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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Interview With Senators Rockefeller, Allen; Interview With British Defense Secretary John Reid

Aired November 6, 2005 - 11:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 11:00 a.m. in Washington, 8:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 2 p.m. in Brasilia, and 7 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with Senators Rockefeller and Allen in just a moment. First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Fred -- appreciate it very much.

Concerns about faulty intelligence leading up to the U.S.-led war in Iraq triggered a dramatic showdown in the United States Senate.

Joining us now from New York to talk about that and more, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the vice chairman, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.

And here in Washington, Republican Senator George Allen. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's a Republican from Virginia.

Senators, welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Senator Rockefeller, I'll begin with you as the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

There is a major story in the New York Times today suggesting that one of the key sources for U.S. intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq, a man by the name of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, apparently was a fabricator, was making up allegations of Iraqi connections under Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda, connections that he suspected the U.S. administration then wanted to hear but were not based necessarily on fact.

What can you tell us about this?

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Only that that happened after the war had already begun. Secondly, that, at first, he said there were such contacts. Then he recanted. He was considered highly controversial. He took all of his words back and now he may be headed back in that direction. In other words, he's an entirely unreliable individual upon whom the White House was placing substantial intelligence trust. And that is a classic example of a lack of accountability to the American people.

BLITZER: I want our viewers to listen to what the president of the United States said on October 7, 2002, several months before the war and also what the then Secretary of State Colin Powell said February 5, 2003, a month and a half or so before the war started.

Listen to these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.

COLIN POWELL, FMR. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Al Qaida continues to have a deep interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

As with the story of Zarqawi and his network, I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The operative that Powell was referring to, Ibn al- Shaykh al-Libi.

Now, you see say this all came clear after the war, Senator Rockefeller. But in February of 2002, more than a year before the war, the Defense Intelligence Agency, according to today's New York Times, wrote this: "It is possible he does not know any further details" -- referring to this Al Qaida operative -- "it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers...Ibn al- Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

That's pretty damning, given the history, what happened since the war unfolded.

ROCKEFELLER: I would say so. And you've got another example which is, I think, even more damaging, and that is the obsession by Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby and others, with Mohammed Atta.

They were absolutely convinced -- or the president was absolutely convinced -- and they kept saying so, Condi Rice included, that he had met in Prague with Al Qaida representatives and they were sort of doing things on behalf of Iraq and Al Qaida, working together.

And we have all of the information intelligence -- this is long since -- had all the information that he was in this country. We have his travel schedules, his hotel schedules, his phone calls. It was an absolute lie. And yet, they used that very substantially to lead the American people to say, look, this is Al Qaida and Iraq hooked up, Saddam and Osama hooked up. We can't take this chance. We've got to go to war.

BLITZER: All right. I want to bring Senator Allen in, a key member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Allen, that same DIA report of February 2002, more than a year before the war, said: "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements...Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."

What was going on here? This seems, especially with 20/20 hindsight, like a total blunder, a total miscalculation on the part of the U.S. intelligence community and the Bush administration -- the justification for going to war.

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: And also note it wasn't just them that had the wrong information, possibly. And that's including the French, the British, the Italians, the United Nations.

And in fact, Senator Rockefeller said there is unmistakable evidence of Saddam and his acquisition or willingness for desire to get nuclear capabilities.

The things we did know -- and we'll flush all this out; we'll do all this Monday morning quarterbacking, which is important, to make sure that we do have better information, better intelligence, so we make the right decisions in the future.

But recognize that even the Clinton administration thought Saddam posed a threat. Al Qaida is one thing. But there are also other terrorist organizations.

Do remember, Wolf, and I hope our viewers will remember, that Saddam was paying parents $25,000 $35,000 to send their son or daughter into the suicide bombing missions into Israel.

And so, the fact of the matter is is that everyone thought Saddam had these desires. And in fact, do remember he did use chemical and biological weapons against political opponents within Iraq.

BLITZER: That was in the '80s.

ALLEN: Yes, 10 years before.

BLITZER: We'll get back to that in a moment, Senator Rockefeller. But let me press Senator Allen on this new information coming out today.

The president is speaking about an alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida; the Secretary of State making that case before the United Nations a year after the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, has circulated a classified memo saying this source is probably unreliable and probably a fabricator.

How does that happen?

ALLEN: That's what this phase two of this investigation in the Intelligence Committee will hopefully glean how that could happen. Do recognize also that when we did take military action in Iraq, there was this corner of Iraq over by Iran where there were Al Qaida complicit individuals in training.

The fact of the matter is, my worry -- I just, I try to remember what I was thinking at the time -- my worry was not only that Saddam would use chemical or biological weapons, but the worry was, could he hand that off to some terrorist group to use it against Israel, against Europe, or against the United States?

And also recognize the mind-set of this country and our leaders in this country that we got hit on 9/11, 2001 and we didn't want to sit back. We needed to make sure we're proactive in trying to thwart and protect, thwart terrorist attacks and protect Americans.

BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, you were among those who voted to give the president the authority to go to war. And you made some very strong statements in advance of the war suggesting that the Iraqis under Saddam Hussein had all sorts of weapons of mass destruction. Let me play this soundbite from what you said on the Senate floor October 10, 2002.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCKEFELLER: There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons. And will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress that Saddam Hussein has been able to make in the development of weapons of mass destruction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You want to revise and amend those words, Senator?

ROCKEFELLER: Of course. I mean, I was dead flat wrong. And as soon as we -- since I'm on the Intelligence Committee, and as soon as we did our report on weapons of mass destruction or before we completed it, I realized that I had just been living off this information, this false information, intelligence.

We blasted the folks who created the intelligence. And I went down to the floor of the Senate and I said, look, I'm wrong. I would never vote for a war knowing what I know now. But the point also is, Blitz, that the Senate of the United States doesn't take us to war. It is the president of the United States that takes us to war. It is the president of the United States that takes us to war. It's the vice president of the United States that takes us to war.

That's where the whole theory that within several days of 9/11 in New York City, that the president, the vice president, and Donald Rumsfeld were already thinking not just about getting into Afghanistan, which was the right thing to do, but also declaring war on Iraq. And that taking place within a week after the end of the happening of 9/11.

BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, here is how The Wall Street Journal summed it up on Thursday in an editorial. "The scandal here isn't what happened before the war. The scandal is that the same Democrats who saw the same intelligence that Mr. Bush saw, who drew the same conclusion, and who voted to go to war are now using the difficulties we've encountered in that conflict as an excuse to rewrite history." What do you say about that?

ROCKEFELLER: No. We're not trying to rewrite history. We're trying to figure out what history actually was. We did that with the weapons of mass destruction. And Senator Allen knows as well as I do that probably the only weapons of mass destruction left over were those that were used in the ten-year war of Iraq against Iran prior to 1990.

But, the point was that we have waited now 20 months to go into this so-called phase two. Not just the collection of intelligence, but the use or the misuse of intelligence by the executive branch or anybody else. And that is what we have been trying to get at.

We have been denied the opportunity to even conduct a phase two discussion. That is why we shut down the Senate floor, closed it off. And in two hours we have accomplished more than we had in 20 months.

BLITZER: What about that, Senator Allen? There's a lot of frustration, and as important as the U.S. Congress is, the Senate and the House of Representatives, there are no independent intelligence- gathering agencies that the legislative branch of the U.S. government, as far as I know, operates.

The executive branch does all that. And they were basing their votes and your vote, Senator Rockefeller's vote, in favor of this resolution to go to war, based on what the executive branch was providing. And that intelligence, as we now know, was so faulty, and it justifies this postmortem that the Democrats have been calling for, and now apparently will happen in the aftermath of this maneuver, this parliamentary maneuver that they undertook this past week.

ALLEN: Their political gimmickry has nothing to do with anything other than politics. And that was pure grandstanding, trying to...

