simple question: Your reaction to this extraordinary turn of events today?

KEATING: Well, last night, Frank, we were celebrating here in Oklahoma City the Oklahoma City Blazers victory in the Central Hockey League. And all of a sudden, through the crowd, a buzz developed, and it went from one person to the next. "What's the matter with the McVeigh case? We understand there a problem?"

So it really depends on who you talk to. Most people have faith that the process will be seen to a successful conclusion, which means McVeigh will be executed for killing 168 of our neighbors and friends. But there is now puzzlement and uncertainty: "What does this mean? I thought the guy confessed. I thought he's waived his appeals. Why are we going through this?"

On the other hand, people are saying: "Well, will the lawyers now delay it? Will the lawyers get a new trial? What has happened?"

A lot of uncertainty, but obviously still hope that it will be resolved within 30 days.

SESNO: And how do you explain the situation to those who express this puzzlement and uncertainty?

KEATING: Well, I explained what Pat Ryan just said on your program. The U.S. attorney from Oklahoma City who prosecuted the case, that there were a billion pieces of evidence, tens of thousands of investigators -- I mean tens and thousands of interviews and hundreds of investigators. It's only natural that you could have a screwup: an unfortunate screwup, an unforgivable screwup, because these kinds of administrative details should be attended to, because these are issues that do affect the credibility of the system. But mistakes do happen.

What, of course, I'm hoping, what we're hoping, what I've said to the people here as well as some of the family members, we're hoping that this material is -- is not exculpatory, it's not Brady material, it's not significant to the case, and all of this will be quickly behind us. But we have to wait and see.

No judge has involved himself yet. The attorney general just did what appropriately he should do: pass it for 30 days and take a look at the material.

SESNO: Governor, you just talked about the system. What about the credibility and ability of the FBI? KEATING: I haven't lost my faith in the bureau. I think the FBI -- and I speak as a former agent -- is an outstanding organization. It's the best law enforcement organization in the world. It's a big family. There are a lot of people. Sometimes systems break down. In this case, it looks like a system malfunctioned. That needs to be addressed.

I don't think that there's any...

SESNO: But isn't it -- doesn't it stretch -- doesn't it stretch the imagination to think of a case of this magnitude, of someone this central to the worst instance of terrorism ever to take place on U.S. soil that every "i" wouldn't be dotted and "t" crossed?

KEATING: Well, it is a concern, Frank, absolutely. And I -- I'm not reading an insidious motive here. I think what probably happened is that somebody had a box of material that were the first 302s, the first interview statements of individuals right after the bombing. Perhaps John Do. No. 2 -- were there any other people involved? Interviews with airport attendants: Any new people coming into town that shouldn't, that looked suspicious? Any people leaving town just after the bombing?

That may be what it is. I don't know. We don't know. It's all conjecture. But hopefully, when it's all over, it was an accidental mistake that can be corrected and will be corrected in the future, and nothing deeper or darker than that.

SESNO: And on that subject of John Joe No. 2, what -- what likelihood do you think that anything in these boxes sheds more light on the question of whether someone else may have been involved in this?

KEATING: Well -- and I can only speak of someone who has been a U.S. attorney, has been an FBI agent, has supervised a lot of the federal criminal law enforcement agencies nationally -- nobody wants an innocent person arrested, much less convicted or executed because the guilty guy is on the street. And if there's one person who did it, but actually three or four that did it, get them, too, because we want to make sure anybody responsible for this horrific act is identified and arrested and prosecuted.

The bureau and the government has never suggested that there couldn't be a larger number of people involved. It's just that to date -- by McVeigh's own admission and by the investigation itself -- it looks like only two were involved, but we'll have to wait and see.

SESNO: Governor, how do you respond to the comment that we heard a few moments ago by Timothy McVeigh's attorney that there should now be a moratorium on federal executions?

KEATING: Well, there ought to be a moratorium in every case. Every case should be a moratorium. Here in our state, for example, the average time between conviction and executions is 10 to 12 years. Some 15 federal and state appeals take place. The number of executions in this country are infinitesimal: some 420,000 homicides since '77 and about 350-odd executions. Very, very few numbers of homicides result in executions.

But obviously, no innocent person should be executed. If every case is a moratorium, you make sure you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimous verdict -- we in Oklahoma passed a DNA testing bill that every case be DNA-tested where DNA is relevant.

Those are the kinds of things that we need to do to make sure that people have faith in the system.

SESNO: Finally, governor, in about 15 or 20 seconds, if we could, because we're almost out of time here, you talked at the outset of this discussion about the impact of this on the lives of those in your state, Oklahoma, who suffered this tragedy firsthand, especially the families and the relatives and the friends.

What are they going through now? What happens to the closure that they were thinking was just a few days away?

KEATING: I think in one sentence, Frank, when will this nightmare ever end? When will it ever end?

SESNO: Governor Keating, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

KEATING: Thanks, Frank.

SESNO: Take care.

Our focus on the McVeigh execution delay will continue. Straight ahead, what happens next, and do Timothy McVeigh and his convicted co- conspirator, Terry Nichols, have real legal options now?

Also...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Congress, who's interested in helping consumers pay high gas price, pass the tax relief as quickly as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: ... the president defends tax cuts as a way to fight rising energy prices. And later, overvotes, undervotes and dimpled chads: They're back. Findings of a new media analysis of the Florida recount.

This is INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: In Oklahoma City, anger and disbelief over Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision to delay the McVeigh execution and the FBI's mishandling of those documents in the bombing case. CNN's Martin Savidge is there -- Marty.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Frank.

You mentioned shock, anger there. You could also add to that anguish, despair, frustration: All of those words, any one of those words could equally summarize the feelings here in Oklahoma City, especially amongst the family members of the victims. Much has been made about Timothy McVeigh preparing himself for his date with destiny and death that was planned for Wednesday. Many of the families members had also prepared for that day. Not all of them had planned to attend the execution or watch it, but many of them had set aside that day to make it a special event. Now all of that has to change.

