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Blagojevich Names Senate Pick; Gaza Attacks: Day 4; Interview With Kathy Griffin

Aired December 30, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, more scandal -- what is Illinois's governor doing?

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I am appointing Roland Burris as the next United States Senator from Illinois.


KING: Defiant Rod Blagojevich picks Barack Obama's successor.


BLAGOJEVICH: I am required to make this appointment.


KING: Will it stick?

Political power play or a circus?

Is he out of control or just doing his job?

Plus, Kathy Griffin has something to say about -- huh -- everything.

Right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, facing federal corruption charges and possible impeachment, has dropped a new political bombshell. He's named Roland Burris, a former state attorney general, to succeed Barack Obama in the Senate.

Here's a clip of the news conference earlier today.


BLAGOJEVICH: Please don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man. To not fill the vacancy would be to deprive the people of Illinois of two United States senators, to deprive the people of Illinois of their appropriate voice and votes in the United States Senate.


KING: We have an outstanding panel to discuss this incredible event today.

In Washington, Clarence Page, the syndicated columnist for the "Chicago Tribune".

Terry Holt, who was national spokesman for Bush/Cheney 2004, a senior adviser to the Republican National Convention.

Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist, president of the New Future Communications Group.

futures group.

And here in Los Angeles, Larry Elder, the "New York Times" best- selling author.

All right, Clarence, what's your read?


CLARENCE PAGE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, you know, Rod Blagojevich said he was not going to make an appointment under these circumstances. His lawyer said that. But he's done a whip around on us now and he's actually made the appointment.

Roland Burris, a man who has been a big figure in Illinois politics since the '70s. He was the first statewide black elected official. He has a clean record. If anything, he's a guy who -- who has not taken enough chances in the past to really impress people as a political daredevil. He tried to be senator, governor, mayor -- five different elections that he has lost for one or the other of those posts. I've often said he wants to be senator in the worst way and now it looks like he might just become one in the worst way.


KING: Terry Holt, if we made the case that the governor is not convicted of anything, that you're innocent in America until proven guilty and he's supposed to appoint a senator, what was wrong with what he did?

TERRY HOLT, GOP CONSULTANT: Well, the Democratic Party is so anxious to get this story behind them that they're willing to even throw this elder statesman of Illinois politics under the bus. The Senate Democrats say they won't seat him. It's a huge Constitutional question, whether they'll have the authority to do that.

But to me, it feels, Larry, like this -- the Obama campaign -- the Obama folks have got to be saying why doesn't this guy just go away?

KING: All right, Jamal Simmons, what -- what -- doesn't it appear that he has the right to do this? JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, it does appear that he has the right to do it. And as we were just saying before, in my hometown of Detroit, what they would say about Rod Blagojevich is that he's got game.


SIMMONS: This guy has really figured out...


SIMMONS: This guy has really figured out how to change the story about what's going on in Chicago right now. He created a big mess that he put in Harry Reid's lap. And he's won some friends in the African- American community in Illinois, where he doesn't have a lot of friends right now.

So you had Bobby Rush come out and support this nomination today and really talk about how important this was to have an African- American voice.

He really has changed the dynamic around the Senate seat in a way.

Now, was it a circus?

Oh, yes. That press conference was a pretty wild press conference. But for Blagojevich's politics, it really was a brilliant stroke.

KING: And, Larry Elder, how do you see it?

LARRY ELDER, AUTHOR: Well, I didn't think it was possible for there to be an American less popular than George W. Bush right now, but this guy has risen to the occasion, Larry.

And what he has done is this. He's chosen a black person and dared the Democratic Senate not to seat him because he would then be -- there would then be no black senators in the Senate whatsoever.

I'm not saying that the former attorney general isn't a man of integrity and wouldn't otherwise, in his own right, be able to serve competently as a senator. But you don't have to be a cynic to understand that race is part of Blagojevich was doing right here.

KING: So where...



KING: So what happens, Clarence?

Where does -- where do we go?

PAGE: I see court fights, Larry, because... (LAUGHTER)

PAGE: First of all -- it's another lawyerful employment program.

You know, first of all...

ELDER: I'll give you -- I'll give you my card in a minute, Clarence. I could use some work.


PAGE: I know you're ready, Larry.

KING: That's right. He's a lawyer.

ELDER: That's right.

PAGE: That's right.

You know, next week, the Senate reconvenes and the action moves from Springfield, Illinois to Washington to see what Harry Reid and the other senators -- Dick Durbin, the other -- the sitting Illinois Democratic senator has said that Blagojevich ought to resign and that he, you know, opposes seating any appointment that he makes.

President-Elect Barack Obama opposes Blagojevich making a selection now.

I see, possibly, a tug of war here between Bobby Rush and Barack Obama for the hearts and souls of black voters in Illinois. I mean, there's legal arguments here going back to the Adam Clayton Powell case...


KING: Yes.

PAGE: ...that say, you know, the Senate chiefs cannot refuse to seat someone duly elected or appointed.

I see a lot of battles here.

