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Did A Pilot Fake His Own Death?; Kidney Custody Fight

Aired January 14, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a missing pilot now in custody.
Did he really fake his own death over finances?

His friend tells all about the fake out and the alleged fraud and the e-mail he got from a dead man.

But is the mystery solved?

It's a prime time first.

Plus, kidney custody exclusive -- the husband in a nasty divorce speaks only to us and tells us why he wants his kidney back -- or a whole lot of money from his estranged wife who has it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's absurd and ridiculous.


L. KING: Right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

Plus, I might add, a ton of politics at the end of the program tonight. Stay for that.

Marcus Schrenker, the financial manager who allegedly scammed his investors and had been missing since Sunday, is in custody. And late today, he was charged with financial fraud.

Authorities say that Schrenker tried to fake his own death by parachuting out of his own plane and letting it crash. He was found last night near Quincy, Florida with marks on his body, indicating what they call a suicide attempt. Schrenker was taken to a Tallahassee hospital, where he remains tonight.

First, we'll go to CNN's Drew Griffin for a live update.

What's the latest -- Drew?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: The latest is he's recovering in this hospital, Larry. And now the federal government says they have charged him with two counts relating to his crazy disappearance -- involving sending that distress signal to the Coast Guard, count one; and ditching that plane in an attempt to fake his own death. That is count two. Once he recovers, which he is expected to do, U.S. marshals will take him over to Pensacola, Florida and before a federal magistrate to face those charges -- before, Larry, he goes back to Indiana to face a whole myriad of charges relating to this financial end of this bizarre case.

L. KING: Is this as bizarre as it comes for your reporting?

GRIFFIN: I think it really is. And to think what happened -- you know, you mentioned that he had marks on his body when they took him into custody. He was very near death when they took him into custody. And one of the federal agents said, look, if we hadn't gotten there when we did, in another hour, he would have bled to death.

He had cut his right wrist deeply, had taken Ultracet and aspirin, which dulls pain but also thins blood. They believe that's why he took those medications -- to thin the blood so he would bleed more quickly.

And they rushed into the tent and found out this wasn't going to be an arrest, this was going to be a rescue. And they actually had to life flight him by helicopter to this helicopter -- to this hospital to save his life.

L. KING: Thanks, Drew.

Drew Griffin, as always, on top of the scene.

Now, here in Washington, we're joined by Tom Britt, Marcus Schrenker's neighbor and colleague. He received an e-mail from Schrenker after he went missing, saying that it was all a misunderstanding and that he feared he would soon be dead.

Let me take you back a little.

How do you know him?


Well, he lived in Geist Reservoir, he -- not too far me -- about $3 million away from my house, is where I live.


BRITT: And I do a local publication and a local Web site. So through the course of this writing about people and events locally, he kind of bubbled up a few years ago as somebody who was giving back to the community. And that's how I met him.

L. KING: You work with him?

BRITT: Yes, I did some marketing stuff for him. He had changed his company name or -- actually, he'd sold his company and renamed it Icon Group. And so I helped him do -- no pun intended -- I helped him do some marketing for that and he did some advertising in my publication. L. KING: He take any money from you?

BRITT: No. I took money from him for advertising, but, you know, it was all above the table.

L. KING: All right.

He got divorced -- or his wife filed for divorce, right...

BRITT: That's correct.

L. KING: Did you know about that?

BRITT: I did not know about that. And, actually, it wasn't just a surprise to me. It was a surprise to everybody. I think everybody just thought they were getting along great.

L. KING: When did you become aware that something was amiss?

BRITT: Recently or just overall?

L. KING: Overall.

When did you say something's not right here?

BRITT: Well, you know, the thing about Mark is you always heard these stories about Mark. And he filed for bankruptcy back in '05 -- or I think it was '03. And when he moved away and then he came back and built a bigger and better home than what he had from before, you start questioning, how can you do that?

About a year ago, when he did take his company from Heritage Wealth Management and started calling it Icon Group, he told me and the world that he actually had been bought out by this big conglomerate company and he was looking forward to that.

But at the same time, he also started -- his signature line in his e-mails went from Marcus Schrenker to Mark Schrenker. And at first, I didn't think too much about it, Larry. But then, as I started going through a couple months of that, I kept responding to it as, hey, Marcus. And he'd respond as Mark.

I was at a coffee shop one morning about two months later and I introduced Mark-us to my friend. And he said, "Oh, no, it's Mark."

And I said, "Well, why -- you know, why are you correcting me now? Have I always had this wrong?"

He says, "No, no." Then he says: "There's a Marcus Schrenker on the East Coast that has a bad rap and I don't want to be associated with him. So I want to go by Mark now."

L. KING: And so when he went missing in the plane, what did you make of all that?

Did you know he was gone? Did you know something?

BRITT: As soon as I got the call that there was a -- a plane that went down that was licensed or owned by Heritage Wealth Management, I knew immediately...

