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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Will Fired Attorneys Cost Alberto Gonzales His Job?

Aired March 29, 2007 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HEARING)

KYLE SAMPSON, FORMER GONZALES CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate and...

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is what?

Is accurate?

SAMPSON: I don't think it's accurate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Firing eight federal prosecutors could cost Attorney General Alberto Gonzales his job. And today on the rope, his former top aide contradicts Gonzales on the controversy everyone in Washington is watching.

Just how damaging was his testimony?

We'll ask two of the senators who grilled him, Republican Arlen Specter...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPECTER: The Department of Justice is in a state of disrepair, perhaps even dysfunction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: ... and Democrat Charles Schumer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: So the attorney general's statement is wrong. It's false.

SAMPSON: I...

SCHUMER: How can it not be?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, one of those fired prosecutors speaks out. And then inside the other Washington video everybody's talking about...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more time, what's your name?

KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL ADVISER: M.C. Rove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The men who got Karl Rove rapping last night will tell us how they did it and if they think the president has a future in stand- up comedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know you've lost it when people sympathize with lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, Sanjaya mania...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL")

SANJAYA MALAKAR, "AMERICAN IDOL" CONTESTANT: Wanted and adored by attractive women.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The real deal on the "American Idol" sensation who's got Simon Cowell threatening to quit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "AMERICAN IDOL")

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": I don't think it matters anymore what we say, actually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: From Sanjaya's family members, his one time choir director and Simon's girlfriend, "Extra" correspondent Terri Seymour -- they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Two outstanding United States senators join us from Washington, Charles Schumer of New York; Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Senator Schumer, did the testimony of Sampson today add to this story? What did it do?

SCHUMER: Oh, it certainly added to this story.

First, he directly rebutted the attorney general in terms of the attorney general telling the truth about what happened with all these firings. He said that the attorney general did not state the whole facts in many different ways.

Second, he admitted that Mr. Iglesias, one of the U.S. attorneys who was fired, should not have been fired.

Third, he showed the utter disarray in the Justice Department. Here a major decision was made to fire seven U.S. attorneys.

And what -- do they have a system, a procedure? Do they have files? Did they know who was the -- who said they should be fired? Did they check out the allegations against them?

It seems none of this happened.

KING: Yes.

SCHUMER: It seemed like a sort of back to the envelope operation for something as serious as this.

So the testimony was extremely damaging for Attorney General Gonzales and for the Justice Department.

KING: And, by the way, David Iglesias, who you mentioned, will be with us shortly.

Senator Arlen Specter is also with us.

Before we ask Arlen, let's watch him questioning Sampson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMPSON: I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions about U.S. attorney removals is accurate and...

SPECTER: Is what?

Is accurate?

SAMPSON: I don't think it's accurate. I think he's recently clarified it. But I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign and I believe that he was present at the meeting on November 27th.

SPECTER: So he was involved in discussions, contrary to the statement he made at his news conference on March 13th?

SAMPSON: I believe -- yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator Specter, you said the Justice Department's reputation has been damaged.

How damaged?

SPECTER: Well, it remains to be seen, Larry. I think we have to hear from the attorney general before we come to conclusions. He's entitled to his day in court.

I think one factor interesting to note is that the most important concession made by Kyle Sampson today was in response to my question, and that is whether the attorney general was involved in discussions.

He said in his news conference on March 13th he was not. And that's a very serious contradiction with the e-mail. But let's -- let's hear from him first. Let's give him his day in court before we hang him.

KING: When does that occur?

SPECTER: It occurs in a couple of weeks. We're on recess next week and 10 days afterward, he'll be before us. He'll be under oath and let's hear what he has to say. I'm not going to run him out of town on a rail based on newspaper stories or television or radio interviews. I want to see him eyeball to eyeball. I want him under oath and hear what he has to say.

KING: Chuck Schumer, have you called for him to resign?

SCHUMER: I have, indeed.

I, you know, from the start, I was worried that Attorney General Gonzales didn't understand the role of an attorney general. He rather saw himself still as the White House counsel.

When you're White House counsel, you serve the president and that's that. When you're attorney general, rule of law comes first, politics comes second.

And, you know, in every Justice Department, of course there's politics. Politics is part of the warp and woof of our government. But when you put politics above rule of law, which I think they have done not only in U.S. attorneys -- there's a large body of evidence that shows that -- but on NSA letters, on the NSA spying issue, on the national security letters -- so many times was the civil rights division, for instance, the staff said this is a violation of civil rights and they were overruled by the political people.