KING: Let's take a look at more of today's announcement by the governor.



BLAGOJEVICH: The law requires that the governor make an appointment of a United States senator in the absence of any other law that would have given the people of Illinois a chance to be able to elect the successor to the United States Senate.

And when the legislature didn't act on those legislation they said they were considering, which I supported, which would have given the people the right to be able to elect the next senator, failing that, then it's the governor's responsibility to fill the vacancy.


KING: We'll be back with lots more on this very special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: Before we talk with two distinguished members of the United States Congress, let's go to Waikiki Beach in Honolulu and Ed Henry, CNN's senior White House correspondent -- what is all of this Blagojevich thing -- what's the effect it's having on the president- elect?

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, as you know, the president-elect wanted to be done with this already. He wanted to turn the page on this whole Blagojevich affair, but this just reopened the wound, frankly.

And the president-elect put out a statement late this afternoon that was very careful to say that he thinks Roland Burris is a good man. But he was unsparing in ripping into the governor and saying that basically this whole process has been tainted, that he's disappointed that the governor didn't follow Senate Democrats in -- by going ahead anyway.

And the president-elect said he will support Senate Democrats in trying to block this appointment. He also, once again, called on the governor to resign. A second time the president-elect has said that.

So I think the bottom line is this rupture in the Democratic Party continues, just as the president-elect was hoping that it would be over.

And, in fact, one top Democratic official I spoke to this afternoon, when it first broke, put it bluntly. He said the governor gave us the finger.

I think that gives you an idea of how raw the feelings are in this Democratic Party right now, Larry.

KING: Wow!

Ed, do you know if the president-elect and Mrs. Obama are coming to Washington this weekend?

HENRY: They are. We've just learned this evening, Larry, that, in fact, the president-elect and his family are going to be moving to Washington early this weekend. In fact, they're going to be moving into a Washington hotel at first. Then, January 15th officially moving into Blair House, right across from the White House, which is obviously very secure, for the final few days before the inaugural.

And we're told there's two reasons for this. Number one, they want to make sure their kids can start -- their two daughters can start school early, at the beginning of January.

And secondly, they say the president-elect wants to get to work on the economic recovery package in early January.

It gives you an idea of the challenges ahead, that he needs to hit the ground running, Larry.

KING: Thanks, Ed.

Nothing is more important than school.

In Waikiki, our man, Ed.

Now to Chicago and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman Bobby Rush.

Bobby stood up today -- you all saw him -- to appoint -- to support that appointment.

Any second thoughts?

REP. BOBBY RUSH (D), ILLINOIS: Not a one, Larry. As a matter of fact, I'm more determined. I feel like I'm on much more solid ground than even I was this afternoon.

Roland Burris is a person who has an impeccable career. He's got an impeccable character. He's an outstanding public servant. I tell you, he is held in high esteem throughout the State of Illinois, and, indeed, throughout the nation.

I have no (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: Congresswoman Schakowsky, how do you feel...

RUSH: (INAUDIBLE) is worthy of being the senator.

KING: Hold it.

Hold it, Bobby.

Congresswoman Schakowsky, how do you feel?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Well, this is not about Roland Burris. This is about Governor Rod Blagojevich, who, let's remember, was accused of trying to sell the Senate seat; who is undergoing, right now, impeachment hearings in the Illinois legislature; who has been charged by the U.S. Attorney; and who the United States Senate -- all the Democrats said should not make the appointment. In fact, they said it was unfair to the people of Illinois, unfair to Roland Burris and that it would not stand -- that basically that they will not seat his pick.

RUSH: January, on the contrary...

KING: All right...

RUSH: This is, indeed, about the fact that the U.S. Senate does not have one African-American in it. The last 150 years, there have been only been three African-Americans. And the people of the State of Illinois should be applauded because they have sent two of the last three. But for the last 150 years, there has not been an African- American in the Senate.

There is a higher principal, there's a higher -- there should be a higher sense of moral outrage for the fact that here in America, we have no African-Americans who are presently in the United States Senate. We've got three Hispanics. We've got two Asians. And we have 11 women. And we have just untold number of others.

But I'm telling you, the fact that we have no African-Americans should be -- should make most fair-minded Americans very, very angry and...


RUSH: ...although...

KING: Hold it.

Hold it, Bobby.

RUSH: Although...

KING: Hold it.

Even as he accepted Blagojevich's appointment today, Roland Burris tried to separate himself from the legal problems.



ROLAND BURRIS: I have no relationship with that situation. I'm accepting an appointment by the governor to go to the United States Senate. That's it.


KING: All right, how about that, Congresswoman Schakowsky?

Hey, the governor hasn't been convicted of anything. He hasn't been impeached.


KING: He's legally responsible to...

SCHAKOWSKY: No, he hasn't.

KING: He's supposed...

SCHAKOWSKY: Let me -- let me just

KING: appoint a senator.

What did he do wrong?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, first of all, he's not required to do it in any particular time frame.

KING: Right.