L. KING: It was him.

BRITT: ...that it was Marcus staging something.

L. KING: Now, when did you get the e-mail?

BRITT: I got that that evening. It was about 7:18 p.m. on Monday night.

L. KING: What did it say?

BRITT: Basically, it said: "Tom, you're the only person I'm sending this to. And I want you to help me set the record straight."

And basically, it was only three bullet points. It was kind of long.

The first point was just really validating that his story to the control tower was the correct story. He's standing by that. And he says, "Yes, I panicked and I'm embarrassed that I panicked." Because he had a lot of fighter pilot training. He should have known what to do in a situation like that.

But he said he panicked and he jumped out of the plane. The only thing he admitted to was using a fake name at the hotel.

Then he goes on to, you know, kind of put the -- all the blame on these financial problems onto his partner, who had just been clo -- they're building had been closed on January the 2nd. So that was -- he was pushing all the blame off on him.

L. KING: Did they trace where he was through the e-mail?

BRITT: That's what I'm hearing. You know, when...

L. KING: Did you turn it over to someone?

BRITT: Oh, yes. I mean, as soon as I got it, I called the police. I forwarded it to the Marshals who were investigating the crime scene. And it's just ironic that he sent a note to try to blow smoke off his trail and it ended up coming around and tracing him back to where he was.

L. KING: Hang with us, Tom.

Tom will come back.

The lawmen who were on Schrenker's trail -- they're next on LARRY KING LIVE -- from Washington.


L. KING: Joining us now in Pensacola, Florida, Sergeant Scott Haines, who is Santa Rosa County sheriff's deputy.

In Tallahassee, Florida, Assistant Chief Frank Chiumento. He's assistant chief of the U.S. marshals Office, Northern District of Florida. He was part of the team that found Marcus.

And in Indianapolis, Indiana, John Beeman, deputy U.S. marshal, Southern District of Indiana. He led the coordinating agency for the investigation.

Scott, what's the current story in Pensacola?

Where -- is he in the -- when -- is he going to be in the hospital a long time?

SGT. SCOTT HAINES, DEPUTY, SANTA ROSA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: He's currently over in the Gaston County/Tallahassee area. He has not been transported back over here yet. But the federal authorities have received the permission from Indiana to take precedent. So when he's released from the hospital, he will be brought to Pensacola to face a U.S. magistrate.

L. KING: The charges -- will the trial, if there's a trial, be held in Pensacola?

HAINES: I believe that it would. That would be something for the U.S. attorneys. But more than likely, that would happen.

L. KING: Chief Chiumento, how do you find him?

CHIEF FRANK CHIUMENTO, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: Well, basically, Larry, we received a tip from the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force -- our Marshals in Alabama, who were following the lead there for Indianapolis. And they just gave -- provided the information to us, along with many other leads that went out from their investigation that there was a possibility he may be at the KOA Campground in Quincy, Florida.

And myself and my team -- task force members -- went out there. And, in fact, we did locate him in the tent at the campground.

L. KING: And in what condition did you find him?

CHIUMENTO: Well, when we first approached the tent, we immediately realized that it was a serious situation. As we put light on the tent, we noticed blood on the exterior of the tent. There was small pump -- a pup-type tent that one individual would just be able to lay in, not stand up in. And he was inside.

We immediately put flashlights on him, asked him to show us his hands and noticed that he was bleeding quite significantly and immediately rendered first aid.

L. KING: John Beeman, as a deputy marshal, I don't gather you've ever seen anything like this.

What do you make of it?

DEPUTY JOHN BEEMAN, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: No, sir, you're correct there. In my 18 years of doing this, this is the first time anyone's utilized an airplane trying to evade arrest.

L. KING: Well, what do you -- what do you make of it?

How many things are we going to -- are we charging him with?

BEEMAN: Well, my understanding is that the secretary of state has filed the two charges that we were pursuing him on here in the State of Indiana, that then, also, the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Florida, I understand, has also filed charges.

L. KING: How do you know where the campsite was?

BEEMAN: Well, our investigation, both here in the Indianapolis area and the task force folks down there in Alabama and assistance from the folks in Northern Florida -- all of them come together with this information. And all the small pieces added up to that campground.

L. KING: Tom Britt, who will be back with us in a couple minutes, Scott, told us he's had extensive military experience.

Can you tell that?


L. KING: Scott?


L. KING: Could you -- could you tell that he'd had extensive military experience?

HAINES: Well, just by what he's been doing with the flying and the parachuting out of the airplane -- all the representatives from Piper and the U.S. -- U.S. -- of the FAA, all those people that were there, they said that he had a better chance of actually surviving that plane crash than having a successful parachute jump out of that airplane, due to it not being the type that is able to be parachuted out of. He's very fortunate that he did not get killed attempting to jump from that plane.

