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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Congress Holds Hearings on Imprisoned Border Patrol Agents; Interview With U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton

Aired July 17, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the U.S. Senate holds hearings to find out why a U.S. attorney prosecuted two Border Patrol agents who shot and wounded an illegal alien drug smuggler, while giving the smuggler immunity for his testimony.
Two of those senators, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator John Cornyn, join me here.

I will also be talking with a leading House supporter of those agents, Congressman Ted Poe.

And the U.S. attorney at the center of the controversy, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, strongly defended his conduct today in his passionate testimony before those senators. The U.S. attorney will join us here as well.

And alien supporters holding a protest on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, pushing their amnesty and open borders agenda, and declaring that there will be, for me, no redemption, because I'm, in their view, in serious trouble, as they put. We will find out what that means.

We will have the report, all of that, all the day's news, and a great deal more -- straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, "Border Betrayal," for Tuesday, July 17.

Live from Washington with news, debate, and opinion, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

We begin tonight with a blunt new warning about the terrorist threat to the United States. A new national intelligence estimate says al Qaeda could use radical Islamist terrorists based in Iraq to attack targets within the United States. President Bush insisted the U.S. military and our intelligence agencies have weakened al Qaeda since 9/11, but Democrats said this intelligence estimate proves the United States must refocus its counterterrorism strategy on al Qaeda.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the president has been trying to convince the American people that they're safer since September 11, but this new threat is challenging that assertion. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX (voice over): In light of the new intelligence report that al Qaeda has gained strength, President Bush acknowledged the terrorist organization has rebuilt.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Al Qaeda is -- is strong today. But they're not nearly as they were prior to September the 11th, 2001. And the reason why is because we have been working with the world to keep the pressure on, to stay on the offense.

MALVEAUX: President Bush says the central front in the war on terror is Iraq. But when the U.S. first invaded the country almost five years ago, al Qaeda had very little presence. But the intelligence report says that has changed. Al Qaeda not only has become a dangerous threat, the intelligence community expects the terrorist group will use its contacts and capabilities there to mount an attack on U.S. Soil.

Mr. Bush acknowledged this new challenge.

BUSH: And now we find them in Iraq. These killers in Iraq are people who will kill innocent life to stop the advent of democracy. These people have sworn allegiance to the very same man who ordered the attack on September the 11th, 2001, Osama bin Laden.

MALVEAUX: But the intelligence community predicted that invading Iraq could bring a resurgence of al Qaeda. The administration says there was lots of advice given before the war, but a lot has changed since.

FRAN TOWNSEND, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: The fact is, we were harassing them in Afghanistan. We're harassing them in Iraq. We're harassing them in other ways nonmilitary around the world. And the answer is, every time you poke the hornet's nest, they are bound to come back and push back on you.


MALVEAUX: Now, Lou, one of the places the Bush administration has not been harassing them in this remote area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And that is because of a deal the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, made with the tribal chiefs.

We now see from that intelligence report that they have gained strength, al Qaeda, as well, the assumption that Osama bin Laden is hiding there.

I spoke with Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend, who says, since, that deal has dissolved, as the Bush administration is trying to work more aggressively with that government to try to find Osama bin Laden and go after al Qaeda -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you -- Suzanne Malveaux from the White House. The White House also saying that Iran is sponsoring terrorism around the world, trying to build nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration today indicated that the United States could hold more direct talks with Iran about stabilizing Iraq.

U.S. and Iranian officials held the first round of talks in Baghdad back in May. It was the highest-level meeting between the two nations in nearly three decades. U.S. officials say Iran is supplying insurgents in Iraq with sophisticated roadside bombs with which to kill our troops.

Another four of our troops have been killed in Iraq, two in combat, two in what the military called non-hostile incidents; 39 of our troops have been killed so far this month; 3,618 of our troops have been killed since the beginning of the war, 26,806 wounded, 12,020 of them seriously.

Senate Democrats tonight are holding an all-night debate to highlight their demand for a withdrawal of our combat troops from Iraq. Democrats are furious with Republicans who are trying to filibuster their anti-war legislation. Republicans say the Democrats are simply engaging in political theater.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats rolled their props right into the Capitol, even made the beds for the cameras. It's standard staging for any Senate all- nighter, this one on whether to end the war.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: And if they believe in their heart of hearts that this is the right policy, let's see if they still feel that way at 4:00 a.m. this morning. That's what this is all about. It is not a slumber party.

BASH: Democrats say the spectacle of an all-night debate is aimed at pressuring Republicans who are opposed to the president's Iraq strategy to vote for a deadline for troops to come home by May 1 of next year.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I'm undecided because I very much want a change in mission.

BASH: One of their top Republican targets is Senator Susan Collins. She cells CNN she may vote for the Democrats' withdrawal deadline, but warns their tactics could backfire.

COLLINS: This all-night debate has no impact on me whatsoever. It's clearly not an opportunity for a serious debate. We don't have to stay in all night to have a serious debate on Iraq. We can do that in the daylight hours just fine. All this is, is a political stunt.

BASH: Privately, Democrats admit all-night theatrics will not lure enough GOP senators to pass their withdrawal legislation, but Republicans aren't the only audience. Democrats hope the round-the- clock debate will show anti-war voters who are frustrated that the new majority has not yet forced troops to come home from Iraq that they're trying.

