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AMERICAN MORNING

Immigration Debate Moves to Next Level; Moussaoui's Stunning Admission; Israel Votes for New Government

Aired March 28, 2006 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: morning, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Roberts in for Miles O'Brien who's on assignment today. Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in.

O'BRIEN: And look at that, more protests as the immigration debate moves to the next level. It's setting up what will likely become a showdown in the Senate. We've got a live report straight ahead this morning.

ROBERTS: A stunning admission. Zacarias Moussaoui, the al Qaeda conspirator, says he knew the 9/11 attacks were coming. We're live with more on his bombshell testimony and what this means for the prosecution's case.

O'BRIEN: Material for dirty bombs, successfully smuggled into the United States. American investigators are revealing massive holes in border security. We've got that.

ROBERTS: A Tennessee preacher being laid to rest today while his wife charged with his killing enters no plea at her arraignment.

O'BRIEN: And another blow for America's biggest automaker. What will hundreds of expected layoffs mean for General Motors? Those stories all ahead on this AMERICAN MORNING.

Welcome everybody, let's start talking about immigration. What is sure to be a contentious debate over immigration reform begins today on the floor of the Senate.

CNN's Kathleen Koch is live for us on Capitol Hill. Good morning, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

And a big victory here in the U.S. Senate for immigrant supporters. Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee did end up crafting an immigration measure that had, first of all, a guest worker program. That was something that President Bush very much wanted. But secondly, a much more controversial item, it included a measure that will let immigrants earn legal permanent residency and that is the first step to citizenship, though it certainly wouldn't be easy.

First of all, immigrants who were working in the U.S. before 2004 would have to wait six years, pay $2,000 in fines, pay any back taxes, undergo a background check and learn English. Now this measure also does beef up security along the border doubling the number of patrol agents. It would also create something called a virtual wall, a system of unmanned vehicles, sensors and cameras to monitor the southern border.

Now the expectation was the debate would begin on this measure today, but now that is not the case or at least this morning. The likelihood is it could begin later this afternoon or if not this afternoon, later this week. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Kathleen, critics say, these are critics which include the president, but that the legalization process essentially gives amnesty. What are the supporters of the bill saying in response to that?

KOCH: Well, as you heard Soledad, there are a lot of hurdles to jump so supporters of the measure, including Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, say that's simply not the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The approach we have undertaken is to try to have them come forward and have them come forward in the context where we are not rewarding their illegal conduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOCH: Now the question is when debate does begin on immigration reform, will it be this measure that the Senate Judiciary Committee drafted or will it be another measure that was introduced by Senate majority leader, crafted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, which does not include the pass to citizenship nor the guest worker program. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Kathleen Koch for us this morning. Kathleen, thank you.

CNN's Lou Dobbs has been focusing on the nation's broken borders. And in one day, Lou heads to Mexico for the immigration summit. Free leaders, plus Lou, live from Mexico. That starts tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Lou's going to join us here on AMERICAN MORNING at the half hour with his take on this immigration battle. John?

ROBERTS: A CNN "Security Watch" reveals massive holes at our borders. A new report shows undercover investigators were able to smuggle into the country, enough nuclear material to construct two dirty bombs. Radiation alarms even caught the contraband, but custom agents allowed it through after the undercover agents flashed fake documents. The administration says it's getting border agents the tools they need to verify such documents.

It took all of a half an hour on the witness stand for Zacarias Moussaoui to undo any good that his attorneys have done for him over the past couple of years and possibly doom himself. The only man in the U.S. charged in the 9/11 attacks made a stunning admission in court. "

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken is live outside the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Good morning to you, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Defense attorneys have tried to stop him from testifying and it's certainly not hard to see why.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN (voice-over): The prosecutor to Zacarias Moussaoui, "You lied because you wanted to conceal that you were a member of Al Qaeda." Moussaoui: "That's correct." "You lied so the plan could go forward" "That's correct."

Moussaoui told the court that originally he was to fly a fifth jetliner into the White House. One of his accomplices he said was convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid. Reid ended up battered and bruised after passengers on board a December 2001 flight headed from Paris to Miami, overpowered him as he tried to detonate his shoes. Nearly 200 were on board.

Defense attorneys, as well as legal experts, believe Moussaoui's admission that he lied about not knowing of an attack, reinforced prosecutors arguments he should get the death penalty. That's because government lawyers say those lies allowed the September 11th attacks to go forward undetected.

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER N.Y. STATE PROSECUTOR: I think his testimony today was suicide on the witness stand. Here, the prosecutors had a very uphill battle in getting the death penalty and I think that Zacarias Moussaoui has sealed his own fate by testifying today.

