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AMERICAN MORNING

Levin on Goss; Amber Frey Testifies about Peterson Lies

Aired August 11, 2004 - 8:00   ET

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


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The star witness takes the stand in the Scott Peterson trial and reveals a story filled with lies and deceit.
Meanwhile, a new twist in the Kobe Bryant case. Is the criminal trial over before it begins?

A potential hurricane seen from space. Another not far behind. One state braces for the worst.

And before the GOP convention, an unconventional training tape. Making sure everyone's on the lookout for terror, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN broadcast center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien and Bill Hemmer.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone.

Welcome back here.

Eight o'clock in New York.

Heidi Collins with us here, filling in for Soledad O'Brien, who is resting at home and informs us that she's extremely bored. So, send her e-mails, folks. No, don't do that.

Welcome back.

President Bush's pick to head up the CIA Congressman Porter Goss out of Florida. A lot of Democrats say his confirmation is far from a slam dunk. We'll talk to one of them, Senate Intel Committee member Carl Levin our guest out of Detroit in a moment here.

COLLINS: Also, a huge week in the Scott Peterson trial. His ex- mistress, Amber Frey, finally took the stand yesterday. She talked about a web of lies by Peterson. We'll talk to Jeffrey Toobin to see just how damaging it is.

HEMMER: Also, the stars are aligning for a spectacular show in the heavens. We'll talk to an expert today about what you can do to see it and to watch it. So we'll get to that this hour, as well.

Jack is off. Toure is working today. The Question of the Day comes your way in a little bit here, too.

COLLINS: The thing about the Olympics. HEMMER: Something about the Olympics, too. It's going to be a fun three hours, because we disagree.

All right, let's get back to Washington right now and President Bush's nomination of the Republican, Porter Goss, to head the CIA. Some Democrats now crying foul. They say the congressman out of Florida is "too partisan" for that job.

Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, expressing his reservations, with us live in Detroit this morning.

And, senator, good morning to you.

And thank you for your time.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: Will you reject this nomination?

LEVIN: I don't know whether I'll vote for it or against it. It'll depend on how he answers critical questions about whether or not he's able to be objective and independent when it comes to giving us the critically important intelligence information that is relied upon to make life and death decisions.

HEMMER: He gave us a little bit there. Take it a bit deeper now. The question you want answered is what, then?

LEVIN: Well, for instance, George Tenet, who is the former head of the CIA, headed an agency which clearly shaped and exaggerated intelligence before the Iraq war. George Tenet told the president that the -- it was a slam dunk, that the intelligence showed that there were weapons of mass destruction there and that this was what was called then a slam dunk by George Tenet.

Now, it was not a slam dunk. He was telling the president what the president wanted to hear and the trouble with that is is that it's the Congress that also votes on whether to go to war. It's the people of the United States that have to make a judgment as to whether or not that intelligence justifies or should lead us to attack a nation.

HEMMER: Yesterday, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean, who head up the commission on 9/11, both came out and showed favor toward this nomination. There's an ultimate question, herein, lies whether or not there's a national intelligence director established in this country.

If that is the case, what happens with Porter Goss, if he is confirmed? Does he continue at the CIA? Do you see him being elevated to that position, if created?

LEVIN: Well, I think the president has said that that is unclear, undecided in his mind, assuming he would be reelected and assuming that position were established. And I don't think any of us can know or speculate on that question. The issue that we have to face is whether or not he would be able to be independent and objective in giving intelligence not just to the president, who he's a close supporter of, but also to the Congress and the nation.

HEMMER: If not Porter Goss, then whom, senator?

LEVIN: I would want to -- I would not want to either make suggestions along that line. I think we have an important nominee in front of us now. He's got the experience. That's clear. So did George Tenet have the experience. But it's the independence and objectivity issue. And whoever is appointed, for whatever administration, we have to rely on that person to give the unvarnished facts.

HEMMER: Quickly, let's talk about this election. John Kerry was quoted earlier in the week as suggesting that Joe Biden, the Democratic senator, your colleague, out of Delaware, and yourself, has been in consultation overseas with certain allies who say that they would look more favorably upon American foreign policy if John Kerry were president and not George Bush. I'm paraphrasing some of this.

