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CNN CROSSFIRE

Deep Throat Revealed?

Aired May 31, 2005 - 16:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville. On the right, Joe Watkins.

In the CROSSFIRE, has one of the biggest secrets in political history been revealed? A new article claims a one-time FBI official says he was the source of inside information during the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.

For years, no one knew the identity of the mysterious Deep Throat who helped bring down the Nixon administration. Now an article in "Vanity Fair" says the No. 2 man in the FBI fed information to the reporters who broke open the scandal. Has Deep Throat finally been revealed? Today on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Joe Watkins.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

In a city where secrets are almost impossible to keep, a 30-year- old secret may finally be out. A story in a new issue of "Vanity Fair" says retired FBI official Mark Felt admits he was Deep Throat.

JOE WATKINS, CO-HOST: Trying to figure out who Deep Throat was has been a guessing game in the nation's capital for years. Is Felt the man who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with some of the details used to bring down the Nixon White House?

First, though, here's the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE political alert.

President Bush held a Rose Garden news conference to say he's ready for Congress to get back to work.

Mr. Bush talked about his opposition to using federal funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research. He says there's an alternative to the destruction of life, that adoption is the best use of extra embryos created during fertility treatments.

And the president says he isn't worried about losing momentum in the second term. And he's willing to push to get things done. That includes getting John Bolton confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Senate Democrats have been doing their best to delay an up or down vote on Bolton. And the president called on them to do everything they can to stall the vote. If the Congress answers the president's call to cooperate, maybe all this lame duck talk will be seen as being a little premature.

They need to vote on Bolton. They need to move Bolton.

CARVILLE: Let me ask you something. You also think people out in the country want to do something about stopping stem cell research and do something about rising healthcare costs or the fact that we're getting these people killed in Iraq. You can spend a gazillion dollars for rival costs (ph).

You think America is out there saying stop stem cell research? More disease, America. That's what we want. More disease...

WATKINS: ... funding. It's the taxpayers' money they're using for it, but it's...

(CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: It's about democracy.

CARVILLE: Yes, the people in America do want democracy. The people in America want stem cell research funded. Hell yes, about democracy.

Today at President Bush's news conference, in spite of the fact that he's blown a $5.4 trillion surplus and had the lowest job growth of any president in history, has led our dollar to an all-time low and not seen a penny's gain in the stock market since he's been president, and while healthcare costs and gas costs are out of sight and most Americans have been stagnant incomes in the last five years, he claims -- get this -- said our economy is, quote, "strong."

Our fearless leader, are the people following him in that opinion? Well, no. The American Research Group recently asked people how they would rate the economy: excellent, very good, good, bad, very bad, or terrible. Well, 33 percent fell in the favorable categories, while 64 percent fell in the bad through terrible camp.

Mr. President, you've been a bad boy. In fact, on this economy, you've been a very bad, very, very bad.

WATKINS: Well, the president's done a great job. You consider all that happened, especially what happened in 2001 with the World Trade Centers being destroyed. The president has done an admirable job in bringing this economy back.

CARVILLE: Right.

WATKINS: And jobs are coming back at record pace.

CARVILLE: Whose record? Whose record?

WATKINS: People are going back to work. Small businesses are succeeding.

CARVILLE: Go tell -- go out and hawk that to America. The gas prices are low. Healthcare costs are down. The stock market is up. Income is up. It's all happening, ladies and gentlemen. Just you believe it.

WATKINS: This president has a program for gas prices if the Congress will just follow his lead.

CARVILLE: Boy, that's great out there, it's wonderful. There's a big surplus.

WATKINS: Some members of Congress are more than willing to let Majority Leader Tom DeLay take the heat on the issue of unreported travel. A review by the Associated Press, however, shows that at least 43 members of the House and dozens of aides didn't report trips financed by special interests until DeLay's troubles.

Trips are supposed to be reported within 30 days after they end. But Maryland Democrat Denny Stoyer reported the oldest unreported trip, dating back to 1997.

The most unreported trips belonged to Democratic members, and one of the most expensive trips, a $24,000 trip to Australia, was made by Utah Democrat Jim Matheson.

Republican members aren't innocent in all this, but the Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose staff belatedly reported 11 trips, were quick to jump on Tom DeLay. Looks like a few people should clean up their own records before starting to throw stones at others.

CARVILLE: Jack Abramoff paid for these tickets and got $63 million in lobbying fees. Did they go to Guam like Tom DeLay did, you know, to get the thing done? I mean, come on.

I mean, $20,000 -- Australia, there's no special interests. Do have you a tie between legislation and what happened? Because that's the charge against DeLay, not that he traveled. All right. That there was -- what do we call it in Louisiana -- a tit for tat, or a quid pro quo.

WATKINS: Is that something you can say?

CARVILLE: Something like that, I guess it is. All right.

