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JUDY WOODRUFF'S INSIDE POLITICS
Bolton Nomination Discussed; DeLay and "Law & Order"; Michael Jackson Trial Update
Aired May 27, 2005 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: There they go again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got what to me look like a filibuster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not here to filibuster.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It quacks like a filibuster.
ANNOUNCER: Is the Senate deal on judges and filibusters off? Now that John Bolton's nomination is back on hold?
TGIF! Senate Majority Leader Frist may be thankful this week is coming to a close. We'll examine his headaches and tell you who may actually be feeling good this Friday.
The Texas two step, it's a Lone Star State tradition on the dance floor, and in politics, just ask Tom DeLay.
Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. At this point, vote schedulers in the Senate may have lost count of how many times they have penciled in and scratched off John Bolton's name. A final decision on Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the U.N. has been put off until sometime next month. Democrats forced the delay last night in hopes of getting information that might prove damaging to Bolton. Now, Republicans are trying to figure out their next move after their bid to cut off debate and force a full Senate vote on Bolton fell short.
So what does all this mean for the president and nominee? Let's go to White House correspondent Dana Bash.
Dana, this has really seemed to take the administration by surprise.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Judy. They were quite stunned here at the White House when they watched the vote go down, because they were convinced that the votes were there, the 60 votes were there to stop debate and take a vote on the president's nominee to be ambassador to the U.N. Now, why was that, Bush aides say? Because that's what they were short by the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. That he had the votes to go forward.
In fact, in watching this go down. There was so much confusion as it was happening, Judy, and certainly a lot of drama.
WOODRUFF: Sorry, Dana. I thought we were going to hear what we call a sound bite there. So how -- tell us exactly how it did play out.
BASH: Well, it was really, sort of, one of those situations where at this point looking back it was he said/he said. Republicans saying they thought that they though was a gentleman's agreement between the two leaders, between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Harry Reid the Democratic leader, to go forward with the vote. So that is why Republicans say they scheduled the vote for last night, because they thought they had the votes.
But meanwhile, two Democratic senators, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, they went around and personally lobbied their fellow Democrats saying that this vote should not go forward, that they need time to continue to pressure the White House to get documents they say are key to the Bolton nomination that the White House won't show them about some intelligence that John Bolton, apparently, was looking for and some intercepts from the National Security Agency.
So, what they were saying is that this is a situation where the Senate must show that they are an equal branch of government. Judy, that obviously was an argument that worked, because by mid afternoon the Democratic leader went to Bill Frist and said sorry, the votes simply aren't there. And according to a spokesman for Senator Reid, he said if you want to roll the dice, that's fine.
Republicans decided to roll the dice, they though perhaps they could bring some Democrats their way. Judy obviously, that did not happen.
So, here at White House, what they're saying publicly is that they blame the Democrats. They say that just a few days after agreeing in a bipartisan way to stop filibusters, they say at the White House, the Democrats are returning to days of obstructionism and partisism. But they're -- partisanship I should say -- but they're also here not all that happy in general this week perhaps with the job that Senator Bill Frist is doing. But on this particular issue, they say they don't blame him, they blame Senator Harry Reid.
WOODRUFF: And Dana, what about the documents? Is the White House going to decide to turn those over?
BASH: At this point, no. They say that the senators have all the information they need. There is no reason to give those documents up. But Judy, I can tell you talking to Democrats, they say they're not going to let this go, they called this an example of what they see as this Bush White House being highly secretive, overly secretive. So they're going to continue to lobby their fellow Democrats. But of course the White House and Republicans are going to lobby Democrats as well to try to get them to the point where they have the 60 votes to get this Bolton nomination through in early June.
WOODRUFF: All right. Dana Bash with some very good reporting on this. Dana, thank you very much.
Well, the Republicans failure to cut off debate on the Bolton nomination was just the latest blow this week to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Here now our congressional correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, it's probably the understatement of the year to say this has been a brutal week for Majority Leader Bill Frist who has seen his nascent presidential campaign take a bit of a hit.
He's starting to make a habit of looking beleaguered on the Senate floor after another bitter defeat. On Monday night, just moments after the so-called gang of 14 pulled the rug out from under Frist to cut this deal on judicial nomination, he came down to the Senate, appeared to be admitting defeat. And we're told that did not go over well at the White House, which is why on Tuesday afternoon, we saw President Bush himself come out, have a photo-op with Frist and Priscilla Owen. The president declared victory, said he was glad Owen and two other nominees were getting up-or-down votes.