TOM MATZZIE, MOVEON.ORG: It's very important that the public sees Democrats pressing for a responsible end to the war in Iraq and pressing every day because they elected them in November to help end the war. And they're going to be looking at them again come November 2008.


BASH: And, as we speak, Democrats and Republicans are lining up their senators to actually speak about Iraq on the Senate floor at 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. And the Senate majority leader says that he will likely schedule some votes in the middle of the night just to make sure, Lou, that senators are actually here.

DOBBS: And to make certain, Dana, I suspect, that television network correspondents such as yourself will be there as well. You're facing a long night's ordeal, are you not?

BASH: It's going to be a long night. There's no question about it. This is made for TV, made for cable, and, certainly, as I mentioned, made to get good press, but it does not necessarily -- and, in fact, we understand in talking to senators, will not result in what they really need, which are votes for this particular measure to bring the troops home.

DOBBS: Perhaps, even failing votes, we will have a substantive debate, even if in the wee hours of the morning.

BASH: Could do -- could be.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Dana Bash, from Capitol Hill.

Veteran Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson today abruptly resigned. Nicholson said he's leaving his job to resume a career in the private spectrum. But Nicholson's department faced strong criticism after the failure of leadership at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, that failure of leadership blamed for the appalling conditions for some of our wounded troops who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, raising serious questions about the entire health care system for our veterans, Nicholson, himself, a Vietnam veteran.

Voters say the conduct of the war in Iraq is among the top issues in this presidential election campaign. But many voters are also saying they don't know which candidate they will support in primary elections. Among Republicans, a new poll shows nearly a quarter have yet to make up their minds.

Bill Schneider has our report.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): What's happening in the Republican presidential race? The Associated Press and Ipsos Republicans just polled Republicans nationwide. The leading Republican contender? None of the above.

New Hampshire voters have front-row seats for this campaign. They have seen the candidates up close and more often voters anywhere else.

In the CNN/WMUR poll, only 15 percent of New Hampshire Republicans say they're very satisfied with their presidential field, compared with 32 percent of New Hampshire Democrats. Among Granite State Republicans, John McCain's support has dropped from 20 to 12 percent. Mitt Romney, who is well known in New Hampshire because he was the governor of neighboring Massachusetts, is now the front- runner.

McCain won New Hampshire in 2000, and he's relying on New Hampshire to save him in 2008.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will win the same way we almost won in 2000.

SCHNEIDER: But he's slipping in New Hampshire.

LORENZO MORRIS, POLITICAL SCIENCE DEPARTMENT CHAIR, HOWARD UNIVERSITY: The ideological positions, his support for the war, the support for immigration reform, as well as the failure to have new finance initiatives, leaves him stuck in 2000 history.

SCHNEIDER: McCain hopes the immigration controversy is also history. "I think the immigration issue is off the front burner," he told "The Politico." "I lost. The other side won. It's over."

What's happening with New Hampshire Democrats? Hillary Clinton is still ahead, but Barack Obama is a strong second, followed by Bill Richardson and John Edwards.

Talk about the party of change. The top three Democrats in New Hampshire are a woman, an African-American, and a Latino. Clinton has a big lead over Obama among registered Democrats in New Hampshire. Obama's support is coming from independents, where he and Clinton are nearly tied.


SCHNEIDER: Now, in New Hampshire, independents can vote in either party's primary. Back in 2000, a lot of them voted for McCain. This time, independents seem to be abandoning McCain for Barack Obama.

DOBBS: Bill, that's -- McCain, Senator McCain, has had a tough time.


DOBBS: He -- the Supreme Court effectively rejecting his landmark legislation, the McCain-Feingold campaign spending reform, and then the Senate, of course, defeating so-called comprehensive immigration reform. It couldn't have been much worse for him.

SCHNEIDER: And the Iraq issue, which has earned him a lot of animosity from independents and Democrats. Right now, Republicans are angry with him over immigration, Democrats over Iraq. That's bipartisanship, I suppose.

He's trying to get a fresh start.

DOBBS: Well, that is not perhaps the kind of bipartisanship that he would like to see.


DOBBS: Bill Schneider, thank you.


DOBBS: Still ahead here, a pro-illegal alien clergyman declares that there will be no redemption for, of all people, me. We will explain why I'm apparently in so much trouble. And we will get the clergyman's thinking, and also the thinking of his political supporters.

Also, senators raising serious questions about the prosecution and the imprisonment of Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. Two of those senators, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led the hearing today, and Senator John Cornyn, join me.

And the U.S. attorney at the center of this controversy, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, joins me as well.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


DOBBS: I have been calling for congressional hearings over the prosecution of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for almost a year. Today, those hearings began in the U.S. Senate.

The two men were convicted last March of shooting and wounding an illegal alien drug smuggler which they pursued in a high-speed chase. The drug smuggler was giving immunity for prosecution to testify against those two agents. Ramos and Compean are now serving 11- and 12-year sentences in federal prison.

It was the Senate Judiciary Committee today that heard testimony, statements from their witnesses. A House committee, by the way, will be holding hearings on Ramos and Compean later this month.