Not that long ago, we talked to Stephen Jones. He was the original attorney for Timothy McVeigh during his trial in Denver, Colorado. One of the things he points out is that Timothy McVeigh should have listened to his attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN JONES, FORMER MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: This case will be taught in law school for 50 years on the theory that clients should listen to their lawyer. That's why you have lawyers, and the lawyers know better than the client. Had Tim McVeigh kept his mouth shut and not dismissed his appeals he would be in the catbird's seat today.

Now, that may be able to be turned around, but he hasn't made it any easier for the lawyers now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: From Timothy McVeigh now to victims' families: Jim Denny had two children, a boy and a girl, that were critically injured in the bomb blast of 1995. Those wounds have healed, but he also admits that this delay is adding more pain to the families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM DENNY, CHILDREN WOUNDED IN OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING: There is not a day that goes by that I don't personally wish that I could take some of their pain because our children survived. And that's not survivor's guilt; that's just the way I feel about Oklahomans and the people that were involved in the bombing.

It's terrible, but I think -- I think they realize that our system needs to work and leave no stone unturned. And that's what the FBI is doing and our Justice Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Behind me, you see what is the national monument for the Oklahoma City bombing. You talked to people there today, many of them not so much surprised by this development, but they just believe it is prolonging the ordeal for everyone involved: not just the victims' families but for the nation as well. Many people, like those families, wondering when or if this will ever be over.

And one irony to point out to you: Behind us, in the distance, you'll see a large, windowless red brick building. That is the Oklahoma County jail. Inside it there is Terry Nichols. He is awaiting his state trial to begin in this state. No specific date has been set. He has also said he plans to appeal in light of this new evidence that has come forward.

He is able to look down on all of this -- Frank.

SESNO: Martin, we heard the governor a few moments ago talk about the puzzlement that he said many people feel, and I certainly detect that and what you're describing from there. This whole question of John Doe No. 2 and whether there's any revelation in those missing boxes. Are you hearing much expressed about that?

SAVIDGE: Well, not specifically about John Doe No. 2: puzzlement in the sense of how did this come to light and what many people see as the 11th hour. And does it really make a difference? We've already heard from the federal government saying that they don't believe that there's any earth-shattering evidence here.

In many ways, people here believe this is just going to be another soapbox for Timothy McVeigh to use and to twist one more knife into the family members before, what they believe, is the inevitable will take place -- Frank.

SESNO: Martin Savidge in Oklahoma, thanks.

The failure of the FBI to provide defense lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing with a large number of documents raises new legal possibilities for McVeigh potentially, and as we just heard, co- conspirator Terry Nichols.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Charles Bierbauer, assesses those options.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Timothy McVeigh and his lawyers must decide whether they want to revive any appeal of his conviction and death sentence.

ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: He is keeping all of his options open. Wednesday, I think, would be out of the question even if he wanted it to happen that way.

BIERBAUER: McVeigh had halted all appeals, acknowledged in interviews that he was the bomber, and decided he wanted to be executed.

STEPHEN JONES, FORMER MCVEIGH ATTORNEY: Mr. McVeigh could eat some crow. He could simply say, "I was wrong." Or he could start to cooperate and improve his own situation. So he's not without options.

BIERBAUER: Other attorneys feel an appeal based on the FBI's failure to disclose all evidence could affect McVeigh's sentence, if not his conviction. MICHAEL TIGAR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: Even if you think and your audience thinks that Mr. McVeigh did it, this material is still relevant because it could be significant on the issue of whether he should have received the death penalty or not.

BIERBAUER: McVeigh's appeal would go back to the federal courts in Colorado, where he was tried. But convicted accomplice, Terry Nichols, had to beat a midnight filing deadline at the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court last month rejected Nichols' appeal for a new trial.

Nichols is serving a life sentence for conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter. Nichols' attorneys hope the documents will confirm McVeigh had another accomplice, the so-called "John Doe 2."

TIGAR: We put on a couple of dozen witnesses in the Nichols' trial of people who had been seen with Mr. McVeigh: that is to try to show that Mr. Nichols was not the person who was with McVeigh and was involved.

BIERBAUER: John Doe 2 so far exists only as a sketch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, when all of the public is thinking they see John Doe 2, they're concerned. They want to be of help. But they're seeing someone who wasn't with McVeigh and isn't part of this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BIERBAUER: In Nichols' case, the court is not pressed for time. But if Timothy McVeigh decides to appeal and any court agrees to hear that appeal, then almost certainly the June 11th execution date will also have to be postponed -- Frank.

SESNO: Charles, how do any of these options -- how are they affected by the fact that Timothy McVeigh has confessed and has been a feature of a book and interviews where he says, "Yeah, I'm the bomber"?

BIERBAUER: Well, if you were his attorney, you would argue that that book is not before the court, that it is not a part of the court record. Appeals are based on the courts below, on the record of the trial, of the hearings that preceded the conviction: not something that he may have done outside of court. Obviously, if you were the other side, you would bring that forward.

I would also point out there's a very high threshold of getting an appeal accepted. You would have to find or a judge would have to find that among these documents the FBI held is exculpatory evidence, something that would lead a court to believe that Timothy McVeigh, beyond a reasonable belief, would not be convicted because of that evidence, and that may not be there.

SESNO: And that may be a very high threshold, indeed.

BIERBAUER: It is.

SESNO: Charles Bierbauer.

Well, stay with CNN for complete coverage of today's decision to delay the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Tonight in the "CROSSFIRE," McVeigh's former attorney Stephen Jones speaks out. That's at 7:30 Eastern Time. And former McVeigh attorney Chris Tritico is the guest on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" immediately following "CROSSFIRE" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, only here on CNN.