At least in my experience of being here since 1980 on the Judiciary Committee in the House and now the Senate for 26 years, I've never seen such a political Justice Department. Neither Ronald Reagan's department nor George Bush the first was close to this.

KING: Senator Specter, are you suspicious of Karl Rove's involvement?

SPECTER: No, I am not. He has been mentioned. He heard reports about David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, not performing and he passed them on to the Department of Justice, which is what he should have done. He's the deputy chief of staff in the White House and he was involved in the planning as to what should be done with the United States attorneys. But here again, let's hear from Karl Rove. I have been talking to Fred Fielding, the White House counsel. I think the president is wrong when he does not want to have a transcript made of what Karl Rove has to say, but I think the president has a point that he shouldn't appear before both committees.

We can have members of the House Judiciary Committee and Senate, Republicans and Democrats and question him.

I'd like to see him under oath, but it's not indispensable.

Look here, Larry, what I think we've got to do is stop the bickering and come to terms and find a way to accommodate the various concerns, the president's executive privilege with the Congressional need to know and get to the facts.

And when we know the facts, who knows?

Chuck Schumer and Arlen Specter might agree.

SCHUMER: We might. But I would say this, Larry...

KING: Senator Schumer, do you think you are senator...

SCHUMER: Just...

KING: Do you think, Senator Schumer, that you will get Mr. Rove before you?

SCHUMER: Well, Arlen said stop the bickering and he's right. But it's the White House who has caused the problems here.

We all agree, Senator Specter, myself, just about everybody who's looked at this, that at least if Karl Rove comes before us -- I understand they don't want a public trial. I even understand maybe not to do it under oath. There are other criminal laws that would cover even if he didn't swear an oath.

But it's indefensible to say there would be no transcript. And I know Arlen agrees with that. He's said it before.

And if the White House wants Karl Rove to come testify -- and I think they're going to have to have that done at some point because this problem, scandal, call it what you will, grows bigger and bigger and bigger everyday. They have to do it under some reasonable terms.

If you say no transcript, no oath, not in public, you know what the -- what any good lawyer will tell you?

That they probably have something to hide.

KING: Thank you both very much.

We'll be calling on you again.

Senators Arlen Specter and Chuck Schumer. Coming up, the U.S. attorneys who were fired -- you've heard about them. When we come back, you'll hear from one of them.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMPSON: The decisions to seek the resignations of a handful of U.S. attorneys were properly made, but poorly explained. This is a benign, rather than sinister story and I know that some may be disposed not to accept it. But it's the truth as I observed it and experienced it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: If the choice were up to you, just thinking back on that fateful December 7th, would you now, knowing what you know now, have put David Iglesias on a list -- the choice solely up to you -- that he should be fired?

SAMPSON: In hindsight, sitting here today?

SCHUMER: Correct.

SAMPSON: I don't -- I would not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from Albuquerque, New Mexico, David Iglesias himself, the former U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, one of the eight fired by the Justice Department last year.

When you hear Kyle Sampson say something like that, David, how does it make you feel?

DAVID IGLESIAS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR NEW MEXICO: Oh, it makes me feel great. It absolutely corroborates what I've been thinking all along, that not just me, but my colleagues, should not have been let go.

KING: Were you shocked?

IGLESIAS: When I heard...

KING: That you were fired.

IGLESIAS: ... Kyle Sampson state what he did?

KING: No. No, that when you were fired, were you shocked?

IGLESIAS: Oh, I was stupefied, Larry. I mean you've got to understand, I had had no warning. Nobody from the Justice Department had ever said I was in trouble. In fact, when I talked to Battle, I said why didn't you tell me I was in trouble, I would have fixed the problem?

KING: So when Kyle Sampson does say this now, your reaction is you feel wonderful but do you say what the hell?

IGLESIAS: Well, I just wish they would have, you know -- I think the best explanation of this scandal is what Bud Cummins said a while back. He said it was a bad plan poorly executed. I couldn't agree more with that.

KING: OK, what about the other side, that says you work at the pleasure of the president, they can fire you for any reason?

IGLESIAS: That's not quite right. In fact, Arlen Specter stated on March the 6th, when we testified, that there are a few areas that U.S. attorneys should not be let go. And he said when U.S. attorneys are given the sensitive investigations, sensitive areas, those are areas that you cannot fire a U.S. attorney for. And Kyle Sampson essentially said the same thing in his testimony this morning.

There is a small group of cases in areas where you cannot fire a U.S. attorney legitimately.

KING: How long were you a U.S. attorney there in New Mexico?

IGLESIAS: About five-and-a-half years, Larry.

KING: Why do you think they fired you?