Remember the man that told us before the Iraq war that when we got there we would be greeted as liberators and we would find, quote, "reconstituted nuclear weapons in Iraq." Yes, I'm talking about our boy, Vice President Dick "The Rose Petal Man" Cheney.

It's not often that I take great joy in what Dick says, but on "LARRY KING" last night -- last night, our own vice president said the insurgency in Iraq was in its last throes.

And of course, you remember what our other boy, George W. -- that would be "W" for weapons of mass destruction -- Bush said. "We won't stay in Iraq more than a day necessary."

Well, my friends, we've won the war, and we can start bringing our brave men and women home from their defeat of the insurgents in Iraq. Three words, halleluiah, halleluiah, halleluiah.

WATKINS: Well, it's working, James. It's working. And the brave men and women who have given their lives over there have not died in vein. Democracy...

CARVILLE: We won.

WATKINS: Democracy is already...

CARVILLE: The vice president said we won. Those in Iraq, let's get them home.

WATKINS: Well, it's coming.

CARVILLE: Not another dollar. Not another soldier. Come home, come home, come home. Victory. Thank you.

WATKINS: ... today, James. It takes time for democracy to happen.

CARVILLE: The vice president said it's over. The insurgency is over. Let's get them home. What's the problem with that? We won. After the victory.

Next on CROSSFIRE, Watergate revisited. One of the Washington's best kept secrets solved, or is it No. 2 man in the FBI in Nixon's FBI tells "Vanity Fair" he was the infamous Deep Throat. The reporters who broke the Watergate story won't say. So was it an inside job that helped bring down the Nixon White House?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

The July issue of "Vanity Fair" drops what could be the biggest political bombshell we've seen in awhile. A story by John D. O'Connor says that W. Mark Felt, a high ranking FBI official in the 1970s, admits to being Deep Throat.

Both men who reported for the "Washington Post," Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, have issued statements today saying they still won't say who Deep Throat was.

In the CROSSFIRE today, a very, very distinguished panel, our own Bob Novak, a long-time Washington reporter, a really long-time Washington reporter who covered Watergate and also the Teapot Dome scandal. From New York, former congresswoman and I might add looking great to this day, Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach President Nixon. And joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia, the distinguished, superb former secretary of state, former Nixon administration official, Lawrence Eagleburger.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You had to say that, didn't you?

CARVILLE: It was on the prompter, Mr. Secretary. And I might add Reagan administration and Bush administration and every other administration, too.

WATKINS: OK. Secretary Eagleburger, this is the million dollar question. I mean, folks have been waiting for three decades to know who Deep Throat was or is. Is Mark Felt, in your opinion, Deep Throat?

EAGLEBURGER: Probably.

WATKINS: Do you think he's Deep Throat?

EAGLEBURGER: Probably. You know, President Nixon once suspected him. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that. But nevertheless, I think he did suspect it. I think, if you think about it now, it is at least very likely.

I don't know why Woodward and Bernstein don't now come out with this if, in fact, he is the man. If he's not -- they're stretching this out, and I'm not at all sure that's wise. If he is truly the man, they ought to say so.

WATKINS: Congresswoman Holtzman, what do you think? Do you think that Felt is Deep Throat?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, FORMER MEMBER OF HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I actually agree with the former secretary.

WATKINS: That's dangerous.

HOLTZMAN: I think that it's very likely. I'm not 100 percent sure, but he's a very likely candidate.

One, he was on the inside, and Deep Throat's information was pretty accurate. Knew about details of investigations, and so forth. So he was in a position to know.

Also, because he was the No. 2 person at the FBI. The FBI was under assault by the Nixon administration at that time. They were trying to get it to -- they were trying to use the CIA to block the FBI. And it's quite possible that Mark Felt felt -- Mark Felt felt that the FBI's integrity and its professionalism was at stake. And so he had a real motive to talk to -- to be Deep Throat and to talk to the press.

WATKINS: Bob Novak, obviously, Mark Felt was No. 2 at the FBI back in the early '70s. Do you think he was Deep Throat?

BOB NOVAK, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He might not have been. There's no question that Mark Felt was a source for Woodward and Bernstein. There's no question. But was he Deep Throat? I'd like to wait to hear from Woodward and Bernstein.

They had many sources in the FBI. Everybody knew that most of their inside information was coming from the FBI.

Now, as a state -- a term of the art, Deep Throat was never used by them. This was something that Bob started using for -- for the book. He thought it up and said he got it from Ben Bradlee. It was never used. So he didn't know if he was Deep Throat or just an ordinary source. It could have been somebody else.

Let me say another thing about Mark Felt. He is coming over as a great heroic figure. He was one of the worst of J. Edgar Hoover's toadies. He was a -- he cleaned out all the good guys.

