Return to Transcripts main page
No Prison for Libby; U.K. Terror Probe: Three Doctors Being Held; Midwest Flooding
Aired July 3, 2007 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Parting shots.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what we saw today was elevating cronyism over the rule of law.
CHETRY: Democrats take aim at President Bush for saving Scooter Libby from jail. Could it create new problems for Republicans in '08? We'll talk to one of them.
Plus, dangerous dosage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Percocet, Adarol (ph), Lorcet and Xanax.
CHETRY: The doctor who treated Chris Benoit indicted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Astin allegedly prescribed these drugs like candy.
CHETRY: Questions about his role in the pro wrestler's murderous rampage on this AMERICAN MORNING.
CHETRY: And welcome. It is Tuesday, July 3rd. Glad you're with us.
I'm Kiran Chetry, along with John Roberts.
ROBERTS: Good morning to you.
ROBERTS: Scooter Libby still faces a hefty fine and probation, but he's not going to serve jail time. Reports are this morning that President Bush made the decision to commute Libby's sentence on his own, defying public opinion and without consulting the Justice Department.
CNN's Kathleen Koch is in live in Washington with more on the president's decision.
And it looks like he tried to walk this one right down the middle, but he's still really in the line of fire with criticism here, Kathleen. KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, John.
When you take a look at the president's reasoning for his decision, he does say that he weighed both sides. He respects the process. He says he respects special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. But he looked at the arguments, he looked at the arguments for those who said there should have never been a special prosecutor appointed at the outset, and the arguments where people pointed out, well, the initial crime was CIA operative Valerie Plame, that here name was outed and no one was ever convicted of that crime. So why should Scooter Libby go to jail?
Then arguments on the other side. No matter what the critics say, you have to tell the truth in a court of law. And when you violate that really fundamental principle, then you must pay a penalty.
And again, as you pointed out, President Bush said this was an excessive sentence. And he feels -- in his statement, he points out this is still harsh punishment that he does leave in place.
He's only commuted the sentence. Scooter Libby will still have to pay a $250,000 fine, serve two years of probation. And certainly, John, his law career could be over if he does not win his appeal.
ROBERTS: The White house is saying, as we said, Kathleen, that this is all the president's decision, but you've got to wonder, is the fine hand of Dick Cheney in here somewhere?
KOCH: That's a very good question, John. And at this point, the vice president, his office, officially, has only put out a statement saying that basically he supports the president's decision. But certainly Scooter Libby was a very good friend of his, his chief of staff for years, and he had praised him right after his sentencing, saying he's a good friend, that he and Lynne were deeply saddened by the tragedy, the effect this was having on Libby's family.
So certainly the White House hasn't gone public with the role that the vice president played in this, but one certainly can be pretty sure that Dick Cheney had a role.
ROBERTS: And you've also got to wonder, Kathleen, based on the effect of his earning power of having this conviction stand as to whether or not on his way out the door President Bush just might pardon Scooter Libby.
Kathleen Koch for us live there in Washington with the White House in the background.
KOCH: You bet.
ROBERTS: And coming up in our next hour, Joe Wilson is going to be joining us live. Also, we want to know what you think of this controversy. Head to our home page, cnn.com/americanmorning, and register your "Quick Vote". It's non-scientific, we admit that up front, but the results are very interesting. People always like to hear them, and we will bring you those results in just a few minutes' time.
CHETRY: And now to the U.K. and the expanding terror plot investigation, with the stunning revelation that a group of medical doctors may have been the ones who hatched a plot to kill. Police in Australia detaining one doctor overnight. They're questioning another. And that makes eight people now held, at least three of them doctors.
CNN's international security correspondent, Paula Newton, is live in London at Scotland Yard.
And Paula, what do we know about this latest detainee said to be a doctor from India?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: A doctor from India. His name apparently is Dr. Mohammed Hani (ph). He was practicing here in the U.K. in Liverpool up to about 10 months ago. And that is how he has been caught up in this case. Police will now try and question him or have their Australian counterparts question him.
What is happening here now, Kiran, is that as they try and piece together all the elements of this investigation, they will continue to gather evidence at some 19 sites still, and as they run into different names, different connections, different associations from computers, mobile phones, perhaps paperwork that was left behind, cars, anything, they will start to arrest anyone that they believe is very, very close to this plot.
Now, again, they will continue this questioning. I want to remind everyone that even with the people under arrest, they haven't been charged yet. And it's really not until they are charged that we're going to be able to determine exactly what the elements of this plot were -- Kiran.