FRANKEN: The prosecution had been plagued by one misstep after another. But many experts now believe the case against Zacarias Moussaoui may have been rescued by Moussaoui himself.

STEPHEN SALTZBURG, GEORGE WASHING UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: I gave the government very little chance of winning prior to today. Now, I think it's probably a 50/50 call as to whether the jury, if they believe him.

FRANKEN: Defense attorneys tried to counter by submitting a statement from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the captured planner of the September 11th attacks, who claimed that Moussaoui had been marginalized by the terrorists, says a problem from the start.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: So the question is not whether Zacarias Moussaoui lied. The question, John, is when.

ROBERTS: Such a bizarre twist. Bob Franken, thanks very much. And stay with CNN day and night for the latest news about your security. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: We're getting word just in. This is coming to us from the Associated Press, reporting that Charles Taylor, the former Liberian war lord and president, a man wanted for war crimes, has disappeared. He had sought asylum you recall in Nigeria, it was all part of a plea deal where he stepped down as the leader of Liberia back in 2003. And also part of the deal to end that civil war there, it began about 14 years earlier. There were calls to turn him over to a UN tribunal. And Nigeria was supposed to surrender him where he would then go face charges for backing the Sierra Leone rebels. Nigeria agreed, said that they would transfer him, but details of that transfer are actually very few and far between.

And so word today that the Liberian warlord, Charles Taylor, who is wanted for war crimes, that he has disappeared from Nigeria. Not exactly for many people a huge surprise, considering Nigeria seemed somewhat reluctant to actually turn him over to the new Liberian government. We're obviously going to follow this story and any of the details that come this morning. But that's the latest news here to us this morning.

We've got lots more news to cover for you. In this country, Mary Winkler has taken her first steps on a long road to justice. The Tennessee woman who's accused of killing her preacher husband was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge on Monday. She did not enter a plea and looked up only once to respond to the judge. Her attorneys say she'll plead not guilty, but then of course, you have that confession that she made to police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLIE BALLIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm questioning whether or not it's in fact a confession. It may be a statement of what happened, but I don't know what is contained in that statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Her attorneys say we may learn that the public face of the Winkler family was very different than the private face. Police pretty much ruled out infidelity and most who knew the couple described them both in glowing terms. One neighbor says though, she saw a different side of the preacher, Matthew Winkler, when he grew angry about her dogs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARYN EVERITT, WINKLER NEIGHBOR: And then he said if that dog comes over in my yard, I'll shoot it. It was totally not what I expected from a preacher. He wasn't perfect. He absolutely -- I mean if we're going to elevate him to sainthood, let's wait until after the court and let's see what really did happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Mary Winkler has got a bail hearing set for Thursday morning. John? ROBERTS: Turning overseas, in Israel today, a possible historic parliamentary vote. Pre-election opinion polls show the new Kadima Party with an edge over traditional political power brokers, Labour and Likud. Polls close eight hours from now.

CNN'S Guy Raz is outside a polling station in Jerusalem and joins us. Good morning to you, Guy.

GUY RAZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

A lot at stake in this election, a vote that in many ways is shaping up to be a kind of referendum on the future of the West Bank. How much of it Israel we'll hold on to and how much of it, it will give up. Now Israel's political structure is incredibly complex. It's basically a system that almost always forces political opponents to join up just to get a government established.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAZ (voice-over): Israel's parliament is a notoriously nasty place to work. There's no decorum here and a lot of shouting. Men like Shimon Peres used to getting red carpet treatment abroad, can barely get a sentence out of the (INAUDIBLE) without being heckled.

What seems like anarchy is the product of a unique political system. The entire country of Israel is considered one voting district. Voters, as this television ad shows, do not vote for individuals, but only for political parties. The party is then allocated seats in the 120-member parliament based precisely on the percentage of votes it receives in the election.

It's a system designed to provide for the maximum amount of representation. The only hurdle is a party has to win at least 2 percent of the national vote to win a seat inside. Now, on average, 12 different parties will win seats and in Israel's entire history, no one single party has ever won enough of those seats to govern alone.

The system dates back to the early days of Israel's founding in 1948. The first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion hated it, because it threatened the dominance of his socialist movement.

PROF. REUVEN HAZAN, HEBREW UNIVERSITY: When Gurion was elected during the early days of Israel and wanted to change the system, there were people within his own party who opposed it saying no, we need to represent the minorities. We need to let everyone have a stake in playing this game.