SCHAKOWSKY: And, obviously, the Democrats in the Senate don't feel that the appointment has to be made right now.

But just want to say, in terms of the race issue, the State of Illinois has elected, statewide, African-Americans, including Roland Burris, four separate times -- and, of course, Barack Obama to the Senate and now as president-elect.

But he, along with Danny Davis, who -- Congressman Davis, who apparently was offered the Senate position and declined because the governor was making the appointment -- and the state's -- the secretary of stated, who is also an African-American, who has said he will not certify the appointment of Roland Burris because it was made...

RUSH: That...

KING: Yes, right.

SCHAKOWSKY:, you know, I...

KING: Doesn't that...


RUSH: Jan, my (INAUDIBLE)...

KING: All right. Congressman Rush, doesn't that give you...

RUSH: Let me just tell you...

KING: Doesn't that give you pause, Bobby?

RUSH: No, none at all. Look, the secretary of state -- it's not absolutely certain that the secretary of state has the power to certify an appointment of the governor. And there is nothing that says that he has the power to certify the appointment of a governor, OK. And there is nothing at all that says that Governor Blagojevich is on any shaky ground in terms of appointing Roland Burris as the next U.S. senator from the State of Illinois.

Larry, let me just say this. And I want to be unequivocal in this. The greater outrage is that we don't have any African-Americans in the U.S. Senate.

KING: I know. You've said that. RUSH: Now, we have an opportunity.


RUSH: We have an opportunity right now to correct that wrong and to bring a remedy. And I believe that notwithstanding the comments of Harry Reid, notwithstanding the letters of support or the signatures on a letter, the U.S. Senate does not stand...

KING: I got you.

RUSH: ...above the law. And Obama...


RUSH: ...and Blagojevich is...

KING: We will...

RUSH: ...100 percent behind the law.

KING: We'll be doing a lot more on this.

And we thank our Congressmen for being with us. We'll give them a lot more time next week.

We'll be back in 60 seconds on a live update on that breaking news in the Middle East, then back to our panel

Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back.

Israeli air strikes on Gaza have continued for a fourth day. At least 375 Palestinians have been killed since the conflict began last Saturday. And meanwhile, four Israelis killed from rockets launched into Israel from Gaza. And there is talk of a truce.

We go live to CNN's senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, who is seemingly everywhere, for the latest -- Nic, do we -- do we have a truce?


It's been talked about. Israel's defense minister, prime minister and foreign minister discussed it this evening. There's a plan that's been put forward by the French. But it's not been given the go-ahead yet.

What has been given a green light, though, from the Israeli cabinet is to call up another two-and-a-half thousand Israeli reservists. That's on top of the three-and-a-half thousand who were called up last week. So it seems that all options are being considered at the moment, Larry.

KING: The Israelis have threatened an all-out war against Hamas.

Are you seeing signs of that?

ROBERTSON: You know, as we drove down here from Jerusalem today -- and we're a few miles from Gaza -- we saw more tanks on transporters being driven down. There are a lot of tanks positioned around Gaza right now.

What Hamas spokesmen are saying is a 24 -- a 28 -- a 48-hour truce is not good enough for us. That's what's under discussion right now. They're saying that it needs to be a complete cessation of military activities by the Israeli government and they need to open up all the border crossings into Gaza.

That, at the moment, doesn't seem like a likely option. So at the moment, this buildup is really very -- really, at the moment -- realistically, at the moment, potentially heralds more -- or the potential for a ground offensive, Larry.

KING: Nic, it's always confusing in the Middle East.

Who started this?

ROBERTSON: You know, Larry, that depends where you go back. The Hamas spokesman this evening blamed it all on the Israelis, saying they abrogated the deal -- the six month cease-fire that's been ongoing since June this year that ended in -- ended a few weeks ago. They blame the Israelis.

The Israelis say what brought this about was Hamas firing missiles into this particular town and others nearby, injuring civilians and causing damage -- the sort of damage you see on that house behind me that was struck by a Hamas missile today -- Larry.

KING: Do you see any -- any light at the end of this tunnel -- Nic?

ROBERTSON: There's certainly a lot of international pressure being brought to bear on all sides. There does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel for more humanitarian supplies getting into Gaza.

But the Israeli government spokesman this evening said look, we don't want a Band-Aid for this here. We don't want to kick the ball just a month down the road and be fix -- trying to fix this same issue. We want to deal with Hamas and the threat they pose to towns like this one.

And Hamas tonight has fired a missile further than it's fired any missile up until now -- almost 30 miles out of Gaza into Israel.

KING: Right. ROBERTSON: The government doesn't want to deal with that in a few months. They want to solve it now.

So the light at the end of the tunnel is maybe humanitarian supplies, but this -- this whole issue has got a long way to go yet -- Larry.

KING: Thanks.

Nic Robertson, CNN's senior international correspondent, from Sderot, Israel.

We'll keep our eye on this story and continue with the Blagojevich scandal next.

See you right after the break.


KING: We're back with our panel.

We want to hear from you. Go to, click on blog and start writing. We'll air some of your comments later in the show.