But is that the case? And, if so, which allies have said that they would change their opinions?

LEVIN: I have not had those discussions with allies and would not have those kind of discussions, at least on the record. Talking informally to people, I think it's clear that the unpopularity, however, of President Bush in many countries makes it difficult for those countries, many of whom are democratic, to come to our support in Iraq, because their populations are so much opposed to the president and his policies.

But in terms of negotiations and discussions of any kind of formality, I would not and could not have those discussions.

HEMMER: Let me just follow up.

Is the suggestion wrong, then, by Senator Kerry?

LEVIN: That I have had discussions with leaders of countries? I have not had discussions with leaders of countries in any form or sense. I've got a very distinct impression from informal conversations that the unpopularity of President Bush's policies in their country make it difficult for them to come to the support of the United States in Iraq.

HEMMER: All right, senator, thanks.

Carl Levin in Detroit, Michigan, his home state, this morning.

Good to see you, as always.

LEVIN: Good to be with you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right. We'll talk a bit later this hour -- in fact, next hour, 9:00 a.m. Eastern time, with former CIA Director William Webster is our guest. His thoughts on Porter Goss next hour.

Now -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Amber Frey, ex-girlfriend of Scott Peterson, is back on the witness stand today in Peterson's double murder trial.

Rusty Dornin joining us now live from Redwood City with more on this -- good morning to you, Rusty.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Heidi, it was very clear from the first few moments that Amber Frey took the stand that she saw Scott Peterson as sort of a Prince Charming. He did everything in his power, it seemed, in those four dates that they had to woo her. He gave her champagne and strawberries on their first date. He took care of her daughter. He gave her daughter a book. He gave her three dozen roses. Those are only some of the things.

He also talked about a long and lasting relationship with her. But at that same time, he was weaving a very intricate web of lies about everything in his life. He claimed that he owned a warehouse in Modesto, but he really lived in Sacramento and that he was going to Alaska fishing with his brothers, that his parents lived in Kennebunkport, Maine. He was going to spend Christmas with them.

And then on December 9, he went to her house and told her a very -- after he had told her he wasn't married, he told her a very strange story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY'S ATTORNEY: Her testimony was very strong evidence for the prosecution in support of their theory that she was a motive for murder. He, for example, said that he lost his wife vis-a-vis the first holidays without her. And that's before Laci ever went missing.

Now, was that just a coincidence or was that premeditation for the murder of Laci?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DORNIN: But what's interesting is she said she did not get suspicious of Peterson until he said he was going on a trip to Europe, would be gone the entire month of January.

She said, "Where can I send a card to you in Europe?"

He said, "Oh, no, send it to my P.O. box in Modesto."

That's when she started thinking that something was really up here.

Also, in the court yesterday afternoon, they did play transcripts -- these are 42 pages of some phone calls right around New Year's Eve, about six days after Laci Peterson disappeared, when Scott Peterson called Amber Frey and he told her I'm in Paris, I saw fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, numerous lies about where he was and what he was doing at that time.

She will be back up on the stand this morning, although we are expecting a closed door session for about an hour that might be dealing with that newly discovered evidence that brought such an abrupt ending to court last week -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, certainly a lot going on there.

Rusty, thanks so much.

A closer look now at Amber Frey's testimony and its potential impact on the Scott Peterson trial.

With that, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin weighing in on it and the civil suit filed by Kobe Bryant's accuser, as well. We'll get to that in just a moment.

So the first day for Amber Frey in the witness chair there.

Was she an effective witness?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, you can't really know until she's been cross-examined. But, you know, jurors tend to understand the world or their cases in stories. They sort of tell themselves a story to put evidence in context. And there are really two stories you can interpret from Amber Frey's testimony.

You know, the defense will say look, he was a scheming, seducing cad. He told her a bunch of lies to get her into bed. It happens all the time. It's not a good thing. It's not an honorable thing. But it's not a sinister thing.

The prosecution wants the story to be this wasn't just a guy trying to seduce a woman. This was a really twisted pathological, lying guy who told such elaborate, bizarre lies that, yes, he could be capable of murder.