BLITZER; But they did achieve what they wanted. They got a commitment from the chairman, Pat Roberts, that there be what they call this phase two investigation to try to come to some answers that the American public deserves.

ALLEN: True. Right. And on May 17 of this year they also had meetings. And they're going to have a meeting on Tuesday, and by the middle of this month, they'll be moving even further along. They were moving along anyway. I think what all that was, was a gimmick. The Democrats were upset that Karl Rove wasn't indicted, and so they wanted to drag Scooter Libby and all this into a political stunt. If they're very serious and truly serious about it, and I hope they are.

And I think Jay Rockefeller is a person who's obviously a key leader in all of this. If people will roll up their sleeves, get to work, try to discern what we can from all of this so it won't happen in the future, it should not be a partisan issue. This is the security of this country. When we commit our young men and women to war, to go to harm's way, we need to have the best intelligence.

Whether it is from defense intelligence, whether it's from the CIA, whether it's from other sources around the world, and we need to get that right to make the right decisions. But what we don't need is a bunch of partisanship. And the other thing is, is we need to also understand that we need to win this war. We can focus all we want on two, three years ago, which is fine. But here and now, we need to be making sure that the people of Iraq are standing up a free and just society. And that will make a big, big difference for our security and also have a very positive influence on the Middle East.

BLITZER: All right, Senators. Stand by. We're going to take a quick break. But we have a lot more ground to cover with Senators Rockefeller and Allen. We'll continue our conversation with them when we come back.

Then, Lewis "Scooter" Libby's day in court. How strong is the case against Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff? We'll get some analysis from a panel of legal experts. And is the multinational military coalition in Iraq holding? We'll talk with Britain's defense secretary, John Reid. He's visiting the United States now. We'll speak with him live. "LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our web question of the week asks this: Are you worried that there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. mass transit system? You can cast your vote. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results at the end of our program. Straight ahead, Senators Rockefeller and Allen weigh in on the war on terror. Can torture ever be justified? You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. And we're also joined by Republican Senator George Allen, member of the Foreign Relations Committee, representing Virginia.

Senator Rockefeller, I want to go back to the report that your committee put out last year, unanimously approved by all of the Democrats and all of the Republicans. And explain this. This was Conclusion 83, July 7, 2004: "The committee did not find any evidence that administration officials attempted to coerce, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities."

Explain what you're going to do in this new report, so-called phase three, that goes beyond that very hard and fast conclusion?

ROCKEFELLER: Phase two it will be.

Actually, the use of pressure in phase one, that report that you're referring to, was extremely narrowly defined. George Tenet, the former deputy director of the CIA, a number of others who did actual studies about pressure being put on analysts to reach certain conclusions, could not prove and indeed did not show that they had changed their opinions.

But it did say that there was enormous pressure on them. I mean, Cheney was all over the CIA building, and Scooter Libby. And they would say, "Now, we don't like this. How can you justify this? Write this over again. Write this over again." And it became pressure.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Senator Rockefeller. On that specific point, because Conclusion 84 specifically addresses the vice president himself. It says, "The committee found no evidence that the vice president's visits to the Central Intelligence Agency were attempts to pressure analysts, were perceived as intended to pressure analysts by those who participated in the briefings on Iraq's weapon of mass destruction programs, or did pressure analysts to change their assessments."

That sounds pretty firm, those words that you approved.

ROCKEFELLER: Yes. And what I would say today is I don't think there -- there are relatively few people in the intelligence community who are not fully aware that Vice President Cheney is in the middle of an enormous effort to justify what happened in the war in Iraq. And Scooter Libby was involved with that. I mean, it was, after all, Vice President Cheney who told Scooter Libby about the Valerie Plame case. They were out to get them.

George Allen indicated earlier we were being political in closing down the Senate. No, the politics was that we were not allowed to discuss the use of intelligence for 20 months and we had to resort to that technique in order to force Pat Roberts to the table, which we did.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Senator Allen.

The vice president is apparently leading this fight to convince the Senate not to go ahead and include language in legislation that would categorically ban the use of torture against prisoners, detainees, terror suspects, either from the military or from civilian, CIA or other intelligence agencies.

You strongly disagree, I take it, with the vice president, Dick Cheney, on this issue. You support John McCain, a former POW himself, who says under no circumstances should any U.S. official, civilian or military, engage in torture.

ALLEN: Here's what I want to see us do. First of all, we need to protect America. We're fighting against some very vile, fanatical terrorists. We also need to achieve our principles. And I think can be -- I'm hopeful that it can be resolved, that we protect America but we do not condone torture. And I voted for that language on it. That language was put on the defense bill. It was also just put onto the defense authorization bill.

BLITZER: Are you going to stick by that? Because there's a pressure from the vice president, as you well know, to get you and other Republicans to change your mind.

ALLEN: Look, I'm not for torture, and I don't think most people are. There may be some who'll make an argument on it. As a practical matter, from what I understand, talking to people and listening, is that torture actually, as a practical matter, is not effective. It just makes the person who's tortured even more spiteful and hateful toward whomever is torturing them.

What we need to do is get a resolution to this. And the resolution needs to be, is not the condonation of torture. In fact, we should prohibit torture. But we also ought to be able to protect America.

And I'm not sure how the language will get worked out, but it must be worked out, because, look, America is that shining city on the hill. And it is important that people know that we have principles in this country. And we don't have to be at the level of scorpions.

And so I am hopeful that it can be worked out so there is not an impingement on the ability of our individuals who catch terrorists to glean and derive information out of them, but they shouldn't be tortured.

BLITZER: So can I conclude that you disagree with the vice president on this?

ALLEN: What I'm trying to do is find a resolution to this that we achieve both goals: protecting America but not condoning torture.

BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, I assume you disagree with the vice president...

ROCKEFELLER: I do.

BLITZER: ... when it comes to the potential use of torture.

But what if there is that so-called ticking bomb, that you get information that a terrorist, that Al Qaida or whatever, they've got 24 hours and some sort of radiological device is about to go off in New York City or right here in Washington, what do you do then? Do you go ahead and try to torture a suspect to get that information and save lives?

ROCKEFELLER: Well, it doesn't usually work like -- it's not usually as closely...

BLITZER: But there theoretically could be that case.

ROCKEFELLER: Theoretically, yes. But let me -- the philosophy about torture versus interrogation -- we have been blocked -- and I go back to what Senator Allen said before, this isn't politics. We have wanted, on the Intelligence Committee, the minority party, to do a full investigation of detention, interrogation and rendition. And we have been blocked from being able to do that.

So my view is that -- and I resent that very much, because it's absolutely critical to what could happen to our own soldiers put in similar situations in the years to come.

The interrogation is important. There is no doubt that you get good information from interrogation. Interrogation can be tough. But there are rules and laws, not just under the Geneva Convention but the various manuals that we operate under, the laws that we operate in this country, that preclude torture. And the CIA cannot be exempted from that philosophy.

BLITZER: We'll leave it right there.

ALLEN: Let me pose a question...

BLITZER: Unfortunately we're all out of time, but very quickly, Senator Allen.

ALLEN: There are certain people that get information on this, and it's by virtue of their positions: the Republican, Democrat leader and the ranking and chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

Senator Rockefeller should have information as to some of these interrogation methods. And maybe he hasn't received them.

But, Jay, have you not been able to determine or get information as to these interrogation methods to determine if they rise to the level of torture or not?

ROCKEFELLER: I've been able to get a great deal of information.

ALLEN: What is your judgment on it?

ROCKEFELLER: Well, let me finish my sentence, and that is that, because of the nature of the so-called gang of four -- that is the two intelligence heads in the House and the Senate -- or the gang of eight, which would include the majority leader or the speaker, et cetera, this kind of thing...