Back with our full panel.

Jamal Simmons, does -- does Bobby Rush make an impact on you, speaking, as he does, about a black in the Senate?

SIMMONS: Of course, I would love to see more African-Americans in the Senate.

I'm not sure this is the way I would want one to get there, however, coming through a tainted process like the one Governor Blagojevich was running.

And it'll tell you, I had some conversations with people in the Congressional Black Caucus to try to get a sense of whether or not, you know, you would see some more members of the CBC come out for this. And what I'm hearing is that people aren't really looking to stick their neck out on this one.

There's a big mess here in Illinois. There's a big mess here for the United States Senate. And there's no reason for 38 members of the House to get involved with it who aren't from the State of Illinois.

KING: Larry, does Bobby Rush make an impact on you?

ELDER: No, he doesn't make an impact whatsoever. People who are in the Senate ought to be elected there because of their merit, because people want them there. It's kind of ironic for Bobby Rush to make this argument because he ran against Obama in -- I think it

was 2000 -- for -- for Congress.

KING: For Congress. ELDER: And one of...


ELDER: And one of the reasons Obama wanted to run against Bobby Rush was because he felt that Rush too often played the rush card. And in my opinion, he just did.

KING: All right.

What do you make of, Clarence, of Bobby Rush's vehemence on this?

PAGE: Well, it doesn't surprise me. I've been covering Bobby since he was vice chair of the Illinois Black Panther Party right through the -- 20 years later, he became vice chair of the Illinois Democratic Party. Only in America, by the way. It's a terrific success story.

But I think on this one, he is not on firm ground because of the fact that this particular seat was occupied by Barack Obama, who did not leave to go on vacation. He left to be president-elect. And he still has very strong support among black folks in Illinois and across the country, who are rather annoyed by Blagojevich and the whole mess that has pre -- has become an impediment to a smooth transition for Obama.

So I think that -- I don't foresee Bobby getting a lot of support on this from black voters. We'll see.

KING: Terry Holt, it is, though, is it not, a legal dilemma?

HOLT: It absolutely is. You have a -- a legally elected sitting governor exercising his authority to appoint someone to the seat. I think he appointed someone in sort of a savvy way. This is a person who has a clean record, who is an upstanding member of the community, an elder statesman in Illinois politics. There's not a lot you can pick on here about this.

And then you have the Senate Democrats who are anxious to do anything they can to move this story to the back pages. They'd like to pass a stimulus package next week and have the headlines be that they've rescued the American economy. But they're going to be mired in this controversy.

This is -- this is two immovable objects colliding and both have a legitimate legal claim to do what they say they're going to do -- the governor to have a sitting -- a seated U.S. Senator and the Senate, with their Constitutional authority, to say we can seat someone or not.

And the only group I can say losing in this circumstance is the Illinois voter.

Are there going to be two Illinois Senate votes next week for a stimulus package, at the end of the day, that helps get this economy moving again, if that's what they intend? It's quite a drama that Barack Obama did not want to have in the opening moments of his presidency.

KING: Jamal...

RUSH: You can say that again.

KING: Jamal, why -- why Burris?

SIMMONS: Well, from what I understand is, you know, he's 71 years old, so there's some question about whether or not this is the caretaker. He wouldn't say today that he would run for the Senate in 2010 if he were allowed to be seated.

He's from Centralia, which is outstate Illinois. But he, you know, obviously has been in Chicago politics for a long time. So he's got both, you know, outstate credentials and in city of Chicago credentials.

So he's somebody that people kind of rally around. He's sort of an elder statesman of the Chicago political scene. He doesn't strike people that I talk to in Illinois as being sort of especially special in any real way. But he's also not someone that anyone suspects of engaging in any wrongdoing, like the governor is being accused of.

KING: What's the impact of this on the Obama presidency?

We'll find out when we come back.


KING: All right. You've been busy blogging on our Web site, Let's hear what's on your mind.

Our own David Theall is here to here to give us the details -- David.

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Larry, we have had a lot of funny happening on the blog today. This, whether it's the New Year's or the cool weather or this topic, it really gets people going.

Our question of the day was, "Should Governor Blagojevich be allowed to fill President-Elect Obama's Senate seat?"

Now, we did hear from people who defended the governor and defended the process. But the overwhelming majority of the people that we heard from today were just having fun with this topic, Larry.

Carla was one of them. To that question, she said: "Fill Obama's seat? He shouldn't even be allowed to fill his own seat."

And we also heard from Devon, who really gave us a chuckle. And he's going to make me work hard for my money today. This is what Devon had to say: "Today was a bleeping joke, right? That bleeping governor didn't really just bleeping try to fill bleeping Barack Obama's Senate seat, did he?" And we also heard from Doug today, Larry, who reminded us that he was from Chicago. And to our question, "Should the governor fill Barack Obama's seat?," Doug said: "Of course he should -- to the highest bidder."

We're going to continue blogging throughout the night. It's happening at, as always. Look for the live blog link, check out our question of the day and jump on into the conversation.