Those are the two scenarios that are going to be played out in her testimony.

COLLINS: Sure. But do you think the prosecution can actually get a conviction on those thoughts or on that planning?

TOOBIN: Well, in the context of a broader case, I think they could get a conviction. Now, remember, the key evidence in this case is not Amber Frey. The key evidence is that Laci Peterson's body showed up in the precise location Scott Peterson said he was at Christmas Eve, 80 miles away from their house. That's the most important evidence in the case.

She does present a motive, a possible motive, that, you know, he had this affair, he wanted to get out of his marriage. But even though it's salacious and sensational, it's not the key evidence in the case.

COLLINS: All right, so they're all going to be looking, as Rusty said, at that new evidence today. So we'll find out more about that as the case develops today.

TOOBIN: We will.

COLLINS: Let's turn to Kobe Bryant now.

So we have the woman accusing Bryant of -- she's getting ready to file this civil lawsuit now. But the criminal case hasn't even begun.

What does this mean?

TOOBIN: Right. This is very unusual. Usually when there is a civil suit in a criminal context, the lawyers wait until the criminal case is over. Here, the lawyers for this woman took the very unusual step of filing the lawsuit on the eve of the criminal trial and it really suggests that the criminal trial may never happen.

COLLINS: So I mean he could -- I mean isn't the indication that he could just walk then?

TOOBIN: Absolutely. Well, that -- the -- all the indications we've gotten are that she is getting ready to say she will not cooperate with the criminal case and focus all her energies on the civil case. It is possible, in a narrow legal sense, that the prosecution could force her to testify in a criminal case. That tends not to -- things tend not to work that way. It looks like, and this is where her credibility is going to be very much challenged --

COLLINS: Sure.

TOOBIN: ... that she's in it for the money, not for getting a rapist off the streets.

COLLINS: Well, all right, Jeffrey Toobin, a lot going on in the courts, that's for sure.

TOOBIN: A lot going on.

COLLINS: Thanks so much, Jeff -- Bill.

HEMMER: Heidi, the weather is a significant part of our coverage this morning. There are two potential hurricanes now moving in on Florida. One is Bonnie, the other is Charlie.

And Chad Myers has more on both -- Chad, good morning again.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Bill.

Both still tropical storms right now. But if you look behind me, notice what this was just 12 hours ago. Basically nothing. And now look how this thing has exploded over the Gulf of Mexico, just in the past few hours. Winds now 50 miles per hour, gusts at 65 miles per hour. Here you go, Panama City, you are in the direct path of this storm.

It could go one way or the other a little bit. But all of the models really agreeing, at least on land fall, in the Florida Panhandle.

Now, Charlie, a little bit more significant storm, because watch the wind speeds. They're much bigger. This could be a category two hurricane as it passes over Kingston, Jamaica, Cayman Brac and then right up through Havana, not that far from Key West; And then in a very populated area here from Naples right on up through Port Charlotte, and even maybe as far north as Sarasota.

After that, across and just north of Orlando, back into the ocean and possibly back into South Carolina or North Carolina and toward D.C. So this thing couldn't -- this thing might not be over until the end of the weekend and if it's a category two storm, Bill, as it goes over Key West, as it goes over parts of Tampa, maybe Port Charlotte, there will certainly be some damage with this one.

Not that there's not going to be damage with tropical storm Bonnie. But the winds there will probably approach 70, maybe 75, where the winds with Charlie could approach 105 to 110 -- Bill.

HEMMER: God, if Charlie is C, what's D? Do we know yet?

MYERS: We don't even want to start thinking about that yet, Bill.

HEMMER: OK. All right. We'll save that for another day.

MYERS: This is a very active week.

HEMMER: All right, Chad, thanks for that.

Talk to you a bit later this morning.

Carol Costello back with us again at the CNN Center -- good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill.

Thank you.

More explosions and gunfire are ripping through the Iraqi city of Najaf. Helicopter gunships darted above the region, where American and Iraqi security forces have been fighting Shiite militants for days. Military officials estimate more than 360 fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were killed there since last week.