CHETRY: There are also three other doctors in custody that we know of. Are authorities beginning to look at this as some sort of activated al Qaeda cell that involved people who would, obviously, go fly under the radar in terms of suspicious?
NEWTON: Doctors, obviously, incredibly credible, and especially in countries like this where foreign doctors, trained, very well trained, are high in demand. And for that reason, they are starting to look at this as if these would have been the perfect people that al Qaeda would have wanted to recruit, whether they actually engaged that actively or not.
And it does mirror some of the elements of 9/11 in the sense of planting people here as a sleeper cell, having them carry on with their lives, and then activating them like that. I think what is really starting to concern Scotland Yard officials is whether or not this was actually part of a bigger design that they had in mind for these doctors, other than car bombs -- Kiran. CHETRY: All right.
Paula Newton live for us in London this morning.
CHETRY: Record flooding in the Midwest following relentless rain. Thousands of people in three states are out of their homes.
CNN's Keith Oppenheim is live in Coffeyville, Kansas.
And it's an even bigger mess there because of the oil refinery spill that they are also dealing with.
What's the situation this morning, Keith?
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to be talking about this morning, Kiran, because we're being a little cautious about being in this water. We'll be talking about exactly what is in it.
First, the speed at which all of this water came into the community from the Verdigris River really caught a lot of the residents in Coffeyville by surprise. And case in point is the woman that you're about to meet. She's 38 years old. She grew up in Coffeyville, and she never experienced a major flood in her life until now.
OPPENHEIM (voice over): Melanie Wright (ph) can no longer walk or drive to her house like most people. She has to travel by boat.
(on camera): To you, this is the street you've been on many times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
OPPENHEIM (voice over): She could not hold back tears. This was the first time Melanie had gone to see her home since the flood suddenly overtook it last weekend.
(on camera): Is that it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My front door is that right there. The long thing is a big glass window to my front room.
OPPENHEIM: Just days ago, this three bedroom house was home to Melanie, three of her five children, her granddaughter and her brother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see my ice chest there. I see another ice chest right there floating.
OPPENHEIM: It was a house that was passed down to her after her mother died five years ago. Melanie is a housekeeper who is just getting by. She had no flood insurance and she never suspected there was much danger of anything like this happening.
(on camera): So when you see it, it makes it real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. It makes it real that you really are homeless. What you own -- the only thing you owned in your life is gone.
OPPENHEIM (voice over): Later, we went to the motel room where Melanie and her kids are all staying temporarily. A family displaced, unsure where they will go next.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have nothing now. Nothing. I just really want to cry. That's all I want to do.
OPPENHEIM: The flood has not only been emotionally devastating, Kiran, it's also potentially dangerous. To put it bluntly, there is oil in there water.
I can smell petroleum in the air, I can see slicks on top of the water. And walk over here with me and you can see the grime that's been left on that house behind me. That's some indication of how much smudge is really all in this water.
I spoke to an official from the Kansas Emergency Management Agency. She confirmed that 42,000 gallons, that is -- excuse me -- 42,000 gallons, that's 1,000 barrels, has spilled from the Coffeyville Resources Refinery, and that oil is generally contained in this area, but not entirely.
In fact, some of the oil she told me has gone into the Verdigris River. That means it's making its way to Oklahoma.
Amazingly as it sounds, at this point they're telling us that no drinking water has been affected yet, but this is a situation that could change. And the EPA is involved. It's a real big environmental cleanup that's about to happen -- Kiran.
CHETRY: Wow. You just feel so bad for those people sitting in that hotel room with such an uncertain future as it stands.
Keith, please keep us up to date on that. Thanks so much.
ROBERTS: And it's 10 minutes after the hour, and time now to check in on some other big stories with our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents.
Flood and heat for the Fourth of July. You saw what Keith was reporting on.
Chad Myers now watching at all from the CNN weather center.
(WEATHER REPORT) CHETRY: Jacki Schechner is watching the Web. HillCam launches today.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Hi, guys.
The Clinton are promises to make their video encore. You may remember their turn as "The Sopranos". Well, now their promise that they're going to be blogging from the road in Iowa. We're not sure yet what turn this is going to take, but if you go to hillaryclinton.com, they say they're going to be uploading little tidbits from the road through their stint in Iowa. So check in during the week and see what they have to say -- Kiran, John.
CHETRY: You know, you really have to hand it to the baby boomers. They've really caught on to the Web thing. Now there is HillCam and they're blogging along the campaign trail.
