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CNN Crossfire

Should Former President Clinton Face Criminal Charges?; Shocking New Book Released on Jesse Jackson

Aired March 06, 2002 - 19:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, the independent counsel's final report finally comes out. Should President Clinton have faced criminal charges? Then, a shocking new book on Jesse Jackson. Do "Shakedown's" charges stand up?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Tucker Carlson. In the crossfire, Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia, member of the Judiciary Committee. And former Clinton White House Special Counsel, Lanny Davis. And later, Kenneth Timmerman, author of "Shakedown" and Ron Walters, director of the African-American Leadership Institute.

PRESS: It's CROSSFIRE. Thanks for joining us.

We're still at war in Afghanistan, we're still in a recession, but some people still can't stop talking about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. In his final report released today, Independent Counsel Robert Ray says he had enough evidence to charge Clinton with criminal conduct for lying about Lewinsky under oath, but he chose not to. Even though he made a deal with Clinton not to press charges back in January 2001.

Republicans hailed the report as proof that they were right all along. Democrats dismissed it as nothing new, aimed only at helping Ray in his presumed race for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Question, with publication of this report, have we heard the last of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky? Don't bet on it -- Tucker.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Not if I can help it. Lanny Davis, nice to see you.

PRESS: You'll make sure this story doesn't die.

CARLSON: I hope not. I hope it never dies. It'll live on in our hearts, Bill.

Now I have here, Lanny, the first page of the final report of the Independent Counsel. And before I frame it, and I will, I want to read to you the most important -- really, the only important line in the whole thing. Here it is. "There was sufficient evidence to prosecute President Clinton for violating federal criminal laws." In other words, President Clinton committed crimes. Time to admit it? LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: In Mr. Ray's opinion, that's an opinion statement, and it violates the Independent Counsel Act in none other than Senator Robert Dole in November 1993 took the floor of the Senate, talking about Lawrence Walsh abusing what he thought was abuse of the act regarding the first President Bush said, and I quote, "in the last administration, it was Republicans. In this administration, it can be Democrats. I do not think it ought to happen to anybody regardless of party, if they have not committed any crime or if they are not indicted for some criminal activity."

He was talking about editorial editorializing. And he moved to amend the act and got rid of the language allowing an Independent Counsel to do what Mr. Ray did. In other words, Mr. Ray violated the act. And maybe he should be investigated.

CARLSON: Lanny, I must say I expect -- that is sad.

REP. BOB BARR (R-GA), JUDICIARY CMTE.: Alice in Wonderland continues.

CARLSON: Here you are...

DAVIS: Senator Dole, I am quoting Senator Dole.

CARLSON: Invoking Bob Dole.

DAVIS: Correct.

CARLSON: Someone named Lawrence Walsh. I mean, that was kind of a pathetic answer. Let me pose the question to you one more time.

DAVIS: It's the truth. It's not pathetic.

CARLSON: The finding is here on the first page of the introduction of the final report, and that is that President Clinton committed crimes.

DAVIS: He didn't have the guts to indict. He didn't have the guts to have a jury.

CARLSON: Clinton made a deal.

DAVIS: Hear the evidence. What Mr. Ray has done is failing to have the courage to indict. He offers his opinion of guilt, where the United States Senate, despite Mr. Barr's efforts, couldn't get a majority of Republicans to agree to him that there was any evidence to convict.

CARLSON: Nice try, Lanny.

DAVIS: That's a fact.

CARLSON: I see why you make the big bucks. That was good.

PRESS: Here we are. Lanny Davis and Bob Barr debating Bill Clinton. Have we seen this... BARR: With Bill Press and Tucker Carlson.

PRESS: I've seen this before.

Congressman Barr, I'm reading a great new book called "The News About the News" by Leonard Downey.


PRESS: I am, too -- this book, both of them from "The Washington Post." In it, they report that two years ago, both CBS News and ABC News broadcast special reports on training camps in Afghanistan run by the al Qaeda terrorist network, led by a guy named Osama bin Laden. And they were training people to conduct terrorist acts against the United States.

I checked today, there's not one congressional hearing as a follow-up to those shocking reports. And yet you guys in Congress, you Republicans, spent two years pursuing Bill Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Are you ready to admit tonight that you Republicans had the absolute wrong priorities and wasted our time with a totally meaningless distraction, when you should have been talking about terrorist threats?