Then last night, the White House was stunned, as you heard Dana Bash report, that Senator Frist pushed ahead on the Bolton nomination even though he did not have the votes to win. For his part, Frist pointed his finger at the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: It does disappoint me. We had an opportunity to finish and complete this week I think with a very good spirit. We're going to come back and revisit it. But I think what America has just seen is an engagement of other period of obstruction by the other side of the aisle. And it looks like we have once again another filibuster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But the problem for Senator Frist may be that it will be difficult to just blame Democrats for some of his recent woes. He's also taking heat from fellow conservatives. They're furious that he could not stop seven of his own Republicans from joining this gang of 14, from cutting that deal to avoid the nuclear showdown.
The "Manchester Union Leader," a very influential conservative newspaper in the critical state of New Hampshire wrote a blistering editorial that said, quote, "Frist has again showed that he is no match for Senate Democrats. If he cannot effectively lead 55 Republican senators, how can he be trusted to lead the party and the country three years from now?"
And then today, the liberal editorial page of the "Los Angeles Times" opined quote, "Frist may be bringing trouble on himself by trying to satisfy the exorbitant demands of his party's far right wing, which like the old Soviet Union, views one concession simply as an occasion to ask for another."
But now Senator Frist maintains he can use the nuclear option if Democrats break their word on that judicial deal. And some political analysts are pointing out that the '08 presidential race obviously is still three years away, so the majority leader has plenty of time to recover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, EDITOR "THE HOTLINE": There's nothing like low -- having your expectation bar pulled back and lowered in a hurry. And that certainly has happened for him. Look, it's a powerful position. He's in a powerful fund-raising spot. That said, he's got some work to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: As a heart surgeon Bill Frist knows the important principle in medicine, first do no harm. But now, like Bob Dole before him, he's learning a brutal lesson about the Senate. Being a majority leader sometimes it can do nothing but harm to your presidential campaign, and wearing those two hats, as you know Judy better than anyone, is an extremely difficult task.
In fact, that's why Senator Frist is planning to retire from the Senate altogether next year at the end of 2006 and potentially focus all two years, '07 and '08, on that presidential campaign.
WOODRUFF: More immediately, Ed, what about the Bolton nomination? What happened?
HENRY: We're hearing from Republicans privately is that Senator Frist has to find a way to get the nomination through as soon as they come back. They're gone all next week, because of the Memorial Day recess. But the bottom line is, he needs a victory here, he needs a W, as they say in sports, because he's had this string of defeats. And he's still a few votes short of invoking cloture. And he can only blame the Democrats for so long.
WOODRUFF: OK. Ed Henry. Thank you very much.
Something -- it's a story that has completely turned in the last few days. Thanks very much.
A California jury has acquitted the finance director for Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign of charges that he lied about a Hollywood fund-raiser. David Rosen was accused of underreporting the costs of the event to the Federal Election Commission so that the campaign would have more money to spend on Clinton's New York Senate race under campaign finance laws. Clinton was not charged. The prosecutor said she was not aware of any wrongdoing.
The event was held in Hollywood while Clinton was in town for the 2000 Democratic National Convention. Cher, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were among those who attended.
Outside the court house today, David Rosen said he was relieved by the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ROSEN, CLINTON 2000 FINANCE DIRECTOR: I'm very pleased. I'm thrilled. I'm really happy that the 12 jurors of my peers settled on the right decision. I always thought it would come out this way, this has been haunting me and dogging me for five years. I'm ecstatic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Senator Clinton's attorney David Kendall issued this statement quote, "we have said from the beginning that when all the evidence is in, David would be vindicated. That has come to pass. And Senator Clinton is very happy for David and his family" end quote.
Speaking of Hillary Clinton, some Democrats apparently are having second thoughts about her. Bob Novak will have the inside story on that ahead.
Plus, is the Senate deal that prevented a meltdown kaput. We'll get dueling verdicts on the state of feud over judges and filibusters.
WOODRUFF: And later "Law and Order" and Tom DeLay. A real-life tiff over a line of TV dialogue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he's been confirmed four times previously. I've known him for a long time, both in private life, as well as public life. He's, I think, a superb public official. He's tough. But I can't think of sending somebody to the United Nations as our ambassador who's not tough when the U.N. is in some difficulty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Vice President Dick Cheney talking about the Bolton nomination with our Larry King. You can see Larry's entire interview with the vice president Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE."