L. KING: Frank, in your mind, was this suicide or a fraud incident?

CHIUMENTO: Well, from the evidence that we recovered at the time, at the scene, my opinion would be that it was absolutely suicide. There were -- there, in addition to the wounds, it was a slash to the left wrist and a puncture wound to the inside forearm area of the left arm. There was also evidence of some prescription drugs that were taken -- a large quantity. We found a lot of empty containers. And from the time we were -- at the time when we were administering the first aid, from his motions, some of the statements that he made, it was evident that he wasn't very receptive to us rendering first aid. He didn't seem to have a strong desire to survive at that time.

L. KING: Gentlemen, thanks very much.

We'll probably be calling on you again.

Schrenker's friend, Tom Britt, returns in 60 seconds.

Don't go away.


L. KING: We're back with Tom Britt, who is Marcus Schrenker's neighbor and colleague.

They say suicide.

What do you make of it?

BRITT: No, it was a botched scam. His great last scam was to go out on that ocean and have that plane go down in the Gulf of Mexico.

And, you know, why would he talk about being so bloody in the cockpit?

Because he knows that if that plane goes in the ocean, he's fish food if he's bloody. If he is not bloody, then it's going to be -- you know, it would be harder for him to justify why his body is not in the plane.

So that was part of the whole scam. And I believe that when he parachuted, I don't think he had any correspondence. I don't think he knew anything was going on. I think he -- he thought his plan was happening as he planned it until he got to that campground and went online and saw what was going on.

L. KING: His life was spiraling downward, right, obviously?


L. KING: Did you have any sense of that?

BRITT: Well, you knew there were some pressures coming. I mean, he had a storied past that was starting to catch up with him. He had some lawsuits that were pending on him. He just had a judgment against him two days before he left for over half a million dollars. He had an impending hearing coming up for insurance securities in Indiana. So the walls were coming in on him.

And I think on top of all this, the U.S. stock market that's, you know, spiraling downward. So it just puts more pressure on him. L. KING: What about his wife?

Did you know her?

BRITT: Not real well, but I knew her enough to know that they were always together. They always seemed to get along. When you talk to neighbors, they always talk about what a great couple they were -- you know, Barbie and Ken. They just had a -- what we thought was a good marriage. And they had a great family. The kids were all active. And Marcus was all a part of their lives.

L. KING: And they had three children?

BRITT: Uh-huh.

L. KING: And she's attractive, isn't she?

BRITT: Oh, yes.

L. KING: Yes. I know that's...


L. KING: ...if you see pictures

BRITT: No, that's what we're seeing. Yes, I mean (INAUDIBLE)...

L. KING: She released a statement saying that she filed for divorce on December -- December 30th, after learning he was having an affair.

Were you surprised by that?

BRITT: Very surprised. Very surprised. And I did confirm that today with a friend of mine that leaves up the street from Mark, that that is the case. That did happen.

I didn't want to believe that. I thought that the timing of that divorce and all this was kind of very coincidental. You file papers on the 30th and on the 2nd of January, the marshals show up and shut your place down.

However, a friend of mine did say that he did go install a flat screen at his girlfriend's condo, which is nearby at Geist. And he can verify that that is, in fact, the case.

L. KING: Did he spend a lot of time in Florida?

BRITT: He went down there all the time. I'd stop by and see him or I'd see him at the coffee shop and he always talked about how he spent the weekend in Destin. He loved taking the family down there and spending time on the beach. He'd come back with a little tan. And that was kind of their place to go.

So going to Destin was not out of the ordinary.

L. KING: Did he live wealthy?

BRITT: Yes. Yes, even by Indiana terms. I mean he lived a pretty good lifestyle -- a big four story, $4 million home, a nice big boat in the dock, a...

L. KING: A nice car?

BRITT: A nice car, airplane. I mean, that's something not everybody can afford.

L. KING: He had to be making it somewhere.

BRITT: Yes. And that was always the mystery -- where does he get this money from?

L. KING: Stay right with us.

Was Marcus Schrenker a fake, a fraud or possibly a victim of mental illness?

A psychiatrist with some answers -- maybe -- joins us, when we come back.



GRIFFIN (voice-over): Right up until the very end -- the end of the chase at this campground -- Marcus Schrenker was telling lies. The 38-year-old, who had faked his death, was now, according to police, trying to take his life.


L. KING: Before we get back to the guest, David Theall is with us, as usual, with the blog report -- David, I'm guessing the pilot story generates a lot of heat.

DAVID THEALL, LARRY KING LIVE PRODUCER: Larry, let me tell you something. There is not a lot of love for this guy happening on our blog tonight.

Let's get right to the comments.

One of the people who we heard from tonight was Ronnie, who said: "I'd give anything to see his three children and his own mother cast their eyes upon him in shackles. Surely," says Ronnie, "even someone like him will be haunted by seeing their disappointment."

We also heard from Devon, who said: "Someone please tell me this guy won't end up in one of those cushy federal prisons for 'nonviolent criminals.'"