In Afghanistan this morning, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. They're expected to make a joint statement this hour in Kabul.

Military officials say Navy aircraft and ships are searching for four San Diego based airmen whose jet crashed in the South Pacific. The S-3 Viking plane apparently went down on an uninhabited island near Iowa Jima, some 600 miles south of Japan. An investigation into the crash now under way.

In Las Vegas, officials are defending their decision not to tell the public about those videotapes suggesting terror suspects may have been casing three Las Vegas casinos. FBI and Las Vegas police confirmed that they learned of two videotapes in the fall of 2002, but deny that the potential effect on tourism had anything to do with the decision not to alert the public.

In Alaska, a man accused of causing a fatal collision while driving and watching a DVD has been found not guilty. The man was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges. The trial was thought to be the first of its kind involving a driver distracted by a DVD player. Two people were killed in that crash.

Back to New York and Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Carol, thanks for that.

Let's get a break here.

In a moment, 9/11 Commission members telling law makers al Qaeda may be a greater threat than ever. How are law makers responding to that warning? Live to the Hill in a moment.

COLLINS: Senate candidate Alan Keyes isn't even from Illinois, but says he's more in touch with voters than his opponent. Can he overcome the outsider issue? We'll talk with him live ahead.

HEMMER: Also, if you're looking up later tonight, there will be a gorgeous display in the sky. Hundreds of meteors per hour. We'll talk about it in a couple of minutes here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: All right, welcome back, everyone.

Each summer around this time, mid-August, shooting stars light up the night sky, the annual Perseid meteor shower will be at its peak later tonight. The celestial outburst may be one of the most spectacular ever

Charles Liu, astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York here to explain what we might see in the sky.

First of all, what is it?

CHARLES LIU, ASTROPHYSICIST, AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY: Well, Earth goes through lots of little tiny cloud -- pieces of stuff in the solar system. These pieces can range anything from the size of grains of sand to maybe golf balls. And so we just happened today to be passing through the peak of one band of very thick dust.

HEMMER: Best ever?

LIU: No, probably not.

HEMMER: Is that fair?

LIU: It'll be very good, because we're -- the reason we're getting the peak tonight and tomorrow morning is because we're passing through sort of the remnants of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. And in 1862, 130 years ago or so, it passed through the part of the solar system that we're about to go through now. So there may be a new strand of these dust particles that we'll be going through. And thus we may see maybe twice or three times as many as usual.

HEMMER: Time and place. The best time is when?

LIU: OK. Well, about two in the morning Eastern time.

HEMMER: 2:00 a.m.?

LIU: Yes. Look sort of toward the northeast and if you, say, have a lounge chair or a sleeping bag, you can lean back and point your toes to the northeast and you'll be able to see maybe one or two a minute, maybe even more, as you're coming from the northeastern sky.

HEMMER: Now, this is from about, oh, August 1993, taking us back about 11 years.

LIU: Sure.

HEMMER: I am told this videotape does not do it justice.

LIU: It really doesn't. Most of us have seen shooting stars in the past. And if you think about maybe one or two or three per minute every once in a while, it's very romantic. In November, there's something called the Leonid meteor showers, which are often even more spectacular. And a few years ago, during the peaks of the Leonids, we were able to see one every few seconds, even from New York City.

So this year we may not get quite as much from the Perseids, but what we will see could be very, very beautiful.

HEMMER: And some have said this is like, it's like bugs hitting a windshield. Not the most romantic of thoughts.

LIU: Not precisely, but it's kind of true. These dust particles are sitting in the solar system and as Earth plows through the solar system in its orbit, we're going 66,000 miles an hour through them. So if you can think of our atmosphere as our windshield and these little tiny grains of sand or golf ball sized material as the bugs, we really are smacking into them, about 100 tons per day on average. But tomorrow there will be a bit more.

HEMMER: So 2:00 a.m.

LIU: Yes.

HEMMER: The northeastern direction is your best bet?

LIU: Mm-hmm. And all the way up until sunrise, too.

HEMMER: And as you point out, too, a crescent moon comes up around 3:00 a.m., is that right?