With me now to talk about events on Capitol Hill this week are two political veterans. Jack Valenti, here in Washington. He is a former aide to president Lyndon Johnson. And Ed Rollins is in New York. He's a longtime Republican strategist.
Ed, I'm going to start with you. Bill Frist. First you had the compromise over the judicial nominees, over the filibuster, seemed to pull the rug out from under him. Then the stem cell vote went another way and now you've got the Bolton nomination derailed at least temporarily. How much trouble is Bill Frist in? ED ROLLINS, GDP STRATEGIST: Well, the leadership's a tough role, particularly when you have a diverse group of members, as he does. At the end of the day, I think that senator will continue to lead and lead effectively, and John Bolton will be confirmed. It may be a good time to have a time-out. They have the Memorial Day recess coming up. They'll be out of town for a week and I think by the time they come back, cooler heads will be -- prevail and hopefully we'll be able to move this thing forward.
WOODRUFF: So, Bill Frist, it's a just a temporary little bump here?
ROLLINS: Well, I think there's members that don't -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
WOODRUFF: Yes, go ahead.
ROLLINS: I think there are members that are unhappy with his leadership. You know, he was put in by Karl Rove over Trent Lott, as you may recall. There's still some bad blood from that. But it's a tough role to and lead a very diverse group. And he has a diverse group.
WOODRUFF: Jack Valenti, Bill Frist is pointing his finger at the Democrats, saying they're the ones who have, you know, failed to live up to their promises.
ROLLINS: Well, I think both Harry Reid and Bill Frist were sort of shut out when the gang of 14 got together and took over and I'm glad they did, because I thought that was a wonderful kind of compromise. There's nothing wrong with compromise. It's not an ignoble word. But I think there have been a couple of missteps. I think the Terri Schiavo thing, the public doesn't like that. I can't find anybody outside of Washington that doesn't think stem cell research is going to be wonderful, the possibility of curing diseases.
And to me, being blunt is not an asset for somebody going into the United Nations. We're not blunt with China, we're not blunt with North Korea, we're not blunt with Iran. If bluntness was a great asset, why wouldn't the foreign policy of our company be based on it? Well, the answer is, it's not. I don't know Mr. Bolton, but from what I heard, I can't see that a blunt fellow with a temper is going to be a congenial ambassador that gets things done.
WOODRUFF: Ed Rollins, let me read to you part of an editorial in today's "Wall Street Journal," talking about the Republicans. It says, "The fact is that they are governing from nowhere at all." Now, this is "Wall Street Journal" editorial page. Far from pushing their agenda, they seem cowed by their opposition into playing it safe and attempting too little.
ROLLINS: Well, playing it safe obviously never succeeds, and the majority that they have is not so large that they can lose members. And they're not attracting enough Democrats to make it matter. So I think it's a -- you know, I think they have to lay out a very clear agenda. I think the president has to be more forceful. I think they have to get some of these items like Bolton and everything out of the way. But I think there's a long way to go and some very important issues they have to deal with.
VALENTI: I think they can the same thing about the Democrats. I don't think they have an agenda that anybody seems to know about, either. I think both sides need to be able to speak to the American people with some clarity, some persuasion and some hope about the future. I don't think either party at this time is doing that.
WOODRUFF: Sounds like you're saying both sides. Because you mentioned both Reid and Frist.
VALENTI: I did, indeed. I did, indeed. And by the way, I'm -- personally, I'm very favorably impressed with Senator Frist and with Harry Reid. I've known Reid a long time, and in the short time I've known Bill Frist I find him to be a first class human being. And just I think these are hard times.
As Ed Rollins said, these are not easy times. And we have -- there are bumps in the road. But I do believe that there has to be some kind of a new agenda that lets the American people know where each party wants to go and how they're going to get there.
WOODRUFF: Ed Rollins, shouldn't that be coming from the White House, at least for the Republicans?
ROLLINS: Well, certainly, the White House needs to give more and clearer direction and I think there's some big issues that the president needs to make some compromises on in order to get some more votes. The critical thing here, I think, is this Bolton nomination. And the only thing I want to say is the United Nations ambassador does not set foreign policy. It's set by the secretary of state and by the president.