And, Larry, we also got a comment tonight from Susan. And she gave us one of those comments that kind of makes you go hmmm. She says: "Maybe it's time to do some mental screenings of financial advisers and stockbrokers, as we do with police officers and bus drivers," says Susan. "It seems to me -- there seems to be an awful lot of them messing up the lives of others recently."

We're going to continue the conversation, of course, on the blog throughout the night -- As always, look for the live blog link, click it, jump into the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you -- Larry.

L. KING: Thank you, David.

David Theall.

One wonders whatever happened to a presumption of innocence.

Tom Britt remains with us.

We're joined now in Los Angeles by Dr. Charles Sophy, the psychiatrist, medical director for the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. He's been a frequent guest with us.


L. KING: He is the treating psychiatrist on "Celeb Rehab 2 with Dr. Drew" and will appear on "Sober House," which premieres this week.

All right, Dr. Sophy, what do you make of this story?

SOPHY: Well, you know, Larry, it's interesting, because I think once the dust settles for all of this, you're going to probably see that this guy has a pretty severe personality disorder, which is like number two in the lineup of mental illnesses and also the most difficult to treat.

This guy is a dangerous guy, whether he knows it or not. We certainly do know it. He's had a long history of behaviors that are pretty violent.

And I'm sure there is some substance abuse in all of that and a lot of lying and a lot of dangerousness.

L. KING: Does that shock you, Tom -- his opinion?

BRITT: It doesn't shock me anymore. I mean you hear so much of these stories going around about some of the things he would do. And he did get violent. And I heard stories about that.

L. KING: Oh, yes?

BRITT: But, you know, to me, I never saw that side of him. So I'm still kind of in shock. I'm not surprised anymore, but I'm shocked.

L. KING: With you, would you say he was a nice guy?

BRITT: Oh, yes.

L. KING: Regular? All right. Now, Dr. Sophy, explain that. Now here's who's had an acquaintance with him, did business with him, never saw a problem.

SOPHY: Well, you know, it's not that you have to see a problem. That's part of the pathology and the sickness here. These kinds of people know where and when and how to handle themselves and who to be charming in front of and who to get back at behind their back and how to lie and how to manipulate.

Whether they want to do it or not, it's just part of their personality. Some of it is genetic and some of it is environmental, actually.

L. KING: Is he dangerous?

SOPHY: Oh, absolutely. I mean he's certainly, I think, given us a certain pattern of behavior that he's dangerous to himself, as well as others. So I think he needs to be locked behind bars until further evaluation can be done.

L. KING: Why do you think he leaned out to you, Tom?

I mean you must think about it, why me?

BRITT: Well, I think I'm the closest thing he had to a media contact. And I've always given Marcus kind of the benefit of the doubt. You know, I always talked to him and try to look at him as though I don't know all this past and all his history. And I think he just -- he respected that and I think he felt comfortable give it to me. And he knew I'd take care of it.

L. KING: Doctor, do you think it was a suicide attempt or not?

SOPHY: I think it was an attempted suicide attempt. Whether he really wanted to die -- in most cases, a lot of these types of people don't want to die, they just want more attention and maybe try to switch and change the minds of people who are easily swayed so that they'll feel sorry for them.

But I don't really think he wanted to die, because there were many other opportunities he could have done it. There was a lot of premeditation in this attempt, but I don't think it was a -- a real want to die.

L. KING: Can he be rehabilitated?

SOPHY: You know, that's a tough question. He would have to be rehabilitated and given intense treatment in therapy and group socialization and retraining the way he thinks. And he's 38 years old. It didn't take overnight to get like this. So it would take a significant amount of treatment and a lot of tax dollars to be able to do that. So that's something the courts will have to decide.

L. KING: You think he's open to it, Tom?

BRITT: I think he will, if he thinks he can get off with it. You know, I -- I think this whole thing is a scam even up to the very end. I think he felt the pressure coming. He probably knew the cops were on his tail. And he probably just thought, man, if I can stage this one last time, maybe I'll get off on just, you know, being mentally unstable.

L. KING: If he wanted to see you, would you meet with him?

BRITT: No. Not right now, I wouldn't.

L. KING: Thanks, Dr. Sophy.

Thanks, Tom.

SOPHY: Thank you.

L. KING: Thanks for coming in.

It just may be one of the wilder custody battles over. They're fighting over a kidney. The husband is here and he's talking only to us, next.


L. KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Our cameras now go to New York. Standing by, Dr. Richard Batista and with him, his attorney, Dominic Barbara.

Everyone by now has heard this story -- a New York doctor who gives his wife a kidney, who now apparently wants it back.

What happened?

What's the whole thing?

Dr. Batista is the story.

Dominic is the attorney.

When did you get married, doctor?


L. KING: And when did the wife need the kidney?

BATISTA: Well, she needed three of them. The one that I donated was back in 2001.