ROBERTS: Old dogs can learn new tricks, yes.
CHETRY: Yes, congratulations.
ROBERTS: Chris Benoit's doctor has been indicted for improperly dispensing drugs, more than a million doses of drugs, such as steroids and painkillers.
CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now live from Atlanta.
What is he accused of doing here?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, John, the list is long.
First of all, he was indicted -- Dr. Phil Astin, Chris Benoit's doctor -- was indicted for illegally distributing four painkillers, including Percocet and Xanax. But wait. There is more.
He also, in a separate criminal complaint, is accused of illegally distributing one million doses of controlled substances to his patients, including significant quantities -- that's the term they used -- of injectable anabolic steroids. But there is even one more. And this one perhaps is the most shocking.
He is accused in a DEA affidavit of giving Chris Benoit 10 months' worth of anabolic steroids every three to four weeks -- John.
ROBERTS: Is that really as much as it sounds like?
COHEN: That's -- yes, that's quite a lot. I mean, you don't need that for any health reason. He's going to have a really hard time explaining some legitimate medical reason why he needed to give 10 months' worth of steroids to someone every three to four weeks.
ROBERTS: Yes, all right. Elizabeth Cohen for us in Atlanta.
CHETRY: In fact, how do you defend against that? We're going to be speaking with this doctor's attorney coming up a little later in our show.
CHETRY: Well, there's reaction to President Bush's decision to commute Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence, and it's mostly divided along part lines. Democrats coming out and strongly criticizing the move as an example of cronyism and the administration's attitude that it is above the law. But many Republicans disagree, including presidential hopeful Duncan Hunter, who joins me now.
Thanks for being with us this morning, Congressman.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be with you.
CHETRY: Were you surprised by the decision?
HUNTER: No. Yes, I was -- no, I wasn't surprised by the president's decision. And, you know, I think the American people need to understand what happened here.
The idea was that Valerie Plame's identity as an intelligence agent had been disclosed by White House officials. And initially Scooter Libby was the subject of that investigation.
It turned out that he did not disclose Valerie Plame's identity, and he was not charged under the Intelligence Agents Disclosure Act. He was -- he was charged with making inconsistent statements. That is, not telling the truth or lying.
So most Americans think that somehow he disclosed a CIA agent's identity, and he did not do that. So he was given 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The president took away the 30 months in prison and left a $250,000 fine. I haven't read the transcript of the -- of the court action, which I think is necessary for any president to make that decision. But having said that, since the president did it, I think it's a reasonable determination to make, because Scooter Libby was not charged with this disclosure.
CHETRY: OK. But let me ask you about that, because some are criticizing the president's decision to go ahead and commute the sentence, saying it didn't go far enough, as we talked about. It was not a full pardon. In fact, an editorial in today's "Wall Street Journal" says, "By failing to issue a full pardon, Mr. Bush is evading responsibility for the role that his administration played in letting the Plame affair build into a fiasco and, ultimately, this personal tragedy."
Do you agree with that?
HUNTER: No. In fact, I think the editorial, to some degree, makes my point.
This thing was teed up and was handed to the American people as somehow the punishment for this disclosure by somebody of Ms. Plame's identity. It turns out it wasn't Scooter Libby, and so Scooter Libby was given an enormous sentence for making an inconsistent statement.
Now, today is July 3rd. I don't think you can tell me all of the conversations you had on June 3rd. And if you don't, and I'm an aggressive prosecutor and I find out that you had one more conversation than you recounted or you remembered, then I can charge you, even though you may be totally innocent of the underlying charge that I was going to indict you for. I now can indict you for making an inconsistent statement.
That's always a dangerous thing where there are enormous expectations for a prosecution. The prosecution fizzles, it doesn't pan out, so they go over and nail somebody for making "an inconsistent statement."
So once again, agents Compean and Ramos, the two border patrol agents who now have been given 11 and 12 years in federal prison for wounding a drug dealer bringing 750 pounds of narcotics across the border, are presently undergoing that federal sentence. I think the president should give them...
CHETRY: So you want -- you're calling for the president to pardon them?
HUNTER: I think the president should pardon those two agents. I think that would be consistent with the Scooter Libby decision.
CHETRY: All right. But this is a highly controversial case, Congressman, and I know that this is the way that you feel, but there are others on the other side who say, look, the agents shot -- not only shot somebody who turned out to be unarmed 15 times, or fired 15 shots, but it was the actual cover-up. And oftentimes we get into these situations where what originally happened is not as bad as what happens after, which, in this case, they say there was a cover-up and a filing of false reports on that incident.