KING: Thank you, David. David Theall right on top of the scene, checking out the blog. Let's go around, start with Larry Elder. What's the effect on Obama of all of this?

ELDER: Well, it certainly is taking attention away from what ought to be just an incredible inaugural celebration. It also reminds some people, not many, but some that he is a Chicago politician. Bobby Rush ran against him, and when they had a debate, Rush reminded people that Barack Obama managed to get everybody kicked off the ballot when he ran for state Senate. Barack Obama drew up his own state Senate seat, nothing wrong with that, but it is what politics -- politicians do.

KING: All of this comes out now?

ELDER: No, I'm just saying, watching these things going on in Illinois, Larry, looking at the FBI affidavit, looking at some of the transcripts, some of the language going back and forth between some of these politicians, it is clear that Barack Obama is not some heaven sent politician. He grew up in a rough tumble political system in Chicago, and that makes him no different from any other politician.

KING: But the question, Clarence, is what's the effect of this on his initial step into the presidency?

PAGE: It's a distraction. I would add to what Larry said by saying that Franklin Roosevelt had the same relation with the Cabinet Hall (ph) machine, Harry Truman had the same relation with the Pendergast machine. In other words, there are certain machines you have to deal with in order to get anywhere in your state politics. And that's what Barack Obama did.

But he did not dirty his hands with the more unsavory aspects of that, as far as we know. And that's still the case. This is coming up. Blagojevich is sort of like a smoking hand grenade for the last six years. Everybody knows he's been under investigation, and something was going to happen. But nothing has been pinned on Obama and the U.S. attorney says that.

KING: Terry Holt, is this Republican rejoicing?

HOLT: Well, it does prove that the Democrats have their fair share of suicidal tendencies. This is one of those circumstances that -- you know, think about this, Barack Obama's transition is sailing along smoothly. I mean it couldn't have been going better. He was getting full cooperation from President Bush. And we were going to have this seamless hand over of power until the Illinois past rears its ugly head. And Barack Obama now has to deal with a scandal at the very beginning of his administration. It's not something he needed and it's not something he wished for.

But I think, again, it has to do with how he handles it. Is it going to be poised? Are they going to be open and transparent about how they deal with it? There's still a lot of questions to be asked about their own role in it, particularly Rahm Emanuel's. And scratch a little bit, there may be a little bit more scandal here, Larry. We may be talking about this for quite a while.

KING: Jamal, does the president-elect get a little rougher on the governor, going public, speaking on television?

SIMMONS: Well, he's been pretty rough on him already in print. I guess you're right, he hasn't actually been that much on TV, but he's also been on vacation for a week. He's on vacation today. And, you know, there's no suspicion of impropriety here. The Obama people said that they weren't improper. The prosecutor said they're not suspected of doing anything improper. And you have charge in the investigation of the governor saying they won't do anything improper, even though he would like them to. So I think when you look at all that, there's no there there. Trying to pull the Obama folks into this is really a way to distract people.

HOLT: It's impossible not to, though. It is his Senate seat. There are legitimate questions to be asked. And there were dozens of contacts between the governor's office and the different candidates that were being vetted for this job, as well as contacts that were made by Obama officials themselves. So, of course --

PAGE: Why shouldn't there be?

SIMMONS: Of course there are. His seat, of course.


KING: We're going to have some final thoughts from our panel. Hold it guys, we'll come right back. And Kathy Griffin will then join us. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with our panel. Clarence Page, what happens if the secretary of state of Illinois does not certify it?

PAGE: Well, you know, I think that Bobby Rush's point earlier is true. Under the law, this is a ministerial function of certification. And Burris won't really need it in order to be seated. The secretary of state has said that this is a moral position he's taking. He knows that he may not be able to block the seating of Burris. But, again, this could possibly be another court fight, probably a bigger one, though, would be with Harry Reid and the rest of the Senate Democratic leadership.

KING: Jamal, do you expect them to impeach him as the lieutenant governor predicted?

SIMMONS: I think this is going to be a big problem that Harry Reid's going to have to face. I'm not sure exactly how they figure this mess out. The problem is, for folks who want to make the racial argument, you've got 99 white senators about to vote against the lone African-American voice in the Senate. And sooner or later, that's going to become part of this debate. And I think the governor and Bobby Rush and Roland Burris today were not shy about making that case.

This is going to be a big political problem. And as Clarence Page said today, Dick Durbin is going to have a lot to say about this.

KING: But I'm asking -- Terry Holt, do you expect the Illinois legislature to impeach him?

HOLT: Well, I do, obviously. They're jumping the gun on due process here a bit. But impeachment is ultimately a political act. It's not a legal act. It doesn't speak to whether or not he's ultimately guilty of crimes that he's been accused of. But they haven't shown any shyness at all in going ahead and convicting him before there's even a trial. I think that's because of the huge public relations disaster that this is causing for the new administration of Barack Obama.

KING: Larry, you're a lawyer, can he get a fair trial?

