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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Troops out of Iraq; Geithner's Free Pass; Obama/Pelosi Tensions; Lazy Generation; Justice Delayed

Aired January 21, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight President Obama announcing sweeping ethics reforms, declaring he will close the revolving door between lobbyists and government in Washington. We'll have complete coverage.

And, tonight, the president taking swift action to fulfill one of his top campaign pledges that to withdraw our combat troops from Iraq, but will those troops be coming home in 16 months as promised?

And, tonight, justice delayed. Former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean, their sentences commuted, but they may be in prison for another two months. We'll have that story. I'll be talking with the former agents' wives and attorneys. And we'll have all of the day's news as well, much more, straight ahead right here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, January 21st. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening everybody. On his first full day in office, President Obama today declared transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of his presidency. He moved quickly to tackle some of the biggest issues facing this country, among them, our worsening economic crisis and the war in Iraq.

President Obama promised a clean break from business as usual. He immediately froze the pay of his senior staff and tightened ethics rules. The president said lobbyists and special interests will be subject to the strictest rules in history.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am president.


DOBBS: And the president today also meeting with top defense and military officials, pushing his plan to withdrawal all our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months. Chris Lawrence has our report from the Pentagon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the room with President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen and General David Petraeus, by videophone, the commanding general in Iraq, Ray Odierno. Pentagon officials say they've been working on a number of strategies, including ways to implement Obama's goal to get out of Iraq in 16 months and assessing the risk involved.

OBAMA: We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people.

LAWRENCE: There are 14 combat brigades in Iraq now. The Pentagon's recent plan was only to withdraw about two brigades over the next several months and be out by 2011. To meet the new president's goal, they'd have to speed that up to about a brigade a month. U.S. commanders are reluctant to commit to specific draw-downs more than six months ahead of time because security can be uncertain and Iraq's upcoming elections could change its political leadership.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: If there's one thing we can know about Iraq is that the future is never exactly what you expect.

LAWRENCE: Obama's plan already allowed for a small force to stay and support Iraq's government. This many could give the president more wriggle room in his campaign promise to bring troops home. The heads of the Army, Navy and other services have had some concerns about long repeated tours of duty. They were not included in this meeting. The Pentagon officials tell us they will soon have a chance to express their views directly to the president.


LAWRENCE: And we know that the -- President Obama has made it clear that he hopes to redeploy those troops from Iraq into Afghanistan. And I'm told that while Afghanistan may have come up in some conversation, this focus of this meeting was almost entirely on Iraq. And we know for a fact that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan (ph), was not a part of this meeting. So obviously Afghanistan is something that they will focus on separately and at a later time. Lou.

DOBBS: Any indication, Chris, of any kind of resolution toward which timetable, that is, in terms of brigades withdrawing from Iraq will be followed here, at least in the early going?

LAWRENCE: This may have not been the type of meeting where the president gives specific orders or instructions. It may have been more of an informational back and forth, give and take meeting to feel each other out, to get some information going. And we may hear something put out by the White House in just a few hours or perhaps later tonight.

DOBBS: Chris, thank you very much -- Chris Lawrence, from the Pentagon.

The president's nominee to be Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, today apologized again for not paying $34,000 in taxes owed, between the years 2001 and '04. Geithner told senators at his delayed confirmation hearing today that he made what he called careless avoidable mistakes.


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECY. NOMINEE: I have worked in public service all my life. My first job in government was as an employee of the Treasury. I grew up in government with a deep appreciation of the obligations that come with that. I would never put myself in the position where I was not -- where I was intentionally not meeting my obligations as an American taxpayer. In this case, I made a series of mistakes but they were not intentional mistakes.


DOBBS: The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on his nomination as soon as tomorrow. But it does appear Geithner will have no problem winning the committee's support, despite his tax problems, his questions over the immigration status of a housekeeper and perhaps even his demeanor before that committee today.

One senior Republican lawmaker, Senator Pat Roberts said today Geithner -- he told Geithner directly that there's no doubt he will be confirmed. That is raising some concerns that Geithner is getting a free pass in the Senate. Some say Geithner is being held to a highly different standard than previous cabinet nominees such as Zoe Baird (ph) and Kimber Wood (ph) in the Clinton era and Linda Chavez in the first time of President George W. Bush. Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Treasury Secretary-nominee Timothy Geithner had to go before senators and answer why he didn't pay some of his taxes.

GEITHNER: I relied on the judgment of my accountant. And I should not have relied on that judgment. That is my responsibility, not theirs.