A trillion dollar-plus solution: President Bush makes an urgent plea to Congress to give final approval to his tax-cut plan. Plus, more on the McVeigh execution delay and the view from Capitol Hill when INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: President Bush today urged Congress to act quickly on tax relief as the best way to help consumers hit with high energy costs. Now that the House and Senate have signed off on scaled-back versions of the president's tax plan, congressional leaders must figure out how to squeeze the president's priorities into a somewhat smaller package.

And as our Jonathan Karl reports, the battle is far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president has a new message for Congress: If you're worried about high energy costs, cut taxes now.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Congress, who is interested in helping consumers pay high gas prices: pass the tax relief as quickly as possible. We've set aside $100 billion to help consumers with high energy prices. That's the quickest way to help consumers.

KARL: The latest pitch comes as members of Congress in both parties have been complaining that the president has done little to deal with spiraling energy costs. These complaints persist, but an hour after the president spoke, there was proof tax cuts are on the fast track in Congress.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, FINANCE COMMITTEE: Second, we want a bipartisan agreement, and we have that to announce today on the tax-relief bill.

KARL: Together with top Democrat on the committee, Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley unveiled the details of a tax cut, meeting many, but not all of the president's priorities.

The plan reduces all income tax brackets, including dropping the lowest rate from 15 percent to 10 percent, effective immediately. It also reduces the top rate from 39.6 percent to 36 percent, although that tax cut won't be effective until 2007. President Bush wants the top rate reduced to 33 percent.

The plan also calls for the full repeal of the estate tax, but not until 2011; an increase in the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 phased in over the next nine years; reduction of the marriage penalty beginning in 2006; increase in contributions allowed to retirement plans; and an increase in contributions to education savings accounts, from $500 to $2,000 a year. The education and retirement provisions are not included in the president's tax plan.

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D), MONTANA: Clearly, this is a result at this beginning stage, which distributes income much more to moderate, low- income people compared with the president's bill.

KARL: Baucus, one of just five Democrats who voted for the budget outline, had been under intense pressure from democratic leaders not to work with the Republicans, but the senator, who is up for reelection next year in a state that Bush won by a 24-point landslide, decided to defy his party leadership, telling reporters, quote, "people in Montana like tax cuts."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: Now, Republican leaders aren't exactly thrilled with this plan, either. They hope to improve this tax proposal as it goes through. And the way that this works now, Frank, is we expect the Finance Committee to have a hearing on this next week, paving the way for a vote on the Senate floor possibly by Thursday night or Friday morning -- Frank.

SESNO: It's moving right along. All right, Jon Karl, don't move a muscle.

Let's bring in Major Garrett, our White House correspondent, open this discussion up.

But Jon, why don't you start us off. First talk some more about that pressure those moderate Democrats are undergoing up there. It's not a pretty sight.

KARL: Well, it's intense pressure, and you saw it most intensely right before the vote on the budget. As a matter of fact, Robert Byrd, who is the senior Democrat on that all-powerful Appropriations Committee, sent out this letter to all Democrats in the Senate, essentially threatening them, if they vote for the tax cut -- the budget with the tax cut -- that he would not help them get their pet projects funded through the Appropriations Committee. He went further and, on the floor of the Senate, yesterday, said -- he called the Appropriations Committee the watering hole. And he said to those Democrats that vote for this tax cut, don't come to the watering hole; you're going to make it impossible for me to help you get those projects back in your home state.

SESNO: Predictions of a drought.

Major, over to you. On the subject of immediate relief for high energy costs, why is the White House apparently reluctant -- the president -- to endorse a repeal of the gasoline tax? He doesn't like taxes; why not jump on the bandwagon on that one? MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Frank, the reason is part of a fascinating look behind the scenes at coalition building, particularly coalition building this Bush White House is trying to undertake to support its energy policy.

Now, who might be opposed to repealing the federal gas tax? Well, there are a couple of powerful interests here in Washington. Among them, all the building and trade unions. Why? Because the federal gasoline tax finances road and bridge construction and rebuilding all across the country. Who undertakes most of that work? Building and trade unions.

Why are they important to the Bush White House as it puts together its coalition for energy? Well, they are trying to woo them to support the energy plan because if the building and trade unions support them, particularly as it relates to expediting permits for nuclear power plant construction, again, something the building and trades would play a big role in -- then they can divide the liberal coalition between union and environmentalists and get more of a favorable hearing on Capitol Hill for its energy plan.

So the White House strategy is, don't push repeal of the gas tax because that would antagonize the building and trade unions. Split them off from the environmentalists critical of the White House because its energy plan doesn't emphasize conservation enough. Build a new coalition for that energy plan, give it a better chance of surviving on Capitol Hill.

SESNO: Three-dimensional ticktacktoe.

Jon Karl, back to you. How much support is there on Capitol Hill -- or talk of a repeal of the gasoline tax? That would bring immediate relief to the pumps.

KARL: No question. Actually, Frank, you know the Senate tried to do that last year and failed. Republicans are generally in favor of that, but you do have Republican appropriators and the vast majority of Democrats who are opposed to repealing the tax cut -- the gas -- the tax on gas for the very reason that major talked about. They are concerned about the gas tax funding those projects, those pet projects, those highway projects back in their states. So in fact, there probably isn't enough support for a full repeal of the gas tax here on Capitol Hill.

SESNO: Major, what's the latest word on the White House on the short-term political pain that these energy costs are causing?

GARRETT: Well, the word here at the White House is they're going to take the short-term hit and they expect Republicans in Congress to take the short-term hit. Now, that's a lot easier said than done from a White House that doesn't have to face reelection until 2004; and I can tell you many members of Congress in the senior Republican leadership have said, hey, Mr. President, Mr. Senior Advisers, look at the calendar -- we're up next year.

But the word from the White House is, look, if you go and stick with us now, we're going to get you through this crisis. Gas prices aren't going to go up as much as people fear, and next summer most of this will die down because our longer-term energy strategy will address some of these concerns. You'll have a much calmer summer next year, and that's the summer you should worry about -- the summer right before the election, not the summer a year and a half away.

SESNO: Major Garrett at the White House, Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill; thanks to you both.