BARR: The president of the United States, Bill, violated the law. You may think that's unimportant. You may think that, oh, that's just a political figment of somebody's imagination. The fact of the matter is that a prosecutor sworn to uphold the law, and despite Lanny's very best efforts to make the independent counsel the issue, the fact is, Bill, that your president and my president violated the criminal laws of this country. That is serious business, at least in my book as a former prosecutor.

PRESS: Let me try to phrase the question again. I don't think you get it. Will you please tell me and the American people why it was more important to nail Bill Clinton for having oral sex with Monica Lewinsky than it was to stop Osama bin Laden's training camps, training people from attacking the United States of America? You got it all wrong.

BARR: Bill, you still don't get it.

PRESS: I think it's pretty clear which is more important.

BARR: After four years, you don't understand what obstruction of justice is. After four years, you don't understand what perjury is. After four years, you don't understand what subornation of perjury is. That's what this was about.

PRESS: I know what priorities are, congressman.

BARR: And if you have a president that obstructs justice, if you have a president who commits perjury, then he has no business serving as commander in chief. Yes, it is relevant.

CARLSON: And Lanny, this rarely happens on CROSSFIRE. This may be a first, in fact, but Bill just made my case for me. Now during the whole scandal, during the whole...

PRESS: That was a waste of time.

CARLSON: ...lovely scandal, you often heard Democrats, you were among them, say that the president was going about the business of the country. Now we learn, and Bill just said it plainly, that he wasn't. In fact, he took his eye off the ball.

PRESS: I didn't say that.

CARLSON: Because...

PRESS: I said he took his eye off the ball. Don't misquote me. I said Congress took their eye off the ball.


CARLSON: Hold on. Now let me finish my question.

DAVIS: Is there a question here?

CARLSON: And the question is, isn't it true that if Clinton had followed your advice and just told the truth, told it early, he could have gone on to saving America from terrorism? Instead, he was obsessed with lying about Monica Lewinsky.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, we had eight years of a pretty good record. And most American people would agree that he kept his eye on the ball with the economy, and he kept his eye on the ball on all respects, leaving office with a 65 percent approval rating. That's pretty good, despite Mr. Barr's efforts.

BARR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) balanced budget.

DAVIS: What you've heard Bob Barr do tonight is what Mr. Ray has done, which is why the American people and a majority of Republicans in the Senate completely rejected Mr. Barr's arguments, they did reject his arguments, because they didn't convict. And that is, he has served tonight as the prosecutor, as the jury, and as the convicter, when those crimes were never held by a jury of Mr. Clinton's peers. Mr. Ray didn't have the guts to indict him.


CARLSON: I've heard this before.

BARR: We didn't have a jury.

CARLSON: OK. Here is an independent prosecutor...

DAVIS: His opinion is not guilt. It's an opinion.

CARLSON: Lanny, listen to yourself. I'll play the tape for you later. And I think you'll be embarrassed. Here you are again, for the countless time in four years, attacking the messenger. Attacking the Independent Counsel. Your Democrats say, oh, he's doing this because he wants to run for Senate in New Jersey.

DAVIS: Senator Dole said the same words about Lawrence Walsh.

CARLSON: Senator Dole...

BARR: That has nothing to do with this, Lanny, and you know it.

DAVIS: It's not Mr. Barr pronouncing guilt.

BARR: It has nothing to do with it.

DAVIS: Pronouncing guilt. You attacked Mr. Ray, pronouncing guilt. It is due process.


DAVIS: I agree with Senator Dole.

BARR: Mr. Ray couldn't win in your book, Lanny. He didn't indict your man, and you're getting mad at him because he didn't indict your man.

DAVIS: As Senator Dole says under our system, he has no right to editorialize, that...

BARR: But he has the right to tell the truth.

DAVIS: Mr. Walsh was wrong and Senator Dole said it.

BARR: He did what Mr. Clinton didn't do, and that is did tell the truth.

PRESS: Congressman Barr?

BARR: Yes, sir.

PRESS: If I had to pick a conservative out of Central Casting, it would be you. So I know you believe in smaller government. I know you believe in no wasteful government spending. OK? This investigation of Bill Clinton went on for eight years. It cost $65 million. Robert Ray came in two years ago, over two years ago, almost three years.