ELDER: That's a good question. Can he get one or two people who feel that he's been rail-roaded? Probably so. So it's going to be difficult. But, frankly, I don't think it's going to go that far. I think what's going on right now, the reason that Blagojevich is still there and still making decisions is he's trying to strike some sort of deal. Less time, less fine. I'm not sure it'll ever get to a trial.

KING: Do you think, Clarence, that Blagojevich is handling this adroitly?

PAGE: I think a lot of this has gotten personal for him, that he's been made a fool of internationally with these almost comical -- almost comical transcripts the U.S. attorney has been reading, and he wants to show, hey, I can play hardball too. I am still the governor for as long as I'm sitting here. And he's going to take advantage of it and shift everything into this battle over his Senate appointment.

And as I said on your show before, I think he knows that if he wants to make a plea bargain with the U.S. attorney, he can be in a stronger bargaining position as the sitting governor than as a governor who has resigned. We'll see.

KING: Let's get --

SIMMONS: My prediction is that Rod Blagojevich is going to survive a lot longer. I think he'll stand trial as a governor.

KING: What's the rest of the predictions? Terry, how is this going to come out, Terry? HOLT: You know, I wished I had changed my party registration, I'd be very deeply understanding of the Democratic party. But as it is, I'm a Republican. I'm not even going to pretend to read these tea leaves, Larry, except to say it ain't going away any time soon.

KING: Larry, where's it going?

ELDER: I side with Terry. I have no idea where it's going to go. If I were the former attorney general, I wouldn't even want the job. People would assume I was tainted. People would assume that there was some sort of quid pro quo. My own sense of personal integrity would say, thank you for the offer, but no thank you.

KING: And Clarence, finally, where do you think it's going to go?

PAGE: I think it's going to go on for months and months and months. We may not have someone sitting. My big question is, will the Democrats be so desperate for that extra vote that they will relent and let Roland Burris vote in the Senate? We've got political and legal pressures and PR pressures working in cross currents now.

KING: No one's sitting in Minnesota. No one's sitting in Illinois. And who knows about New York?

PAGE: That's right.

KING: Thank you all, Clarence Page, Terry Holt Jamal Simmons, and Larry Elder. And Kathy Griffin's here with us in 60 seconds. Stay with us.


KING: Kathy Griffin joins us from New York, the Emmy-winning star from "My Life on The D List." Kathy will be joining Anderson Cooper on CNN tomorrow night to ring in the new year. We'll have Anderson and her together.

KATHY GRIFFIN, "MY LIFE ON THE D LIST": Larry, can I stop you for one second? How ridiculous is this magazine cover, seriously?

KING: What magazine is it?

GRIFFIN: It's called "Best Life" and it's your very own Andy Cooper looking off into space, apparently for his Prada pants. I don't know what he's looking for. And that's what I have to deal with tomorrow night.

KING: Before we get to Anderson and tomorrow night, I know you're from Chicago, what do you make of your former governor -- your governor?

GRIFFIN: I think he should be evicted like an old fashioned, the sheriff comes, takes a lam, puts in the box. I don't know why he doesn't just step down. What happens to the part when you go I'm innocent, but what's best for the party is that I step down. He looks like a weird, like Greg Brady, Tony Soprano. For a comedian, he's a great character. But I think if I lived in Chicago still, I'd want him to just go.

KING: Why do you think he doesn't?

GRIFFIN: It sounds like he has a gigantic ego. He should work at my agency. He'd be a great agent. There's a lot of jobs for him in L.A. He'll be fine.

KING: Agents are like that?

GRIFFIN: Yes, you know that, Larry. I'm sure in your coterie of people that you pay god only knows what in commissions, half of them are probably on the take with the Polish Mafia. You know what I mean, that crowd.

KING: Why do you agree to do this?

GRIFFIN: First of all, have you even missed me, Larry?

KING: I miss you sitting here.

GRIFFIN: Now, easy, I'm not going to sit on your lap, that's inappropriate. I can't believe you suggested such a thing.

KING: Since it's a tradition, you and Anderson together, let's take a look at last year for a moment. Let's watch.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Have you ever been down here?

GRIFFIN: Yes, I've been here before and it is crazy. And I like -- like my favorite phase is when everybody's puking and --

COOPER: There's none of that. This is clean and wholesome now.

GRIFFIN: Yes, exactly. I like when the meth dealers are out and then I love couple fights.

COOPER: There are couple fights.

GRIFFIN: Well, if you were better, I wouldn't have to sleep with your brother. That's my favorite moment on New Year's.

COOPER: I don't know what kind of parties you've been hanging out in, Kathy Griffin.

GRIFFIN: What are we doing after this?

COOPER: I'm going home.

GRIFFIN: OK, that is such a lie. Why can't we go to --

COOPER: It's not.

GRIFFIN: Why can't we go to Jalabads. I hear that --

COOPER: We'll talk about that at the commercial break.


KING: Why do you do this, Kathy?