And now a note from the president's home state of Texas: Republican Governor Rick Perry today signed a new hate crimes bill into law; the latest example of what some have described as an attack on the Bush legacy as governor. While serving in Austin, Mr. Bush would not support similar legislation because he said he considered all crimes to be hate crimes. The new law requires stiffer penalties for crimes motivated by race, religion and other specific factors. It was named for James Byrd Jr., the African-American who was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck.

And Timothy McVeigh, the FBI and those misplaced documents: When we come back, the latest black eye for the beleaguered bureau. It's a subject for our weekly roundtable. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: The FBI did a superb job in gathering information; they didn't do a great job in probably some of their own internal procedures. And I remember that FBI Director Freeh sent out a message to all office, if they had anything, turn it over at the beginning because -- the irony is they knew they had a solid, solid case against McVeigh. Why do anything to screw it up?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Why do anything to screw it up?

Well, now it's time for our regular Friday roundtable here on INSIDE POLITICS. Joining me today: Ron Brownstein of "The Los Angeles Times," "TIME" magazine's Tamala Edwards and Robert George of "The New York Post."

Ron, let's start with you. Just coming right off of that last comment by Pat Leahy: Why do anything to screw it up? Does it really screw it up?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, I think it probably only screws it up temporarily. But, certainly, that really is the question. The case seemed very strong from the outset; and this really probably will have more long-term impact on the FBI than I think on the disposition of...

SESNO: In what way?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, just in terms of heightening the importance of the selection of Freeh's -- Louis Freeh's successor, and it being one more area where the bureau has got a little bit of a black eye lately.

SESNO: Tamala, to you.

TAMALA EDWARDS, "TIME" MAGAZINE: No, I have to agree with Ron on that. It's clearly embarrassing. It is better that it came out even just a few short days before, the worst-case scenario would be if these papers are had turned up a week from now. And you know, when you think back on McVeigh's whole argument, he did it because he thought the government was wrong at Ruby Ridge, and that's the exact same argument people would use if these papers had come out later, there's something going on here.

And in fact, I think they will continue to say: I bet you there was something else the government withheld.

SESNO: Robert George, we're talking about a Louis Freeh legacy here. He's announced his departure. He leaves next month. It's a tough way to go out.

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": Yeah. It's not exactly what you -- it's not exactly what you like to have on your resume as you're going out the door. I mean from -- I think what Senator Leahy said is more or less accurate, in sense of -- that Freeh had basically given the order to, you know, make sure all information was turned over. And obviously, there was a bureaucratic glitch down the line.

SESNO: Well, if that's the case, why would it reflect negatively on his legacy?

GEORGE: Well, I mean, it's still, you know, he still the guy at the top, and so in a sense, there's a little bit of a -- if there's egg on the face of the FBI, it's on Louis Freeh's face, unfortunately.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: I think also the fact that it's thousands of pages. You're not just saying there were a few things left on a water cooler somewhere. This was substantial information.

SESNO: Ron, does this open up a question of the death penalty any more broadly than it normally stands in this country?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, that's a good point. I think it will be used by the critics of the death penalty, and as this whole episode will be. There is still a consensus in the country, by and large, for the death penalty, but it has been eroding in recent years with the kinds of questions that this raises -- not so much about innocence or guilt in this instance, but the broader question of whether these cases are adjudicated fairly, whether the defendants have adequate representation and so forth.

So yes, anything that is this high-profile that introduces any element of uncertainty -- President Bush was peppered today with questions at his press conference about: Can you be sure of the guilt here?

Anything that does that, I think, gives more fuel to those who are critical of the death penalty.

SESNO: How about Robert? The polls show that there are not very many who are critical of the death penalty in this country.

GEORGE: Well, that's what -- that's right. And especially in this case, there is not much doubt, even given this glitch on the papers, There's not much doubt on McVeigh's guilt. I mean, he has basically admitted it to his father, to reporters, and so forth.

But -- and I think people, you know -- there's a general consensus that certain crimes warrant the death penalty. And I don't think anyone would disagree that killing 168 people doesn't warrant that.

SESNO: Tamala, the Attorney General John Ashcroft made a very careful case today, pointing out that this is about the sanctity of the American justice system itself. He went way beyond the McVeigh case to make the justification for this delay.

EDWARDS: Well, and I think that was absolutely the correct thing to do. I mean, you're dealing with a person who has confessed to doing this, who said that he wanted the execution to go ahead and happen. But I think Ashcroft was aware that if that chain of events happened without looking at these papers there would always be a cloud over this execution, and I think they want the closure.

And this also comes at the end of a week where we hear about a lab technician who's suspected of tampering with evidence. I think they didn't want anything left open.

SESNO: All right.

EDWARDS: Not of the FBI, but in another case.

SESNO: Right. Folks, stay right where you are. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, an urgent plea for tax relief, dire warning about the nation's looming energy crisis, tough talk from President Bush. Today we'll have more on what he had to say with our participants in this round table right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will conserve our way to energy independence. We must also increase supply. It's in the consumer's interest that we do so. The more supply there is relative to demand, the less the price will be. And I believe that we can have exploration and sound environmental policy go hand in hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: President George W. Bush today in the briefing room at the White House, giving a hint of where his environmental and energy policy, in particular, will be going next week. He'll be announcing it. We're back with our round table, Ron Brownstein of the "Los Angeles Times," Tamala Edwards of "TIME" magazine and Robert George of the "New York Post."

Robert, let's start with you, back on the president and energy. We're not conserving our way out of this, he says. We've got to have more exploration.

GEORGE: Well, we do. The headline for the press conference today could have been "Energy Policy is Taxing," because we -- he's doing two things. One, he says, one of the reasons we need a tax cut is to counteract the high energy prices that we're going to be getting this summer. But he's appointing to the fact that he's taking -- this administration is taking a long view on energy.

And conservation that's been practiced in a lot of states, especially California over the last eight years, has caused us not to have any oil refineries, it's caused us not to have enough electrical plants. And as a result, we've got this energy crunch now. So he basically says: We need to produce more.