HUNTER: Here's my point. Even if you totally accept that, if you accept the drug dealer's version of what happened, they have been given the equivalent of murder sentences.
The average convicted murderer in America does eight and a half years in prison. Agents Compean and Ramos have been given 11 and 12 years in federal prison, more than a murder sentence.
So, clearly, if Scooter Libby deserves a commutation, I would hope that the White House, on this July 4th, tomorrow, would pardon, fully pardon Compean and Ramos. Rameos has already been beaten up in prison by some of the inmates who recognized him as a border patrol agent. I think they've been punished enough.
CHETRY: Representative Duncan Hunter out of California.
Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
HUNTER: Thank you.
ROBERTS: Twenty-one minutes after the hour. A mixed reception for the iPhone. Was that part of the plan for at least one of the companies involved in? We're "Minding Your Business" next on AMERICAN MORNING.
ROBERTS: Twenty-five minutes after the hour. Ali Velshi is off this week. Shelley Branch from "The Wall Street Journal" is here "Minding Your Business" with more news about the iPhone.
Good morning, Shelly.
SHELLY BRANCH, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Good morning.
So, here again, the iPhone, and now that it's out of the box, the real question is, can iPhone live up to its wow factor? Now, the answer, of course, relies not on just Apple, but another company, and that is AT&T, its exclusive wireless carrier partner.
Both companies, remember, went out on a very big limb to birth this product, with Apple calling most of the design shots and dictating what features the phone would have. Now, that's a role reversal, because typically those functions are overseen by the mobile carrier, like AT&T, not handset makers like Nokia and Motorola.
A&T, however, was willing to take a back seat in hopes of gaining new customer, a huge, wealthy new customer base, while also snatching market share away from competitors like Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Now that the phone is here, and these two companies are really joined at the hip in this exclusive deal, everyone will be watching to see how Apple can protect its very, very hip brand image and whether AT&T will be able to help them or hinder them in doing that.
It's one thing to market a very cool product. It's quite another thing to communicate service and to market that as well. It's another challenge all together.
Some consumers, as you know, have already complained about a number of issues from activating the device, to slow Internet service. And the companies say that they're working on those problems.
One particular hiccup, of course, is the issue of portability, being able to take your phone number from one mobile device to another. And so AT&T, while they're working on this, it is at issue that consumers will need to try to figure out, is it an AT&T issue or an Apple issue? And that leaves a risk for Apple in terms of its image.
These companies must work in concert in order to make the iPhone a hit with consumers from both sides.
ROBERTS: All right. Thank you very much for that.
We'll see you in another half hour.
BRANCH: My pleasure.
ROBERTS: Coming up, they're not who you would expect when you think of terrorists. Just who were these people that were responsible for the terror plot in London? Doctors, it seems.
Is this a new network of terrorism? We'll speak with a terrorism expert coming up.
ROBERTS: There it is, your Statue of Liberty, on a Tuesday morning, the day before the Fourth of July holiday. Everybody feeling patriotic and in an independent kind of mood this morning.
How the is weather looking?
CHETRY: It is 65 degrees outside. Shaping up for a high of 79 degrees. It's going to be mostly sunny in the greater New York area today. A beautiful shot of Lady Liberty on Liberty Island this morning.
ROBERTS: Unfortunately in the Southwest, really, really hot today.
ROBERTS: Good morning to you. Tuesday, the 3rd of July. I'm John Roberts along with Kiran Chetry.
CHETRY: On our radar this morning, doctors from three countries who came to the U.K. are now accused of being behind this London and Glasgow car bomb plot. We're going to speak with a terrorism expert about what they're calling the unusual suspects, people you would never suspect, doctors who have taken a Hippocratic Oath to heal and preserve life, being ensnared in this plot to kill people.
ROBERTS: It is pretty incredible.
And pro wrestler Chris Benoit's doctor indicted; charged with dispensing 1 million painkillers, and every few weeks or so, he apparently was prescribing 10-months worth of anabolic steroids to Benoit, as well. What till you hear what the feds say that he got from the doctor because Benoit apparently was like a walking pharmacy. Dr. Phil Astin's attorney joins us later on in this hour.
New this morning, for you, a rogue militia commander is in U.S. custody in Iraq. Iraqi and U.S. forces have detained a leader of a Mehdi militia. He's wanted in the deaths of U.S. troops. Military officials say he directed attacks on U.S. and Iraqi service members using home-made mortars and improvised explosive devices.