SYLVESTER: The issue has dogged him throughout the confirmation process, but another issue has barely made a ripple. Geithner employed an illegal alien maid for three months after her work papers had lapsed. Despite all of this Geithner is still expected to be confirmed. Compare that to 1993, the nomination of Zoe Baird (ph), President Bill Clinton's choice for attorney general was derailed after it was revealed she hired illegal aliens as household employees and didn't pay taxes for them.

Clinton's next pick, Kimber Wood (ph), also withdrew for hiring a baby-sitter who was an illegal alien. So what's different this time? Lawmakers say Geithner who currently heads the New York Federal Reserve, is critical to getting the economy back on track. But one political analyst says there might be more. That Congress seems more willing to ignore the peccadilloes of policymakers and she traces it back to the Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal.

DIANA WEST, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: There's such a lack of fixed values I think at this point that people tend to go along to get along.

SYLVESTER: The conservative Heritage Foundation believes President Obama's popularity is another reason many Republicans have been reluctant to push back.

MIKE FRANC, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Now, you have the Obama freight train just coming down the tracks, a lot of momentum, high approval ratings. And I think these -- this generation of Republican senators is a whole lot more afraid of confronting him directly, where there's a legitimate reason to do so.

SYLVESTER: Hillary Clinton's nomination for secretary of state was temporarily held up by a single senator, John Cornyn who questioned contributions made by foreign countries and companies to her husband's foundation. But at the end of the day, she was also confirmed.


SYLVESTER: Now while the vast majority of the Obama nominees have had smooth sailing, there are two other exceptions. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrew his name as commerce secretary after it was revealed that a grand jury is looking into a state contract awarded to one of his political donors. He denies any wrongdoing. And the confirmation hearing for Eric Holder (ph), Obama's choice for attorney general, has been postponed by Republicans over his role in a controversial presidential pardon during those -- the Clinton years. Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Lisa. One question does occur and that is why has there not been more discussion of the choices and the involvement of Timothy Geithner as president of the New York Fed in the completely botched first bailout of Wall Street?

SYLVESTER: You know that question did come up in today's hearing. In fact, some members of the Senate, they want to know -- you know, Geithner was presiding -- and this happened essentially on his watch. Why didn't he do more to do it? And he essentially deflected some of those questions, saying that you know that this was a financial crisis that was in the making long before he was there.

DOBBS: Perfect. All right, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester. We appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on President Obama's first full day in office, what is on his agenda and tensions with now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, we're already seeing some conflict between the speaker and the president on a couple of key issues, are we?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. One of them, Nancy Pelosi does not like the kind of silence that she's hearing when Barack Obama, the now President Barack Obama, is asked whether he is going to immediately roll back the Bush tax cuts that were given to those making $250,000 or over. It is the thinking right now on the Obama team that in the middle of a recession you don't, in effect, raise people's taxes.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, says wait a second. I want to see those rolled back now. The other problem is Barack Obama has said prior to becoming president, I don't think we need to go back and investigate the Bush administration. There are plenty of things for us to do.

And the speaker has given the go-ahead for an investigation into what she believes was the politicalization (ph) of appointments at the Justice Department, so two things that they certainly disagree on. And I think this is going to be one of the president's problems here, and that is he is likely to get more flak and take more incoming from his own party than from Republicans who are still a little bit trying to figure out who they are and where they're going.

DOBBS: One could argue that Nancy Pelosi is giving the Republicans and conservatives something they could only dream of, and that's air time during this period. Is that astute politics?

CROWLEY: I think -- here's what I think -- I do think you're seeing politics at play. And I think this happens to a certain degree every time a new president comes in. But, mind you, the Democrats now have even more power than they did before this past election. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, both of them now have huge majorities in both their Houses.

And there is always a little pushback and a tug and pull between the White House and Congress, especially when they're from the same party, and there's been a lot of chest beating here. I think it was not coincidental that when the president as president-elect went to talk to the Senate luncheon, said, by the way, I just want you to know, if you don't let me have access to emergency bailout money, I'm going to veto the bill you send me.

So there is a lot of -- a little bit of a power struggle, everybody establishing their territory. And I think that's part of what you see with Speaker Pelosi and part of what you see with Majority Leader Reid, when he says, I don't work for Barack Obama. I work with him, so it is the natural -- it's that balance of power getting into balance under new circumstances.

DOBBS: All right, Candy, thank you very much. Candy Crowley.