IGLESIAS: Well, they fired me because, I guess, I wasn't political enough. I was doing what John Ashcroft asked me to do -- look at the law, look at the evidence and keep politics out of it. And, you know, but for getting too inappropriate phone calls from Heather Wilson and from Pete Domenici, I believe I would still be U.S. attorney.

KING: So you're a Republican appointee and during that time you were never hassled except for those two occasions?

IGLESIAS: That's correct.

KING: What do you make of this whole story?

IGLESIAS: Well, it's hard to put my hands around it because it keeps mutating. It's like this virus, Larry, that keeps changing. When you think you've got it figured out, it keeps changing and evolving. It's kind of -- it takes my breath away, to be quite frank with you.

KING: Have you talked with the other attorneys who were let go?

IGLESIAS: Oh, yes. We are in close communication. Yes, sir.

KING: Would you go back? IGLESIAS: At this point?

I don't believe so. I have no faith and confidence that our top leadership at the Justice Department knows what they're doing. I don't believe they're credible and I -- I could not work for them, nor do I think they would welcome me back into the fold.

KING: Should Alberto Gonzales resign?

IGLESIAS: That's a matter for him and the president and the Senate to work out. I have publicly taken no position on that.

KING: Is there any case you can think of, any investigation you were dealing with, that might have led to this, where you can say ah, that's why they did it?

IGLESIAS: Yes, and that's -- your timing is perfect. About two hours ago, here in Albuquerque, my former office announced the indictments -- the public indictments of four individuals. Three are cooperating witnesses. They've already plead guilty. It's a corruption matter. It's a matter which Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici were asking me about.

The ultimate target is a very well known local Democrat, former speaker of the House here in New Mexico. I believe that's what the calls were about.

KING: Ah, so you're telling us that just two hours ago this Democrat was indicted.

Had you investigated him?

IGLESIAS: Yes, this has been a pending matter for quite some time. I believe that the local Republican Party and two members of Congress here, Wilson and Pete Domenici, were upset at the pace of the investigation, as they understood it by reading the newspaper accounts. But they didn't have access to the FBI reports. They didn't know what we were doing because that's not their job. Their job was to legislate. My job was to enforce the law.

KING: Would you not have indicted...

IGLESIAS: And I'm glad my office -- pardon me?

KING: Would you not have indicted?

IGLESIAS: Well, I mean I indicted -- or, the case got indicted when it was ready, not too soon or not too late. But it happened about a month after I left office.

KING: So this, then, is your thinking -- this case, two hours ago, that was the crux?

IGLESIAS: That -- that -- that was the straw that broke this camel's back, Larry. And I believe had I indicted this case back in October, I would not have been asked to resign a month later by the Justice Department.

KING: Up front there with breaking news.

Thank you, David.

IGLESIAS: Thank you very much.

KING: David Iglesias, the former U.S. attorney, might have had the answer two hours ago.

Just ahead, can Gonzales survive?

We'll get opinions from both sides of the aisle, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMPSON: There was no U.S. attorney asked to resign for the purpose of influencing a particular case for a political reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: To discuss the Gonzales matter, an outstanding panel, all in Washington.

Richard Ben-Veniste, former assistant U.S. attorney general, was a member of the 9/11 Commission, was chief of the Watergate Task Force for the Watergate special prosecutor.

Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor-in-chief of Huffingtonpost.com.

Michelle Laxalt, Republican strategist and the daughter of the famed senator, Paul Laxalt.

And David Frum, former speechwriter to President Bush, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Mr. Ben-Veniste, what do you make of all of this, especially the news just broken by our last guest?

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Larry, I think in terms of the administration, when you start seeing a defense of incompetence to a charge of venality, you know the wheels are starting to come off the bus. And so today's testimony by Mr. Sampson provided still greater disparity between the initial story that was told and the stories that have come out since.

And that's not a good thing. The politicization of the Justice Department, the different stories that have been told over time, all indicate a state of disarray and a lack of competence in the Justice Department, in the best case.

In the worst case, it's the use of politics in the Department of Justice, in the first line people, the U.S. attorneys, who need to be impartial and apolitical in their decisions.

KING: Yes.

Michelle Laxalt, we just heard David Iglesias say that a couple of hours ago they indicted, in New Mexico, a Democrat that he had been investigating but had not indicted, which looks like the reason.

What do you make of all this?

MICHELLE LAXALT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first, I couldn't disagree with the former U.S. attorney greater when he levels accusations at the senator who put his name forward to become a U.S. attorney, which is not an elected position. That is an appointed position and those names are submitted to the White House by the delegations of the party who are in power.

And so in the first instance I would suggest that as a fellow Westerner, I think I'm about ready to suggest that he have his Western Visa card revoked.