Of the 19 senators on the Judiciary, five were in attendance. And, as Casey Wian reports, they had some tough questions for the U.S. attorney who led the prosecution of those two former Border Patrol agents.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: That will be included in the report.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was standing room only for a Senate hearing into the Bush administration's prosecution of two Border Patrol agents for shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean have already served six months of 11- and 12-year terms for the 2005 Texas border shooting.

FEINSTEIN: I have not heard many people argue that agents Ramos and Compean deserve the length of these sentences.

WIAN: The agent admit not properly reporting the shooting, but insist illegal alien drug smuggler Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila was pointing a gun at them.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: The public sees two Border Patrol agents serving long prison sentences, while an admitted drug dealer goes free.

WIAN: Senators demanded to know why prosecutors working for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton gave a drug cartel member immunity to testify against the agents.

JOHNNY SUTTON, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS: They are not heroes. They deliberately shot an unarmed man in the back without justification, destroyed evidence to cover it up, and lied about it.

WIAN: Congressional supporters of the agents dispute that.

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Two of America's brave Border Patrol defenders have had their lives destroyed by what I see as an elitist, arrogant and overreaching prosecutor who believes that protecting the civil rights of illegal alien criminals is worth destroying the lives of law enforcement officers for minor procedural violations.

WIAN: Sutton says, his prosecutors didn't have enough evidence to charge Davila, even though he admitted to smuggling 743 pounds of marijuana the day he was shot.

DAVID L. BOTSFORD, APPELLATE COUNSEL FOR RAMOS: Why Mr. Sutton says that he can't be prosecuted bewilders me, because I believe any first-year prosecutor could get an indictment and successfully prosecute him.

WIAN: Current and former Border Patrol officials defended the prosecution of the two agents.

LUIS BARKER, DEPUTY CHIEF, OFFICE OF BORDER PATROL, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: From the standpoint of policy, I can't think of anything that needs to be changed. And I don't disagree that the penalty is disproportionate.

WIAN: Disproportional because Sutton's prosecutors charged the agents with a federal firearm offense that carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Sutton did admit one mistake, the decision to give Davila an unrestricted border crossing card the DEA says allowed him to smuggle even more drugs into the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy was a drug dealer.

SUTTON: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And does it concern you that -- does that decision concern you? Do you agree with that decision?

SUTTON: I think, looking back on that with 20/20 hindsight, that probably wasn't a very wise move.

WIAN: Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar may have provided more evidence for the agents' supporters. He told senators there have been nearly 2,000 assaults against Border Patrol agents since 2005, and 144 agents discharged their weapons.

But prosecutors in the Ramos-Compean case prevented jurors from hearing testimony about violence on the Mexican border.


WIAN: Senator Feinstein says she will look into changing the federal law that requires a 10-year sentence for a gun crime to exempt law enforcement officers in the line of duty. The House plans another hearing in two weeks. It's expected to focus on, among other things, the possible influence of the Mexican government on the agents' prosecution -- Lou.

DOBBS: And, today, discussion of cell phone calls and the likelihood that the drug smuggler, Aldrete-Davila, had two cell phones in his possession and used them, and that that might have been what the agents perceived to be a gun.

WIAN: Absolutely. There was a cell phone in the van that Davila was driving. He also said he had another cell phone in his possession. That second cell phone was never found. A lot of folks believe that may have been the shiny object that the agents saw pointing at them.

DOBBS: And, as he, Aldrete-Davila, fled across the Rio Grande to the Mexican side, two vehicles were waiting for him, with testimony, within five minutes of his fleeing the pursuing Border Patrol agents.

WIAN: And he never told investigators who was in those two vehicles, despite the fact that he had an immunity agreement to fully cooperate -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, that will be one of the issues that I take up with the U.S. attorney who led this prosecution, Johnny Sutton, and others -- coming up here in just a matter of moments.

Casey, thank very much -- Casey Wian, who has been reporting on this for just the better part of a year now this case, this controversy, and what mostly is a miscarriage of justice.

Thank you very much.

We would like to know what you think about this case. Our poll question tonight centers directly on it. The question is: Do you believe Congress is serious about correcting the outrageous miscarriage of justice against former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, yes or no? Cast your vote at We will have the results here later in the broadcast.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Gary in California wrote in to say: "Dear Lou, the U.S. will not negotiate with terrorists, but will cut deals with Mexican drug smugglers to testify -- honestly, of course -- against our American Border Patrol agents, Ramos and Compean?" This could only be masterminded by the Bush administration. Brilliant."

Tom in South Dakota: "Lou, finally, a congressional investigation into the two border agents -- Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. Every American should demand these agents be released. Call your elected representatives."

We will have more of your e-mails and thoughts here later in the broadcast.

Up next, illegal alien open border groups rallying on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, and they decided to target me today, saying there's no redemption. We will tell you what that means. We will have the story.

And we will have more on today's Senate hearing into the case of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. We will hear from the prosecutor at the center of the controversy and two of the senators who today held a hearing.

Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: The so-called grand bargain on comprehensive immigration reform was called an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens which failed in Congress hasn't stopped the efforts of the open borders lobby and their push for amnesty.

Today, they took their protest to Washington, D.C., here holding a prayer vigil on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, and these open borders amnesty advocates declaring that there is, among other things, no redemption for me.

Lisa Sylvester has the report.