Well still head here, rising anger at the continued imprisonment of former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean two days after President Bush commuted their sentences. And outrage at the Mexican government's campaign to keep Ramos and Compean in prison. That's right, that's part of the story that you probably haven't heard. We'll be dealing with that tonight.

And new evidence that rising numbers of our young people refuse to work. You thought that was just your impression, right? We apparently are raising a nation of slackers and it's not an accident. We'll be telling you what's going on.

And a startling decision by the Supreme Court on protecting our children from pornography on the Internet. All of that, a great deal more, still ahead. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: A more than decade-long effort to protect our children from Internet pornography today was defeated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Child Online Protection Act, which would have made it a crime for Web sites to allow children access to sexually explicit material, was permitted, but the Supreme Court instead agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union which challenged the law on free speech grounds.

The mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, by the way, has resigned after he was arrested in an Internet sex sting. Fifty-one year old Gary Becker was arrested for trying to arrange a sexual encounter with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Becker who is married with two children will be arraigned on six felony charges next month.

The new mayor of Portland, Oregon, tonight, has admitted to having an affair with a male teenager three years ago. Forty-five year old Sam Adams (ph) who is openly gay says the relationship took place shortly after the teen turned 18. The mayor said that means no laws were broken, and he has no plans to resign.

Tens of millions of credit card and debit card accounts have been compromised in one of the country's largest thefts of personal information. Heartland Payment Systems that processes credit transactions says as many as 100 million accounts may have been hacked into late last year. The company also handles accounts for more than a quarter million businesses.

More troubling news on jobs tonight, car parts maker Eaton (ph) says it will slash more than 5,000 jobs. Intel is cutting up to 3,000 jobs. Clear Channel is cutting its workforce by 1,850 people. Williams-Sonoma cutting 1,400 people and United Airlines cutting 1,000 jobs, United has cut 30 percent of its employees from its payroll over the past year. And Filene's Basement (ph) is cutting over 11 stores. No word yet on how many jobs will be lost there.

A rising number of our young people in this country flat-out refuse to work. LOU DOBBS TONIGHT analysis of government data finds the percentage of 16 and 17-year-olds in jobs has now fallen to the lowest level in six decades. As Ines Ferre now reports, the value of hard work is being lost on a whole generation of Americans.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over the past decade, more and more American teenagers have decided not to look for work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that in the last 10 years, the number of 16 to 17-year-olds working or looking for work decreased from 42 percent to 28 percent, the number of working teens in that age group decreased by nearly 800,000. HARA ESTROFF MARANO, AUTHOR, "A NATION OF WIMPS": What you have is a number of young people whose parents don't want them to work. They want them building their portfolios to get into some brand-name college because parents are extremely anxious for the future success of their kids.

FERRE: Hara Estroff Marano, author of "Nation of Wimps" says parents are raising kids to be what she calls teacup children, brittle and breakable, too protected or busy to work. Some experts say today's parents have never known the sacrifice that's shared by generations before them.

LAURA LEVINE, JUMPSTART COAL. FOR FINAN. LITERACY: They're probably a generation removed from the folks who remember the depression, remember the war, were raised in an environment of frugality and saving for the future.

FERRE: Marano's big concern is that if teenagers don't acquire job skills early on, they could be less capable of handling challenges and take fewer risks in life.

MARANO: I'm worried about them. Who is going to be the future support for our democracy? We need innovators to support the economy.

FERRE: Both experts agree that parents need to set the example and are concerned that over the years consumerism and instant gratification have left little room for the value of work.


FERRE: And while there are less 16 to 17-year-old teenagers taking part in the workforce, some feel the recession could drive more of them to go out and seek employment, Lou.

DOBBS: That's amazing, the lowest level of employment in 60 years in this country.

FERRE: And actually if you look at figures from 16 to 19-year- olds also, I mean that trend goes on up to 19. It's only when you get into the 24-year-olds that it's actually at levels of previous years.

DOBBS: It is -- it's doctrinaire, but the fact is recession does change values in a hurry. And these values are going to be apparently abundantly clear to parents. The idea that parents would not want their children to work, but children, teenagers, would not want the additional income. It is a remarkable change and certainly not a healthy one.

Ines is going to be covering this issue, our youth working. We're going to be looking at this also by class, by race, by age group, of course, and examine what is happening in this country where apparently some people choose not to work. All right, thank you very much, Ines. Ines Ferre.