ALLEN: All right. What's your judgment?

ROCKEFELLER: ... we sometimes have very careful, very exact intelligence. And we are forsworn in those meetings with the vice president or with others that we cannot discuss it.

So I cannot answer your question. Yes, I do know what some of the steps are. I do know what the condition is, and I cannot answer your question. And that's why I want so much to get at this whole question of detention, interrogation and rendition on a broad basis.

BLITZER: Fair enough. Senator Rockefeller, appreciate it very much. Senator Allen, thanks to you as well. We have to leave it there.

Still ahead here on "LATE EDITION," White House woes. Could the CIA leak investigation bring yet more legal trouble for the Bush administration? We'll get assessments from a panel of top lawyers.

But up next, a quick check of what's in the news right now, including an update on today's deadly tornado in the United States.

Stay with "LATE EDITION." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED WELLS, ATTORNEY FOR I. LEWIS LIBBY: Mr. Libby intends to clear his good name by using the judicial process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ted Wells, the high-powered defense attorney for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, speaking after his arraignment in federal court here in Washington on Thursday.

Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff pleaded not guilty to criminal charges filed against him in the CIA leak investigation.

With us now to help sort out the case, three top attorneys. In Houston, Court TV anchor, Catherine Crier. She's the author of a new book, "Contempt: How the Right is Wronging American Justice."

In Denver, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt. And here in Washington, George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley. Good to have all of you on "LATE EDITION." Thank so much for joining us.

I'll start off with Catherine Crier. How strong of a case is there against Lewis "Scooter" Libby?

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV: When you read the indictment -- I thought it was pretty powerful. The prosecutor was able to basically track exact statements. And we know they've been recorded, those going the FBI.

We know they're under oath in front of the grand jury. And a lot of people say, well, gee, perjury, obstruction of justice, isn't much. Well, it is.

We've seen that, certainly, in the Clinton era. And when we're talking about national security, these are important, critical charges and it will be very interesting to see whether or not this actually goes to trial or whether we see a plea bargain in this deal.

BLITZER: Jonathan Turley, how strong of a case does the prosecutor have?

Right now we have only, basically, heard his evidence. We don't know what the defense is going to be able to put out in a -- if there is a trial.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, a prosecutor always has a tough situation when you're trying to prove perjury because it's basically a "he said/ she said" type of situation if you don't have a recording.

But it's much better to take a perjury or false statements case than it is the original cause of the scandal, trying to prove that someone was a covert operative, prove you intended to release that.

That would have been a very strong defense case. But having said that, Fitzgerald needs to show that jury that this was just not some gap in memory of a very busy individual during very busy days.

BLITZER: Jeralyn Merritt, the defense basically has already hinted their defense will be he had a bad memory. He was a very busy guy; he was working on a lot of different issue, national security issues, and he may have simply forgotten; there was no intention to mislead the grand jury or lie to FBI agents.

JERALYN MERRITT, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I don't think that's going to fly in this case, not if the statements that are alleged in the indictment are true.

He made specific statements over a period of time as to the source of his information and it wasn't true. Whether he said he heard it from Tim Russert, when Tim Russert says he didn't tell him, when he heard it in June, when he told Judith Miller in June -- you know, those are all things that happened.

How could he forget those things just months afterward when he was interviewed by investigators for the grand jury and then again when he testified? I don't think memory's going to be the defense here.

BLITZER: Catherine, you agree?

CRIER: Well, I think she's absolutely right. It may be the defense. I don't think it would be a very effective one.

And two, Wolf, the window is so narrow, when we're talking about that June, July time period, everything happened so quickly -- the alleged statements, the false statements attributed to those events in June and July that he's going to have a real hard time saying that, gee, these things just sort of slipped his mind.

BLITZER: Ted Wells, though, is a very, very successful attorney, Jonathan Turley, as you well know. And he's gotten other very high- powered people off based on his defense.

TURLEY: Oh, yes. He picked well. This is the type of guy you want to bring into a fight like this. The thing that Ted's going to have to overcome is the fact that his client is going to look to the jury like a master of the universe.

This is a guy who can't get much higher in government. And he's going to really fulfill the stereotype of a Washington power broker. That's different from some past perjury cases where Starr went after sort of low-level people.

This guy is going to be really striking the jury not very sympathetically. He's someone who does pull those strings.

BLITZER: You have been quoted in the paper as saying that Ted Wells is not the kind of lawyer you hire if you're going to go into a plea agreement and you're going to cop a plea and work out some sort of deal with the prosecution. You hire him if you're going to go to trial.

TURLEY: That's absolutely right. This guy goes from one to 120 in six seconds. He is a trial attorney; he's built for trial. I don't know if he's even skilled at doing a plea bargain.

He's good at scaring prosecutors into a plea bargain. But I think that this case is going to go to trial.

It's also because I think Libby's not the type of guy to cut a plea. He's very, very loyal to the vice president. The only plea that would significantly reduce his time would be to turn over on someone like Vice President Cheney. He's just not going to do this. It's not in his character, from what I can see.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, do you agree?

MERRITT: I agree that he's not going to turn on Vice President Cheney. But I think that he may take a deal, and he may just decide to fall on his sword and do the time. And he may have his lawyer work out some deal with Fitzgerald where he can plead guilty, get a few points off for acceptance of responsibility under the sentencing guidelines, and not have to turn.

BLITZER: What about that, Catherine? You're a former judge.

CRIER: Yeah, I agree, because the political implications of going to trial on this case could be enormous. You could open up a whole panoply of issues that are buried right now if you go to trial. The old falling on the sword would be a very easy way to avoid that.

TURLEY: Although I've got to tell you, falling on this sword without a cooperative plea would be pretty hard even from the most loyal person. The only way you could do a significant reduction is to say, I'm going to give you something new.

What he would have to cut is basically a plea that says, I'll save you the trouble of a trial, cut some time off. Those type of deals, particularly from Fitzgerald's office in Chicago, generally don't yield tremendous deals for the defendant.

BLITZER: Catherine, as far as you could tell, any plea agreement, wouldn't he have to plead guilty to at least one felony? Could they reduce that to a misdemeanor?

CRIER: Oh, I don't think they could politically, even if they could from a prosecutor's point of view. Yes, a prosecutor could do that, although they try and restrict it. I don't expect to see that.

BLITZER: What about that, Jeralyn?

MERRITT: No. They won't reduce this to a misdemeanor. But some of these -- if he were to plead to just the false statement charge, and they were to agree to dismiss the perjury and the obstruction, then he's looking at a maximum sentence of five years. But under the guidelines it would be less.

BLITZER: There's a lot of people out there already suggesting, critics of this administration, Jonathan, that a pardon down the road could be in the works, that he'll go ahead and plead guilty, knowing that the president when he leaves office will pardon him, as other presidents have done to other top administration officials who have gotten themselves into trouble, as you well know. What do you think about this whole pardon issue and whether this president should make a commitment, no pardons?

TURLEY: Well, I've got to say it would be in the character of this president to take an unpopular position like that, to protect someone that he thinks is not particularly culpable, but the White House has to be very careful. One is not to take pardons off the table.

Because if the president says, I'm just not going to pardon these people, you push Libby a little closer to the prosecutor. The other thing you've got to be very careful about in the White House is to make sure that your people aren't piling stuff on this guy's wagon, to treat him like a designated defendant.

Because we have seen loyal people over time say, wow, hold it, I'm carrying a lot of water for this White House. So the White House has got to be very, very careful not to alienate this guy.

BLITZER: What about that, Jeralyn?

MERRITT: I think Jonathan's right. I think President Bush probably would pardon the ones that are closest to him. But I think he would wait until he was just about on his way out so that it wouldn't affect his agenda for the rest of his term.

BLITZER: Catherine?