PROTESTERS (singing): Born in the USA. Don't take my mommy or my daddy away.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children coached to chant their own rendition of Bruce Springsteen's famous song, they're part of the religious and ethnic groups gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

They're demanding the federal government stop deportations and legalize millions of illegal aliens, among them, Reverend Walter Coleman, minister of a Chicago church where illegal alien Elvira Arellano has sought refuge to against deportation.

The reverend had sharp words about LOU DOBBS TONIGHT.

REV. WALTER COLEMAN, ADALBERTO UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: There is no redemption. There is no redemption for Lou Dobbs. That's a fact. And I hope he hears this, because he's in serious trouble.

SYLVESTER: The open borders group are pressing state and local governments to expand sanctuary laws. They prohibit local law enforcement officers from reporting illegal aliens to the federal government. At least 31 states and counties, including New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have declared themselves sanctuary cities.

But critics say these don't ask, don't tell policies are a clear violation of U.S. federal law.

REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R), CALIFORNIA: I think that it's unconscionable that we're hamstringing our law enforcement officers and allowing our municipalities and other public jurisdictions to violate federal law.

SYLVESTER: A group of House lawmakers is trying to stop the practice by yanking federal funds to sanctuary cities.

KRIS KOBACH, LAW PROFESSOR: The effect of depriving federal funds to cities that are sanctuary cities would be incredibly powerful. No city wants to be denied access to the federal trough of money.

SYLVESTER: An amendment to a homeland security bill to cut funding passed the House last month 234-189, but it will likely be stripped out by the Senate.


SYLVESTER: Now, with the defeat of the Senate immigration bill last month, the open borders groups are still holding out for the House of Representatives. They're lobbying the speaker's office to take up the legislation before the summer recess, but it's doubtful that that will happen -- Lou.

DOBBS: Senator John McCain today said, it's dead, it's over, it's done.

Reverend Coleman wasn't exactly brimming with Christian charity when he said there's no redemption for me. Isn't there something the reverend might remember, something about forgive those who trespass against us?

SYLVESTER: It clearly is there, but I think he was maybe overstepping his bounds just a little bit, trying to predict what the good lord would say in this case.


DOBBS: Well, that's a powerful burden of representation to take on for any mere mortal. And I will just have to hope that the reverend, in my case, has got it wrong.

Thanks very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Coming up here tomorrow, Mexico's powerful drug cartels are fighting for the lucrative drug routes into this country. We will have our special report tonight on why the federal government isn't stopping the flow of drugs or violence into our nation.

And the federal government is supposed to allow Americans to know where their food comes from. It's a law. But the meat lobby, among others, is blocking, successfully, country of origin labeling laws.

We will have those reports, a great deal more, tomorrow -- a great deal more. Please join us at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Up next here, more on the outrage over the imprisonment of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. One of their most vocal supporters on Capitol Hill, Congressman Ted Poe, is among our guests.

Also, the prosecutor at the center of this case, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, joins me to answer my questions.

And I will ask two of the senators who grilled Sutton today, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led the inquiry, and Senator John Cornyn.

Stay with us -- all of that a great deal more still ahead here tonight.


DOBBS: Johnny Sutton is the U.S. attorney for Western Texas. He led the prosecution of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean. And, as we have been reporting here, Sutton faced tough questions today from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton joins me here now in Washington.

Good to have you with us.

SUTTON: Well, thanks for having me, Lou.

DOBBS: That could not have been an easy task for you today.

Let me turn to, first, the comments by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who referred to you in some strong words. He called you "an elitist, arrogant and overreaching prosecutor who put the rights of a drug smuggler before those of two hardworking Border Patrol Agents."

How do you respond?

SUTTON: Well, it's, you know, I -- I -- I don't know what's in his mind. I -- I give him the benefit of the doubt that -- that he truly believes that.

I'm sure he's a good Congressman.

But with due respect to him, he's -- he's very wrong on the facts of this case and he said a lot of things today that were just inaccurate.

And you know, this was a jury trial. I mean this wasn't something that popped out of my head. This, you know, these -- the two lawyers who tried this are veterans -- 35-year veterans of the Department of Justice -- their combined experience. And West Texas juries don't do these kind of things just because some U.S. attorney says we want to convict some Border Patrol agents.

Chief Aguilar said today 144 agents in the last two years have used deadly force. Thirteen times they killed people. Not one of those Border Patrol agents was prosecuted.

DOBBS: What --

SUTTON: These are the only guys that were. So we --

DOBBS: Well --

SUTTON: This is a very rare thing for us to prosecute agents.

DOBBS: So -- let -- let's go to some of the facts of this case.


DOBBS: One of those facts -- and you said it again today in Room 226 of the Dirksen Building. You said these agents shot an unarmed man in the back.

SUTTON: Right.

DOBBS: Well, that's one version of the facts. But, also, it was controverted by their own testimony. And, in point of fact, the Army surgeon who withdrew the bullet did not declare that that would have been an inconsistent entry wound from a position that would have been assumed had he been firing a weapon.

So the agents have maintained throughout that they saw something in his hand which they thought was a gun.