Up next here, President Obama clamping down on lobbyists on his first day in office, three cheers for President Obama. Three top political analysts join us to -- well, he's had a whole day in office. We'll assess it.

And former Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean remain in prison just two days after their sentences were commuted. And why is the Mexican government working so hard to keep these men in prison? And why is this government and the former president going along with them? We'll be talking with the agents' wives and their attorneys here next.


DOBBS: Well, this news just in. Published reports saying Caroline Kennedy has now withdrawn her name from consideration for Hillary Clinton's former seat in the U.S. Senate. "The New York Times" reporting that Kennedy withdrew her name because of concerns about the health of Senator Edward Kennedy who had a seizure at President Obama's inaugural yesterday.

Hillary Clinton has, as we have been reporting here tonight, been confirmed as the new secretary of state, again reports saying that Caroline Kennedy has informed Governor David Paterson that she no longer wants to be considered for the position of junior senator from the state of New York. We'll have more developments here within the broadcast momentarily as we receive them, but that news just breaking.

President Bush this week commuting the prison sentences of former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. We on this broadcast have been reporting on this gross miscarriage of justice against these agents and their families for years. In this outrageous miscarriage of justice, Ramos and Compean were convicted of shooting a Mexican illegal alien drug smuggler who prosecutors both claimed was unarmed and to whom they gave immunity for his testimony against those agents.

The Justice Department, in giving the illegal alien drug smuggler immunity also sought to seal and succeeded in sealing evidence that many consider exculpatory against those agents. And as Casey Wian now reports after spending nearly two years behind bars these agents have to wait two more months to win their release.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean may have to wait another two months to be reunited with their families. After two years behind bars, mostly in solitary confinement, their clemency does not become effective until March 20th.

MONICA RAMOS, WIFE OF IGNACIO RAMOS: I think 60 days right now, we'll get through them. It's going to be very tough and to him, who's still sitting in segregation, he said 60 days is going to feel like a lifetime.

WIAN: Before dealing with this case, President Bush had commuted just nine prison sentences during his eight years in office. Former White House official "Scooter" Libby received a commutation before serving any time, others took as long as four months to be released. A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons tells LOU DOBBS TONIGHT it's possible the men could be out sooner than 60 days. They could be eligible for good behavior credit and could be sent to a halfway house. Those decisions are up to the prison where the former agents are incarcerated.

Their attorneys are pursuing both those options. Still unclear why Mr. Bush waited so long to grant clemency to the agents, despite repeated demands for their release by more than 150 lawmakers and nearly half a million Americans. Last week, Congressman Walter Jones tried a different approach, appealing to the president's faith.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I said, Mr. President, you profess to be a man of faith. Please get down on your knees and ask God if you should commute or pardon these two men and listen to God and I believe he will tell you yes. I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but I think God did quite frankly.

WIAN: Attorneys are continuing to pursue a Supreme Court reversal of their convictions or a full presidential pardon for Ramos and Compean.


WIAN: And not everyone is applauding their impending release. At a news conference this week, Mexico's Deputy Secretary of Foreign Relations Carlos Rico (ph) said, quote, "this is a message of impunity, it's difficult to understand." He also acknowledged that Mexican officials had lobbied hard to prevent the former Border Patrol agent's release. Lou.

DOBBS: A message of impunity, what in the world could he have meant by that?

WIAN: I guess he's trying to get across the idea that if these agents were released from prison, it's going to give a license to other Border Patrol agents to shoot unarmed Mexican illegal aliens anytime they want to, which of course is a ridiculous notion. It's amazing that the Mexican government would criticize the Bush administration for finally releasing these two men who have served two years in prison. I think you'll remember the case of Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilera (ph) who was killed last year. The Mexican government released his alleged murderer on bail and we don't know where he is, Lou.

DOBBS: And they did so with impunity, I believe would be the word, according to the deputy foreign minister. But further at issue here is whether or not that drug smuggler was in point of fact armed or unarmed. Secondly, no question that he was a blatant and professional drug smuggler, third, the claims that he has been armed in previous drug runs.

Fourth, the fact that the evidence that was -- that he was in point of fact a professional drug smuggler was sealed from the jury. This is a gross miscarriage of justice. And now we hear from the Mexican government what we have suspected and what we have been reporting on this broadcast for two years now, that Mexican government direct interference with the U.S. government is the reason these two men went to prison.

This is blatant. It is disgusting and for the government to act with such impunity and for their deputy foreign minister to come up with this position today is all the more galling.