CRIER: Well, he'd be in good company. I think that people would be frustrated. You'd hear a lot of ranting about it, but it's probably expected.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, guys. We're going to take a quick break. Lots more to talk about. Talk about Karl Rove. Is he still under any legal jeopardy? Also, the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. What impact will he have on the high court if confirmed by the U.S. Senate? More "LATE EDITION" right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our analysis of the week's legal developments. Joining us, Court TV anchor Catherine Crier, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt, and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. Catherine Crier, based on everything you know, based on everything that's in the public record so far, is Karl Rove free and clear? Should he be worried about legally what the special counsel might be doing?

CRIER: Oh, I think he still has to be concerned. You know, Fitzgerald was telling us directly that he had not concluded. He still had things to do. And it wasn't, didn't seem that it was just wrapping up as opposed to continuing an investigation. And I think most people are agreeing that "Official A" in the indictment is Karl Rove.

BLITZER: What about that? Is Karl Rove off the hook or should he be worried, Jonathan?

TURLEY: Well, I think you always should be worried when you've got a prosecutor in the field still investigating. And except for -- if he had not gone the fourth time before the grand jury, I think he would have certainly been indicted.

BLITZER: On what charge?

TURLEY: On perjury. Suddenly he remembered critical conversations with people like Cooper, where the identity of Wilson's...

BLITZER: Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.

TURLEY: Right. Where the identity of Wilson's wife was discussed. And that occurred after Cooper had testified. I think that if he hadn't gone the fourth time, he would be indicted today. And there's still that live torpedo in the water. There's more questions that recently went to his office, apparently. So you can't relax entirely.

BLITZER: What about that, Jeralyn? You agree?

MERRITT: Yes. But I tend to think he's in more trouble, I think, than Jonathan and Catherine have indicated. You know, I'd be a little bit more than just concerned.

BLITZER: Why do you think he's in more trouble?

MERRITT: Because I think he's got a real problem with his statements to investigators before he testified to the grand jury the first time as to where he first heard the information. I think he's in trouble with the e-mail that was found between him and Stephen Hadley, in which he acknowledged having talked to Matthew Cooper of Time. You know, I think it took a little bit too long for his lawyers to find that e-mail and turn it over to Fitzgerald.

BLITZER: So why do you think, Jeralyn, why do you think the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, stopped short and indicted Scooter Libby but not Karl Rove, if that's the evidence that was brought before the grand jury? MERRITT: Well, my suspicion is, and it is only a suspicion, as Jonathan said earlier, usually the only way you get a very favorable deal from a prosecutor is by giving them information about someone else. Perhaps Karl Rove is now, or has been all along, giving them information about other people which Fitzgerald needs to verify, which he is going to bring before this new grand jury. And then he'll decide what if anything he's go going to charge Karl Rove with or whether he's going to give Karl Rove a complete pass. We don't know. But if I were Karl Rove, I'd say -- you know, I just don't see him being out of the woods yet.

BLITZER: Catherine, what do you think about that theory?

CRIER: Well, I think she's absolutely right. I think that there's a lot more information he's still investigating, and it's going to be interesting to see whether it moves up the ladder or moves down the ladder, and who Fitzgerald might think was valuable enough in the equation to let Karl Rove off the hook. But, yeah, he still needs to be concerned.

BLITZER: I, in reading this indictment, Jonathan Turley, and I've read it very carefully now several times. And I know Scooter Libby. I've covered him many years going back to his days at the Pentagon during the first Gulf War, when I was CNN's Pentagon correspondent.

He's a well-known guy. He's a top lawyer. And if the indictment or the allegations are true, you have to ask yourself, why would this guy lie to a grand jury, to FBI agents?

Have you come up with any potential answer to that, because he's very smart?

TURLEY: I think this is a classic Beltway situation. This is a city filled with Type A personalities who are truly masters of their universe. They change the context, change the message.

That's what Libby has been doing his whole life. That's what Rove's been doing. And sometimes, they just cross that line.

And when he went to the grand jury, the question is why he went. Most criminal defense attorneys would say, don't go in there. And this is a great example of the dangers of going before a grand jury. You increase the chance of an indictment many times over.

And, in defense of Libby, I suppose I could say that even the most careful client will often say things that are misleading.

I put a client through that exercise to convince him not to go to a grand jury. And I transcribed what he said to show how each of these ambiguities could be read against you. And he didn't go.

BLITZER: But, politically, there was no way, if the president says everybody's going to cooperate, there is no way he's going to hide behind that kind of legal protection. He's going to have to go testify. TURLEY: Well, that's why I much prefer hardened criminals. They have no reputation to lose, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

And so, they're perfectly great clients.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk a little bit about the Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito.

Catherine, I'll start with you. Does it look like he's about to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court or you think he's got a problem?

CRIER: No. I imagine he will. I think there's going to be some tremendous infighting. I think there are issues, well beyond the issue of privacy and abortion in this country, that could be dramatically affected by the shift in the court.

So, there's going to be a lot of conversation. But when it comes down to it, I'd be real surprised if the man wasn't confirmed.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, what about you?

MERRITT: I agree with Catherine. I think, ultimately, he'll be confirmed. But I am just troubled that I think that this was in a sense a political nomination.

It was done at a time when the White House was in crisis over the Scooter Libby impending indictment, over the Harriet Miers withdrawal of her nomination, and he just decided to cave into the radical right and give them what they want so he could at least go forward in his administration.

BLITZER: But, Jeralyn, he is qualified. Wouldn't you agree?

MERRITT: I would. But my trouble with him is really just very simple. Prior to becoming a judge, his entire career has been spent as a prosecutor or an attorney for the government.

And, you know, in those positions, he looks for law to support those points of view. And I just wonder whether he will be ever -- have a broad enough point of view or fair enough to judge for the defendant.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Jonathan Turley, but, over the past 15 years, he has been a federal judge. And he's written a lot of decisions, got a lot of opinions.

There is a long paper trail and other issues for the U.S. Senate to consider.

TURLEY: Well, my review of his cases suggests this is a target- rich environment. I wouldn't bet the house on his making it through a filibuster if a filibuster is able to be put together. On criminal matters, he's breathtakingly conservative. He is very sympathetic, as was just said, to the prosecution and the government. And he's got a lot of decisions in there that are going to give a lot of fodder to the Democrats.

The question is only whether the Democrats can change and start looking like an organized party.

BLITZER: We have to leave it there. Jonathan Turley, thanks very much for joining us. Catherine Crier, Jeralyn Merritt, a good, serious discussion. We'll have all of you back on "LATE EDITION." Thank you very much.

And to our viewers, please don't forget our web question of the week: Are you worried that there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. mass transit system? Log on to cnn.com/lateedition to cast your vote.

But first this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): What's his story?

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was among 34 heads of state attending this week's summit of the Americas in Argentina. Chavez, an outspoken critic of President Bush and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, addressed a mass anti-U.S. demonstration before the summit's opening on Friday.

A former army paratrooper, the 51-year-old Chavez was elected Venezuela's president in 1998. In 2002, he was overthrown in a coup led by Venezuelan business and military officials but eventually regained power.

While diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the United States remain strained, Chavez's country is still the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Coming up on "LATE EDITION," are terrorists targeting Washington, D.C. landmarks? We'll hear directly from the British Defense Secretary John Reid. He'll join us live.