13 months ago, he made a legal deal that he would not press charges against Bill Clinton. He took another 13 months, congressman. At one point he had 78 FBI agents working, 28 Justice Department lawyers. And he came out today, 13 months later, with a report that simply says, I could have pressed charges, but I decided not to. Nothing new. Wasn't this a complete non-event, waste of time and money?

BARR: Bill, there is absolutely nothing that Mr. Ray could say or do that would satisfy you or Lanny.

PRESS: Oh, yes. That's not true.

BARR: Lanny's mad at him because he didn't indict him.

PRESS: That's not true. He could have shut his doors 13 months ago and said he's finished.

BARR: He also is required by the court, Bill. You may not care about what court requirements are, but the Independent Counsel does. He's required by the courts.

PRESS: 13 months.

BARR: To have conducted this investigation in a way he did. And there's also a major part of the left, that's the Whitewater aspect to it. It's not dead yet.

CARLSON: Now I think we should do...

BARR: So it's not dead yet.

CARLSON: Tomorrow night and I hope that we do again and again, but now we have to break. Thank you very much, Congressman Barr, Lanny Davis. Come back anytime to defend Bill Clinton. We enjoy it.

And when we return, Jesse Jackson, a devastating new biography accuses him of 30 years of crime and duplicity. Is the book accurate? We'll ask the man who wrote it, as well as a friend of Jackson's. Back in a moment.


CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. "Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson." That's the title of a new bestseller and the title says it all, 422 pages each brimming with insults and accusations and possible evidence of crime.

The real Jesse Jackson, according to the author, is an embezzler, a thug and an extortionist, not to mention a grade A, world class hypocrite. Where's the proof, ask Jackson's allies, who point out that Jesse Jackson's never been convicted or even indicted for anything at all.

That's our debate tonight. Joining us Ron Walters, who is the director of the African-American Leadership Institute and a long time friend of Jesse Jackson's. And Kenneth Timmerman, investigative reporter and the author of "Shakedown" -- Bill.

PRESS: Mr. Timmerman, thanks for joining us. You know, usually you can not tell a book by its cover. I think this is the one big exception. The front cover reads "Shakedown: Exposing the Real Jesse Jackson." The back, "Exposing America's number one shakedown artist." Written by Kenneth Timmerman, who's a regular contributor to "The Wall Street Journal," "The Washington Times," "The American Spectator," former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Mr. Timmerman.

KENNETH TIMMERMAN, AUTHOR, "SHAKEDOWN": Maryland. PRESS: Maryland, I'm sorry. Why don't you admit that this is not a political biography, this is a right wing partisan political hatchet job?

TIMMERMAN: Well, you know, Bill, you can be critical of Pat Buchanan without being a tool of the left. You can criticize Jerry Falwell without being a tool of the left. I think you can criticize Jesse Jackson without being a tool of the right.

PRESS: Well, I'm just saying look at the book. You haven't answered the question. Let me just point out, as Tucker points out some of the things you call -- you don't quote others. You call Jesse Jackson in the book.

You call him a Halloween ghoul. You call him a liar. You call him a shakedown artist. Let me just read one quote from page 10 in the introduction. Here it is. This is you. "Me first Jackson, as some Chicago commentators called him, put himself before family, before friends, before country and, as shown by his support for the butchers in Liberia and Sierra Leone who made sport of amputating the hands of errant children, Jesse Jackson even put himself before humanity." Surely Mr. Timmerman, you're not expecting to win the Pulitzer Prize for objective biography?

TIMMERMAN: You know, I've never understood why this story about Jesse Jackson's involvement in Liberia and the Civil War there has never been told. It's really an amazing story. Jesse Jackson was the president's special envoy to Africa in 1988 and 1989. He brought a serial murdered into a so-called peace process and brought him into a government.

This serial murder came out and chopped off black children's hands and legs with the support of Jesse Jackson. I think that's a story that deserves to be told. And Jesse Jackson's a public figure and he deserves public scrutiny.

PRESS: Well, if I may, you just avoid the question. My point is you've got a political agenda. And you're out to get Jesse Jackson. And this is the book to do. Why don't just be honest and admit it?

TIMMERMAN: Bill, I'm an investigative reporter. I've done four books on the arms trade. This is an investigative report. And by the way, it's the first investigative report on Jesse Jackson that's been written since 1975. The last one was a great book by Barbara Reynolds, a black reporter in Chicago. She got railroaded out of Chicago by Jesse Jackson's friends for having written it.