WIAN: Yes, Lou, and it also reminds me -- and I'm sure you'll remember back in 2006 when the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general was Richard Skinner (ph), some of his officials went over to meet with members of Congress to address their concerns about the prosecution of these two agents.

Those Department of Homeland Security officials told members of Congress in a private meeting that they had evidence that these two Border Patrol agents said that they were out to shoot some Mexicans. That later proved not to be true. And the inspector general had to apologize to those members of Congress. It now seems like it's likely we know where that notion came from, Lou.

DOBBS: Richard, to put it more directly, Richard Skinner (ph) lied through his teeth to United States congressmen. He, to go back to the word of the deputy foreign minister of Mexico, he lied with impunity and he carried out, in large measure, this gross miscarriage of justice. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security, with the behest of the Mexican government, it now appears, led the investigation against these two agents, which is highly, highly irregular, rather than the Justice Department, correct?

WIAN: Absolutely. You know, we asked Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, who's been involved in this case since the very beginning, trying to get these agents freed, what he thought of this admission by the Mexican foreign ministry, that they've been actively lobbying to keep these agents in jail, and he said, tell the Mexican government to keep the drug smugglers on their side of the border.

DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. We're going to be following this story rigorously and, yes, relentlessly. Until this story is concluded with what we hope will be a very happy ending for these border patrol agents, their families and, frankly, this country. This is an extraordinary, an extraordinary development, the statements of the deputy foreign minister of Mexico, and the fact that it appears quite clear now that the Bush administration if his statements are true, that the Bush administration was nothing more than a witting tool of the Mexican government, a deplorable development. Thank you very much, Casey. We look forward to your reporting on this until the days and weeks ahead. Thank you.

We'll have much more on this important story here in just a few moments when I'm joined by Monica Ramos and Patty Compean, the wives of the former border patrol agents now in prison. We'll be talking as well with the attorneys who are fighting for their release and fighting to clear these agents' names.

We also want to know what you think about all of this. Our poll question tonight is pretty straight forward. Do you think there should be a full investigation of the administration of George W. Bush for putting the interests of Mexico ahead of those of two agents defending our border? Yes or no? We'd like to hear from you. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

Up next, the latest on Caroline Kennedy's decision to drop out of the race for the U.S. Senate. That's right, you heard me, breaking news, Caroline Kennedy has, according to "The New York Times," just informed Governor David Paterson of New York she no longer wants to be considered for the seat vacated by now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Also, will President Obama be implementing his promise to withdraw all our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months? Three top political analysts join me here next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Former President Bush commuted the prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean Monday. But both former border patrol agents remain in prison tonight. Joining me now, the wives and the attorneys of these two men. In Phoenix, Monica Ramos joins us. Monica, great to have you with us. In El Paso, Patty Compean. Patty, thank you for being with. In Austin, David Botsford, he's appellate attorney for Ignacio Ramos. And in Dallas, Edgar Mason and Bob Baskett, they're the appellate attorneys for Jose Compean. Gentlemen, thank you for being here.

Let me turn first to Monica and Patty. Monica, you met with your husband today. How is he?

RAMOS: You know what, he's been in the best spirits I've ever seen him. I mean, you can only imagine, each visit that I've come to see him, it's been about, you know, OK, we have this many weeks left of your incarceration. And it was unbelievable, his spirits, he's just so excited. And today became about the countdown now when he comes home.

DOBBS: Monica, if I may say, I think I see a sparkle in your eyes that I haven't seen for a couple of years now, and it is wonderful to see. Patty, first of all, congratulations. I know that this is only one more step in ending what has been a horrible trial for you, your family. And how does your husband feel right now, knowing still he apparently will have to wait weeks before he's finally released?

PATTY COMPEAN, WIFE OF JOSE COMPEAN: That doesn't matter to him. I think right now what he's holding onto actually -- no, I know what he's holding on to the fact that he will be home and we actually have a date now, where before we didn't have anything. So he's very happy and very excited.

DOBBS: We're very excited for him, for Ignacio Ramos, and for your families. Let me turn to Mr. Botsford. Why aren't your clients being released now, as best you can figure, and what are the prospects that you can accelerate this process? DAVID BOTSFORD, APPELATE ATTORNEY OF IGNACIO RAMOS: Well, in the first instance, president bush said that the commutation was effective 60 days out. He could have done it immediately as he did for Scooter Libby. He could have done it for as long as 180 days as he did for one of the other commutee grantees. But he said 60 days for whatever reason. I have no earthly idea.