Then...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: The United States have been hijacked by the Democratic leadership.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: This investigation has been stymied, stopped, obstructions thrown up every step of the way. That's the real slap in the face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Showdown in the United States Senate. Do the Republicans or the Democrats have the upper hand with the American public? We'll have a debate between the former chairmen of both parties. "LATE EDITION" continues right at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The center of gravity of this war is not in Baghdad, but in Washington, in London, and in the homes and the cities and the hearing rooms and in news room of coalition countries.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Reviewing the path to war. What role did British intelligence play in the search of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. British Defense Minister John Reid weighs in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRIST: Not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader have ever I been slapped in the fact with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: They obstruct. They take orders from the White House. They do nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Partisan politics erupt in Washington. As President Bush deals with the CIA leak investigation, a new Supreme Court nomination, and the war in Iraq, which party is gaining ground? We'll ask two former party chairmen, Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

Welcome back. We'll get to my interview with Britain's Defense Secretary John Reid in just a moment. He's standing by live.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred. As part of the President Bush's administration case for going to war in Iraq, part of that case was based on intelligence from Britain. That country has the second largest number of troops now serving in Iraq, right after the United States.

Joining us now to talk about where things stand in Iraq as well as the war on terror, the British Defense Secretary John Reid. He's here in the United States for meetings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice, among others, here in Washington.

Secretary Reid, thanks very much for joining us.

JOHN REID, BRITISH DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's great pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get to this Newsweek magazine report. Maybe you can update our viewers on what's going on. Let me read to you from Newsweek magazine. "Investigators in the United States and Britain are urgently investigating information suggesting that a group of terrorism suspects recently arrested in the London area may have been plotting to blow up Washington landmarks using homemade bombs. The suspects' possible targets included the White House and the U.S. Capitol complex."

How worried should those of us who are in Washington, D.C., right now, and where you will be tomorrow -- how worried should we be?

REID: Well, I think all of us recognize there's a wide and deep struggle going on, and in parts, it's an ideological struggle. It's the struggle between 21st century and 7th century values. And obviously, the shared values which we have had, which have stood as well in the past, still link us together. And therefore, we will be subject to attacks and to attempted attacks.

We had one in July in London. Can I just record a grateful thanks for the international support we had from the United States and elsewhere, the solidarity we received?

But of course, here in New York, where I am today, and elsewhere in the world, we've seen the disasters and awful effects of people who are constricted or constrained neither by conscious or convention or any degree of morality when it comes to murdering and massacring innocent people.

And unfortunately, that is the nature of the struggle of which we're engaged. But the whole international community now is on the one side, the whole of the United Nations, and the whole of civilized society.

BLITZER: Secretary, how credible is this specific information that there may be targets right here in Washington, D.C., that terrorists want to blow up? How good is this intelligence that you've shared with the United States?

REID: Well, I never comment on any intelligence matters, Wolf, and you'll understand why. The fact of the matter is that whether it's in London or Egypt or Turkey or New York or Washington, we have to pay the price of guarding ourself, which is internal vigilance. So I make no comment on any specific reports which appear in newspapers to confirm or deny them.

BLITZER: Can you tell us, though, if this information is at least credible, specific? Without getting into details, who may have said what to whom? How worried should people in Washington, D.C., be?

REID: As I said, Wolf, I'm not trying to be unhelpful to you, but I'm not prepared to make any comments on newspaper reports or secondhand stories about intelligence matters. It's three measures removed. However, all of us know, not least those inhabitants of the city where I'm sitting in at present, New York, the constant threat from people who, as I say, are unconstrained by any form of convention or conscious, and who will attempt to get through continually.

I mean, I can tell you that our own security forces in London have been at high alert for a long time. I'm absolutely certain they have thwarted a number of attempts in London. But on one occasion, on the 7th of July, people were massacred because the terrorists managed to through. So those of us engaged in this ought to realize that there will be long and difficult times ahead of us, that it won't be finished in a few weeks or a few months. And part of that will be the attempt by terrorists to hit us at home.

BLITZER: Secretary Reid, those 16 words that President Bush uttered in the State of Union on January 28, 2003, two months before the start of the war are now back in the headlines in the aftermath of the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff and national security advisor. Listen to those 16 words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Did the president misspeak, or was that accurate at the time?

REID: Wolf, it was at the time, but let me just make a more general point. Every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction, precursor chemicals. The inspectors, over a period of ten years, had managed to gain access to much of those precursor chemicals.

And in addition to that, he was, by any definition, a threat to his own country, the region, and to the world. The definition of "threat," as you will be aware better than me, is composed of intention and capability. He clearly had had the capability. He clearly had the intention.

He's the only person alive in the world who's actually used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against neighboring countries. And he had been, for almost a decade, in breach of the United Nations' resolutions. So the decision to intervene in Iraq was not only legal, but it removed from the world and the region a threat.

BLITZER: But we now know, Mr. Secretary, it was based on faulty intelligence. But let me get back to those 16 words. Was the information the British intelligence shared with United States at the time based on a forged document suggesting Saddam Hussein was trying to get enriched uranium from Niger?

REID: All of the intelligence we made available, and indeed, all of the intelligence that was supplied by every intelligence agency in the world was believed to be true at the time, and was substantially verified, not just by speculation, but by the fact that over a period of '90s, we had discovered through the inspectors vast quantities of precursor chemicals and the design to develop weapons of mass destruction. Look, there's no question that Saddam had had that, there's no question he'd had the intention -- he murdered 5,000 of his own people at Halabjah by burning...

BLITZER: But that was before the first Gulf War in the 1980s. And what we're talking about is now in the 2003, on the eve of the war in March 2003 after a decade of U.N. inspections.

REID: Wolf, with great respect, the discovery of the weapons, the precursor chemicals, was not before the...

BLITZER: I'm talking about, Halabjah was in the 1980s...

REID: I'm talking about the evidence that he had precursor chemicals and elements and designs of weapons of mass destruction. It was throughout the '90s, after the first Gulf War, when he denied the compliance with the United Nation. Indeed, for four years he denied he had no precursor chemicals at all.

It wasn't until his two son-in-laws defected, you'll remember -- they defected, they revealed, they spilled the beans. We then found the increasing amounts of that weaponry. But the main point is now this, Wolf, that even those people who disagreed with the intervention in Iraq in the first place now recognize that Iraq has been helped towards democracy under the auspices, not just of the United Kingdom and the United States, but of the United Nations themselves.

The whole world community has now decided that whatever the original differences were, the question now is, should the job be seen through? And one of the reasons I'm in New York today, for instance, is to talk to our United Nations ambassador in the hope that in the coming week, there will be another exhibition of international solidarity and unanimity in rolling forward the United Nations resolutions.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, let's get back to the enriched uranium from Niger to Iraq. The Butler report, the official report that came out in Britain on July 14, 2004, more than a year ago, concluded this: "We conclude that on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the government's dossier and by the prime minister in the House of Commons were well founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union address of 28 January 2003, that the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, was well founded." Is that still the position of the British government, that conclusion from the Butler report?

REID: It is not only the conclusion from the Butler report, but three other independent reports carried out about by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Intelligence Committee, and so on also found that all of the information and the conduct of the British government at that time, and the agencies which serve the British government at that time were done in good faith.

BLITZER: But I thought everyone has now agreed, including the FBI and Stephen Hadley, the president's now-national security advisor, who says those words should not have been in the president's State of Union address, and he takes responsibility for that. That it was based, at least in part, forgery.

REID: Every single one of the inquiries which you asked about, Wolf, which took place several years ago, found that our intelligence services and our prime minister and our government acted in good faith. Now, if you're asking me whether every single piece of intelligence that comes across the desk of a minister, be it Secretary Rumsfeld or be it me or be it anyone else, is accurate, is comprehensive, is undeniably and irrefutably true, then that is not the way intelligence works.