John Bolton is the choice of the president, he's the choice of the vice president and he's Condi Rice's choice. He'll go up there and be their ambassador, in addition to the country's ambassador. And he's -- I know John very well, and John's a very -- will be a very effective advocate for our positions.
WOODRUFF: Quick last word. OK, all right, we're going to leave it there. Ed Rollins, Jack Valenti, thank you very much.
VALENTI: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.
ROLLINS: Thank you.
WOODDRUFF: Have a good Memorial weekend -- Memorial Day.
ROLLINS: Great, you, too.
WOODRUFF: Coming up next, more on the John Bolton nomination. When we come back, Bob Novak joins me next with words of some hard feelings behind the scenes leading up to last night's Senate vote.
WOODRUFF: Bob Novak joins us from the CROSSFIRE set at George Washington University with some "Inside Buzz."
So Bob, some fallout you're hearing from the Senate action last night on John Bolton?
BOB NOVAK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Any of the good feeling they had from the judge deal earlier in the week dissipated quickly. They were fuming at each other as they left for the long Memorial Day weekend.
I heard from several Republican sources that Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told them, told the leadership, told Majority Leader Frist, that there would be 60 votes for cloture to end the debate on Bolton. But that three of the old bull Democrats, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Carl Levin of Michigan, all came to him and said we cannot have a vote on this guy until we get these intelligence intercepts. And so they kind of rolled their own leader on that.
It was also expected that Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein and Blanche Lincoln would vote for cloture, none of them did. So it was a case where only three Democrats voted to end debate on that.
WOODRUFF: I guess there is varying versions of this...
WOODRUFF: ...moving around.
Bob, more political fallout from Bolton?
NOVAK: Yes. The story going around is that the White House has refused to give the intelligence information to the -- to Joe Biden and the other senators. That's not quite right. That decision was made by Ambassador Negroponte, the new intelligence czar. He said under no conditions is he going to put those intercept operations out.
One of the most interesting things on this, Judy is Tom Thune, the new senator from South Dakota who beat -- John Thune, I should say, the new senator from South Dakota who beat Tom Daschle, one of the rising Republican superstars, was so furious under the base closing that Ellsworth Air Force base in South Dakota was being closed, that he refused to give unanimous consent at first to consider the Bolton nomination, which spoiled things for a while. People were really surprised that Senator Thune would take it out on his own party. But it was pretty irrelevant when the Democrats were -- fell out of line against Bolton.
WOODRUFF: Well, that fascinating how many side plays there are going on here.
Bob, totally different subject. Hillary Clinton, we talked to her here yesterday. You were out in California. What are you hearing?
NOVAK: I was in California. I was talking to a lot of liberal Democrats. And I kind of have been thinking everybody was getting on the Hillary bandwagon. But out there, there's a lot of misgivings that she is not the winner. In the show business, the Hollywood liberals who are very important as you know for money, were taken by Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. I didn't think he'd be their type. But they thought he was smart, articulate and he's very good looking. You know, good looking helps you a lot in California, which is why I would never make it there.
WOODRUFF: It even helps on CROSSFIRE. I think that's how you've got know as far as you have.
Now Bob, last but not least, Illinois politics, you know the state well.
NOVAK: I was in Illinois, my home state. And the Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich is in very bad shape. He's very unpopular with everybody, in his own party and around the country. But everybody has assumed that he would be re-elected to a second term next year, because the Republicans in Illinois are so sad.
However, I heard from very good sources that Jim Edgar, the very popular, former moderate Republican governor of Illinois is seriously considering making a comeback. He would be a strong favorite to beat Blagojevich.
And in addition, there is a chance, a very small chance, I am told, from people who should know, that Bill Daly, the former Secretary of Commerce and the brother of the mayor of Chicago might run in the primary against Blagojevich. So, Blagojevich could face one or the other or both of two of the most popular people in Illinois.
WOODRUFF: All right. We heard it all here. Bob Novak, thanks very much. "Inside Buzz." So, Bob is on the ground now, but we know if you watch him this weekend, he's going to be flying high with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. It's all on "The Novak Zone," tomorrow, 2:30 Eastern.
He is the Texas prosecutor who is investigating House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. But is Ronnie Earl a man on a mission? We'll head deep into the heart of Texas to find out.
Plus, we'll take a look how two senior citizens helped to save the Senate from possible self-destruction. More INSIDE POLITICS in a moment.