Senator Pete Domenici is a totally honorable man and anyone who knows him knows that he...

KING: But...

LAXALT: ... he never says good-bye on a phone call.

KING: But he says that --

LAXALT: I've only known him 30 years.

KING: I know. But he says they were investigating a Democrat, they hadn't indicted him, they asked to indicted him, they didn't indict him and now they indict him.

LAXALT: Meaning?

KING: Doesn't that look a little funny?

If it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it might be a duck?

LAXALT: I don't think so. I think when you're -- when you're attacking the integrity of someone who has been in public service for his entire lifetime, at great sacrifice, supporting no fewer than eight children and with the many sacrifices and the many contributions Senator Domenici has made, not only to the country, but to New...

KING: But it...

LAXALT: ... the state of New Mexico, I don't think one political appointee who has a chip on his shoulder because he was asked to leave a position that he wasn't offered permanency in to begin with, should ever...

KING: All right...

LAXALT: ... take a crack at the integrity of Pete Domenici.

KING: Arianna, do you question the fact that that this man that he just told us he was investigating but had not indicted is suddenly indicted after he leaves?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, FOUNDER/EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, first of all, in answer to Michelle, nobody is questioning Pete Domenici as a father or his contributions to New Mexico.

KING: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: People are questioning his pressuring the U.S. attorney who was subsequently fired and for no real reason.

And as for the breaking news, Larry, it is incredibly significant. Even if he should have been indicted, as we just heard, the timing is what matters.

Was the process followed or was pressure being put on the U.S. attorney to expedite the process for political purposes?

But today was a day which changes everything. When we heard the chief of staff to Gonzales actually make it very clear that Gonzales lied to the American people. There is no other word to use except lying, when his testimony today directly contradicted what the attorney general had said to the American people on March 13th.

And even Arlen Specter today, on your show, actually admitted that, OK, we'll give the attorney general his day in court before we hang him.

So it seems pretty inevitable that the hanging is about to happen.

KING: All right, David Frum, what's your input into all of this?

DAVID FRUM, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, FORMER BUSH SPEECHWRITER: Well, the president, last night, made a pretty good joke about how things have come to a pretty pass when you make lawyers sympathetic people. I would say things have come to a pretty pass for a Republican administration when after Walter Reed and now this, you have military veterans and prosecutors mad at you.

Those are -- if the Republicans lose those two constituencies, I don't know who's left.

But I -- what I keep -- I keep wanting to dig to the core of the story.

And I keep saying where exactly is the scandal supposed to be?

I mean, to my mind, the biggest scandal I've yet seen is that we discovered that the U.S. attorney for San Diego was refusing to prosecute immigration cases period, and that it took years to fire her for that.

HUFFINGTON: I'm sorry, but don't you think...

KING: All right, but what about the...

HUFFINGTON: Can I just ask...

KING: Hold it.

HUFFINGTON: Can I just ask one quick question.

You don't think it's a scandal to have the attorney general lying to the American people, as was proven today?

FRUM: If -- if the attorney general lied, as opposed to making a mistake or having a bad memory, yes, he has to go. You can't lie to Congress. That's not allowed.

But it's also true that -- I mean when I look through all of the things I have learned over the past weeks, the thing that upsets me most is that the U.S. attorney for San Diego just said I'm not prosecuting...

KING: OK....

FRUM: ... immigration cases. And it took four years for anything to happen.

BEN-VENISTE: Well, one thing, Larry...

KING: Richard...

BEN-VENISTE: Yes?

KING: ... are you suspicious, Richard, of the Iglesias story, that this indictment now occurs?

BEN-VENISTE: I think the issue is one of timing and the -- the pressure, to the extent that it was applied, seemed to be to have these charges brought before the election, at a time when the U.S. attorney felt that it was not appropriate to bring charges. His investigation had not concluded.

And that would be inappropriate for somebody simply to cave into political pressure under those circumstances.

You know, it's disturbing and disingenuous that the Patriot Act was amended using the threat of terrorism to change the rules regarding Senate confirmation of U.S. attorneys who are to be replaced.

And now we see, with the e-mails that have been disclosed and the testimony to follow on, that for purely political reasons, having nothing to do with terrorism, they used this provision and they intended to use this provision in the Patriot Act, simply to avoid Senate confirmation of hand-picked people...

KING: Wait... BEN-VENISTE: ... one of whom was Karl Rove's hand-picked choice.

KING: My friend...

LAXALT: Larry, I must say that I may have a coronary here because I'm -- I'm going to agree with Richard maybe for the first time in my life on the issue of -- of the optics of -- of abusing the Patriot Act and the powers that were provided within that Act to game the system on U.S. attorneys and depriving the Senate of their confirmation powers.