GRIFFIN: Exactly, I'm asking myself that. I don't know if you know what CNN pays, but it's pretty much a coach ticket here and make- up. I did it to get my complementary Anderson Cooper bookmark. Did you know this BS even exists, Larry?

KING: I didn't know there was such a thing.

GRIFFIN: You know what? It's ridiculous. And I'm going to call him on it.

KING: Have you read the article that you held up?

GRIFFIN: Yes, it's one page. The guy doesn't have a lot to say, I'll be honest. It's a couple of paragraphs with very big letters. He talks about his mom a lot. No, it's going to be really fun. I had a great time doing it last year. It's very cold, and so I'm expecting Anderson to spoon me and cuddle me, as I know you would, Larry.

KING: You are so right. We're going to take a break and Anderson will then join us.

GRIFFIN: Oh, hi, Anderson. When did you get here?

KING: I will have Anderson attempt to explain you right after these words. We'll be right back.



KING: Anderson Cooper will remain with us. He will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. Before we bring the two of you together, we have another clip of the two of you from last year's New Year's Eve. Watch.


COOPER: I said I'd like Siegfried and Roy, they said no, not available. Kathy Lee Gifford. I specified Gifford. Somehow it got to Griffin.

GRIFFIN: Available.

COOPER: Yes, not only available tonight, it was like tomorrow.

GRIFFIN: What are you doing tomorrow? I'm around until March.


KING: Anderson, what is the secret of that incredible chemistry the two of you have?

COOPER: You know, I don't know. Last year, as I said, we tried to get Kathy Lee Gifford. This year we tried Gallagher. We tried Evo Phillips (ph) and we tried Carrot Top. They were all booked.

GRIFFIN: Wait a minute, I heard that Gallagher was in and then something you guys wouldn't give him a meal allowance?

COOPER: We wouldn't go for the watermelon. He wanted props. We couldn't pay for the props.

GRIFFIN: His prop bill is pretty high.

KING: Well, how do you account -- first for you, Anderson, then you, Kathy. How do you account for the incredible chemistry you have?

GRIFFIN: I'd like to talk over Anderson whenever it's his turn.

KING: Will you let him talk?

COOPER: I've been a fan of Kathy Griffin's for a long time. She's been nice to me for a long time. I was on a show of hers years and years and years ago, very briefly. I was a guest and I'm happy she's willing to return the favor. I like her jokes, that's the bottom line.

KING: Kathy, what's the secret of doing a New Year's Eve show?

GRIFFIN: Larry, did you know that you sent me a Christmas card?

KING: Yes.

GRIFFIN: You do? I don't believe you, what's my address?

KING: I don't have the addresses, but I have the list. I check them all off. What is that? That's not the question.

GRIFFIN: It was a very nice picture. It was you and your empire. They're not all your kids, it's like 100 people.

KING: No, that's the staff.

GRIFFIN: Really? It said from the King Family. I'm just not sure.

KING: What is it like to work New Year's Eve?

GRIFFIN: It's difficult with Anderson, because of his personality. Difficult, needy. I have to constantly do his hair. I have to get just the right gel. It's like a vanity issue, mostly.

COOPER: It's going to be really cold this year, Kathy.

KING: What's the forecast?

COOPER: The last, like, four or five years I have been doing this, it's been nice and warm. This year, it's apparently going to be bitterly, bitterly cold.

GRIFFIN: We're going to do it though in a very warm pool with Michael Phelps.

KING: Where are you physically, Anderson? Where are you located?

GRIFFIN: Where are you mentally also?

COOPER: Mentally, I'm not sure. Kathy and I will physically be on a riser right above Times Square. Right above the KTKS booth, if you know where that is.

GRIFFIN: We're going to be as far away from the Ryan Seacrest group as you can imagine.

COOPER: They're going to be somewhere else. We're going to get a brief glimpse of them, I think.

KING: Do you watch the ball drop? Do you get a good view of the ball going down?

GRIFFIN: If you mean Anderson, you bet I do. Everything he does, honey, fascinating to me. What up, I got canned? Did I get canned already? It's not even time for the thing. You can't call anybody, it's too late. Yes, we see the ball drop. We get a great view. In fact, we even see the rehearsal.


COOPER: And you know who's going to be there this year, Bill and Hillary Clinton. They're going to be dropping the ball.

GRIFFIN: Larry's not impressed. He's like, I've been to their house.

KING: No, that's impressive.

GRIFFIN: Larry, when is the last time you saw the Clintons socially.

KING: About six months ago.

GRIFFIN: Really? Your house?


GRIFFIN: Have they been to your house?


GRIFFIN: Do they get the Christmas card.

KING: Yes.

GRIFFIN: So you're saying I'm on the same Kwanza card list as the Clintons?

KING: I just got their Christmas card.

GRIFFIN: What does theirs look like? Anderson, I'll be one second.

COOPER: This is comedy gold.

KING: I got to take a break. Anderson's got to prepare for his show. And I got to come back with you.

GRIFFIN: Am I getting fired? Just tell me now.