L. KING: Who else donated?

BATISTA: Her father donated the first kidney in -- well, I'm going to go back -- when she was 13 years old. The second kidney she needed after two years of our marriage and that was back in 1992. And then thereafter, we had three children, prompting the third kidney transplant, which took place in 2001. L. KING: And that was given by?


L. KING: How, by the way, how is she doing now, do you know?

BATISTA: To the best of my knowledge, I understand that her kidney is doing better than mine.

L. KING: When -- you have one kidney left, right?

BATISTA: Yes, sir.

L. KING: When did the marriage go bad?

BATISTA: Umm, it's hard to say. But it was not on a good foundation around the time of the third transplant.

L. KING: Around that time.

What's it like, by the way, to donate a kidney?

BATISTA: Well, it is probably the most wonderful feeling that you can possibly ever imagine on this planet.

KING: Is the surgery difficult?

BATISTA: The surgery for me was performed arthroscopically, so I have several port incisions, with a separate hand incision to allow for the kidney to be extracted. The surgery discomfort and pain itself was not all that horrendous, very tolerable. I was on my feet the following day.

KING: What was the cause of the divorce?

BATISTA: Um, well, she has her allegations --

KING: What were yours?

BATISTA: Infidelity.

KING: But that's not a reason. That was the reason -- that's not a -- that's --

BATISTA: That's my reason.

KING: It's a reason, it's not a charge anymore, right?

BARBARA: Well, actually, Larry, in the state of New York, it's one of the grounds for divorce. When the show started, you mentioned the demand for the kidney, or the value. Really, that's not what's going on. We use that as an example of what the doctor wants. What the doctor wants is, A, health to be taken into consideration in the division of the assets, whether or not she'd be entitled to maintenance or not.

But most of all, being done so he can be part of the children's lives. That's what really this case is all about.

KING: He's not allowed to be part of their lives now?

BATISTA: It's not that I'm not allowed. It is my belief that the influence that the children are under from the household has put such a pressure on them that they no longer have visitation time with me, despite my most strongest efforts, both through phone call attempts through their mother, and through the court system. And it's not that I'm not legally prevented from having them. I'm perfectly permissible to have them, but the children are severely influenced, I would say.

KING: I got it. Let's make it clear, Dominic, he doesn't want a kidney --

BARBARA: No, of course not --

KING: What is he going to do with a kidney back?

BARBARA: No, of course he doesn't want the kidney. Remember, this is a God-like act when one gives a kidney. You can certainly understand that. No, what he wants the court to do is take into consideration what he's done, what a wonderful thing it is he's done, and some understanding from the court. You know, it's so strange; here he does this, and when he says he's allowed to see his children, well, legally he is. But these children have been so alienated from him --

By the way, prior to the divorce, you should know that this was 24/7 dad. The children loved him dearly. He's a broken-hearted man from that. And before we started the litigation, we thought very deeply how it's going to affect everyone. And it was out of desperation that he did it.

KING: Let me get a break. This case might have an impact on organ donation, the broader implications of the kidney custody matter. That's just ahead. Stick around.


KING: We're back with Dr. Richard Batista and his attorney, Dominick Barbara. We contacted Dawnell Batista and her attorney. They had no comment. Let's take a look at one of their press conferences. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here stands before you a medical miracle. Giving birth to three healthy their children, having three transplants and a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. During this time, it is alleged, falsely, that she was having an affair with here therapist, described by the physicians. It's absurd and ridiculous.


KING: How do you respond, Richard? BATISTA: It is truly absurd and unheard of to even conceive of such a scenario taking place. But the facts are what they are. They will be displayed at the court trial. That's what took so long to recover from the process of internalizing and reevaluating and trying to put pieces together, and the information just came at hand. And I had an answer in front of me. So --

KING: She said you used to examine her underwear. Is that true?

BARBARA: That's interesting, Larry. Can you imagine making a joke out of a situation like this, as to whether he looked at her underwear or not? How about whether or not he risked his life? How about whether or not, after the surgery he was sick, and when he had to go to the hospital to recover from the kidney transplant, she didn't even drive him to the hospital? How about the loss of life expectancy for him, the loss of what he can earn in the future?

And to mention smelling underwear. How stupid can one person be to even say that?

KING: Dr. Batista, you think this might affect other people donating kidneys?

BATISTA: I hope -- at the very least -- first of all, I have to say that the real issue here is for me to get my children back.

KING: Right, I understand that.

BATISTA: Aside from that, aside from that, to draw light to the lack of kidney availability, to the number of poor and dying patients across the country, who are yearning to live. I hope, I hope, and it's my prayer, that this fallout will help enlighten those people who have any question about organ donation come forward, because there are so many people who are dying as a result of not having an organ.

KING: In view of how bitter this has gotten, Dr. Batista, if you had to do it over again, would you not donate it?

BATISTA: Without hesitation, I would give another kidney.

BARBARA: To her.