RAZ: It's a system that requires painstaking compromise and usually a lot of horse trading. But in the end, somehow, it's managed to work for 57 years.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAZ: John, the big question today is whether political parties that support future withdrawals from the Palestinian West Bank will, in fact, win enough of those seats to form the next governing coalition. John?

ROBERTS: Guy, it's obviously pretty calm where you are there. The picture behind you seems pretty serene but there was some violence elsewhere in Israel today, was there not?

RAZ: Indeed there was. Two Israelis were actually killed when they came across, we understand now, unexploded ordinance near the country's border with Gaza. Now that border has been a frequent area of conflict and confrontation with Palestinian militants generally firing rockets over the border into Israel. Many of that ordnance doesn't explode, we understand the two Israelis came across some of that ordnance, they touched it and obviously that ordnance exploded killing two people earlier this morning. John?

ROBERTS: All right, Guy Raz for us in Jerusalem. Thanks very much. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: It's 12 minutes past the hour. Time for a check of the forecast with Chad. Good morning again.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. Some rain across parts of the country this morning. Kind of sliding into the east today from about Pittsburgh into D.C. and then all the way down toward Dallas. Dallas, in fact, you guys are going to get, south of you, you're going to get the heaviest amount of precep. Everywhere that you see the red, this is the forecast rainfall totals for the day everywhere from Dallas southward through Waco, San Antonio, down to the hill country, that's an inch of rain or more. Probably not enough to make flooding, but some beneficial rain to a very dry area of the country.

High pressure through the plains, there is the rain moving to the east. It should say south and west of New York City all day. There may be a shower, though, well after dark in New York City, probably well after your rush hour today. Rain all the way down to Louisiana. Big storm in the west from San Francisco right on down to L.A. today. Areas there could pick up two to three inches in some spots, four inches of rain. That storm moves into the plains and I get busy tomorrow. Big weather here through the plains on Wednesday and again on Thursday. The possibility of tornados through the middle of the week very high. Back to you guys.

ROBERTS: You know, he needs to go away again because every time he comes back, there's bad news on the horizon!

O'BRIEN: We did notice a little (INAUDIBLE) Chad while you were gone.

MYERS: What is up with that?

O'BRIEN: I hate to point it out, but now that you've brought it up, John.

ROBERTS: We didn't use the "t" word at all after you were away last week!

MYERS: I'm kind of like pig pen. As I walk in the room this big cloud hangs over my head.

ROBERTS: Incredible.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MYERS: Sorry. I get paid to do that, though. They want rain!

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: We're going to have much more on the Zacarias Moussaoui trial straight ahead this morning. Some folks say he pretty much committed suicide on the stand. We'll take a look at whether the prosecution is now back in the driver's seat in this case.

ROBERTS: Also, the battle over immigration reform. CNN's own Lou Dobbs joins us live with his take on the battle raging across the country.

O'BRIEN: And GM gets ready to cut hundreds more jobs. Andy's going to take a look at what that means for the future of the world's biggest auto maker as he "Minds Your Business" just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If it is possible for a man to talk himself to death, Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui may have done just that. Moussaoui testified on Monday that not only did he know about the 9/11 plot, he was supposed to hijack a fifth plane and fly that plane into the White House. So what now for Moussaoui's death penalty defense?

Criminal defense attorney Frank Rubino joins us from Miami. Nice to see you Frank, thanks for talking with us.

FRANK RUBINO, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Do you think this is it, that he's done, that he has essentially talked himself into a death sentence?

RUBINO: Without a doubt, Mr. Moussaoui was the best witness the government ever had on the witness stand.

O'BRIEN: He said and that issue, of course, is could the FBI have prevented 9/11 if he had not lied in their investigation. Let me read for you just a little bit of a sample of what he said in some of his interviews. This is Gerald Zerkin, the defense attorney says, "Before your arrest, were you scheduled to pilot a plane as part of the 9/11 operation?" And Moussaoui answers back, "Yes, I was supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House."

Do you think -- he had said before that he -- this is really the first time we hear this kind of word on the stand. I mean this is pretty critical, isn't it? RUBINO: It really is. What he did was he answered the questions that may have been nagging in the jurors minds. If there was any reasonable doubt in their mind he has dispelled that entirely and actually sealed and signed his own death warrant.

O'BRIEN: Previously though he has not admitted involvement in 9/11. Do you really think that he clears up any reasonable doubt? Because there are some who would say, you know what, actually, what that testimony was, was somebody aggrandizing what they actually did.