SUTTON: Well, and that's another piece of information that the jury heard that the American public hasn't heard. The first we ever hear about a gun is one month after they shoot this guy. And that's after they had been arrested. They didn't tell their buddies (INAUDIBLE) --

DOBBS: How much longer after he had been shot did you arrest the agents?

SUTTON: About a month. It was about a month from the shooting --

DOBBS: So (INAUDIBLE) was contemporary?

SUTTON: -- until when we arrested them. So -- so what they --

DOBBS: So it would have been contemporaneous with that claim of defense?

SUTTON: No, no, no. They -- they covered it up for a month. And it wasn't until we arrested Compean that he ever mentioned anything about a gun. So what I'm saying is that as -- as they're conspiring with other agents -- with another agent, as Compean is conspiring, picking up the shells, he never said a gun. He said the guy threw dirt in my eyes.

So I guess what I'm saying is the jury heard all that information --

DOBBS: Well --

SUTTON: -- that said there was no gun. And there's no reason in the world to cover this up if that guy had a gun. I mean --

DOBBS: When you say cover up, it's interesting. There were a total of how many agents on the scene at various points during that first hour?

SUTTON: A whole bunch eventually got there --

DOBBS: There were a whole bunch, right.


DOBBS: Including two supervisors or three?

SUTTON: Two supervisors eventually showed up. The cover-up was only the agents who were right at the scene. And some of those agents just knew about the shooting and didn't report it. You know, Agent Vazquez picked up the shell casings and destroyed evidence.

DOBBS: Well, let's talk a little bit about this cover-up. Amongst the things covered up, they are required to report a high speed chase.

Did they do so?

SUTTON: I don't know. I mean --

DOBBS: No, they did not.

SUTTON: I mean they certainly -- they would radio in that they were in pursuit. DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: So, I mean the supervisors were listening on the radio.

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: So they knew there was a -- there was a pursuit going on at the time.

DOBBS: The other aspect of this is that -- and it was brought up today -- the prospect that there was a gun, or at least what could have reasonably been perceived to be a gun, and that is the possession of a cell phone.

There were two vehicles waiting for the drug smuggler, Aldrete- Davila, when he crossed the Rio Grande onto the Mexican side of the border.

I mean that wasn't a coincidence, do you think?

SUTTON: I doubt it. I mean these --

DOBBS: So --

SUTTON: -- I mean I would imagine --

DOBBS: -- well, why would there not be the assumption, since no one found that second cell phone, that that could have possibly been something that would have been there?

SUTTON: Oh, that he had a cell phone and that's what they thought was the gun?

DOBBS: Well, I mean it's a possibility.

SUTTON: Sure, it's a possibility.


SUTTON: And that's why we have jury trials. I mean that, you know, the defense attorneys that -- at the time of trial -- weren't even arguing it was a gun. They were arguing well, maybe it was a cell phone. And -- and that's why, you know, I brought out in my testimony today that we went back -- our agent went back and of the 150 loads that happened the year before this in Favon's (ph) --

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: -- 43,000 pounds of marijuana --


SUTTON: No. Not one gun in that group.

DOBBS: So over a period of one year (INAUDIBLE) 2000 --

SUTTON: -- going back almost 500 loads to 2001 --

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: -- one gun. Now, that doesn't mean he didn't have a gun. But what it says is smugglers in that area don't carry guns. And it's -- the reason -- and the irony is because of the 924C --

DOBBS: The drug smuggler in this case, was he known to be a member of the cartel and a professional mule?

SUTTON: No. The DEA had no information about him --

DOBBS: No record on him?

SUTTON: He had no record in the United States before this.

DOBBS: So -- there is this perception, as you -- as you readily agree, much to your discomfort and your disagreement, that the effect of your prosecution was to side with a drug dealer against two Border Patrol Agents.

Let's examine part of that.

You gave, on March 16th of 2005, what we first thought was limited use immunity. Then we found out it's a transactional blanket immunity -- to a drug dealer.

SUTTON: Right.

DOBBS: Also within that trial, the record of a subsequent arrest for carrying the October load, as you have referred to it, was kept from the jury. Also kept from the jury was the total violence that David Aguilar, the head of the Border Patrol, referred to and as you just noted yourself, the incidence of violence -- 2,000 incidents of violence against Border Patrol Agents.

Why in the world would that not be part of the record you would want?

And I know you're an aggressive prosecutor. The people that work for you are aggressive prosecutors.

But why would that not be --

SUTTON: Some of the most aggressive in the country.

DOBBS: Why would that not be important for that jury to understand?

SUTTON: Well, it might be important to one side and that's -- that's why we have, you know, it's not mob rule. It's a jury trial. And that's why we've a judge who is trained on what the evidence is.

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: She decides what comes in and what doesn't. There was plenty of evidence that we tried to get in. The judge said no, you can't bring it in. It's too --

DOBBS: Like what?

SUTTON: Well, like the fact that -- that Agent Ramos had been arrested three times for assaulting his -- twice for assaulting his wife and once for assaulting her father. Those cases were all dismissed. The wife came in and dismissed them.

DOBBS: Those were domestic disputes.

SUTTON: Domestic disputes.

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: And that -- the relevance for us was he didn't report those to Border Patrol. Now, look, that's not the biggest deal in the world. Obviously, it's not good. But the point is we thought it was consistent with a cover-up and the judge said, no --


SUTTON: -- you can't let that in. That's what judges do. They make rulings. They said no, you can't let that in, government. The judge said to them, after reviewing the evidence on the alleged October load, no, that's not admissible.