However, I think what's really, really important is that when those of us who, for instance, joined President Reagan when he was president, that your number one political lesson was once you become the issue, that is time for you to take your leave.

FRUM: Well, wait a minute, three minutes ago we were all upset because there was too much Senatorial influence and now we're upset because there's too little Senatorial influence.

I think a lot of people who -- a lot of people felt that old system of appointing U.S. attorneys had a big problem, which is if the state -- if the branches of government stalemated, as they sometimes did, that there was a -- that the federal district judge was supposed to appoint these U.S. attorneys, which had all kinds of separation of powers problems.

And so something needed to be reformed.

And there is any kind of, you know, yes, there's a push and pull between the executive and Senatorial branch. That's the kind of thing that goes on all the time. It's not exactly a constitutional crisis.

(CROSSTALK)

BEN-VENISTE: I think...

KING: OK. I've got to...

HUFFINGTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

BEN-VENISTE: I think you misinterpret...

KING: I've got to take a break, guys.

LAXALT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) foil.

KING: All right, hold it.

We've got a lot more to do on this, but I thank you all very much.

We're going to ask Arianna and Michelle to hang around.

David and Richard, we'll be calling on you again.

BEN-VENISTE: All right.

KING: We're going to have a little laughs now.

Still ahead -- thanks, guys.

Still ahead, President Bush shows his comic side at the Radio TV Correspondents Dinner, poking fun at his own administration's handling of the Gonzales matter.

That and more, when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: You in the press certainly have had a lot to report lately. Take the current controversy. I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you've botched it when people sympathize with lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my State of the Union address, I said we needed to increase the use of ethanol.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Last night was the Annual Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner; a good time was had by all. And the people who made it possible have joined us now in Washington. Colin Mochrie, who performed for the president, he's the star of the Emmy nominated "Whose Line is it Anyway." Along with him is Brad Sherwood. He performed last night and he is co-star of that wonderful organization. And joining us in Dallas, Texas is Jim Morris, the famed comedian and political impersonator. Arianna Huffington and Michelle Laxalt from the last segments remain with us for any comments they wish to offer.

What was it like, Colin, to perform before the president?

COLIN MOCHRIE, COMEDIAN: I was very exciting. And as a Canadian, of course, I was worried that my green card was going to be taken away, so we really had to be careful we didn't offend anyone. And I think we did that.

KING: Brad, was there any material you were hesitant about using?

BRAD SHERWOOD, COMEDIAN: No, because it's all improvs. We weren't sure what we were going to say. And we were just so happy that anyone was brave to come up with us.

And I equate this with the comedic version of an alien abduction because it was just a surreal night for all of us.

KING: And Jim Morris, I know you worked these, haven't you? In fact, I worked one with you.

JIM MORRIS, FAMED PRESIDENTIAL IMPERSONATOR: Yes, that's right. I was the president's father, I believe, Bush.

KING: Right.

MORRIS: And he got a kick out of it. I remember him saying, "I hate it when I have to follow Jim Morris because he sounds more like me than I do." But...

KING: They're fun to do. And let's get an example of the president's humor and get the opinion of these three humorists as to how well he did. Let's watch some of President Bush's routine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Well, where should I start? A year ago, my approval rating was in the 30's, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn and my vice president had shot someone. Oh, those were the good old days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Colin, that was good stuff, right?

MOCHRIE: His timing was impeccable. And he knew enough to wait for the laugh and crested at the right time and then came in. You can't teach timing like that. It's natural.

KING: Arianna, what did you think of it?

HUFFINGTON: Well, no question his timing was impeccable. But, you know, the way we're now going to revere the president's timing in the middle of everything going on? The joke that you showed earlier about the fact that we're now sympathetic towards lawyers reminded me of the joke when he pretended to be looking for WMD in the Oval Office. I mean these things are not exactly laughing matter, but, of course, that's the purpose of the dinner, so I can understand we can laugh at it.

But what was interesting was Karl Rove. I talked to many journalists...

KING: Well, we're going to get to that. All right, give them a break, though, Arianna. It's just...

HUFFINGTON: I'm giving him a break. It was absolutely that's what you're supposed to do and he did it well.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Michelle, what did you think? LAXALT: I think this is just an absolutely perfect example of the American people should fully understand that a sense of humor has so gone over the edge of the Potomac River in this town that we're incapable of lightening up. I think events like last night and the president's lightness, his funny lines, we all need humor.

Let's face it, we all have tough times. And we need humor and the country needs to see that we can laugh at ourselves and with ourselves...