BATISTA: To her.

KING: You would give it to her. Where do we stand with this, Dominic? Where are we at this point?

BARBARA: Well, we're in the middle of litigation. We have a very good judge, Judge Grove, involved in the case. We're all trying to hopefully figure out a solution. But somewhere along the line, someone's going to recognize who my client is. Besides the wonderful -- I'm doing this 38 year, litigating. This is a wonderful, kind, loving, giving man, who turns to the public and says, listen, I can't take it anymore. What did I do wrong?

And the bottom line through all of it is, I think everyone's starting to wake up. I can tell you in this country the response is incredible, as to a man who gave the chance -- by the way you know, Larry, over the holidays, someone donating a kidney died in the middle of the surgery? And he just told you --

KING: By the way --

BARBARA: He would do it again.

KING: He looked bad when it was reported that he wanted the kidney back.

BARBARA: He looked physically bad?

KING: No, publicity wise he looked bad.

BARBARA: Of course, that was the play up of certain newspapers. But that's not what he really wanted. No one in their right mind would think that. He risked his life giving the kidney.

KING: I got you. Let me get a break. We'll be right back. We'll be back, in fact, in 60 seconds.


KING: Doctor, how are the children taking all this?

BATISTA: I haven't seen them in so long, I can only imagine. I really don't know.

KING: Why can't you see them?

BATISTA: Every effort and attempt that I've made by phone to reach them, to communicate with them, to bring them -- over the holidays, I had an attempt to make them available for Christmas. Last minute, they're not available.

KING: How can she hold them back, Dominic? He's the father.

BARBARA: Yes, but unfortunately, we have what's called alienation. That's the area that I (INAUDIBLE) the highest case in that area, in the court of appeals. The answer is someone poisons the child. Someone makes sure the children don't want to go. You have to remember, Larry, that this is a man whose greatest pleasure was his children, greatest pleasure, morning, day and night.

He isn't at the hospital. You know, he's a very renowned surgeon. IF he's not at the hospital, he was with his children. That's his life. Now, he doesn't even have that. So he risks his life and doesn't see his children.

KING: When will this be over, do you think, Dominick?

BARBARA: Well, we have a trial date in March, but we have a lot of discovery left. So hopefully not too long in the future. Maybe everyone's going to wake up here and say, you know what, it's time to put the war down, the battle down, and make this man back part of their lives. Maybe I'll start to think of ways to end this.

KING: That will be a good idea, the war of the roses. Thanks very much Dr. Richard Batista and Dominick Barbara.

We're going to talk politics. Has President Elect Obama won over the Republicans? That's next. Stay with us.



KING: We welcome John King, CNN's chief political correspondent. He hosts a new CNN show. It starts Sunday. It's four hours long. It's called "STATE OF THE UNION." Bay Buchanan, a CNN contributor and president of the American Cause. And our old friend Lanny Davis, the former special counsel to President Clinton.

Anderson just mentioned the Treasury secretary nomination. President-Elect Obama defended that choice today. Let's watch this and get the comments of the panel.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is this an embarrassment for him? Yes. He said so himself. But it was an innocent mistake. It is a mistake that is commonly made for people who are working internationally or for international institutions. It has been corrected. He paid the penalties. And as I've said before, if my criteria, whether it was for cabinet secretary or for vice presidents or presidents, or reporters, was that you've never made a mistake in your life, none of us would be employed.


KING: OK, how much trouble is Mr. Geithner in, John?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: It's a speed bump at the moment, Larry, not a road block. If you look around the Senate and count the votes, the Republican -- ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley, is skeptical. He wants to ask some questions. The next Republican, Orin Hatch -- you know him well -- he's working other Republicans to get the votes. They have the votes.

The question is, does it hurt the immediate transition. And the plan was to confirm him -- he's one of the big three they wanted to confirm on inauguration day, so he could be there the next day and get the administration off to a start. Ed Henry reporting today now that a Bush administration official is prepared to stay on if the confirmation is delayed a bit.

So it's a hiccup that you don't want at the start of the administration. But it looks like, in the end, confirmation, unless something else comes out -- confirmation will happen, just on a slower track.

KING: Hiccup, Bay? BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: It's interesting you would call a 35,000 dollar default on taxes a hiccup. This is huge. That's more than most people pay in taxes in a year. And what happened here is -- what we're hearing is not the whole story, in my opinion. It's not accurate to say that it was unintentional. Here's a fellow where memos are sent continually to those who work at IMF to say, by the way, we don't withhold Social Security taxes.

So he's appraised of this. Number two, there's an allowance given by IMF that the rest of us would love to have. They give you an allowance, a boost in your play, to cover this additional expense. It's something he requested.

KING: You think it's a man who deliberately said, ha?

BUCHANAN: The only time he paid these taxes is when he got caught. That's it. He got caught in the audit. He only paid half of it. Then he got caught two months ago and he paid the rest of it. They say it was innocent mistake. The man's a tax cheat. That's what he is. Simple as that.