RUBINO: Well, I don't know. He was probably one of the most honest defendants to ever testify in a death penalty phase. Most of the time, defendants get up there, they're not contrite, they're not sorry, but they wiggle, they dance, they make all of these self- serving statements saying how sorry they are. He was nasty, he was belligerent. Though firm in his conviction, he basically said he hated America, he hated Americans and he stood for Al Qaeda.

O'BRIEN: And he said essentially I was a major player in all this which as we know now through a letter from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who said no he wasn't. Here is a guy who couldn't keep his mouth shut. He was a terrible operative frankly, he was no major player. I mean, couldn't the jury read that as this is a guy who's, you know, up-playing his role because he wants to be a martyr?

RUBINO: He is clearly up-playing his role, but the point is he still contributed to murders. Maybe he didn't contribute in a grandiose way as he wishes he did or would like to play himself up to be, but he was still a player. Maybe even minor in nature but he still committed the crime. Maybe not nearly to the degree or grandioseness that he would like to make himself appear to be.

O'BRIEN: When he says that Richard Reid, his co-conspirator with him, in fact, the two of them were supposed to be the hijackers of the fifth plane into The White House. There are many who said, you know these two guys, not sharp enough to do this, not possible that they could have pulled off this plot.

RUBINO: Well, that doesn't mean they wouldn't have tried because they weren't sharp enough. Clearly Reid was probably one of the dumbest bombers around. No one understands why he didn't at least go into the men's room, lock the door and light his foot on fire instead of doing it in front of everyone. But even though they may not have been smart enough, sharp enough, high enough up the echelon, that doesn't mean they wouldn't have tried and that doesn't mean others may, two or three other people may not have assisted them in their endeavor who may have been sharper than they were.

O'BRIEN: We'll see what happens when the jury takes in all of this information. Frank Rubino is a criminal defense attorney, thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it, as always.

RUBINO: My pleasure. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: John? ROBERTS: Coming up on AMERICAN MORNING, the fight over immigration. A controversial reform measure is now one step closer to becoming law. CNN's Lou Dobbs is going to join us with his take on the battle.

Plus, more pink slips are apparently on the way at General Motors, but can they help turn the troubled car maker around? Andy is "Minding Your Business" next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Could be a grim day for some white collar workers at General Motors, Andy Serwer here "Minding Your Business." Good morning to you Andy. And not a good morning for folks in Detroit.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: That's right John, you know we heard last week about buyout offers made to over a hundred thousand hourly workers. Now apparently salaried workers will are going to be feeling the pinch. Published reports this morning suggesting that the largest auto maker is going to be offering -- is going to be delivering pink slips, I should say, to as many as 2,500 white collar workers. That's out of a total of 36,000 in the U.S. That's about 7 percent.

And we had some reports on this morning earlier in the program, John, that suggested that GM was calling in all white collar workers to come to work today, even if they were on vacation, and telling them to drive their GM cars to work. Obviously, they would be surrendering those cars, one would imagine, and, of course, but getting people in from a vacation really seems to be a situation that would be very painful.

ROBERTS: Yes, you know, if somebody is out of town or something, are they supposed to bail on their vacation, come back to, you know the home headquarters just so that they can get fired? I mean, it doesn't seem exactly fair, does it?

SERWER: It doesn't seem right. You know, and the thing is, there are so many balls in the air right now for CEO Rick Wagoner, the CEO of GM. So many things to fix, so many things to address. You've got pricing strategies dealing with the dealers. GMAC, the giant financing arm of this company also in play. And the question is, you know, how do you right this ship, how do you get this company back on footing where it doesn't have to go bankrupt. Obviously, they have to downsize. Downsizing both the hourly and salaried employees is going to be a part of that job.

But you know, when you really come right down to it, you've got to make cars that Americans and in fact global consumers want to buy. Their cars are getting better. Experts will tell you that. But the Japanese automakers in particular are making such tremendous inroads here still that it's going to be a very, very difficult job to kind of turn this aircraft carrier around because that's what you're really talking about here.

ROBERTS: Well, you know everybody wants to see GM turn it around, but unfortunately a lot of pain that goes along with that turnaround. SERWER: And that's right, and the people working there in those jobs you wonder where they are going to go. There are foreign automakers opening up new plants in the southern part of the United States, but simply picking up and moving down there to get another job, I mean it sounds good, but obviously it's a very, very difficult proposition for anyone to do.

ROBERTS: Tough Tuesday for GM workers, Andy, thanks very much.

There's a new way that you can lower your blood pressure without exercise or medication. It's very simple. You've got to get a companion. We'll explain all that.

And later on, how your emotions are affecting your health? A powerful documentary takes a look at this so-called new medicine and what doctors can do to treat patients more effectively. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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