WOODRUFF: It's just about to turn 4:00 on the East Coast. And as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with the "Dobbs Report." Hi, Kitty.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. Well, it's just ahead of the holiday weekend so we are seeing, predictably little activity. Let's take a look. Dow Jones Industrials up about six points right now. Nasdaq just slightly higher. And of course, the market will be closed on Monday.
Oil prices did climb again, holding above $51 a barrel. It's officially the summer driving season this weekend, so millions of Americans will hit the road this summer. They'll pay an all-time high for gas for this holiday weekend. Triple A says the average price per gallon is $2.11 up. That's up a nickel from last year.
In corporate news, Ford expects its car sales in China to jump at least 50 percent this year, to about 100,000 units. The Chinese auto market is expected to grow rapidly.
We have a new twist on the airlines' effort to cut costs. Northwest Airlines doing away with free mini bags of pretzels on all domestic flights. That's starting June 9th. First-class passengers, however, will be the only ones getting those snacks. You won't have to starve, however. The airline's offering a three-ounce bag of trail mix for a $1. So there is some reassurance there.
Coming up on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," new concerns about a serious side effect to Viagra. The FDA is looking into reports that the drug may be linked to blindness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ABRAMSON, AUTHOR, "OVERDOSED AMERICA": The marketers are doing a very good job convincing them that they need them. I've heard stories about adolescents who are just becoming sexually active who carry these pills in their wallets the way the kids used to carry condoms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PILGRIM: Also tonight, health experts are warning lawmakers a new strain of deadly bird flu could cause an international pandemic. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases joins us. Plus, Republican senator Jon Kyl explains his new bill that will make bold reforms to the United States border security and immigration laws. And Democratic representative Henry Cuellar of Texas will tell us why he's the only member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to be in favor of CAFTA.
We'll have all that and more, tonight, 6:00 p.m. But for now, back to Judy Woodruff -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Kitty, and we will be watching at 6:00. Now back to INSIDE POLITICS.
Texas Democrats taking aim at a Tom DeLay-founded political action committee are calling their latest legal win part of a larger battle. A judge ruled yesterday against the treasurer of that committee, saying that he illegally spent corporate money to influence elections. But as that larger battle unfolds, will the house majority leader ultimately be a target? CNN's Joe Johns went to Texas for an in-depth look at the way politics plays out in DeLay's backyard.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Austin, Texas. Country blues and soul play deep into the night. And in the bars and club, they dance the Texas two-step.
The two-step is also a pretty good way to describe the intricate political dance choreographed by Lone Star state Republicans, including the embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Step one, take over the statehouse. Step two, redraw the lines of the congressional districts.
It paid off big. In 2004, Republicans picked up five extra seats in Congress and submitted DeLay's position as one of the most powerful Republicans in the country. But was it legal?
RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTY: This is has as long an investigation as we've ever done.
JOHNS: Ronnie Earle has been the Travis County district attorney for 28 years. His jurisdiction? State government in Austin, where he's been following a money trail with almost religious zeal.
EARLE: Democracy is sacred to Americans, and our elections are like temples of democracy. And I think every American has the duty to run the money changers out of the temples of democracy. I think that comes with -- that comes with the territory. It comes -- I'm just doing my job.
JOHNS: Earle says the group DeLay founded to take over the Texas Statehouse, Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC for short, illegally used corporate money to boost GOP candidates. So far, Earle has indicted three DeLay associates and eight corporations, four of which have been dismissed in exchange for cooperation. Is DeLay next?
EARLE: Anybody who's committed a crime is a target of this investigation. I have not said that Tom Delay is a specific target. Neither have I said that he is not a specific target.
JOHNS: Earle is a self-described true believer, intent on ridding politics of the big money, he says, is ruining American democracy. He sees Tom DeLay as a symptom of what's wrong with the system.
EARLE: Tom DeLay really is not my problem. Tom DeLay is America's problem.
JOHNS (on camera): Why do you say that?
EARLE: Any system that allows a person in position of great power to demand payments of $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000, from large money to interest, for face time, is a problem. What about face time for John Doe and Jane Doe, who are trying to get healthcare for their children, who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, trying to buy gasoline, worried about their own healthcare? What about face time for them?
JOHNS (voice-over): And what does Tom DeLay think of Ronnie Earle?
REP. TOM DELAY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: And the facts are the indictments that been brought by this partisan D.A. in Austin, Texas, against three of my associates are frivolous.