CARLSON: Now, Dr. Walters, thanks for joining us. That was, you remember, the day after Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis. Jesse Jackson showed up in Chicago, went on the "Today" show live. And he proclaimed that Dr. Martin Luther King had "died in my arms. I was the last person to see him alive. There's blood on my shirt. He said, "This is Dr. King's blood."

It turns out, this book reveals it and really makes the point, proves it without a shadow of a doubt, that that was in fact a lie. And in fact, King's closest associates, Ralph Abernethy among them, were infuriated by Jackson's lie. Isn't this appalling?

RON WALTERS, AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERSHIP INST.: This is not appalling. This is a 40-year-old story, which has no legs whatsoever. And I'm surprised that we're actually going over this old ground. Because there's a lot of debate about this, as you may or may not know. So that the story is not in at all. There are people who, the credible people, who were right there on the scene, who support Jesse Jackson's story. But what...

TIMMERMAN: Reverend Abernethy said...

WALTERS: Wait, wait just a minute. The timing of this, I think, really has to be pointed to. In January of last year, the right wing...

CARLSON: Wait. You didn't answer my question. This is not an allegation.

WALTERS: I did answer your question.


TIMMERMAN: Reverend Abernethy was with Martin Luther King when he died.


PRESS: Just a second, Mr. Timmerman. Go ahead.

WALTERS: The right wing, last year, released in a rag, a whole series of rags about -- some points about Reverend Jackson's personal life. The timing is impeccable. Because now he's just been doing things for the Enron workers.

CARLSON: Wait, hold on. I know it's a conspiracy. But let must face you with this quote. Hold here. This is Jose Williams. This is a deputy to Martin Luther King. This is his description of Jesse Jackson's behavior, pretending to be the last person with Dr. King. And I'm quoting now, this is Jose Williams?

WALTERS: Why are you dealing with this 40-year-old story?

CARLSON: Hold on. Because I want you to answer this question.

WALTERS: It seems to me -- if this is all the right wing has, then this is very sorry.

CARLSON: Is Jose Williams with the right wing?

WALTERS: I mean, this is sort of...

CARLSON: Let me get your response. It's a hell of a thing to capitalize on a man's death.

WALTERS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on a 40-year story. Where the -- what is there? CARLSON: Here's my question. Answer it. Is Jose Williams lying? Is Ralph Abernethy lying?

WALTERS: It doesn't make any difference.

CARLSON: Of course it does.

WALTERS: The truth of this particular situation probably will never be brought to light. Let's go to the Enron workers. Let's go to something Reverend Jackson...

TIMMERMAN: No, this is one story among many, or one lie among many. I mean, it's typical behavior.

WALTER: Look at the timing between that and this particular -- now right wing expose coming to light.

CARLSON: Right wing suppose.

PRESS: Mr. Timmerman, let me come back to you and say I am willing, for the sake of this discussion, to move on and to admit that the Reverend Jackson has admitted -- has exaggerated, sometimes maybe his role in certain events. I have in my own life. And maybe you have, but maybe not.

But I think what's lacking in your book -- what I find lacking in your book is the recognition that the man has also done a lot of good, for a lot of people.

Let me give one example. You know, I met Reverend Leon Sullivan at one time. You point out that based on his example in Philadelphia, Reverend Jackson started Operation Bread Basket in Chicago, where they went out to stores in the black neighborhoods and they said, we want you to hire African-Americans. They said we're not going to buy your products until you do. And we're not going to frequent your stores until you start purchasing products from African-American entrepreneurs. And he succeeded. That was great for the people of those districts. What was wrong with that? Why don't you give him credit?

TIMMERMAN: That's a great point. And actually, I tell that story in the book. And I tell a lot of stories about the early success with Bread Basket.

PRESS: No, but you...

TIMMERMAN: Excuse me. And one of the stories that I tell also is about a black store owner, who says that Jesse Jackson has lost us jobs because he's brought gang members out here to boycott my store. And it's black workers in my store, who've been put out of work because Jesse Jackson is enriching himself and enriching his family and friends, which by the way, is the shakedown that began in Chicago and he's refined over the years. This book is an investigation basically of a method that's been refined over 30 years. It's 30 years of facts. PRESS: Pardon me, there you go again. You say you given him credit, but then you call it a shakedown. That's my point. Let's jump to the hostage situation.

TIMMERMAN: Well, what would you like to call it?