SESNO: Tamala, he looked right into the camera, he wagged his finger and he said to the Congress: The best way to help people at the pump is to pass that tax cut.

EDWARDS: Yeah, it was an interesting piece of stage craft, because where he should have been wagging his finger in San Francisco or Los Angeles. It keeps being pointed out that the president has not made his way out to California. I think when he introduced his tax cut plan he did an excellent job of making his way through middle America and saying real people want this.

If I were an adviser, I'd get him out to California and surround him with real people, saying: I understand that there's a lot of pain in my pocketbook now, but I can understand the president when he talks about a tax cut and conservation.

SESNO: Ron, last I checked, your newspaper was the "Los Angeles Times," and you wrote about this topic.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. Well, it seemed a little -- the tax analogy seemed a little forced to me. You've got the sense that if somebody told him there was going to be a drought this summer, he would say we should cut taxes so people could hire helicopters to see the clouds.

But, you know, the underlying issue...

(LAUGHTER)

BERNSTEIN: ... he really drew the line in the sand. He drew the line in the sand today. It's going to be -- he's going to say he has a balanced approach with a heavy emphasis on production. Democrats are going to say, and environmentalists are going to say he sleights conservation and renewable. He's going to try to respond to that. He's going to have a radio address tomorrow that's going to talk about some of his renewable incentives, tax incentives.

But in a broader sense, Frank, what's interesting to me is that both sides in this debate, both Bush and the Democrats, are portraying conservation done for consumers rather than by consumers. In that little byte from the president, the idea that technology allows us in effect to have it all -- we can have a clean environment and we can have drilling. We can use a lot of energy and we can be more efficient.

It's something that technology will solve, rather than asking people to conserve energy use in their own lives, as the California officials reluctantly are doing by raising prices out there. A very different debate at the national level. Neither side is really asking for very much in the way of sacrifice from the public. Maybe after a decade of abundance, they don't feel the public really wants hard choices, but the fact is they're not offering them.

SESNO: Well, Robert, maybe after a decade of seeing incredible technological improvements he's also counting on the fact that technology may hold the key to the energy discussion as well.

GEORGE: Well, I think that's -- I think that's true. I also think -- I have to agree with Tam that he really does need to actually head out to California.

SESNO: Why?

GEORGE: Even if it's only -- even if it's only from a -- from a public -- from a public relations standpoint.

SESNO: What? Message I care?

GEORGE: Message -- message -- well, it's -- his dad would say, "Message: I care." His predecessor would say, "I feel your pain." But -- so I think he may want to -- he may want to synthesize those -- synthesize those two.

Now, but I think -- I mean, the technology argument gets you -- gets you to a certain point. But I mean, as a -- as a conservative, I think he can also say, you know, there is an aspect of, you know, personal -- personal responsibility in this and that we are able to do some conservation on our own, technology aside.

EDWARDS: You know...

SESNO: Tamala, before we run out of time -- go ahead.

EDWARDS: I think that's an interesting point, but at the same time, people want their SUVs. They don't want to go to the mall and take the stairs because they find out the escalator is not running. I think they understand human nature well enough to know that if you turn it back on people and say, you should conserve, that's not going to get through.

It would be -- I just don't think that's a message that'll take.

SESNO: OK, Ron, turn the corner for us into the budget and taxes. That was really the purpose of the president's trip into the briefing room today over at the White House. Got a budget deal, largely what he wanted. It's not very specific and that's not part of this process yet anyway when they work out the budget. That all when the details come down the line.

Do these parameters mean anything?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, the parameters do mean something. The question is whether they can fit in them. It's a little bit of a political conservation question in here. Can you fit all the tax cuts that members of both parties want into the tax cut of 1.25, roughly, trillion that they've got to work with, plus a hundred billion? And more -- even more difficult, can you fit the spending that's building up on both sides into the very tight guidelines that are put out by this budget?

You know, we're having votes on the House and Senate floor on education that are going way beyond what we're talking about in the resolution. The president unveiled a missile defense plan next week that is probably going to need a lot more money than anything we're talking about: 17 of the last 20 years, Frank, CBO calculates that the actual appropriations have exceeded the budget resolution. One should not be surprised if we end up 18 out of 21 given the very narrow room that this budget resolution gives them to spend.

SESNO: Ron Brownstein, Tamala Edwards, and Robert George, thanks to you all very much. Have a great weekend.

GEORGE: Thanks, Frank. You, too.

EDWARDS: Thanks.

SESNO: See you again soon.

And the Florida recount revisited: The latest study of the ballot considers different standards and comes up with a split decision. We'll tell you all about it, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: A new analysis of Florida's election ballots finds President Bush would have won a statewide recount if the most commonly used counting standards had been used. But it also found that ballot mistakes by Democratic voters cost Al Gore up to 25,000 votes, obviously enough to give him the election.

Now, "The USA Today," "The Miami Herald," and several other Florida papers sponsored the study, and the installment released today for the first time factored in so-called "overvotes." It found that Bush would have won the election if a statewide recount had required a clean punch-card vote or required at least two corners of the chad on a punch card to be detached.

However, a recount using the more lenient Palm Beach standard, which allowed so-called "dimpled chads," would have given the race to Gore as would have the most liberal standard, which would have counted any visible changes in ballot chads at all.

When analysts studied the more than 110,000 overvotes, ballots that showed more than one choice for president, they could determine voter intent on just 3 percent. Of those, Gore won more than 1,800 votes and Bush won almost 1,200.

The most frequent combination of overvotes were ballots marked for both Gore and Pat Buchanan.

Well, joining me now from Miami to discuss the Florida ballot study is Mark Seibel. He's the managing editor of "The Miami Herald," one of the newspapers that conducted that study.

Mark, most significant component of this? There are lots of permutations and ways of looking at it.