KING: No. What do the bosses say? Keep her for another year. OK, you're a keeper. Anderson, we'll see you at the top of the hours. We'll be right back with Kathy. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Kathy Griffin. She co-hosts tomorrow night's New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. By the way, congratulations, you're not just a multiple Emmy winner, we understand you're a 2009 Grammy nominee, nominated in the best comedy album.

GRIFFIN: Can you believe that, Larry?

KING: Yes, I can believe that. You got Lewis Black, George Carlin, Larry Shearer, the late George Carlin. George is going to be hard to beat.

GRIFFIN: Can I count on you for a vote? I'm sure you're a member of the Grammys.

KING: No, I'm not.

GRIFFIN: Could you join? Can't Sean join? She must be a member.

KING: Sean might join.

GRIFFIN: I need all the singers I can.

KING: OK. What celebrity do you hope doesn't come back in the New Year? Is there a celebrity you look to exit?

GRIFFIN: Here's the thing, it's not that I don't want any of the Cyruses to come back, I'm just saying, if I had to pick a Cyrus to not come back, I would have to go with the dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, who of course was working the mullet. And now, he seems to have made a living just out of his own daughter and living off her. I will say that Miley seems sort of -- how shall I say -- progressive for her age. We'll see how that all pans out.

KING: Do you think Oprah helped elect Obama?

GRIFFIN: I think Oprah picked the president. Who are we kidding. We can act like we had an election. Oprah just picks the president now. And I'm fine. Let me tell you something, Gail could do it next and I would still be fine with it.

KING: What do you make about Oprah honestly going public about gaining weight?

GRIFFIN: It's kind of funny, I guess she has to, because she's on TV gaining weight every day. Eventually, somebody is going to hold up a mirror, somebody named Gail, and then she has to come clean because it's obvious. It's like when I had my face lift, I had to talk about it, because it was obvious. I looked days younger. I think it's great. I love Oprah's weight struggles. I think it humanizes her. Big fan of the show.

Have you ever gone to her house in Montecito (ph), Larry?

KING: No, I wasn't invited. But I'm friends of hers and I like her and I knew her for ages. I knew her back when she hosted a show in Baltimore. I was a guest on her show in Baltimore.

GRIFFIN: You were?

KING: Yes, me and my daughter.

GRIFFIN: Do you have her cell phone number in your cell phone?

KING: All right, now I'm going to hit you with a little surprise that you can use.


KING: She doesn't have a cell phone.

GRIFFIN: Larry, that's breaking news! You buried the lead. Where's the ticker tape. What does she have, a Dixie cup and strings?

KING: I don't think she needs one. Sarah Palin's unwed teenaged daughter Bristol has had a baby. "Celebrity Weekly" said the offer is up to like 300,000 dollars.

GRIFFIN: Is that to pay her to change the name of that poor kid? You got to be kidding me. Trip? Trip? I'm sorry, have we not learned from Bristol, Willow, Trig, Track and Piper? We haven't learned from them? It's astonishing.

KING: When do you expect her to marry?

GRIFFIN: I would like Sarah to divorce the first dude and marry Rod Blagojevich. I think that's a match made in heaven. There he is, Levi Johnston. I love me some Levi Johnston. I love the mom who just got pulled over for pills, having a little Oxy. She enjoys the Oxy. I like how they cleaned him up for the convention, put him in some Abercrombie. I think it was a fun story to watch.

And then him giving interviews to the A.P. on his driveway, saying stuff like, she better win; she's my mother in law. He's a mental giant, that Levi, named a jean, I believe.

KING: The "American Idol" runner up Clay Akin is now a father and also came out as gay this year. What's your reaction? Do you think more gays should do that, adopt?

GRIFFIN: First of all, I was shocked. It was a campaign of shock and awe for me. And I think most people were -- absolutely couldn't believe it. I think it's great. I thought the picture of him on the cover of "People" was very powerful, him and his new baby. That's great. I think people should come out if they want to. I don't think they should come out if they don't want to. Also, what we have to remember is that there are many places around the globe where you will be killed in your tracks for being gay. So, you know, a lot of my friends who live in Chelsea or West Hollywood, they want everybody to come out. You have to recall that the whole world isn't as forgiving as we want to be. Keep that in mind.

KING: We shall all watch you with great interest tomorrow night.

GRIFFIN: Please do.

KING: You will gang busters, you and Anderson In a repeat performance and you will get paid more next year.

GRIFFIN: I'm going to be gang something. Do I get fired? Did I get fired.

KING: I think you haven't, Kathy. Say good night to Kathy Griffin. Anderson Cooper is solo tomorrow night. Bye, Kathy. Stay in touch with us in 2009. You can go to and tell us what and who you want to see in the new year. Until then, keep checking in on our blog and download our podcast. Download it now.

Final though, a shout out to our buddy and friend and co-worker Todd Sperry. He's in Georgetown University, the hospital. Get well soon. He's one of the best. We're thinking about you, Todd. We love you and we need you. And now here's Anderson Cooper, who we have just learned will work alone tomorrow night. Anderson?