A shootout at a radical mosque in Pakistan. One Pakistani paramilitary trooper was killed when security forces clashed with a group of radical Muslim students at the mosque, according to paramilitary officials. Reports also say several of the students were taken to the hospital.
CHETRY: Folks in Coffeyville, Kansas dealing with massive flooding and a nasty oil spill on top of it. Thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled from a local refinery Sunday, mixing with rain, and swollen rivers. Waters are now above 30 feet. City crews say they will be able to get to pumping stations when the water drops below 24 feet. That's not likely to happen until Thursday.
Some good progress this morning in the fight against wildfires in Utah. Light winds helped firefighters contain this blaze. Keep it away from buildings. It's burned through 54 square miles, and so far, three people have died.
ROBERTS: A lot of shock still being expressed this morning over the alleged terrorist cell behind the planned attacks in the U.K.; what might cause highly educated doctors to plot something like this? Rohan Gunaratna is an internationally recognized expert in terrorism. He is the author of "Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror". And join us now, live from Miami.
Rohan, should we be surprised that members of the medical profession are either in custody, or being questioned, in connection with this terror plot?
ROHAN GUNARATNA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA": We should be surprised, but, at the same time, we have seen more recently terrorists are able to recruit from a cross-section of society, from the rich, the poor, the educated and the less educated.
ROBERTS: Do you have any idea what percentage of people involved with terrorism have a post-secondary education?
GUNARATNA: We have seen about 40 to 50 percent of those who have gone to support terrorism and participate in terrorism have had a relatively higher level of education, but this is becoming increasingly an issue for law enforcement, because of difficulties of profiling, difficulties of immigration.
ROBERTS: Right. We have heard repeatedly, Rohan, that the way to defeat terrorism is through education and enlightenment. This would appear to fly in the face of that theory.
GUNARATNA: Yes. But I also believe that the strategy to counter this kind of recruitment is that the ideology of Al Qaeda must be countered. These people have joined this terrorist cell because they believe that they have a religious obligation to fight against Western nations.
ROBERTS: Right. You say, Rohan, that people who study science are particularly vulnerable to recruitment. Why is that?
GUNARATNA: It is because those who are in the technical professions, lack an understanding of religion. And Osama bin Laden and those ideologues are constantly misrepresenting the religion to attract recruits. And a person who has very limited understanding of religion and the arts may be more vulnerable, more susceptible.
ROBERTS: This is a question a lot of people are asking. When you talk about this idea -- and this level of higher education -- why would someone, who invested that much time in themselves, that much time in their education, that much time in their profession, throw at all away in a suicide attack?
GUNARATNA: It is because the preachers, the radicals are always saying that one has a religious obligation, which is higher than your secular obligations. Some people can be trapped by that ideology. Al Qaeda is an ideological force and it is very important for the Muslim elite, the Muslim leaders, the community leaders, to say that Al Qaeda ideology is not Koranic and it is in fact misrepresenting a great faith.
ROBERTS: Wow. That certainly seems to be shifting the entire paradigm of what we think are the roots of terrorism and presenting a whole new set of challenges for those people who are trying to stay one help ahead.
Rohan Gunaratna, thank you for joining us from Miami. I appreciate you coming in.
GUNARATNA: Thank you.
CHETRY: Well, the Clinton road show tops our "Quick Hits".
Bill and Hillary Clinton in Iowa, they're campaigning together for the first time in her campaign. And they're blogging together with Hill Cam. They will be featuring a video diary, if you will, of some of their -- some of the different stops they make along the way. The former president talked up Hillary's toughness and said he will do all he can to help her win the White House.
A massive reorganization in John McCain's presidential campaign is raising questions about his viability as a candidate. He is laying off as many as a hundred staffers after raising just $11.2 million, it's $2 million less than he raised in the first quarter of 2007. There is also talk of the possibility of him taking federal matching funds, needing an infusion of cash, if you will, but then that has implications later on down the road.
ROBERTS: And his so-called burn rate of this cash is just incredible, too. Apparently he only has a couple million dollars left and everyone else is pretty flush. When you look at Barack Obama, $31 he raised in the second quarter.
CHETRY: Yes, the call it the cash-in-hand, and he's very low on that right now.
ROBERTS: Not that McCain is competing with Barack, but still it shows you the disparity.
CHETRY: Also, the president frees Scooter Libby from a possible jail sentence. We're going to talk about what the legal precedent is for moves like this. Court TV's Savannah Guthrie will be joining us next.