But Rohrabacher calls that a cover-up, Lou.

I mean Rohrabacher calls me a liar and says that we covered that up --

DOBBS: Well, you all can call each other names, you know --

SUTTON: I've never called him a name.

DOBBS: -- I guess the expression is --

SUTTON: I've called him a good Congressman.

DOBBS: OK. Well, you --

SUTTON: My point is all that information was put before the judge. The defense attorneys argued it out. It's up on appeal with the Fifth Circuit. But the American public thinks, because of what people have said on this show and others --


SUTTON: -- that there was a cover-up.

DOBBS: Let me, let me --

SUTTON: And all that was presented in a court.

DOBBS: Let me -- OK.

I haven't accused --

SUTTON: you haven't, but they have. They have.

DOBBS: I don't think I have.

SUTTON: You haven't.

DOBBS: I am absolutely -- I consider your prosecution to be absolutely, completely out of any proportion to the alleged crime. I believe that these two agents really got a lousy deal. And I think the drug smuggler got a wonderful deal. And the idea of giving immunity and not learning, as your office did not, your prosecutors did not -- they didn't learn the name of a single member of a drug cartel. They didn't learn the location of a single safe house in that cartel. This guy was given, as you acknowledged, a -- I think as you put it -- in hindsight it wasn't a wise decision -- given full crossing privileges across the border as a drug smuggler. I mean there are remarkable -- remarkably generous tilts here in the favor and the advantage of the drug smuggler to the disadvantage of sworn law enforcement officers.

SUTTON: It's a terrible position for a prosecutor to be in. No prosecutor ever wants to go against --

DOBBS: Why did you put yourself in that position?

SUTTON: Well, I didn't put myself there. Compean and Ramos put me there. That's the horrible thing. I work with -- I've been a prosecutor my entire career --

DOBBS: OK. Let's stop.

Let's stop.

SUTTON: They put us there.

DOBBS: Ramos fired one shot. He fired one shot.

SUTTON: Right.

DOBBS: He was not in view of what was transpiring. He had, in my judgment, I think it's reasonable to say, every possible reason to think that something had happened and an exchange of gunfire. I won't speak to Compean, but to Ramos.

The fact that he is called, you know -- you know, to this moment you're calling him a man who's fired on a man -- an unarmed man, which is in dispute by the facts --

SUTTON: The jury -- we had a jury trial, Lou. We litigated it.

DOBBS: You have three jurors who regret their decision today and have stipulated that.

SUTTON: Yes, but what those jurors -- when you come in and say hey, would you -- these guys are fathers --

DOBBS: Did those --

SUTTON: -- of three, they're going to do a decade in prison --


DOBBS: By the way, I mean that's another thing that, to Senator Feinstein's credit, brought out. The 924C prosecution resulting in a minimum sentence for firearm -- the use of that firearm -- the jury did not realize that there's a 10-year minimum on that sentence alone.

SUTTON: Right. Well, that's right, because the jury -- that's not their job. Their job is to decide did they do it or did they not.

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: Has the government proved it beyond a reasonable doubt?

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: And then the question is what's the right punishment?

The judge sets that.

DOBBS: Do you honestly believe --

SUTTON: The punishment was set by Congress in this case.

DOBBS: Do you honestly believe that your office conducted itself as it should have in this case and that there is no doubt in your mind that Ramos and Compean should serve over 10 years in prison?

SUTTON: My -- my -- that's why I'm out publicly defending these guys tooth and nail.

DOBBS: Right.

SUTTON: They did the right thing. We --

DOBBS: These guys being?

SUTTON: My two -- my prosecutors in El Paso. They did the right thing. These guys were guilty. They proved it before a jury.

DOBBS: Well, you and I are going to have to --

SUTTON: They got the punishment that Congress said --

DOBBS: We've got --

SUTTON: -- they should get.

DOBBS: You and I are going to have to disagree, because I think your prosecutors were overzealous. I think that the Department of Homeland Security, in what they -- the names they called these agents and the slurs against them, were absolutely heinous. And I think they should be explaining themselves to the American people. I hope that we can find some truth and some justice in it for these two men.

SUTTON: I'm hear to answer any questions. I answered them all today. And, I mean, we put our cards on the table.


SUTTON: I've posted the transcript.

DOBBS: You did.

SUTTON: The truth is on our side in this thing. The only issue, really, is punishment. That's what sticks in people's craw. It's a lot of time. And I've said that --


SUTTON: I've said that often.


SUTTON: But they rejected all plea bargain deals. They knew when they rolled the dice and went to trial that if they were convicted, it was going to be 10 years --

DOBBS: Does that sound like the --

SUTTON: -- stat.

DOBBS: Does that sound like the actions of guilty men to you?

SUTTON: Absolutely. They were guilty --

DOBBS: How many of your --

SUTTON: -- as sin.

DOBBS: How many of your cases result in a plea bargain?

SUTTON: Ninety-five percent. These guys were banking that that dope -- that dope smuggler wasn't going to show up. And if he didn't, we had no case. So it was --

DOBBS: Well, you've got --

SUTTON: -- when he showed up --

DOBBS: You've got the case resolved, obviously, in your mind, Johnny Sutton.