LIU: Yes, 3:00 or 4:00 or so. And those -- you'll see Venus, too, coming up right around sunrise. So it could be a lovely night, evening, no matter what. As long as you just look without a street light in your face, you should be fine, even in New York.

HEMMER: Are you going to be up?

LIU: Probably.

HEMMER: Probably?

LIU: Yes. Well, I...

HEMMER: You've got to stay up now.

LIU: I have an eight-month-old son so I probably will be up no matter what.

HEMMER: You're forgiven.

Charles, thanks.

Great to see you.

LIU: My pleasure.

Thanks for having me.

HEMMER: All right -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Still to come this morning, a Pakistani man is arrested for videotaping a North Carolina skyline. Was a plot foiled or was it all a big mistake?

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We want to get you straight to some information just now coming into us here at CNN.

CNN is confirming through Israeli Emergency Services an explosion has happened between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Again, some sort of explosion. There you see it, on the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah. CNN confirming through Israeli Emergency Services.

We are hearing now that it was, indeed, a car bomb. We are working to get more information for you from the West Bank and we'll pass it along just as soon as we can -- Bill.

HEMMER: News breaking from overseas.

Back now here with Toure, working for Jack today, the Question of the Day.

TOURE: The Question of the Day...

HEMMER: My man.

TOURE: The opening ceremony for the Olympics is Friday. People who are into real sports will be watching the World Series of poker, the Yankees and pre-season football.

If money were not a factor, would you go to Athens for the Olympics? The correct answer is no. Let's see what the people have to say.

Karen from Manassas, Virginia: "In addition to being rather boring" -- speak the truth -- "how can you trust that anyone who wins hasn't been enhanced in some way?" Exactly. "The Olympics used to represent a high standard for amateur athletics. Now it's just the best teams money can buy."

Doug from Bloomfield, New Jersey: "A trip to Greece to be treated like cattle in order to watch the Olympics is not my idea of enjoyment. Let me enjoy the slow motion replays, media commentary and authorized flag waving at home, on my plasma screen in the good old USA." Wow, a pro-media e-mail. Oh my god!

HEMMER: More than one in a row.

TOURE: David from Fort Sill, Oklahoma: "This year the games return to their ancient birthplace and combine culture and peace with sports more than ever. Saying the Olympics are meaningless is just wrong."

COLLINS: You did not say that with the same sort of inflection as the other e-mails.

HEMMER: Yes, yes.

TOURE: I don't know why. I don't know why.

Ann from Fairfax, Virginia: "Is this the same country that had major power and phone outages in recent months? I bet the terrorists aren't even going to bother, because it's too easy a target. They'd want a real challenge, since security is a joke."

COLLINS: Well, we certainly hope not.

HEMMER: I'll tell you what. I think Athens is going to really pull this thing off. And I, you know, I think they're going to do it in a very strong way. The "New York Times" during the week, "a frenzied finish in the hammer, nail and saw event" with the construction.

TOURE: Right. OK.

HEMMER: But I am told everything's set. Everything's in place. Ticket sales this past week have been huge.

COLLINS: Yes. They're ready. TOURE: Is there an event that you're like specifically excited about?

HEMMER: I like...

COLLINS: For Bill it's rhythmic gymnastics.

HEMMER: Right. Right.

TOURE: And for Heidi it's the hammer, right?

COLLINS: I love the hammer toss. I love that.

TOURE: Hey, that rhythmic gymnastics stuff is fun, you know? It's not quite a sport but it's fun.

HEMMER: I think that's awful, actually. No, it's awful.

But there are other things that have great story lines with them.

TOURE: Continuing with my theme. Thank you. The prosecution rests.

HEMMER: I didn't say they were all wonderful.

COLLINS: Just one event.

HEMMER: Back to you in a moment, man.

Let's get a break here.

In a second, back to the Middle East, this explosion north of Jerusalem. We'll get more details in a moment, find out what's happening there. We are told a number of ambulances on the scene there.

Also in a moment here, this former presidential candidate wanting to be the next senator in the State of Illinois. We'll talk a Alan Keyes in a moment, and also about his opponent, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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