KING: Well said.

LAXALT: ...even when we're opposed.

KING: Jim Morris, are you nodding "no"?

MORRIS: Oh, no, not coming from Michelle Laxalt. I mean it's her people...

LAXALT: I'm half Irish.

MORRIS: It's her people who have -- the people she supports who have driven this country to the point where laughter or crying would be a healthy release. I don't think the president should get any points for telling good jokes last night because I also remember him looking for WMDs under the -- a couple of years ago.

LAXALT: You just bummed that you can't impersonate him as well as you did the dad. I mean let's just say it, come on, give it up.

MORRIS: Now, hold on...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: She has a point.

MORRIS: ...I have people who have asked me who I'm going to support in 2008. And I tell them, especially after talking to that lady there, who I'm going to support in 2008, what makes you think we're going to hold an election in 2008?

KING: What did you think, Brad? What did you think, Brad Sherwood, of the president's performance?

SHERWOOD: I thought he was great. He held for laughs and he showed great comic timing. And I'm glad that we have a healthy debate here this evening on whether laughter is important in our society and not -- let me be the first to say I think it's very important. And that's what Colin and I bring to the universe, right, Colin?

KING: And we will take a break. And when we come back, Karl Rove will come front and center, more on the comedian-in-chief.

Before we go, tonight's text vote question. Do you think the president has a career as a comedian? Text your vote from your cell phone to CNNTV, which is 26688. Text KINGA for "yes," KINGB for "no." We'll give you the results on tomorrow night's show. Stay tuned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERWOOD: He's a man. He's a treasure trove. But tell me what is your name?

KARL ROVE, U.S. DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm MC Rove.

SHERWOOD: That's right. You can't be beat because he's so white from his head to his feet, but he will rap it when you give him a chance. Look at him move, doing the rapping dance. That's true, he's a dancing resident. He is the sidekick to the president. He's going way above. Tell me what is your name?

ROVE: MC Rove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: President Clinton, of course, wrote a very successful presidential memoirs with 10,000 pages or something. I'm thinking of something really fun and creative for mine, you know, maybe a pop-up book.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's funny stuff. I'm sure they'll find out who the writer was and give him a lot of credit when it's found out.

Colin, before we show you another clip of Karl Rove, how did you get him to come up?

MOCHRIE: It was actually Brad. Brad knows no fear. And you know...

KING: What did you do, Brad?

SHERWOOD: I met him briefly backstage right before the cocktail and he just had a little bit of a smirk on his face. And I thought, well, I never met him or had any inkling of whether he would be completely stiff or not. And because I just saw that twinkle, I thought I'm going to be brave, walking out into the crowd and grabbing Karl Rove and drag him on stage. And if he says no, then I'll just grab the guy next to him.

I was thinking my backup plan was to grab Wolf Blitzer if Karl Rove had said "no." But luckily for Wolf, Karl said "yes" and as you can see the rest is history.

KING: Yes, I would say. Let's watch another clip of Mr. Rove.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SHERWOOD: But he will rap it when you give him a chance look at him move doing the rapping dance. That's true, he's a dancing resident. He's the sidekick to the president. He goes way above. Tell me what is your name?

ROVE: MC Rove.

SHERWOOD: That's true. He crossing his arms. He's rapping and chilling and showing his chops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Wasn't it nice to know, Arianna, that he has a sense of humor?

HUFFINGTON: You know what Larry, I talked to a lot of journalists who were there last night and they thought it was creepy. They thought this is the guy...

KING: Arianna!

HUFFINGTON: I'm sorry, Larry, you know I like to laugh. But this is a guy that so many of the journalists who were there in the room had desperately tried to get phone calls returned over the years. This was the guy called Bush's Brain. This was the boy genius. This was the guy that Democrats kept wishing and dreaming that they would have somebody like him to run their campaigns.

And not just because of last night, but because of the way his reputation has unraveled over the past few months, the way he's been involved we now know, even in the U.S. attorney scandal, somehow his behavior and the way he was last night was absolutely creepy. I'm sorry.

KING: All right.

I guess you disagree, Michelle?

LAXALT: Arianna, you have got to lighten up here. I mean you need to go back to the West Coast and drink in that western air, and you know, have a margarita or something. I mean Karl Rove doing a rap deal? Are you kidding me? I'm going to save that thing.

Your bravery should be commended, I must say. And the fact that Karl did it, he should keep his day job.

KING: Jim Morris, what did you think?

MORRIS: Well, I think it was best put by -- in the words of one of our great founding fathers, e pluribus unum, when he said -- let me respond to -- can I just respond to Arianna here?