MARK SEIBEL, "MIAMI HERALD": Well, that's true. What we found in looking at the overvotes, the overvotes we knew would not produce a lot of valid votes. There were 111,000 that we looked at. About 3 percent of them were perhaps valid votes, mostly in optical-scan counties. And those -- and so we were able to come up with a net gain for Gore of about 682. That was not enough for to give him a victory outright. So then it falls back again, as it has throughout all this discussion, to how do you judge an undervoted punch-card ballot, and it's really there, of course, that you get the split decision, because if you use dimples, then Gore wins. If you don't use dimples, then Bush wins.

And that's, I guess, where we've been really since November.

SESNO: It all depends on what county you're in and what the standards are in any given place.

SEIBEL: Well, what we tried -- what we tried to do was to apply the same standard throughout the state...

SESNO: Right.

SEIBEL: ... which was, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court's problem with the Florida recount.

SESNO: Right. Let's talk about the so-called "butterfly ballots." A lot of confusion talked about given those ballots at the time. And now you found out something more about them.

SEIBEL: Well, in fact, the butterfly ballot probably cost Gore close to 6,000 votes in Palm Beach County. It was the -- the Gore- Buchanan vote was the largest overvote, double voting, pattern in the state, but half of those were in Palm Beach County.

SESNO: Mark, as we know and as we heard at the time, there were tremendous complaints from many within the African-American community who felt that there was something intrinsically unfair about the way the voting technology and the results were distributed and read. Study reveal any or shed any light on that component?

I think we've got a satellite problem there with Mark. We apologize for that. And the response, we'll have to await his return.

So we will turn our attention now to those reports that Georgia's Democratic senator, Zell Miller, might switch political parties. Miller says he's staying -- stating it rather as plainly as he knows how, quote, "I am not going to switch to the Republican Party." Miller is a lifelong Democrat, but ever since he co-sponsored the Bush tax cut and crossed party lines on several key issues, there's been speculation he might switch parties. Miller said in an interview that although he plans to stay a Democrat, he will refuse, in his words, "to march in lockstep with other Democratic senators."

And Ohio Democratic Congressman James Traficant has made a career of confounding members of both political parties. But party politics are now the least of his worries. In Ohio today, Traficant pleaded not guilty to federal charges of racketeering, bribery and conspiracy. He also got a seven-month delay in the trial, and he told the judge he plans to represent himself. The congressman is known for his colorful language, and he did not disappoint as he arrived for court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: Most people have problems with a fly on their face. I have an elephant (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my ass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: Traficant's trial is scheduled to begin next February. If convicted, he could face up to 63 years in prison and a $2 million fine.

There will be more on today's decision to delay the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Plus divorce, New York-style: why breaking up is hard to do for the city's controversial mayor, when INSIDE POLITICS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: Now that the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has been delayed, will members of Congress jump on the mistakes made by the FBI?

Also ahead: a gag order, and the gloves are off in New York. Mayor Rudy Giuliani's divorce proceedings.

And if you know the name of the man in this picture, you'll have a clue about the "Political Play of the Week."

And welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS. Judy is off today. I'm Frank Sesno.

Timothy McVeigh's lawyer says the convicted Oklahoma City bomber may now decide to fight his execution, after the disclosure that the FBI failed to provide his trial defense team with thousands of documents. That discovery prompted Attorney General John Ashcroft to delay McVeigh's execution today until June 11. It had been scheduled for next Wednesday in Indiana.

Ashcroft says he has ordered an investigation of the FBI's conduct. But, he says, he still believes McVeigh's conviction was deserved. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ASHCROFT: There is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of any individual about the guilt of Timothy McVeigh. He has repeatedly asserted his own responsibility for these acts with a kind of detailed account which removes any doubt. I have taken these steps in order to assure the American people that they have a right to have confidence in our processes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: President Bush told reporters he supports the decision to delay McVeigh's execution, even though it probably won't sit well with many Americans, particularly those in Oklahoma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: This decision is going to create some frustration amongst people whose lives were destroyed and turned upside down by Mr. McVeigh. But it is very important for our country to -- to make sure that in death penalty cases people are treated fairly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: As many people in Oklahoma and elsewhere were preparing themselves for McVeigh's execution, his defense team got the word just this past Tuesday of the FBI's failure to turn over documents. That word came from the U.S. attorney in Denver. CNN's Susan Candiotti is in Denver. She joins us now -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of McVeigh's attorneys, Rob Nigh, met with his client for over six hours today at the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. Now, the attorney say that McVeigh is, quote, "intensely interested" at the possibility of trying to see whether his execution can be overturned, and whether they can take a fresh look at the death sentence once they look over these documents.

Mr. McVeigh, we are told, did not get a look at some of this new material that in his lawyer's hands. His lawyers say that they are incensed over what has happened at this late date, only days before Timothy McVeigh was to be executed. Here is McVeigh's lawyer Nathan Chambers in Denver.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHAN CHAMBERS, MCVEIGH'S ATTORNEY: It's appropriate for there to be a complete investigation into every aspect of this, as to how it was that in a case of this magnitude, that the FBI could have documents for six years and not release them until less than a week before the scheduled execution. It's astounding, and it needs to be -- it needs to be investigated. We need to know what happened here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH'S ATTORNEY: The events of the past three days demonstrate that even in Mr. McVeigh's case, the government is not capable of carrying out the death penalty in a fair and just manner.

Mr. McVeigh had made the mental and psychological preparations for death. He had said his good-byes to his family and to his friends. He is distressed that he has had to put these people that he cares about through this process and may only have to put them through it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Mr. McVeigh's lawyer said they had no comment when I asked whether Mr. McVeigh had an opportunity to hear the remarks today from President Bush and from Attorney General John Ashcroft. They said that given Mr. McVeigh's dim view of the FBI, that he said that Mr. McVeigh was not surprised, quite frankly -- or was surprised that this new documentation, this new evidence is coming forth before his execution, as opposed to after his scheduled execution.