It is not resolved, certainly, in mine. And I think we've got -- I am pleased that we're going to learn more about what transpired.

We thank you for your time and being here.

SUTTON: Well, thank you so much for this opportunity to come on and talk to your listeners.

I really appreciate it.

DOBBS: U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton.

Coming up next, two of the senators today who led the hearing. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Cornyn, they join me. Congressman Ted Poe -- he was at the hearing today. He's been one of the most vocal supporters of Agents Ramos and Compean.

Stay with us.

We're continuing in just one minute.


DOBBS: I'm joined now by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led today's hearings into the Ramos and Compean case, and Senator John Cornyn. Together, they led the questioning over the -- the hearing.

If I may, Senator Feinstein, let me begin with you.

You were, frankly, far more determined than I expected. I thought you were aggressive.

Did you learn what you wanted to in today's hearing?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes. I learned what I wanted to learn. And, basically, I think this is a case of prosecutorial overreach. Senator Cornyn and I have talked and we have decided that we will write a letter to the president and we will urge commutation of the sentence, both of Border Patrol Agent Ramos and Border Patrol Agent Compean.

DOBBS: Senator Feinstein, can I just say thank you?

That's amazing.

And Senator Cornyn, it is -- I think for those of us who have been following the case, to watch the five senators in that room today, to watch each of you, it was restore -- I think we could call it restorative.

You were looking for the truth. The idea of seeking computation -- I know two families that are going to be thrilled, as well as those two men, for your efforts.

What -- what changed -- if, indeed, your views were changed -- after today's hearing?

FEINSTEIN: Do you want to go ahead, John?


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, Lou, I would say I think, as Senator Feinstein indicated, this sentence was clearly excessive and mainly because of a statute that Congress never really intended would be applied to a law enforcement officer under these circumstances. It gave a minimum mandatory 10-year sentence stacked on top of the other offenses. And then, of course, there was the immunity deal offered to this drug dealer and an unlimited visa which allowed him to travel back and forth without supervision and probably allowed him to do another -- dump another load of narcotics in the United States.

A lot of -- a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors that just didn't need to be.

FEINSTEIN: But, if I -- if I might just add to that.

DOBBS: Sure.

FEINSTEIN: because I agree very much with what Senator Cornyn said. And I think the fact that he's a former Texas State Supreme Court jurist means something, a great deal, in all of this.

I'm not a lawyer, but I have sat on the Judiciary Committee now for some 14 years and hopefully have picked up some law.

The reason I say this is a prosecutorial overreach is because 12 counts were charged against these two men. There were, in fact, plea bargains. The plea bargains submitted by the prosecutors were for sentences maybe in the vicinity of two and three years. They were turned down by the defendants. What the jury didn't know was that the mandatory sentence was in one of these counts.

DOBBS: Right.

FEINSTEIN: And that mandatory sentence was 10 years. So if they found them guilty, they had no choice but to have 10 years put on top of everything else, which would have totaled about two years.

DOBBS: Well --

FEINSTEIN: So it seems to me that there is a good case that can be made for a commutation sentence.

DOBBS: A commutation of sentence. We -- we also have in Congress the House of Representatives pushing through Congressman Hunter's pardon, seeking a Congressional pardon for these agents. A pardon is also possible.

Do you think you're using -- obviously, you're referring to a commutation of sentence.

Why would a pardon not be as effective or as desirable, in your judgment, Senator Cornyn?

CORNYN: If I could weigh in on that. Let me just say that Senator Feinstein -- I'd would take her over a lot of lawyers I know any day.

DOBBS: After watching her today, I think a lot of people would agree with you. CORNYN: She's tough.

But I have to tell you that, of course, a pardon or commutation, which are both within the power of the president of the United States -- obviously, "Scooter" Libby getting a commutation of his sentence by the president recently. And I hope he'll give the same sort of consideration to these two Border Patrol Agents.

But I know Congressman Hunter, in the absence of that executive branch commutation or pardon, has introduced a bill.

I'm going to have to look at that to see if I -- I think that will fly. I think that's, in the absence of anything else, a good effort. But I think eventually this is going to be something the president is going to have to decide.

DOBBS: So --

FEINSTEIN: There's one thing that I'd just like to mention --

DOBBS: Yes, sir.

Yes, ma'am.

FEINSTEIN: -- that became clear to me in this case, that a law enforcement officer, faced with somebody that's bringing over $1,200,000 worth of marijuana, and the culprit wants to escape. So the law enforcement officer says, Stop!" And the culprit just keeps going.

Now, he cannot fire. He cannot stop him. So he is faced with either having to outrun him -- and let's say it's a 45-year-old police officer.


FEINSTEIN: How does he outrun a 22-year-old?

The fact is, he can't. And I think this may be one of the reasons why we've got so much -- so much drugs coming across the border.


FEINSTEIN: Some -- a law enforcement officer says, "Stop!" and it means nothing.


All right, so much --

FEINSTEIN: And this we've to take a look at.