However, if you're asking me whether the bulk of intelligence that indicated that Saddam Hussein had the intention and the capability to develop weapons of mass destruction, that is irrefutably true, and it was a view that was held by every single intelligence agency in the world. There was no debate about that burden of proof. The debate at the time, Wolf, was about what you did about it. And various governments took different views about you did about them having the intention and the capability.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, you say there was no debate about that going into the war, but there was what has now famously been called the Downing Street Memo, which came out on July 23, 2002, almost a year before the war, in which your government was told this, "There was a perceptible shift in attitude, referring to what's going on in the Bush administration in Washington. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence of facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Your government was told, almost a year before the war, that this intelligence was being concocted. REID: No, they weren't, with great respect. You can produce one out of a thousand of memos that were flying about, which represented one person's view about one particular issue. I don't quite know what is the point that you're making. Let me just repeat again, Wolf, with great respect, every intelligence agency in the world knew that Saddam Hussein had the intention and capability over a period of years to develop a threat to the region, as well as to the world.

History had illustrated that, both in intention and capability. The only disagreement was not about the measure of the threat, Resolution 1441 specifically referred to his breaches of the United Nations' regulations, said that he was guilty, said that in order to get any relief from that guilt, he had to give immediate, unconditional compliance with the United Nations itself.

There was no question about the degree of the guilt. The only question at the time was whether or not he should be given more time with the inspectors, or whether a military intervention should take place.

BLITZER: And there a serious debate on that.

REID: And there was a very serious debate on that. The point I'm making to you, Wolf, is that several years on from that, even the different sides of that debate are now entirely united through the United Nations under resolution 1546. And on one side of debate about Iraq now stands the terrorists, and on the other side stands the whole international community, including the U.S. and the U.K., helping the Iraqi's to achieve democracy, stability, and a degree of opportunity and security for their own country. That's now the division.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time, Mr. Secretary, but I want to get to the very sensitive and important issue of Iran right now and its new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He's quoted as saying -- and it's been confirmed at a rally on October 26th. He said this, and I'll put it up on the screen. He said, "Israel must be wiped off the map of the world." And then he went on to say, "And God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionists." And basically saying, Israel and the United States should be wiped off the face of the word.

How can you, your government, continue to deal with Iran under these kinds of circumstances?

REID: Well, precisely because we're trying to address the various challenges that you say have been thrown out. Because if you look at the contrast of what's happening and the conversation we're having, 10.5 million people, 64 percent of the population who are entitled to vote, turn out in Iraq. They're building a democracy, a bigger percentage than even our general election, or I think your presidential election.

And next door in Iran, we have three things coming together. One, the suspicion that there is covert support for terrorism, historically, including Hezbollah and so on. Secondly, the duplicitous development of the potential for nuclear weapons, not discovered by me, but by the international atomic energy authority. And thirdly, a threat to wipe off the map one of the fellow members of the United Nations.

Now, any one of these in itself would be extremely dangerous. But putting them together, it means there is a huge challenge to the United Nations. What we are trying to do -- when I saw we, I mean the European three, ourselves and France and Germany -- is to make absolutely plain to Iran that they cannot go down the road for developing nuclear weaponry, enriched uranium, for the purposes of nuclear weaponry.

If there is a degree of transparency and a degree of negotiation, a degree of honesty from the part of Iran, that this matter can be resolved. And I'm very glad they seem to have indicated that they're coming back to the table.

BLITZER: So there's no consideration that you're giving to severing diplomatic relations with Iran, pulling your ambassador, closing down your embassy?

REID: I think we were the first country to condemn the statements by Iran. In fact, I think that Tony Blair, our prime minister, speaking on behalf of the whole European Union, was probably the strongest and quickest to condemn the outrageous remarks of the Iranian president. I'm very glad that was followed up by condemnation from the Security Council and dismay from Kofi Annan. And we want to see the strongest possible pressure being brought to bare on Iran by everyone involved.

BLITZER: We'll leave right there. Secretary John Reid will be coming to Washington tomorrow for meetings with Bush administration officials. We'll welcome you here in Washington. Good of you to spend some time with us on LATE EDITION.

REID: Pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

And coming up, the former Republican Party chairman Ed Gillespie and the former Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe. They'll debate all of these issues, the war in Iraq, the CIA leak investigation. Which party is poised to make headway with voters over the next several days? Elections here in the United States, some critical elections, coming up next Tuesday.

Then, in case you missed it, our highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows. "LATE EDITION" continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's still time for you to weigh in on our Web question of the week. Are you worried that there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. mass transit system? You can cast your vote. Go to CNN.com/lateedition.

Straight ahead, President Bush's second term slump. Can he rebound? The former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties, they're standing by to weigh in live. You're watching LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sunday here in the nation's capital. Recent polls in the United States show President Bush with the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency. Joining us now to talk about his second term slump, what it means for the political fortunes of both Republicans and Democrats, former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe.

Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. We prematurely put those polls up. But let me go through some of the polls that we have. Ed Gillespie, I'll start with you. The Washington Post-ABC News poll had the president at only 39 percent job approval rating. The AP- Ipsos poll had the president at 37 job approval rating. The CBS News poll had the president at 35 percent job approval ratings. What can he do to improve that? Those are horrible numbers.

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Yes, I'd rather they'd be up, and I think they will be up, Wolf. The fact is, the president has a positive agenda. He's promoting ideas to reform and save Social Security, to make sure that we try to do more in terms of making health care more affordable, to make our country more secure, and to create jobs in this country.

That's what people want to know is, "What are you for, what are you doing to our retirement? What are you doing to create jobs? What are you doing to make health care more affordable?" The president has an agenda. We'll continue to push that. And I think as the focus is put on those policies, you'll see his numbers gone up.

BLITZER: Your name has been mooted often as someone who could go into the White House, replace Karl Rove as the president's top political adviser, and shake things up. Do they need a shakeup, and are you ready to make that move?

GILLESPIE: Well, no one has mentioned that to me. There's a perfectly good deputy chief of staff there now in Karl Rove. And the fact is, Karl does a good job on behalf of the president and for our country. And what we need to do is just keep the focus on the issues and the policies that matter, because that's what people care about. And I think you will see -- look, it's not uncommon for second term presidents to go through a slump. We saw it with President Clinton, we saw it with President Reagan. That's the norm, and I think you'll see a rebound here shortly.

BLITZER: A lot of Democrats, Terry McAuliffe, and you hear this you're your fellow Democrats all the time, they see the serious problems that the Republican administration, the Bush administration has right now. But they see that the Democrats are not necessarily capitalizing on it, that the Democrats remain, in the world of some of your Democrats, still inept in doing what they should do to try to get back some of that political power which you've so lost over these past several years. What do you say to those Democrats who are frustrated and angry at their own leadership?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, first of all, I think you're going to see momentum this Tuesday. I think the Democrats will win both in New Jersey and in Virginia, the two governorships that we have coming up.

But you asked Ed, "How does the president get it going again?" I would recommend the president ought to do two things, needs to do two very quickly. I think he needs to fire Karl Rove. Clearly, he was involved in the outing of a CIA operative. And I think the president of the United States needs to say that he will not pardon Scooter Libby, no matter what happens there, so we can get to the bottom, we can get the to the truth. This exaggeration, lying about the intelligence data, which sent our men and women off to war.

And I think he needs to do that very quickly because there is a credibility gap here in the country as it relates to George Bush. They don't believe him.

BLITZER: Karl Rove, as far as I know, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

MCAULIFFE: George Bush said two years ago that if anyone was involved in a leak of a CIA operative to the press, he would fire them immediately. It is clear now that Karl Rove did talk to Matt Cooper and other reporters. They talked to Bob Novak. They outed the CIA operative. They put her life in jeopardy. They put the name of the company that she worked for.

How many other operatives were using that same company name? It was shameless what they did. It was fair game to go after Joe Wilson. It wasn't fair game to go after the wife, and George Bush said it, he said he wanted to bring integrity to the White House. He ought to be a man of his word, he ought to fire Karl.

GILLESPIE: Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, has spent two years looking into what Terry just leveled, the charge Terry just leveled on national television, and never accused neither Scooter Libby or Karl Rove with leaking the name and outing an undercover CIA operative. It's very important that your viewers understand that. There's an indictment relative to Scooter Libby, obviously, on another...