The timetable is this: Mr. McVeigh's lawyers, at least the one who visited with him in Terre Haute today, plans on going back to his office in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Attorneys both there and in Denver will be reviewing all these documents. They don't expect to file anything with any appeals court this weekend or Monday, and said it's highly improbable they may get to it next week, because they have so much to do. Back to you.

SESNO: Now let's bring in CNN's legal analyst Greta Van Susteren. Greta, astounding is what we just heard this called in one context. True?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It certainly is astounding. Usually, the Justice Department does not fess up to something like this.

Now, I am a big fan of what the Justice Department did. On the eve of the execution, it came forward and said: "Oops, we found these documents," and then the attorney general takes the added step of postponing the execution.

It's not so unusual that documents get withheld from the defense. Sometimes it's done through negligence, sometimes defense lawyers think it's done deliberately, but you never see this type of demonstration. So, astounding, yes, but the best thing that's happened to the defense in this case.

SESNO: Well, explain that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's the best thing because -- look, I mean, if they had not done this, the execution would have gone forward this Wednesday.

Now, having had the documents now dumped on the defense, the prosecution has egg all over its face. What the prosecution now given the defense is hundreds of pages to attack, to go back into court, to file all sorts of motions.

If they lose all sorts of motions, they can appeal everything they lose. They are going to drag it back through the system and fight for him. He has every right to fight for his rights, just as the attorney general said he had, but it could be years before his next execution date.

I don't think this June 11 date is a real execution date. I think it's a very optimistic one for the Department of Justice.

SESNO: Despite the fact that we heard today from the senior officials they don't think anything is exculpatory is in those documents?

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, Frank, let me stop, let me stop...

SESNO: Wait, wait, wait. Let me ask the question, then you can jump all over me. Despite the fact that Timothy McVeigh himself has said what he said, that he did it?

VAN SUSTEREN: Two things. Number one, I've never seen a prosecutor saying: "Here, have some documents I forgot to give you. They are material to your defense." Number one, the fact that the prosecution characterizes them as immaterial is -- I mean, I just have never seen them say anything else, so ignore that. That's not a particularly strong point.

Now, the fact that Timothy McVeigh has apparently confessed would certainly hurt in the remote chance his conviction were overturned and in a new trial he would get convicted again. They'd just haul those authors right back into court.

But there is another issue. He had a second trial, a trial determining what was the appropriate punishment. And if he can get back into court on that particular issue -- even though he has confessed to the crime -- there is a possibility that next time around on that particular issue the proper punishment he might not get the death penalty.

Plus, there's one other thing, is that the longer this gets dragged out, there seems to be a growing trend in this country, very slight, very remote chance this could happen, but we have moratoriums in states on the death penalty. There's a remote chance we could get a federal moratorium.

SESNO: You said if he could get back into the court. What is the scenario that he gets back into the court?

VAN SUSTEREN: His lawyers are going to pore over the documents and they're going to find something that would help him. For instance, let me tell you one particular thing that has seized my attention. When you go into the sentencing on death penalty, there's a statutory formula, and one of the mitigating factors that the jury is supposed to consider is whether or not another defendant or defendants equally culpable in the crime will not be punished by death. Suppose they go back to those documents and find out the FBI investigated a lot of people, and found other people who might have been involved in the crime, something Stephen Jones has been saying since day one, that there might have been other people involved in the crime.

I don't know. I mean, it seems fanciful, now, for me to say that. But if they can show the court that the documents themselves support that, he might get back into court with a new sentencing.

All of this is remote; it's all fanciful. But, you just never know.

SESNO: They've got 30 days. It's going to move fast.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's not going to be 30 days; no chance...

SESNO: Thirty days is what's laid out...

VAN SUSTEREN: No, the Justice Department thinks it's 30 days, I don't -- I mean, who knows, it may be 30 days, I just think that's unlikely.

SESNO: Greta Van Susteren, thanks.

Let's go now to Capitol Hill and get reaction from there.

Here's our congressional correspondent Kate Snow -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Frank, a lot of reaction coming from Capitol Hill. No plans as of yet for any specific hearings to be held -- congressional hearings on the subject of Timothy McVeigh.

However, we are getting a lot of reaction, a lot of questions about how the FBI could have let this happen, and a lot of strongly- worded criticism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: In very high profile cases where it seems like, you know, somebody is trying to make a name for themselves, the more high-profile, the more there seems to be a loss of documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN, PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I'm just wondering how, with a case with this high a profile, this could ever would have happened, because if it happens with something with high a profile, how many times did it happen on far lesser things where there really is a question of guilt? I think it's time for the Judiciary Committee to sit down and do a real clear oversight of the FBI, something that we haven't really done effectively. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now, one particular issue the House Judiciary Committee has taken up is this letter, a couple of weeks ago, coincidentally -- they sent this letter to the FBI, questioning the FBI about its information technology, it's computers. In the letter they say: "Your technology is slow, unreliable and obsolete," and law enforcement officials have told CNN that they believe that that technology is at least partly to blame for the fact that all of those documents involving the McVeigh case were set aside or lost.

One of the members who signed this letter says that he thinks the missing documents might have been avoided entirely if the FBI had acted sooner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LAMAR SMITH (R), TEXAS: That is a regrettable situation; it should not have occurred. If it was the fault of an antiquated, out- of-date computer system or database system, then that's particularly bad because it could have been corrected and should have been corrected, particularly in anything involving criminal cases such as a high profile case like this one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now, coincidentally his committee chairman -- Smith's committee is planning on holding hearings on an unrelated -- well, somewhat related topic. They're going to be holding oversight hearings of the Department of Justice next Tuesday. And they are specifically going to be talking about the criminal division of the justice department. So Frank, we expect that this subject will certainly coming up at that subcommittee hearing.

Back to you.

SESNO: Kate Snow.