JOHNS: Earle is, in fact, a Democrat, but over his long career, he has actually indicted more members of his own party.
EARLE: It's been my experience in prosecuting wrongdoers, that the more wrong they are, the louder they holler.
JOHNS: Earle's case against TRMPAC rests on the allegation that the group solicited and spent corporate money in 2002 to help elect Republicans to the statehouse. Texas law says corporate campaign contributions can only be used for administrative expenses, such as office space, not to directly promote individual candidates.
Earle claims TRMPAC got around the restrictions by funneling some of the money through the Republican National Committee in Washington and then back to seven candidates in Texas.
EARLE: I call that money laundering.
JOHNS: The RNC and TRMPAC say they did nothing wrong, that the money sent to Washington was unrelated to the money sent to the candidates. Earle's case is far from sure. After a two-and-a-half year investigation and 11 indictments, he has yet to bring a single case to trial, much less secure a conviction. DeLay says he had no involvement in the day-to-day running in TRMPAC, but he's concerned enough that he has hired a pair of veteran Austin attorneys.
Steve Brittain and Bill White know Texas politics inside out.
BILL WHITE, DELAY ATTORNEY: All we heard was Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay, Tom DeLay, in every article, and yet, every time we talk to the district attorney's office, every time we looked at any evidence we had, anytime we looked at any of the documents in this case, civil or otherwise, Tom DeLay's name was never in it.
JOHNS: DeLay did nothing wrong, they say, except succeed.
STEVE BRITTAIN, DELAY ATTORNEY: He was instrumental in forming ARMPAC and TRMPAC for the purpose of getting Republicans elected.
BRITTAIN: I happen to be a Democrat. Bill happens to be a Democrat. But I hope we live in a country where that's not illegal.
JOHNS: They once advised Ronnie Earle, count him as a friend and understand him well enough to call his bluff. WHITE: All of that stuff was done straight up. I mean, it's all on paper. If you're going to do some money laundering, you do it by going under the table. You are don't send it up there and put it on paper. I mean, obviously they believed it's legal. We believe it's legal now.
JOHNS: They say they'd be surprised if any of Earle's cases ever went to trial, and note that many of the indictments against corporations have already been dismissed. But that doesn't mean the D.A. has lost.
BRITTAIN: This investigation, the fact of these indictments and the way this has unfolded, I think in many ways has already chilled, without one case even getting to pre-trial yet, and in some cases, being dismissed, has chilled corporate interests. So it may be that if that was Ronnie Earle's intent, he's accomplished a great deal of it without ever going to court.
JOHNS: But Ronnie Earle shows no sign of letting up.
EARLE: If it's not one bully, it'll be another bully. That's the lesson of the movie "High Noon." That's the way "War of the World" works. If it ain't this bully, it'll be the next bully.
JOHNS: And if Earle thinks indicting Tom DeLay will warn off the bullies, he may still pull the trigger.
In Austin, they two-step seven nights a week. And the dance between Tom DeLay and Ronnie Earle? It ain't over yet.
Joe Johns, CNN, Austin.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Joe, for that comprehensive report.
Still more controversy for Tom DeLay today. He's accusing NBC of using his name as a slur on the show "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." In the episode in question, a federal judge is fatally shot, and a police officer delivers this line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe we should put out an ATB for somebody in a Tom DeLay t-shirt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: That is in apparent reference to DeLay's verbal attacks on federal judges after the courts refused to reinstate the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo.
In a letter to the NBC president, Delay complained, quote, "This manipulation of my name and trivialization of the sensitive issue of judicial security represents a reckless disregard for the suffering initiated by recent tragedies, and a great disservice to public discourse," end quote.
NBC says it believes that viewers know the difference between reality and fiction.
But "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf says he congratulates "Congressman DeLay for switching the spotlight from his own problems to an episode of a television show." End quote.
One of DeLay's colleagues is getting ready for a made-for-TV moment. Coming up, find out which politician is making a political play for NASCAR dads.
And we'll tell you which politicians have gotten the most mileage from all of the hoopla on the Hill this week.
And later, when we go inside of the blogs, a cautionary tale for the wives of men who enjoy sharing online.