KING: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely, Jim, go for it. MORRIS: She says that Karl Rove is my brain and she asked me the other day, "how many other people in your administration are named after your body parts, Mr. President." And I told her -- I said, "In all honesty, Arianna, I can't remember since Colin Powell left the administration." I don't know what did he tell you?

HUFFINGTON: Remember, his other nickname was Third Blossom, remember?

KING: Let's check back with Colin and "Whose Line is it Anyway". Do you guys tour?

MOCHRIE: Yes, Brad and I have been touring for the last four years all across the country, in America and Canada. And it's going quite well.

KING: All improv, Brad?

SHERWOOD: Yes, we're doing a two-man live show. It's a combination of some games people would have seen on "Whose Line" and then some games that we have come up with. And it's all audience interaction. The show is never the same twice. And it's really fun for people to come out. And we bring them up on stage and it's really fun.

KING: You guys are sensational.

SHERWOOD: Thank you.

MOCHRIE: And there is some nudity.

KING: Jim Morris, Brad Sherwood, Colin Mochrie and Arianna Huffington and Michelle Laxalt.

To prove the diversity of LARRY KING LIVE, still to come, the "American Idol" contestant who's making it big by being so bad. Last night, we asked your opinion of Sanjaya Malakar. We'll have the results on our text message poll coming up.

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Dude, you torn down some different dudes with the man. I mean the hair is rocking though.

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE, "AMERICAN IDOL": Well, I presume there was no mirror in your dressing room tonight.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON: The hair is popping though. The hair is popping.

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, "AMERICAN IDOL": I have been Sanjayaed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're brother and sister. We're here together to audition for "American Idol."

Summertime and the living is easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, baby here I am signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back, think of Sanjaya as "American Idol's" newest incarnation of William Hung, not bad thinking, the guy who sang an off key version of "She Bangs" last night. We asked you, "Do you think Sanjaya should have been voted off "American Idol" this week. Eighty- one percent of you said "yes." But apparently viewers of "Idol" don't agree since Sanjaya is still in the mix.

Let's look at some of the attention his talents have been getting on national TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANJAYA: Ain't no valley low enough...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tree frogs in South America demonstrated have demonstrated what's -- wait a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait a minute, why is there music? What's happening? Oh, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Sanjaya from "American Idol".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, Sanjaya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh girl, you really got me, girl. You got me so I don't I'm doing. Girl, you really got me...

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The top 10 signs you're watching too much "American Idol." Here we go: number 2, got Adam Sandler to guest host your talk show so you could stay home and vote for Sanjaya."

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Please welcome, the Sanjaya choir.

SEACREST: I've been Sanjayaed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK, instead of the imitators, let's take a look at what he really does, watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANJAYA: Walked into the door by attractive women at your discretion. I know I'm diving into my own destruction. Why do we choose the girls that are naughty? I don't fit in, so why do you want me? I know I can tame you I just keep trying...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And you tuned in for Sinatra.

Anyway, we welcome our panel: Justin Guarini, the first runner-up in season one of "American Idol." Pat Wright is with us in Seattle, the founder, director of the Total Experience Gospel Choir, and she's known Sanjaya for years. Christina Recchi, Sanjaya's aunt is with us as is Camila Recchi, his cousin. And in L.A, Terri Seymour, the correspondent for the TV show, "Extra." She covers "American Idol" and also happens to be Simon Cowell's long-time girlfriend.

What do you make of him, Justin?

JUSTIN GUARINI, "AMERICAN IDOL" SEASON 1 RUNNER-UP: You know what; honestly, he is probably one of the more exciting things that's happening on "Idol" this year. Definitely, I think he's exciting. He's entertaining. And you know what, while I don't necessarily think he is the best singer on the show, he keeps it interesting.

KING: Pat Wright, what do you make of this phenomena?

PAT WRIGHT, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR: THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE GOSPEL CHOIR: Absolutely incredible, I am very proud of Sanjaya.

KING: Do you think he's a talent?

WRIGHT: Of course, I think he's a talent. Of course, I think he's a talent.

KING: Christi, you're his aunt. Has he been singing since boyhood?

CHRISTI RECCHI, "IDOL" CONTESTANT SANJAYA MALAKAR'S AUNT: He has. He's been singing his whole life. And he is very talented. I think he's a very good, sweet boy.

KING: So you're proud of what's happening to him?

CHRISTI RECCHI: Well, I'm proud of him for getting to "American Idol."

KING: Camila, what do you make of all the fun they're making of your cousin?