For more on the decision to delay Timothy McVeigh's execution, join Greta Van Susteren on "THE POINT." That's at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time this evening. Our extensive coverage continues at 9:00 p.m. on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Well, New Yorkers love a media circus, and now they have a big one on their hands: the mayor, his wife, and his favorite companion. As divorce court assembles, the mayor's final months in office turn from the political to the personal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his wife Donna Hanover are no doubt used to life in the public eye, but as their marriage dissolves in a very public and increasingly bitter divorce, some say the city could be the real loser.

CNN's Brian Palmer has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN PALMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The New York media's favorite spectator sport is back in season, the no-holds- barred competition for public-relations advantage in the very public divorce of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his wife Donna Hanover.

On Friday, the judge handling the proceedings lifted a gag order that barred both sides from talking.

HELENE BREZINSKY, DONNA HANOVER'S ATTORNEY: This is a man who has been flaunting his mistress. Look at that if you want to know who wants publicity.

PALMER: And they are talking -- through their lawyers.

The mayor's attorney also got personal.

RAOUL FELDER, GIULIANI'S ATTORNEY: I think it was enormously revealing of Mrs. Giuliani's motives and the inability to say, hey, I've got to get on with my life. She's on a vengeance raid to destroy the mayor, anybody else involved.

PALMER: Mayor Giuliani has conducted much of his private life in public, including announcing his decision to separate from his wife.

But for now, he, himself, is keeping quiet.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: I can't -- I'm not going to discuss this situation with you. I think it's inappropriate for us to even be having this discussion.

DONNA HANOVER, MAYOR GIULIANI'S WIFE: You've mentioned the generation gap in your household...

PALMER: A media figure herself, Donna Hanover stuck to the script on her daily cooking show.

(on camera): The high-profile he-said/she-said may make good fodder for the media and great cocktail conversation for New Yorkers, but it's diverting the city's attention from more pressing matters, say some observers.

(voice-over): Writer Mike Tomasky covers the mayor.

MICHAEL TOMASKY, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: It's taking him away from dealing with the local budget, which he's fighting over with the city council right now. It's taking him away from the things he's trying to do -- he's begun to try to do to put the final stamp on his administration.

PALMER: And the saga continues next week. Hearings are scheduled, on Hanover's request, to have the mayor's new companion barred from Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.

Brian Palmer, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And Bill Schneider hands out his "Political Play of the Week" to a place that could use a little respect. The winner and the reasons why, when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: And we have just gotten a piece of tape in that we want to share with you. This comes from Bill McVeigh. He is the father of Timothy McVeigh. Bill McVeigh, the father, reacting to today's extraordinary turn of events: The announcement from the Justice Department because of the failure to hand over thousands of pages of documents from the FBI to defense attorneys, McVeigh's, his son's, execution will be delayed by 30 days. Here now is that tape, Bill McVeigh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MCVEIGH, TIMOTHY MCVEIGH'S FATHER: Yeah, it could have been just an accidental mistake. They claim that's what it is, but I don't know if it is or not.

UNIDENTIFIED WVIB CORRESPONDENT: If it weren't an accident, what would it be? Why would they do it?

B. MCVEIGH: Well Mr. Jones and Mr. Tigar both were refused many times. Were told -- went to the judge many times and told them that there were records missing, documents that they didn't have, that there were pieces missing, and they never got anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESNO: And that tape, courtesy of our affiliate, WVIB, speaking, again, with Bill McVeigh the father of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: ... register. In Congress, meanwhile, election reform has gotten bogged down in partisan squabbling. Only one state has passed comprehensive election reform, and we mean the whole shooting match: A voter's bill of rights, new high-tech voting machines, registration reforms, uniform recount standards, a centralized voter database, programs to educate voters and train poll workers, all in place for next year's elections. And $32 million dollars to pay for it. Where did this miracle happen?

KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: We're just thrilled to be here today and extremely grateful to the legislature, because they truly have done the right thing.

SCHNEIDER: That's right, folks, Florida, the recount state. Is this a case of locking the barn door after the horse is gone? Doesn't look like it. Republicans control Florida, and Governor Jeb Bush has to run for reelection there next year. President George W. Bush will need Florida in 2004, especially if California stays in the dark.

Election reform won't make it any easier for them to carry Florida. So what drove Florida to reform? Here's a clue: the measure passed with solid bipartisan support. In fact, a nearly unanimous vote in the state legislature. It was above politics. Notice how touchy Floridians are about last year's recount.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: If there's another close election in another state, I guarantee you that they will not be able to withstand the incredible scrutiny that occurred in Florida.

SCHNEIDER: The 2000 recount made Florida a laughingstock. The state was particularly embarrassed when this hitherto unheard of figure burst upon the scene. Remember "chad" in all his incarnations: Hanging chad, dimpled chad, pregnant chad? The whole point of the Florida election reform act is no more chads, literally. The state is banning punch card voting. Chad shamed Florida into doing something.

BUSH: We took advantage of the scrutiny that the state got, and had we not done it, shame on us.

SCHNEIDER: Floridians want their state to set a different kind of example.

BUSH: In 2002, we'll have an election system that is a model for the rest of the country and something of great pride for all Floridians.

SCHNEIDER: Hear that? Pride. The Rodney Dangerfield of states is looking for a little respect. Well, Florida, you got it, and the political play of the week, besides.

What is Florida going to do with all those old punch card machines? There are rumors that Palm Beach County, home of the infamous "butterfly ballot," may sell 5,000 of them on eBay, the auction Web site. Poor, homeless chad has been banned in Florida. Won't you take him into your home?

Bill Schneider, CNN, Virginia Beach.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SESNO: And that's it for this edition of INSIDE POLITICS. But, of course, you can go online all the time at CNN's allpolitics.com, AOL keyword: CNN. And these weekend programming notes: Senator Jesse Helms gives a rare television interview tomorrow on EVAN'S, NOVAK, HUNT, AND SHIELDS at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

And on Sunday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert will be among Wolf Blitzer's guests on "LATE EDITION." That's at noon Eastern. I'm Frank Sesno. "MONEYLINE" is next.

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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