CHETRY: Your "Quick Hits" now: Friendly fire is now the confirmed cause of the death of Sergeant Tom Stone in Afghanistan last year. Reports from witnesses included in the Defense Department report say Stone was killed by fire coming from a compound manned by U.S. special forces.
Governors are in charge when it comes to the flags in their states. President Bush signed a bill giving governors the power to order flags to half-staff at federal offices on fallen soldiers. Previously the orders had to come from someone in the federal government.
The military going to extreme lengths to keep Iran from getting its hands on spare plane parts. Dozens of retired F-14 fighter jets are being shredded at an Air Force base in Arizona. Iran bought F-14s back in the '70s when they were still an ally of the United States.
ROBERTS: Lots of people are still shaking their heads this morning over the president's decision to commute Lewis Scooter Libby's sentence. He was supposed to spend 30 months behind bars, but now even if he loses his appeal, he faces no jail time. Savannah Guthrie is Court TV's White House correspondent. She joins us from Washington this morning.
The question people are asking this morning, Savannah, is what about this concept of equal justice?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, COURT TV: Exactly. And you can hear that when you saw the reaction of the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. It was a very thinly veiled point right there.
Why does Scooter Libby get a special form of justice than anyone else? Everyone knows this is fully within the president's power to pardon or grant a commutation of the sentence, but what didn't happen here is the normal processes. Is there a whole office at the Department of Justice to handle pardon applications, but the president didn't go through the channels. He reached out and saved Scooter Libby from jail.
ROBERTS: President Bush's comment about this decision was, quote, "I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive."
So it allows him to say that he still committed a crime, but that he believes he was given too much jail time. I mean, wasn't this within the guidelines, though? GUTHRIE: It was within the federal sentencing guidelines. And you know, a couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court handed down a decision that said a sentence within those federal sentencing guidelines is presumptively reasonable. There's no question this is a harsh sentence, but this wasn't in the case of some rogue judge pulling out a sentence out of the thin air.
ROBERTS: But what about this idea, though, that Libby was sentenced to serve 30 months in a case in which there was no proof of an underlying crime?
GUTHRIE: Well, he wasn't charged with the underlying crime. He was charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction. And those counts are serious counts. The special prosecutor would say, truth matters, truth is the engine of our justice system. And the sentence was within the guidelines. So, obviously, the prosecutor felt these were serious charges. On the other side of it, people think, well, what is he obstructing if there was no underlying crime? What investigation is he obstructing?
ROBERTS: So, would President Bush be on better political ground had he reduced the sentence, but not vacated it?
GUTHRIE: Well, it's hard to know. You know, people who feel that Scooter Libby committed a grave injustice aren't going to be happy with any intervention by the president.
On the other hand, Bush was kind of having it both ways by doing this commutation, but letting the conviction stand, so Scooter Libby still has to pay a $250,000, and he still faces the loss of his law license. He still has to appeal if he wants to get this conviction overturned. So certainly Bush kind of took the compromise position which makes nobody happy in the end probably.
ROBERTS: Of course, the Democrats are the ones who are the least happy about it, that, and Joe Wilson as well. We will be talking with Joe in the next hour. They are saying it smacks of cronyism. You know, these pardons and commutations have a sort of a tendency to stick to presidents. Remember President Ford, when he pardoned Nixon. President Clinton when he pardoned Mark Rich. Did you think this was something that could drag the president's numbers down even further?
GUTHRIE: Well, obviously, that's a political calculus the White House looked at. They are probably thinking that this really will please the conservative base, who were outraged by the prosecution of Scooter Libby. And the people it enrages are the people who weren't on Bush's side anyway, so they probably did that calculation and decided it was a wash, or wouldn't do too much damage in the end.
ROBERTS: Now, I know that you're not necessarily a betting woman, but I always get you to place a bet here. What is your bet? If Libby loses the appeal do you think President Bush will pardon him before he leaves?
GUTHRIE: I don't know how to answer that, but I suppose Bush probably has done what he wants to do, and wants to leave it alone. If he was going to pardon Scooter Libby, my presumption he would of done so. It seems to me the president has taken the action he thinks is appropriate in this case already.
ROBERTS: All right. Savannah Guthrie, thanks for your thoughts.
GUTHRIE: You bet.
ROBERTS: Always good to see you.
And what do you think? Head to CNN.com and register your quick vote. It's nonscientific, but so far 80 percent of those people who are voting do not agree with the president's decision, 20 percent do. Nearly 43,000 votes cast so far.