KING: That's true, Lanny? It ain't a hiccup?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, PRESIDENT COUNSEL: You know, I always ask myself -- my friend Bay and I have known each other a long time -- what would I say if this were a Republican? I try to use the same standard. I wrote a book that had the subtitle, published in '06, Bay, "how Gotcha Politics is Destroying America." We face great economic crises. If this were a Republican, I would say, mistake, embarrassing, not disqualifying. We've got to address the problems of the country.

KING: You sure you would have said that?

DAVIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I wrote a book equally criticizing what the Democrats did to George Bush in the '80s, misusing the independent counsel statute. So it's got to be even- handed. I certainly would.

KING: Lindsey Graham, John, said today he'd confirm.

J. KING: That's the key. When I said hiccup, I meant politically. Bay is dead right. These are very serious allegations. It's a very serious substantive allegation. The question for Mr. Geithner -- and he's going to have to answer some tough questions. The Democrats will ask some tough questions, even Democrats who are going to vote for him.

What I meant by hiccup is politically. They still have the votes right now, subject to further disclosures. It is embarrassing, as President-Elect Obama said. It is already the subject of late-night laughs. The guy who is going to oversee the tax code says he doesn't know the tax code, or she says cheated on his taxes.

So it's embarrassing. It gets you off to a tough start. But based on the math, confirmation math, he will be the Treasury secretary.

BUCHANAN: It could snowball, Larry. This is what happens. First these types of things get slowed up. Then more information comes in and they can snowball. Anything can happen here. You got to remember, this isn't secretary of Commerce. This is the man in charge of the IRS, who says, you know, it was unintentional. I think that's a simple innocent mistake. That's what everybody who cheats on their taxes says. They don't say, I cheated on it.

KING: Is he that valuable a guy?

DAVIS: Yes, yes.

KING: Really is?

DAVIS: He's valuable. With all due respect, if we're going to use words like cheat, there has to be evidence. That's very, very strong. He says it was a mistake. I gave him the same presumption of innocence as I would a Republican. But he is very important. We face a great economic crisis. And he should be asked these tough questions. John, I agree with you.

KING: When does he appear?

DAVIS: Right now, I think it should be within the next week.

J. KING: They wanted to get it done this week.

BUCHANAN: When you say you shouldn't use tax cheat, OK, he was audited and he was told, hey, you have to pay taxes on this stuff. So he paid them for two out of the four years. He says, I didn't know I had to pay on the other four. Come on. This is a little common sense. They don't just say some years you pay Social Security taxes, the others you don't.

We all know what happened here, Larry. And I think we all should be completely honest. He chose not to pay his taxes until he was caught.

KING: John, you've got your finger on every pulse I think. Explain our friend Lindsay Graham, who was everywhere John McCain was, and now seems to be traveling with Obama.

J. KING: He just came back from a trip with Vice President-Elect Biden to these hot spots around the world. His story is Lindsay Graham tries to be a legislator. He is a Republican. He can be fiercely partisan. He was John McCain's best friend on the trail. And if he believes the opening is there or the cause is there, he will be fiercely partisan.

He is fairly typical of the Republicans right now. And a lot of people at the grass roots level, like Bay, and who are in touch with grass roots Republicans, don't like this. They say, wait a minute; you were elected to do something. You were elected on principle. Why are you being cowards? What these Republicans say is that most of the country, even the 47 percent that didn't vote for Barack Obama, wants to give him a good start and a good chance. When we see a reason to pounce, we will. You're beginning to see that on the objections to the second phase of the bailout. On the personnel stuff, the Republicans are saying, the president gets his team, barring something egregious. Policy differences are beginning to emerge slowly.

KING: How do you read Lindsay Graham?

DAVIS: I'm going to get him into a lot of trouble. He's one of the most honest, best people in public life. I disagree with him on virtually everything. But he was part of the Gang of 14 that put together a centrist coalition. He has independence and integrity. And I don't want to get into any more trouble by saying nice things about him. I disagree with most of what he stands for because he's a conservative.

KING: Does it bother you, Bay?

BUCHANAN: Well, it's clear the man has always wanted to be at the table. He wants to have a seat at the table and he will do anything. It depends what your purpose here in Washington is. Is it to represent some principles and values which your party is supposed to espouse? Or is it just to make certain you are in some kind of power circle?

KING: You're hinting --

BUCHANAN: There's no question he's always hanging out. He's a side kick of powerful people.

KING: Let me get a break. What's going to happen with Hillary Clinton's Senate seat? A new poll has someone new in the lead. Stay with us.


KING: We're back with John King, Bay Buchanan, Lanny Davis. We're saluting John King. His new show starts Sunday morning, "STATE OF THE UNION." It's on every Sunday from 9:00 to 1:00. It's going to be a lot different from what you expect on Sunday morning. A lot of surprises coming. We hope to have you on during this period.