CARVILLE: Did he cross dress with him?

NOVAK: Well, the one thing -- one thing about J. Edgar Hoover, Carville is that he didn't cross dress. That was a left wing canard that was put out.

CARVILLE: I guess...

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He did a lot of bad things but he didn't do that.

But Felt was one of the -- was one of the Hoover mafia. He cleaned out all the good guys from the -- from the FBI. And he made life miserable for the Nixon appointees over there.

So he was obviously leaking. Whether -- whether he was putting out that much information, I don't know. But it really goes against my grain to have Mark Felt coming over as a great American hero, and that's why his family put it out. They also say they'd like to make a little money out of it.

CARVILLE: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask this and Congresswoman Holtzman, was this -- let's just assume that it's true, that he was leaking. And we do know it's true that he was the No. 2 man in the FBI.

Would that have been against the law, to the best of your knowledge, back in 1974? Was he violating some law by doing this?

EAGLEBURGER: Sure, he was, not that I think I would condemn him for it.

CARVILLE: Right.

EAGLEBURGER: You could -- there's no question I think he was violating the law in that he was leaking classified material. So I don't have any question about that.

I must say at the same time, you know, for those few of us who are old enough to have lived through all this mess, you will recall that the rumors also were that there was no single Deep Throat. It was a number of people. And that's also a possibility.

CARVILLE: He was breaking the law, Congresswoman? So in other words, if we had a Ken Starr back then, we could have spent $90 million investigating this man. He broke the law, and what are we going to tell the children. I mean, the No. 2 man in the FBI broke the law, you know. But in fact...

EAGLEBURGER: He wasn't alone, by the way.

CARVILLE: He wasn't alone. A lot of people breaking the law back then.

NOVAK: One of the things is a lot of people who don't -- who didn't live through this, I don't think you did. You were out doing -- cooking in the fields in Louisiana, doing something at that time, so you didn't know what was going on.

CARVILLE: I went to law school, but it doesn't matter. It's not a particularly noble place to be.

NOVAK: As a matter of fact, the idea that he was the sole source of the information for Woodward and Bernstein is really absurd. I mean...

CARVILLE: Who said that? The secretary said he wasn't...

NOVAK: Well, that's what the -- that's what the image is given that, boy, this was the guy who opened the whole thing up.

I think -- I think whoever Deep Throat was, and Woodward said there was one Deep Throat and I take him as a man of his word. All he was doing was telling when they were going wrong, when they were going right. They were doing their own reporting.

HOLTZMAN: But that was not a minor thing, by the way. I just want to say that was not a minor thing. Because the investigation was of the president of the United States. So to know that you were on the right track was pretty heartening, and you know, that was the free press at its best.

WATKINS: Congresswoman, Richard Nixon...

HOLTZMAN: ... how far we would have been in the Watergate investigation. By the way, on whether a crime was committed, I don't recall that there was classified information, but there may have been grand jury information. That would be an issue. I just don't know about that.

WATKINS: Well, Congresswoman, Richard Nixon was a brilliant man, and whether you liked him or disliked him, you can't deny that. Now, he himself thought that Mark Felt might be Deep Throat. Why do you think that maybe more credence wasn't given to that?

HOLTZMAN: Well, I think a lot -- I think a lot of people might have thought that at the time. But just because Richard Nixon -- Richard Nixon had a lot of people that he thought were after him. So I'm not sure that that was enough of a basis.

NOVAK: One of the reasons why -- why this wasn't is that this has been a big cocktail party, dinner party, conversation piece for all these years in Washington. We don't have much to talk about, so we talk about this.

And let me tell you that they wanted something a little sexier than Mark Felt to come out as Deep Throat.

CARVILLE: Give a guy a break here.

NOVAK: They wanted Al Haig -- Al Haig or David Gergen or John Sears. One of the -- one of the political insiders, not a -- not a Hoover bureaucrat at the FBI.

CARVILLE: The next question will be, "Daddy, why were you cooking in Louisiana during the Watergate scandal." I have no idea, but...

WATKINS: That's not the only place you've been cooking.

CARVILLE: There you go. Cooking away here.

Next in the CROSSFIRE, Mark Felt's family says Deep Throat was a hero. Was he?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Coming up at the top of the hour, a CNN exclusive. The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, hopes Saddam Hussein will go on trial within two months.

Pakistan's president says he's ready to hand al Qaeda's No. 3 leader over to the United States.

And as CNN marks its 25th anniversary, we'll talk live with the man who started it all, the always outspoken Ted Turner. He'll join me.

All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Most of our discussion over the possible revelation of Watergate's deepest source still in the CROSSFIRE. Robert Novak from New York, former -- Bob Novak's here on the set. From New York former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. And in Charlottesville, Virginia, former Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush administration, about every Republican administration, former secretary of state, my dear friend, Lawrence Eagleburger.