WOODRUFF: United States Senators are trying to figure out if the deal that prevented a meltdown is still intact now that Democrats have delayed a vote on John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations. But there is little if any disagreement about who made that deal happen. Here now, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. Hi, bill.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, why didn't the nuclear option go off in the Senate this week? It turns out, some old bulls had new plays, including the "Political Play of the Week."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old bulls never left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's not so much the old bulls. It's experience.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): What old bulls have that the young whipper snappers lack is commitment to the Senate as a unique institution.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No other legislative body in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is like ours.
SCHNEIDER: They went back to the framers of the constitution to try to ascertain how a rule banning judicial filibusters would affect the Senate. SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) VIRGINIA: How would that have strengthened the Senate, further preserve the hallmark of this institution, namely, the right to preserve the minority to have a voice? How would that occur?
SCHNEIDER: Their conclusion? It wouldn't.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: Well, the nuclear option, or so-called constitutional option would have destroyed the Senate as a forum for freedom of speech, for freedom to dissent, as a forum for the protection of minorities.
SCHNEIDER: So they drafted the terms of the deal, whereby 14 senators preserved the unanimous consent tradition in the Senate.
WARNER: Well, we drafted that provision right in this room.
BYRD: Yes, we did.
WARNER: Last week.
SCHNEIDER: The old bulls argued that the deal actually protects the president.
WARNER: I've always looked at this, the filibuster rule in there as a protection to the president from the extremes of his or her party.
WARNER: To force upon him certain nominations.
SCHNEIDER: If the president doesn't seem to want to be protect. What old bulls were protecting was the Senate and it's special tradition of rising above partisanship.
WARNER: Thank you, Bob.
BYRD: Bless your heart. Thank you, John. I treasure your friendship.
SCHNEIDER:: They can also treasure the "Political play of the Week."
SCHNEIDER: The deal looked a little shaky yesterday when the minority blocked a confirmation vote on John Bolton as United Nations ambassador. But, Democrats argue they weren't killing the nomination, they were just delaying it so the Senate could get more information about the nominee. And any way they say, the filibuster deal only applies to judges. So there.
WOODRUFF: But it sure has rubbed some Republicans the wrong way.
SCHNEIDER: Absolutely has. WOODRUFF: OK, Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, a Republican leader who's had a rough week looks to connect with NASCAR dads. Up next, we will preview Bill Frist's weekend plans in our Friday "Political Bytes."
WOODRUFF: In our Friday "Political Bytes," another political figure plans to spend quality time with NASCAR moms and dads. As we reported, it may have been a tough week for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, but he is the honorary starter for this weekend's big NASCAR race in North Carolina. Frist, of course, is considered a potential White House hopeful in 2008. And the so-called NASCAR vote has received a lot of attention from those who see race fans as part of a key block of swing voters.
Political activist Al Sharpton has plans for a new job, radio talk show host. Sharpton tells the "New York Post" that he will host a two-hour afternoon drive time show, starting as soon as August. Sharpton says talk radio is dominated by conservatives. And in his word, "We need someone on the other side who is balanced, and can give a forum to everybody."
Well, we head to the blogosphere next. Our blog reporters check what people are saying about John Bolton nomination, and a GOP Senator who is threatening to stray from the party line.
WOODRUFF: Before we continue, this news just in from Santa Maria, California. The defense in a surprise move has rested in the Michael Jackson trial. That is the trial where the pop star is accused of child molestation. The defense as has rested earlier. The prosecution rested. That means the trial is -- will take a break over the weekend. We assume they will resume on Tuesday with closing arguments.
Back now to INSIDE POLITICS. Bloggers are assessing the latest twist in the nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador. Let's check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton, and Jacki Schechner our blog reporter.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN BLOG REPORTER: Hi, Judy.
The John Bolton confirmation process on hold, once again, now until after the Memorial Day recess. But there seems to be more calm interpretation on the blogs today as opposed to concern.
We started chargingrhino.blogspot.com. It is Jeremy Debell (ph), he is a political junkie, and moderate Republican. He says it's been a good week for centrist, this more evidence. First the filibuster compromise, and now moderation and good sense prevailing in another delay in regard to Bolton. He says more time, no matter what it yields, is not a bad thing.
Now over to confirmbolton.com, a blog that is dedicated entirely to this issue. They don't seem to be that concerned either. They say, expect a couple of weeks of Bolton bashing, Dems will allow a vote, Bolton will be confirmed. And then they will move onto a new Pinata.
ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Now, one Republican senator who has vowed to vote no on that vote when it comes down is South Dakota's John Thune. The Republican senator is going to do this protest vote. He says linked to the fact that the likely closure of Ellsworth Air Base in South Dakota, and issue of great importance to South Dakota. The blogging community out there is very strong, very vocal. They played a big part blogging in the election last year.
We have a look at what some of them are saying. Proud liberal, this is Trent (ph), a Democrat out there, saying that Thune is in a no win situation on this vote. That if he reverses course and actually does vote for Bolton, he'll be open to criticism that he's continuing to tow the party line, evening with Ellsworth on the chopping block. If however, he votes against Bolton, then he'll be labeled an obstructionist, the most attested form of political life in South Dakota.
Some of the conservatives out there upset with Thune on this one. This is JayReding.com, a Republican who voted for Senator Thune in the last election. He says he's deeply disappointed. The issue of Ellsworth Air Force Base is entirely unrelated to the Bolton nomination. This is the sort of thing we'd expect from the Democrats.
SCHECHNER: Now, a story you heard about just a little while ago, is how Tom DeLay is upset with NBC, and specificly an episode of "Law & Order," that used his name in a line in the show. If you missed it, there is a video clip of it over at crooksandliar.com (ph), the video blog.
TATTON: The Carpetbagger Report, this is a liberal blog that has some analysis of the Tom DeLay situation with "Law & Order." Says that there are a couple of points here, that it's proof that DeLay's notoriety has grown to the point that it is infiltrating pop culture. Also he's saying, he's helping his critics enormously by raising a fuss to this one. Because bringing to the for -- helps to remind people of why "Law & Order" made that joke in the first place, DeLay's veil threats against the judiciary.
SCHECHNER: And in defense of DeLay, Coloradoconservative.blogs.com, Darren Copeland (ph) a radio reporter, saying this is not OK. He says one idea, if you're making a fictional show, use fictional names. And finally, really quickly, we just want to show you this, it's the spoonsexperience.com. Very funny post today. This is a 31-year-old lawyer out in Illinois. His wife went on vacation and left him a note of what to eat while she was away. It's a very elementary note, a funny post, Judy. Basicly, you have to be very careful what you leave around the house when your husband is a blogger and you're going on vacation.
WOODRUFF: A good lesson for all of us. It probably works with the spouses in the other direction too. OK, Abbi, Jacki, thanks very much and have a good weekend.
Back the breaking news we shared with you a minute ago out in Santa Marie, California, the Michael Jackson case. The defense has rested. Lets, go quickly to our Ted Rowlands who's outside of courthouse. Hi, Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Judy. A bit a surprise. The prosecution finished its rebuttal case with a video of the accuser in this case telling police what happened to Michael Jackson. This was the initial interview. We knew that was coming, but what we didn't know was coming is that the defense has decided not to put on what's called a surrebuttal, basically an answer to the rebuttal case.
So, the judge announced to the jury, you have heard all of the evidence in this case. It is completely now over except for jury instructions and final arguments. It is a Memorial Day weekend, obviously, so they'll have Monday off. Tuesday has been reserved to hammer out the jury instructions. And the jury is to call in at the end of the day Tuesday to see if they're to come back Wednesday. We expect that is what will happen, the judge indicated that.
Wednesday and Thursday will be closing arguments. And the jury should get the case against Michael Jackson by Friday of next week. The rebuttal case was centered on this tape, which showed the accuser basically recounting for the jury, again, exactly what he said happened to him. He said that Michael Jackson sexually molested him on several occasions during the month of February and March of the year 2003. And the jury was able to hear that once again. The defense did not want that evidence in. The judge said, he would allow it in. And that is where this case has ended -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Ted Rowlands, thank you very much. And before we leave for the weekend, I'd like to say good bye to a young women named, Bridget O'Rourke (ph) who is INSIDE POLITICS producer in Atlanta. There she is.
Bridget is leaving CNN after seven years with the network. Plain truth is that Bridget is the main reason why INSIDE POLITICS runs as smoothly as it does. Every day no matter where you see me here in our studio in Washington, or out on the campaign trail, Bridget would pull it all together in the control room.
In Atlanta we're going to miss Bridget a lot. We want to wish her good luck as she heads back to her native New England to cheer for her beloved Red Sox.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Friday. Have a good weekend. I am Judy Woodruff. CROSSFIRE starts right now.
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