J. KING: I hope to have you on too.

KING: I'd love to come on. We'll be working seven nights a week this week.

J. KING: That's part of the reason we are starting the show now. It's an amazing time here. It's a great moment in Washington, a great political story, great policy dramas. Sociology experiment in the country, the first African-American president. It's a good time to do this.

KING: Lanny, if they voted today, they say, in New York, Andrew Cuomo would be selected as the next United States senator. Will he be?

DAVIS: I'm going to display my bias here. I've known Andy Cuomo ever since he helped his dad get to be governor. He's the most qualified. He is the most experienced. He's taken hard knocks, made some mistakes. He's been a great attorney general. In terms of sheer working in the vineyards and earning your stripes, he deserves to be U.S. senator. Nothing against Caroline Kennedy.

KING: Deserving is one thing. Does he get it?

DAVIS: I think Governor Paterson is going to have to decide who's the most qualified, versus many other people who are very attractive as candidates. But I think he has a very good chance.

KING: Do you think Kennedy thinks she's entitled?

BUCHANAN: I think the simple fact she asked for it suggests that, because there is certainly no qualification. The resume doesn't have anything on it that would suggest she is ready to be senator of the United States. She's not qualified is the bottom line. She shouldn't get the job. It's an important time in this country and people from -- with New York being the center of the -- the financial center of the country, Larry, you would think you'd bring somebody who really had some gravitas, understanding of this issue that might give some insight into the senators. Very few of them understand what's going on. Be nice to have somebody who really did.

So he has a real responsibility to put somebody there who really can contribute to the situation we're facing.

J. KING: This is a great glimpse into how Governor Paterson views this selection process. If he makes it based on who's best in New York, who's best known in New York, who polls best in New York right now, Lanny makes a pretty compelling case, as does Bay.

But he's under a lot of pressure nationally to say remember, governor, this is Barack Obama's first mid-term election. The odds are Democrats will lose seats. Caroline Kennedy can raise more money than anybody else, not only for the New York Senate seat, but help the party nationally raise money.

KING: You think they'll lose the New York seat?

J. KING: They don't think they'll lose the New York seat, they don't think. Again, it's the first mid-term election. The economy is in the tank right now. Obama has all this good will right now. If the unemployment rate keeps going up, as most economists project it will, this is Barack Obama's economy starting Tuesday. He has an enormous amount of good will. I think he gets a honeymoon. But does that last to the 2010 mid-terms for him and his party? Ask Bill Clinton in 1993-1994.

KING: Does Hillary get approved unanimously? This is a giant love affair.

DAVIS: She deserves to be approved unanimously. She -- when she first got to the Senate, I won't name names, but a number of Republicans said, you know, should I go up to her and shake her hand? I was involved in the impeachment. What do I do? I said, I've known her since law school. She's one of the nicest, best people. And by the time she finished her first term, the same Republicans were telling me she's one of the best people in the Senate to work with as a Democrat. So she's got bipartisan support.

And she did a great job in the hearing answering all of the questions, I thought.

BUCHANAN: Larry, Lanny loves everybody. You don't have a bad word to say. There's no reason whatsoever to vote against Hillary, to be quite honest. I see no grounds to vote against her. She's certainly qualified.

KING: She's got the qualifications.

BUCHANAN: There's nothing left in her closet, no surprises. She's very qualified. She'll work hard.

DAVIS: Bay Buchanan and Lanny Davis agreeing on Hillary Clinton. This is an historic moment.

KING: Anybody going to be knocked out?

J. KING: Knocked out? At the moment, it doesn't look so. Governor Richardson had to withdraw, of course, the controversy there. Looks like Geithner, at the moment -- Bay makes a good point. There's a long way to go here. Once these dramas start, sometimes they take more dramatic turns.

At the moment, no. It looks like the president will get his team, Senator Clinton included. Again, that's largely a tradition in Washington, that the president gets his team, even when the other party is in control of Congress. In this case, Barack Obama has a pretty good majority of Democrats in the Senate, and of course Democratic House; they're not involved in confirmations.

But there's -- the trepidation is over the policy. And that's in both parties right now, because this is a nervous time in the country, not over the personnel.

BUCHANAN: Eric holder?

J. KING: That's another rough one.

DAVIS: Can I just quickly say, Eric Holder may be the most qualified attorney general that we're ever going to have?

KING: Who don't you like?

DAVIS: And he's a great guy and all of the stuff against him he will answer.

BUCHANAN: He even likes Mark Rich, I bet.

DAVIS: No, that one I disagreed with.

KING: Thanks guys. John King, Bay Buchanan, Lanny Davis. John's show starts Sunday.

I want to wish a very happy 93rd birthday to a terrific lady in Pittsburgh, Veronica Roman (ph). We all know her as Granny Ronnie. Happy birthday.

Right now, let's go to New York and Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?