DOBBS: Yes, Senators, to both of your credit, you referred to what Congress needs to do here. We've had a 30 year war on drugs and the tragedies and the casualties in that war have been enormous. We've got to come to terms with it. I want to -- I just have to say, as one who's been following this case carefully, closely and looking for justice for these two agents, I'm moved by your decision, both of you, to seek a commutation from the president.

I hope that your interest will continue.

And we thank you for your interest to this point.

It was a remarkable proceeding today.

I have to tell you, as you both know, that I'm some -- I'm a -- I'm a rigorous critic of Congress.


DOBBS: It's nice to see Congress, Senator Feinstein --

CORNYN: we've noticed that, Lou.

DOBBS: It is nice to see Congress, the Senate and the persons of yourselves doing the job that the people put you in office for. I just can't commend you too highly for your efforts and for your good hearts.

Thank you, both.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

CORNYN: Thanks, Lou.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll.

The question is -- do you believe Congress is serious about correcting the outrageous miscarriage of justice against Ramos and Compean? Yes or no?

Please cast your vote at

We'll have the results for you in just a few moments.

And next, Congressman Ted Poe. He tells us why he's demanding a presidential pardon in this case.

We'll continue in one moment.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: This breaking news just in to CNN. A plane carrying 170 people crash landed tonight at the Sao Paulo, Brazil airport.

These pictures coming in from Brazilian television. The aircraft apparently hit a gas station after it made the crash landing, failing to brake in time, that according to an airport spokesman. The extent of -- or the existence of casualties isn't yet known.

Again, breaking news. An aircraft, TAM Airlines, a discount Brazilian air carrier, carrying 170 people aboard, crashed on landing tonight at the airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The aircraft apparently hitting some gas tanks after failing to brake in time.

Again, that according to a Sao Paulo Airport spokesman.

Of course, CNN will be following this story throughout the evening. We'll bring you the very latest developments here on CNN.

I want to turn now to my Wolf Blitzer, who will be coming up at the top of the hour with "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.


We're going to stay on top of the breaking news that you just reported. This passenger jet making that crash landing, slamming into a gas station. There are new images, new pictures coming in, new details. We'll stay on top of this story.

Also, new fears of a nuclear disaster here at home after an earthquake causes radioactive leaks in a Japanese power plant.

Are similar plants in your state at risk?

Plus, political wives humiliated by their husbands' infidelities -- why do they continue to stand by their men?

All that, Lou, coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.

Congressman Ted Poe has written a letter to President Bush. He's demanding a presidential pardon for imprisoned Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean.

Congressman Poe joins us now.

Congressman, good to have you here.

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: I don't know if you were able to hear -- I know you attended the hearing in the -- over at the Dirksen Building in the Senate today. I don't know if you heard Senators Cornyn and Feinstein say they're going to seek a commutation of sentence for the president for Agents Ramos and Compean.

Your reaction?

POE: I'm glad to see that our Senate is responding this way. I think a commutation is appropriate. Of course, I -- I think a pardon would be appropriate because in this case, Lou, the prosecution had to choose between drug dealers or between border agents that violated some policy in which to prosecute. I think they chose the wrong side.

And since they chose the wrong side and gave away, really, the courthouse and the mineral rights to the drug dealer to get him to testify, the border agents should be pardoned completely.

DOBBS: And we should point out to our audience, you're a former judge in Texas, a man who is intimately familiar with the case. You also know U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton.

Straightforwardly, you heard Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, a senator -- a distinguished senator -- say this was, in her mind, a clear case of overreach by the prosecutor.

Do you concur?

POE: No question about it. It was. I think what the testimony showed today was that the U.S. attorney's office was relentless in making sure that they got a conviction against these two border agents. And it was very disturbing how much resources were used in the prosecution of this case and how they chose to prosecute them. And it's very disturbing that our U.S. attorney's office is doing this.

DOBBS: Well, Congressman, the House will be holding a hearing on the 31st of this month, two weeks from today.

What do you expect to be the focal point?

POE: The House hearing, I think, will pick up where this hearing left off and go a little further, to find out, really, the motivation of the U.S. attorney's office in not only this case, but other cases, like Gilmer Hernandez, who was prosecuted by the same office.

DOBBS: Right. A county sheriff's deputy.

Well, Congressman, Ted Poe, we thank you.

We look forward to that hearing and we thank you for being here with us tonight.

POE: Thank you, Lou.

Coming up next, we'll have the results of our poll and a few more of your thoughts.

Stay with us.

DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight. You're expressing a little skepticism tonight. Seventy-four percent of you saying you don't believe Congress is serious about correcting the outrageous miscarriage of justice against Ramos and Compean. We'll find out.

And let's take a look at some of your thoughts here quickly. Alan in Hawaii said: "Mr. Dobbs, I'm currently in the military and I've been watching your show religiously. I must say that it is people like you who make me proud to serve my country."

And that makes me very proud to hear.

And yesterday's event in Wisconsin causing a number of you to write in about those face masks of Lou Dobbs. Open border activists protesting, wearing those masks of me, saying the only way to be heard on immigration is if you're Lou Dobbs.

Lyn in Colorado said: "Lou, I wish all of those false images of you by the open borders people were real. With that many Lous, we'd stand a chance at turning this country around."

Well, I think that's probably a few too many.

Thanks for being with us tonight.

Join us here tomorrow.

For all of us, thanks for watching.

Good night from Washington.