CHETRY: Lots of incentives right now if you're shopping for a car. It might be the time to do it because the three U.S. automakers -- the top ones are offering zero interest loans and cash rebates. They're hoping to move the 2006 models off of the lots.
And just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. If you're enjoying yourself at a picnic or barbecue, beer prices are going up; 3 percent over last year. Demand for ethanol is encouraging farmers to devote more land to corn area and less to barley, which is used -- which is one of the key ingredients, of course, in making beer.
Wrestler Chris Benoit's doctor has been indicted for improperly dispensing drugs. We will talk with the doctor's lawyer about the charges and evidence that he may have supplied a huge amount of steroids to Benoit himself.
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning here on CNN.
Smoking could kill a billion people this century. That tops your "Quick Hits" now. Those statistics from the World Health Organization, which says 5.4 million people die every year from tobacco related diseases.
More than 30 percent of adults in America have abused alcohol or suffer from alcoholism according to a new federal government. Only about a quarter of alcoholics receive treatment and the average time before seeking that treatment was eight years after first developing the dependency.
Here is something really interesting this morning. A new study shows a poor sense of smell may be an indicator that someone could get Alzheimer's disease. Doctors say the results could one day lead to a scratch and sniff test that would identify people at risk.
CHETRY: Well, the wrestling world was shocked at the news that superstar wrestler Chris Benoit was found dead in his home along with his wife and young son. Police calling it an apparent murder/suicide.
And now the fallout: Benoit's personal doctor is charged with improperly dispensing up to one million dozes of prescription drugs over a two-year period. Doctor Phil Astin has not been charged with providing steroids to Benoit, but police say they do have evidence that Astin proscribed a huge supply of steroids for Benoit.
Manny Arora is the attorney for Doctor Astin, and he joins me this morning from Atlanta.
Thanks a lot for being with us this morning, Manny.
Let's talk about the seven-count indictment against your client. It charges that he improperly dispensed painkillers, as well as other drugs to patients, 1 million over a two-year period. What is your response to that charge?
MANNY ARORA, ATTORNEY FOR DR. PHIL ASTIN: First and foremost, it's not a million dosage units. That's just what they put in the press release. The seven-count indictment deals with two patients from back in 2004 and 2005. And it adds up to about 2500 or so dosage units, that were given to these two individuals over a two plus year period.
CHETRY: All right. So you're quibbling over the amount. It still doesn't look good, let's put it that way. Because there's a separate indictment, a separate complaint that was made public yesterday, in fact. The DEA is saying your client, Doctor Astin, prescribed a 10- month supply of anabolic steroids to Chris Benoit every three or four weeks. And they name a specific time period, they say May '06 to May '07. Can you confirm that that?
ARORA: Kiran, if that was true then they would have charged him. Because they've gone back all the way to 2004 to find the two patients that they do have in the indictment. Had the steroid issue actually been, as they say, there should be a pharmacist in trouble for actually providing or filling those prescriptions.
What they've charged him with is with the two patients and a lot of the allegations are dealing with improper documenting on the actual prescriptions forms, meaning that the date was missing. So, if that is the case, perhaps those prescriptions were not even filled. They are simply charging him with two different patients, completely unrelated to the wrestler, or anything that happened to him.
I think -- I just want to clear the record as to there is absolutely no link between anything that happened to Mr. Benoit and his family, and our client, Doctor Astin.
CHETRY: So do you believe what they're trying to do is blame somebody for what happened?
ARORA: Uh, absolutely. Because if you look back after the first raid they did on his office last Wednesday, they did it right before the 5:00 o'clock news was to start, and the news cameras were actually rolling when they broke the door down.
The part that troubled me is they called the doctor and asked him to come by but then they rolled the footage on our 5:00 o'clock news. Carrollton, which is where the doctor practices is a very small town, about an hour and a half west of Atlanta.
He's a small country doctor. It's not like the Atlanta news stations just happened to be there. It was all coordinated. And so when they go in with the dramatics and the battery ram, then they have pictures of the doctor showing up five minutes later. His employees, anyone would of let them into that office. He cooperated with them. Made statements to them, brought files back to them. So I think they've got to blame somebody for it, and why not make it sexy and sensational by saying --
CHETRY: The thing is -- the thing that is difficult here is it's very difficult to be able to prescribe anabolic steroids.