PRESS: I would like call it doing good for a lot of people. Let me talk about the hostage situation. He brought back Robert Goodwin from Syria. He brought back 48 Cuban Americans from Cuba. He brought back hostages from Kuwait and Iran.

TIMMERMAN: All those Cuban Americans, by the way, and a lot of Americans were hotbeds and had to be put in jail in America.

PRESS: May I please finish? He went to Yugoslavia, brought three Americans back who'd been captured in Kosovo. Other than a brief reference to Goodman, where you accuse Jesse of hamming for the cameras, you don't mention any other hostages the guy brought back to the country. Why don't you at least balance your book by pointing out some of the good that he's done?

TIMMERMAN: Well you know, Bill, if I rehashed all of the stories that have been written about Jesse Jackson, it would be about a 1500- page book. I'm an investigative reporter. I wanted to tell the stories that had not been told about Jesse because there's been this gag order on the press. And this is really the secret underside of Jesse Jackson's career.

CARLSON: OK, not Mr. Walters, quickly, one of the many quotes, one of the many, many anti-Semitic quotes from Jesse Jackson were printed in this book, comes from 1979, "60 Minutes." I want to read it to you. Tell me what you think of this.

This is Jackson speaking. "When it came to the division of power, we did not get from the Jews the slice of cake we deserve. The Jews do not share with us control of wealth, broadcasting stations and other centers of power." Do you agree with that statement?

WALTERS: What I think of this is that it continues the attack on Jesse Jackson.

CARLSON: Do you agree with that statement?

WALTERS: What I think is that it continues the attack on Jesse Jackson's character, someone who's shown tremendous courage bringing this to bear.

CARLSON: Do you agree with this statement?

WALTERS: I think when you look...

CARLSON: You obviously do.

PRESS: You want to finish that?

WALTERS: No, I don't. Because he won't let me. PRESS: Thank you, Mr. Waters. Thanks very much for joining us.

WALTERS: Good to be here.

PRESS: Mr. Timmerman, thank you for joining us.

TIMMERMAN: Thank you.

PRESS: Any time we mention Jesse Jackson, it's always a hot debate, but so much for today's big news.

When we come back, the rest of the stories. You know, those juicy little tidbits you would have missed today if not for Bill and Tucker.


PRESS: And it's time now for our CROSSFIRE news alert. When it's a great public service, we go behind the headlines to bring you the day's juiciest stories you may have missed, like this one. Proving politicians aren't the only ones who play around, Suzie Wetlou for editor of "The Harvard Business Review" interviewed Jack Welsh for the January issue of her magazine, but just before she put the magazine to bed, she was forced to admit she had also put the former GE chairman to bed, several times. Welsh's wife wasn't happy, neither was Wetlou's boss who yanked her interview and instead assigned instead to a male reporter. Will Independent Counsel Robert Ray descend on Harvard next? Stay tuned.

CARLSON: They make good CROSSFIRE guests, but should they be tax exempt? That's the question facing the IRS in the new complaint against the group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. According to the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a pro- business organization, PETA is not a valid nonprofit, by a front for domestic terrorism. The complaint accuses PETA of organizing illegal demonstrations, assaulting business executives and advocating arson, not to mention defending the rights of rats and leaches.

PRESS: On Sunday night, ABC will broadcast the presidential gala taped just last week at Washington's Ford Theater. But here's one hilarious scene you will not see on camera. On stage is Stevie Wonder. In the front row is President Bush. When Stevie Wonder sits down at the piano, according to "The Washington Post," President Bush starts getting so excited he starts waving hello to Stevie Wonder, only to sheepishly lower his hand when he realizes the entertainer can't see him. It's a real live case of the blind leading the blind.

CARLSON: And does art imitate life? Not on NBC, says Carolyn Condit. The wife of the newly defeated Democratic congressman is demanding a retraction from the producers of the show "Law & Order." In the February 6th episode of the program, a fictional congressman is accused of killing a fictional intern. Here's the twist, on the show, on "Law & Order," the congressman's wife admit that she did it. Ripped from the headlines? Don't even imply it, says Mrs. Condit. You know, I'm going to miss Gary Condit.

PRESS: I'm going to miss Gary Condit and Mrs. Condit.

CARLSON: No one to kick around anymore.

PRESS: All right, that's it for tonight. From the left, Bill Press here. Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow night.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow night for another edition of CROSSFIRE. See you then.