BLITZER: If you read the indictment though, Ed, it does say he told reporters about Scooter Libby, even though he doesn't make the jump that that was necessarily criminal. He accuses him of perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, but he does say that spoke about Valerie Plame Wilson with reporters.

GILLESPIE: But he not accused, as Terry just said -- first of all, Terry said relative to Karl, but it's also true of Scooter Libby as well, that he has not been accused of leaking the name of a CIA undercover operative, deliberatively revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative. I think that's very important. Look, this is a process that's ongoing.

BLITZER: There's difference here. He does say that he leaked the name, but he doesn't conclude that that was necessarily a crime.

GILLESPIE: It doesn't say that he knowingly uncovered the identity of an undercover CIA operative.

(CROSSTALK)

MCAULIFFE: I was not talking legally. Let's be very clear. George Bush said that he would fire anyone involved in his administration who was involved in leaking the name of a CIA operative. Forget about the legality for a second. Both of these gentlemen were involved with talking to reporters about Valerie Plame. Plain and simple. George Bush ought to be a man of his word.

There's a reason why 55 percent of Americans today don't think that George Bush has integrity. It's because of these kinds of deals. He ought to fire him, he ought to get rid of him. It's the same group of people who went after John McCain, they went after Max Cleland. It is wrong. The character assassination is just plain wrong.

BLITZER: In fairness, though, to the president, he does says the investigation is still continuing. He doesn't want to prejudge that investigation because the special council, Patrick Fitzgerald, still has work left to be done. But let's review what exactly the president said in advance on these specific occasions.

BLITZER: Let's listen to these two comments from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Listen, I know -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it. And we'll take the appropriate action.

I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts. And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Sounds like the president was pretty specific.

GILLESPIE: Pretty specific. We don't know that anyone has committed a crime here. As you said, Wolf, look, the indictment of "Scooter" Libby is a prosecutorial process. Scooter has not had an opportunity to present a defense to put his side of the story forward. That's what trials are for. Karl has not been accused of anything at this point. There is an investigation going on.

The Karl Rove I know is not someone who would violate the law. So he deserves the opportunity as well to make his case and to allow for the process to play out. But it's clear Terry, other Democrats don't want to talk about the policies and the issues that are important to the American people. Because they don't have any policies or ideas in their party to stand for.

(CROSSTALK)

MCAULIFFE: Let's go. I always love to talk about George Bush's policies.

GILLESPIE: (inaudible) care about, which is health care, their jobs, their retirement.

BLITZER: And the war in Iraq -- we're going to get to that. We're going to talk about that in a second. But he raises one point, and let me get your thoughts. A pardon. Should the president put a pardon off the table?

GILLESPIE: I'm sorry, but this is vintage Washington. Here we are, there's a person who hasn't even been given the opportunity to defend himself from an accusation in our legal system. In our legal system, people are afforded the opportunity to do that.

No one's been convicted of anything here. No one's even had the opportunity to put forward their defense in a trial. And we're talking about a pardon? I have to tell you, this is a little bit silly.

MCAULIFFE: We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to get to the truth. They manipulated. They exaggerated. Lied about intelligence data. We've committed our troops. We've lost 2,000 lives today over in Iraq. We need to get to the bottom. We need to make sure that George Bush or Dick Cheney, who was very involved in this entire situation, come clean on exactly what happened.

How did this intelligence data get so manipulated? As it relates to Scooter Libby, we want him to go in and tell the truth, and we don't want George Bush or anyone else giving him an out by saying, we'll give you a pardon. Therefore, let's just get (inaudible). We can't do that. We need the truth.

GILLESPIE: People are rightly looking into our intelligence gathering capacity and how it needs to function better.

MCAULIFFE: Thanks to Harry Reid.

GILLESPIE: There's no doubt it needs to. But let's remember something. It wasn't just President Bush and Vice President Cheney. It was also Senator John Kerry. It was former President Clinton. All had the same intelligence data. All came to the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein posted a threat to the security of the United States.

Now, they made the same case in advance of the war as the president and the vice president. If there are problems in the intelligence-gathering capacity, we need to fix those, and we're in the process of doing that. But it's wrong to pretend that Democrats hadn't come to the same conclusion in advance of the war.

BLITZER: All right.

MCAULIFFE: Bill Clinton thought he was a bad man, no question about it. He thought that containment was the right thing to do, and it worked. George Bush took same thing, and he committed our troops to a war. It was not based on the right intelligence. And that's the difference. And that's why you need a Democrat back in the White House.

GILLESPIE: Senator Kennedy and Senator Clinton voted for it because they had the same information.

BLITZER: All right. Let's pick up that and get to some other policy issues, a little politics, what's happening in Virginia, New Jersey. We're going to take a quick break, though, first. More with Ed Gillespie, Terry McAuliffe. They'll stand by.

We'll also continue the debate with the former Republican and Democratic party chairmen on other specific issues. Up next, though, what's -- we'll get a quick check of what's making news right now, including an update on today's deadly tornado in Indiana and Kentucky. Stay with "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we have a policy absolutely radical in nature. Different from what George Bush, senior did, different from what Ronald Reagan did, different from what Dwight Eisenhower did.

We will go to war on preemptive basis. That is, if we believe that a leader in a foreign country ought to be removed from office, we'll go to war with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking with me on Friday.

Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're talking about the week's key developments and their potential impact on the U.S. political landscape, this year and beyond with the former Republican chairman, Ed Gillespie and the former Democratic party chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

Jimmy Carter says this a radical new departures from all the presidents, including Reagan, Eisenhower -- all the Republican presidents of the past -- this preemptive strike policy to go after someone like Saddam Hussein.

What do you make of that?

GILLESPIE: Well, I make of it that President Carter was president before September 11, 2001. And his mentality remains in that time frame.

The fact is, after we were struck on September 11, 2001 by terrorists, the world changed. And President Bush recognized that change and understood, as did a majority in the Senate, when we decided that we could not risk any longer, the possibility that someone like Saddam Hussein, with an avowed hatred of the United States and the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction, would be allowed to remain in that capacity.

And there's two ways you can do it. Make a determination and preemptively act or wait to be hit and act in the aftermath. That's the wrong approach after September 11.

BLITZER: Sounds like a fair point.

MCAULIFFE: I guess, if that's the theory, then we're next moving into Iran; we'll go to Syria; we'll move through North Korea -- I mean, if that's the standard you're going to use.

The Bush administration laid out two key pieces of evidence. They said that yellowcake uranium, the alleged sale from Niger -- they also alleged that these aluminum tubes could be used as centrifuges for nuclear capability. It turned out they were merely plumbing fixtures.

So, both of the evidences that they laid out to commit our troops to war turned out to be totally false.

They tried to tie a connection between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein. There was no connection. We're over there under false pretenses. And I agree with former President Carter. This is not why the United States, the greatest country in the world, should commit their troops.

BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about some political issues that are going to be on the agenda Tuesday. Elections: a couple of governor races coming up in New Jersey, for example, the Republican Doug Forrester against the incumbent Democratic senator, Jon Corzine, who wants to be New Jersey's governor

Who's going to win that contest?

GILLESPIE: I think Forrester is closing fast at the end of this.

It's a tough state for us, but I believe when the voters look at the need for change in Trenton -- and I was born and raised in New Jersey; I'm a Virginian now, so I'm watching both of these races very closely -- I think, as the voters get into the voting both and realize we have a profound need for change in Trenton -- change that culture of corruption there -- Doug Forrester's going to win at the end of the day.

BLITZER: There's a tough ad that Forrester's campaign is running against Jon Corzine, referring to the breakup of his marriage, quoting his ex-wife.