CAMILA RECCHI, "IDOL" CONTESTANT SANJAYA MALAKAR'S FIRST COUSIN: I don't think he deserves it. I think he's really sweet and wonderful. And he's shown that he can take a beating from the judges and from America as well. I think he can pull it out a little bit more, but I definitely think he's going strong. I'm very proud of him and very excited for him. KING: Do you think he can win the whole thing?

CAMILA RECCHI: Well, based on what we've seen, I honestly don't know. I think he's got a pretty fair chance. He's got a big fan base.

KING: You're not kidding.

Terri Seymour, you're a correspondent for "Extra." You're also the boyfriend of Simon Cowell who says he'll quit, right?

TERRI SEYMOUR, CORRESPONDENT, "EXTRA": He has said he'd quit, yes.

KING: If he wins?

SEYMOUR: Yes.

KING: What do you think first of him?

SEYMOUR: I think he's very smart. I think Sanjaya is very smart. He knows he hasn't got the best voice. He's having fun. He's handling himself brilliantly.

You know every week he's thinking about what he's going to look like next week. He thinks ahead. Like, three weeks ago he was talking about having this mohawk. He's got it all planned out.

KING: Do you think he's being helped in a negative manner, that is people are voting him to embarrass the show?

SEYMOUR: No, I don't think it is a negative matter. I think the kids love him. They love his look. There's something different. And like Justin says, you know, he's exciting. It's just something to watch.

GUARINI: You're never ever going to tarnish "American Idol." I mean this is not their jump the shark moment per se. I mean "American Idol"...

KING: What if he wins it all?

GUARINI: You know what; I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think it'll happen. I think American would choose Simon before they chose Sanjaya. Shocking, isn't it?

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANJAYA: You really got me now. You got me so I can't sleep at night. Girl, you really got me now. You got me so I don't know what I'm doing.

COWELL: I think the little girl's face says it all.

SEACREST: Ashley, Sanjaya, Sanjaya, Ashley.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEYMOUR: I mean Sanjaya, I mean your face your mouth just literally dropped to the floor.

COWELL: I was surprised, but like I've always said on the show, if you hand over the show to America, you got to live by the decisions. Let me tell you this, he's not going to win.

SEYMOUR: You never know.

COWELL: I won't be back if he does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it tough to interview your boyfriend?

SEYMOUR: It's very tough. It is because he says, "You know the answer. Why are you asking me that?"

KING: Pastor Wright, do you think he's going on to a major career?

WRIGHT: I honestly believe he is going on to a major career. And I want to just tell America, even if he doesn't win the top position on "American Idol," he's already won. I'm so proud of him getting this far.

KING: Christi, in that sense, she's right, isn't she? He's already won. He's become a formidable American folk hero, I guess.

CHRISTI RECCHI: Yes, absolutely.

KING: How is he handling it all? Has his ego gone crazy?

CHRISTI RECCHI: Oh, no, not at all, no. I think he's -- you know, it's a lot of pressure for a 17-year-old boy. But I think he's holding up well. I'll give Pat a lot of kudos for making him tough.

KING: Camila, what if he wins?

CAMILA RECCHI: My goodness, that would be absolutely amazing. I would be so proud of him. And he'd have an amazing career. Well, either way at this point, he'd have an amazing career.

WRIGHT: Yes.

KING: Yes. He has a career now, right, Justin?

(CROSSTALK) GUARINI: He doesn't need to win. And you know I've had the opportunity to talk to him and he is a genuinely nice person. And, you know what, it's just...

KING: What does he make of all this?

GUARINI: Good for him. You know he -- to me, I interviewed him right when they got into the Top 12 and he just...

KING: For your TV gig?

GUARINI: Yes, for the "TV Guide" channel. And, you know what, he just is kind of like -- I mean imagine being 17 on the biggest show in America, 31 plus million viewers. I mean he's just trying to take it day by day, I think. And you know what I give him kudos for standing up to all the criticism.

KING: What are they going to get him to sing next, Terri?

SEYMOUR: Well, it's Tony Bennett's week, so...

KING: Tony Bennett week?

SEYMOUR: It is. It's Tony Bennett.

KING: You have to do a Tony Bennett song?

SEYMOUR: Yes.

KING: Like "Rags to Riches"?

SEYMOUR: Well, it's going to be interesting, right?

KING: Wait a minute; he's going to do Tony Bennett?

SEYMOUR: Yes. Sanjaya will be performing as Tony Bennett.

GUARINI: Everyone will be tuning in.

SEYMOUR: What will the hairstyle be?

KING: It's going to be Tony's retirement on that night.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Thank you all very much. And we'll see you tomorrow night and you'll never know what might happen on LARRY KING LIVE.

Thanks for joining us.

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