Mr. Secretary, this story is older than CNN. It's 31 years old. A lot of our viewers here may not -- just give us briefly why -- what's so captivating about the fact that Deep Throat has come forward today. And why are we spinning this? Just give us a little historical perspective here, please, sir.

EAGLEBURGER: I'm glad you asked the question, because I was sitting here thinking those young people out in your audience, they cannot even come close to imagining how awful this was at the time. And for everybody.

For us Republicans it was, I suspect, worse. But there weren't any Democrats who gloried in this thing either.

This was just -- what you -- what you had was a president of the United States who was caught lying. Now, lots of presidents of the United States, including his immediate predecessor, lied but this one was so obvious and so awful.

And the -- the cover-up was the real problem. I've had more than one wise newsman tell me the problem almost never the crime. It's always the cover-up. And in this case, the administration and a great many people in it did everything they could to cover it up. They lied to the American people. They lied to people like me who thought -- who believed in this president and what he was trying to do in foreign policy which I still think was great stuff.

But it was a betrayal from top to bottom and not only of those of us in the administration but of the American people as such. And it was pretty bad.

NOVAK: Can I take issue with the honorable Eagleburger, my old friend?

WATKINS: There you go.

NOVAK: I'll tell -- I'll tell you something, honorable, the -- I'll tell you who enjoyed this story: the media.

WATKINS: Oh, sure.

NOVAK: And I was one of them. They loved it, particularly those who were in on the ground floor, Woodward and Bernstein and Ben Bradlee. It was exciting. And CBS was early in on that. It was a story. It was like out of a book.

And the idea that after the whole story broke that there was some dark guy in a parking garage giving secrets to -- I mean, that's out of a movie. In fact, it was out of that movie.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLTZMAN: If I could just add something.

WATKINS: Well, no...

CARVILLE: Let her add. Let her add.

WATKINS: Go ahead.

HOLTZMAN: Yes. I mean, it was more than just the break-in and the cover-up. Let's remember, the cover-up involved also criminal conduct...

WATKINS: Right.

HOLTZMAN: ... obstruction of justice. It involved also an abuse of power. I was on the House Judiciary Committee that voted for the articles of opinion.

WATKINS: Was Mark Felt a hero then, in your opinion? Was he a hero?

HOLTZMAN: I'm sorry?

WATKINS: Was Mark Felt a hero, then? Do you say that Mark Felt was a hero? That's what his grandson said.

HOLTZMAN: Yes, I think that the person who had the courage to come forward and talk about how our democracy was being threatened by people in the highest places of this country, is a hero.

And if he did it to protect the integrity and the reputation of the FBI, that's fine. If he did it to protect democracy and the rule of law, that's fine.

But we had serious abuses of power. What was happening, as I mentioned earlier here, was the president ordered the CIA to stop the FBI from doing its proper investigation.

NOVAK: What if he -- what if Felt came forward, though, because he really thought he'd been screwed by Nixon? He didn't get the top job. And he was -- and he was fighting -- fighting the inside battle at the FBI.

WATKINS: Thank you so much for coming. Thank you so much for coming.

HOLTZMAN: That's possible, too.

WATKINS: Congresswoman Holtzman, Secretary Eagleburger, and of course, our own Bob Novak.

CARVILLE: Wasn't this...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: ... America.

WATKINS: Coming up next, we celebrate 25 years of CNN with a look back at James Carville's first ever CROSSFIRE appearance.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATKINS: Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of CNN. CROSSFIRE made its debut during CNN's first year. So we're showing some of our favorite moments this week, including my co-host's debut on CROSSFIRE 13 years ago.

He took on Newt Gingrich and stood up for, that's right, Hillary Clinton, then the wife of the Democratic candidate for president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARVILLE: Let's talk about Mrs. Clinton's public life. I'll be glad to. Mrs. Clinton is on the board of directors of Wal-Mart.

She's on the board of directors of this country's Best Yogurt to sell yogurt. You know, I was in there the other day, and I noticed that they put red M&M's on top of the yogurt. Now I'm sure that Rich Bond and Newt Gingrich, that means to them Fidel Castro over that (ph).

She's a lawyer. She serves on the Children's Defense Fund. She started educational programs in Arkansas. She's been very involved.

Look, Mrs. Clinton is exactly what's right about America. It's these clowns in Washington that sit there giving...

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What are you complaining about?

CARVILLE: I'm not complaining about anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATKINS: You haven't changed at all.

CARVILLE: In retrospect it holds up pretty good. Yes. You know, and Hillary hasn't done bad for herself. See, all right.

From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

WATKINS: From the right, I'm Joe Watkins. Join us tomorrow for a special edition of CROSSFIRE. CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary, and we'll celebrate right along with former CROSSFIRE hosts.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.

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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