I'll show the ad and I'll read to you what it says, "When I saw the campaign ad where Andrea Forrester said, 'Doug never let his family down and he won't let New Jersey down,' all I could think was that Jon did let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too."

That's quoting his ex-wife, comments she'd made to the New York Times. That's a pretty tough ad. It's getting very personal between these two guys.

MCAULIFFE: Yes. Well, Jon Corzine will be the next governor in New Jersey. I'll bet Ed a hundred bucks right now that Jon will win that election.

But that ad -- there's no place for that in American politics today. A lot of people are getting turned off by all the personal attacks.

You know, you see that ad -- and, as you know, Doug Forrester yesterday got asked on television and radio about an alleged affair he had. You know, there are a lot of people who said, I want nothing to do with politics.

We're losing, I think, very qualified people who would make great legislators who just don't want any part of this business anymore. Keep it to the facts, to the issues.

BLITZER: Does Terry make a fair point?

GILLESPIE: I think voters in New Jersey and in Virginia are going to base their votes on what they think is going to improve their quality of life -- which candidate is going to more to improve our schools, lower our taxes, create jobs in our state, make us more secure?

I think, when they look at those issues in both states, Jerry Kilgore in Virginia and Doug Forrester in New Jersey, the voters are going to come down on the side of the Republicans.

MCAULIFFE: Will you take a hundred bucks? I just wanted to know -- you and me, a hundred bucks?

GILLESPIE: I bet you a hundred bucks, your charity versus mine, that Republicans will make gains tomorrow in one of those states.

BLITZER: Tuesday.

GILLESPIE: Tuesday, I'm sorry.

Remember, Wolf -- we've got a New York mayor's race. We've a Virginia governor's race. And we've got a New Jersey governor race. Democrat governors in New Jersey and Virginia, a Republican mayor in New York.

We're the party that's poised to make a gain on Tuesday, OK. So, I'll bet...

MCAULIFFE: A Republican mayor who won't even use the word "Republican" -- pro-choice, (inaudible)...

BLITZER: We're talking about Michael Bloomberg. MCAULIFFE: ... who will not use the word "Republican" in anything that he does.

BLITZER: Well, why is a Republican in a Democratic city like New York City -- Michael Bloomberg -- why is he going to get re-elected, apparently, decisively, if you believe all of these polls. MCAULIFFE: Well, I think, for one thing, it's alleged he spent over $60 million. And when you have that kind of money and you're buying the airwaves day in and day out -- Freddie Ferrer is working his heart and soul out every single day, but you know, he's outspending him 20 to one right now.

GILLESPIE: Corzine's doing that in New Jersey and it's neck and neck. So, that's not the case.

MCAULIFFE: Well, I think Forrester's spent $10 million of his own money -- I just read today. I think he's done pretty well.

GILLESPIE: He's certainly being outspent by Corzine.

MCAULIFFE: That's not my fault he's not as good a businessman as Jon, but...

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: An important governor's race in Virginia. You referred to it. Jerry Kilgore is the Republican. Tim Kaine is the Democrat.

President Bush, on his way back from Panama tomorrow night, is going to make a quick stop in Virginia to do a little campaigning for Kilgore. But, apparently, Kilgore has not really sought the president's involvement.

He's trying to distance himself a little bit. That's the suggestion in Virginia, political talk that he really doesn't want the president involved given the president's unpopularity right now.

GILLESPIE: Well, as you said, Wolf, the president's going to be there the day before the election in Richmond. And that is going to boost turnout on the Republican side.

I think the fact is, when you look at Jerry Kilgore, this is someone who supports the death penalty, who has a strong support of Second Amendment rights, is for lower taxes.

There are clear differences in this campaign. Tim Kaine is one who is for higher taxes; he supported and favored an increase in the gasoline tax. He's opposed to the death penalty. He got an "F" from (inaudible)...

BLITZER: So, you're saying Kilgore's going to win.

GILLESPIE: I think Kilgore's going to win. Absolutely I do.

BLITZER: Do you think Kaine is going to win?

GILLESPIE: A hundred bucks? We've got a hundred bucks on Republican making gains tomorrow, or Tuesday.

MCAULIFFE: Tim is going to win this race. He's run a great race. Let me tell you two statistics: George Bush's approval rating today in Virginia is about 40 percent. Governor Mark Warner, the incumbent Democratic governor's approval rating today: 80 percent.

And Tim is going to continue those policies that he and Mark have worked so hard, to bring fiscal stability after the morass that the former Republican governor created in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It's that strong leadership why Tim Kaine wins.

BLITZER: Final question: What's your favorite charity?

MCAULIFFE: Boys' and Girls' Club, I'll go with.

BLITZER: Favorite charity?

GILLESPIE: I think I will go with Horton's Kids.

BLITZER: Good charities.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

GILLESPIE: You bet.

BLITZER: All right. We'll talk.

Up next, "LATE EDITION" Sunday morning talk show round-up. In case you missed the other shows, we'll tell you some of the highlights.

But first, this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): What's her story? White House executive chef, Cristeta Comerford made her official debut this week when President and Mrs. Bush hosted a formal dinner for Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.

On the menu, celery broth with crispy rock shrimp, medallions of buffalo tenderloin, and mint romaine lettuce with blood orange vinaigrette.

Comerford became the first female head chef in White House history two months ago. She was born in Philippines and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, which also makes her the first minority to hold the job.

Although it wasn't an official state dinner, this was the first formal event for the 43-year-old chef. Next up on Comerford's plate: getting the White House ready for the holiday season when the first couple will host thousands of guests at more than two dozen Christmas parties.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the other Sunday morning talk shows. On CBS's "Face the Nation," the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, disputed Democrats' claim he was stalling the next phase of an investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: I've got tennis shoes on...

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Why has it taken so long?

ROBERTS: I've got tennis shoes and track shoes on on phase two. We have been doing this, are doing this, had it scheduled for next week. They knew it was scheduled for next week. And then closed down the Senate and said you're going to have an investigation.

When I walked on the Senate floor, I said, what's this all about? And they said, well, it's an independent investigation. I said, what's it about? They said, you and phase two. I said, we're doing phase two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On NBC's "Meet the Press," Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy defended his party forcing a closed Senate session over the matter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This had been kicked along by the Intelligence Committee, by Pat Roberts, for over two years. And Harry Reid did more in two hours than that Intelligence Committee has done in two years. And the American people are going to get this information, and it's important that they get this information about how intelligence was misused because of the current situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On ABC's "This Week," Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates explained why he's devoting billions of his own money to improve global health.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL GATES, FOUNDER/CHAIRMAN, MICROSOFT: We should be putting more resources into malaria. The fact that all these kids are dying, over 2,000 a day, that's terrible. If it was happening in rich countries, we'd act. And so, making that more visible, getting more resources, I think that needs to be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And on "Fox News Sunday," a very tender moment between the host Chris Wallace and his father, CBS correspondent Mike Wallace as they mused about the elder Wallace's newest grandson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE WALLACE, CBS NEWS: He's a good-looking kid, isn't he?

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, FOX NEWS SUNDAY: Yes, he takes after his mother.

M. WALLACE: That's right, he does.

C. WALLACE: Look at this guy. You've never seen this guy.

M. WALLACE: No, I've never seen this tape. I have to steal it. He moves around. That's a nice surprise. Bless you.

C. WALLACE: Well, it's a great book. It is a great life, and I couldn't be prouder of both, and I love you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A father and a son. They love each other. Good work. Highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows, the other Sunday morning talk shows, seen here on "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. Up next, the results of our web question of the week, are you worried that there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. mass transit system? The results right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Our "LATE EDITION" web question asks, are you worried that there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. mass transit system? Forty percent of you said yes. Sixty percent said no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, November 6. Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. I'm here in "The Situation Room" new times, 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern and 7 p.m. Eastern. Until tomorrow, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

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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