CHETRY: I mean, there has to be certain health conditions. Chris Benoit, when you look at pictures of him, let's be real. He's a pro wrestler. His job is to look big. His job is to be a muscle man. I mean, you really -- it's a stretch to say that he needed anabolic steroids for any other reason than to be a big wrestler.
ARORA: There's no dispute that wrestlers may use steroids, but the issue is whether the DEA does press releases saying X, Y and Z. There is nothing in the indictment linking our client to any type of steroid use.
Press releases aside, the indictment is more controls. And they came down and they found stuff from back in 2004 and 2005 that they say is improper prescription. If you look at the indictment, the dates that are listed in there, on the seven different counts, are anywhere from three to six months apart. If you have senior or elderly patients, or regular patients that are coming to you, for whatever condition that they may have, every three to six months getting refills on a 100 to 200 pills, which is what he is charged with, isn't uncommon.
From our experience, it's basically going to be one doctor saying this meets the medical standards, another doctor, on the government side perhaps, saying it doesn't. It's simply just a battle of the experts.
The sexy part is the wrestler and we're trying to basically tell the people that there is not link between the wrestler and there really is no story. This is just a typical case where dozens of doctors, here in Atlanta area have been prosecuted according to the government for writing prescriptions that --
CHETRY: OK, I understand that you're trying to do your best for your client, but the bottom line is he proscribed this medication. He was Chris Benoit's doctor, right? He proscribed the medication -- or in this case we're calling it medication, but the anabolic steroids -- and as they put it, according to the DEA complaint, significant quantities of inject able testosterone, which is an anabolic steroid.
ARORA: I don't necessarily agree with that. Because if that was the case they were very specific in their initial press release about when the doctor did this. If they actually found the bottles with the doctor's name on it around a specific time frame they would have charged him with it. So, perhaps there's more charges coming, but I haven't seen any evidence from what we have made available to us indicating that Doctor Astin proscribed steroids to Mr. Benoit, period.
CHETRY: OK. We'll have to wait and see where the case goes. Manny Arora, attorney for Doctor Phil Astin. Thanks for joining us today and presenting your side of it.
ARORA: Thank you, Kiran.
ROBERTS: A lot of people headed for the beach, or elsewhere on vacation in the next day, tomorrow is the Fourth of July holiday. A lot of people will be going out in the minivan, loading up the SUV. Just how safe are they, particularly when it comes to whiplash injury? We're going to see what the new crash test results have got to say.
Greg Hunter is down there at the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety's testing facility. He'll be back right after the break with all of the results.
CHETRY: Actor Isaiah Washington is now telling his side of the story on the verbal confrontation that ended up costing him his role on "Grey's Anatomy". He was accused of using a gay slur against a cast-mate. He then repeated at slur at the Golden Globes.
ROBERTS: Washington apologized. He met with gay and lesbian activists. He even went to rehab for a while. In his first television interview since being fired from the show, Washington told CNN's Larry King that it's all a big misunderstanding stemming from a screaming fight that he had with costar Patrick Dempsey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAIAH WASHINGTON, ACTOR: He got -- he became unhinged. Face-to- face, even spittle in my face first. I did not start it. And I'm asking him why he is screaming at me, why are we doing this? Get out of my face several times, several times. He just becomes irate. I said, there's no way you're going to treat me like the "B" word or "P" word or the "F" word. You can't treat me this way in front of our crew.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: So, you weren't referring to him being an "F" person.
KING: Or being ...
WASHINGTON: Never, never, Larry, never, never, never, never!
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHETRY: All right. Well, there he is with his side of things. You can also see "Larry King Live", of course, week nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
And Larry is having a guest tonight that should be a hoot, Robin Williams. He is always hilarious.
ROBERTS: Oh, he's terrific. Was the Isaiah Washington thing hard to follow, or was it just me?
CHETRY: You mean what we just ran, or in general?
ROBERTS: No -- yeah, his explanation there.
CHETRY: Right, he was trying to -- he was accused of using a bad word against ...
ROBERTS: Yeah, I got all that but it's just ...
CHETRY: T.R. Knight.
ROBERTS: It just didn't make sense.
CHETRY: Yeah, so he claims that it all stems from a misunderstanding with Doctor McDreamy of all people.
ROBERTS: Yeah, I mean, you can't get in McDreamy's face -- even though he got in his.
Next hour of AMERICAN MORNING starts right now.
CHETRY: Political pot shots. Democrats take aim at President Bush for saving Scooter Libby from jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And what we saw today was elevating cronyism (ph).
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com