Now the Bureau of Prisons can release both of these gentlemen to a halfway house or do essentially whatever they want to because when they walk out of the prison, whatever day that is, they're under three years of supervised release, kind of a probation after their jail time.

So they'll be monitored and have to report to probation officer. That could begin as soon as the warrants of clemency are received by Ignacio and Jose, signed and the receipt sent back to the pardon attorney in Washington.

DOBBS: Ed Mason, Bob Baskett, I want to read, if I may, U.S. attorney Johnny Sutton, his statement following the announcement of the commutation. And if you could, let's put this up on the screen for everyone.

"Like the trial judge and the court that reviewed the cases on appeal, President Bush found that Compean and Ramos were justly convicted of serious crimes and their status as convicted felons should remain in place."

He did indicate that he agreed the sentences should be reduced. Are you -- are you first surprised, are you satisfied, that at least that concession was forthcoming from -- from the former U.S. attorney of the western district of Texas?

BOB BASKETT, JOSE COMPEAN'S APPELLATE ATTORNEY: I'm not, because he had indicated that he felt that way before, and though I wasn't privy to his conversations with the president, and I'm sure the pardon attorney asked for his input, it doesn't surprise me that he's willing to say that the sentences were excessive.

DOBBS: Can you all get -- can you get this thing accelerated? Because American people are sitting here right now, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people have made their views known on this case. We have seen more ridiculous and absurd statements made about this case. The magnitude of this miscarriage of justice has grown over the years, rather than diminished. What are the odds that we can see this thing -- the Bureau of Prisons respond humanely, intelligently and justly and get these people out of jail?

BASKETT: Well, I sent them a request today for information about how they were going to treat this. I think they probably would have had more than 100 days of good time credit built up already after two years of incarceration. I don't know of any reason why they cannot be released as soon as the paperwork is finished and the processing is done and sent to a halfway house or perhaps even outright released.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, Bob Baskett, David Botsford, let me just say this. What are the odds that you can get a pardon? Is there legal relief here for these two men so they can move on with their lives without this hanging over them?

BOTSFORD: Lou, there are two different avenues. Number one is a potential pardon from President Obama, which I believe Mr. Baskett and I and Mr. Mason, intend to pursue as soon as possible. The other option is of course the Supreme Court. And if that's not successful, going back into the United States District Court in El Paso to raise the issues of the perjury by this divola, this drug smuggler, who painted a false picture for the jury that convicted.

DOBBS: Let's be clear too, the federal court judge sealed the very evidence that could have been exculpatory here, and of significant interest to the jury at the very least, and could have been determinant in their decision. But also, what about -- and let me ask you this, Bob Baskett. The issue of the Mexican government acknowledging direct interference in this case with the prosecutors, with the United States government, with the Bush administration. My god, how -- I mean this is outrageous on every level.

BASKETT: Well, I think the point was made earlier that they'll release people that kill our border patrol agents and demand justice with impunity for somebody like agents Ramos and Compean.


DOBBS: Quickly, please.

MASON: When we were there for the resentencing the night before in Juarez, a policeman was gunned down off his motorcycle and four people were assassinated in an SUV and I think maybe the Mexican government ought to set its own house in order before they start telling us how law enforcement should operate.

DOBBS: And I would be grateful if this government would simply tend to its own matters and ignore the intrusion and intervention of other governments. I would be satisfied with even that. Thank you. Let me turn real quickly, Monica, your thoughts, how -- how's the rest of your family doing? And my best to them.

RAMOS: Thank you. They're hanging in there. It's very difficult for the kids right now. I think once dad comes home is when they're actually going to believe this. I think we just had so much hopes along this way, you know, along the way, and now he's finally coming home so --

DOBBS: And Patty, you get the last word here tonight.

COMPEAN: You know, just my kids are doing good. The boys don't know yet because my husband wants to surprise them. My four-year- old's birthday is in March, so it's going to be a beautiful birthday surprise. Other than that, we're all very excited and very grateful that they're coming home.

DOBBS: Well, as are we. And our best to both of your families. We thank you very much. Gentlemen, do your best, get those doors open for those two men.

BASKETT: Thank you, Lou.

MASON: Thank you.

BOTSFORD: Thank you, Lou, for helping.

DOBBS: Up next, we'll have the very latest for you on this breaking story on Caroline Kennedy's decision to withdraw from the consideration of Governor David Paterson to succeed Hillary Clinton in the United States Senate. We have the country's best political minds coming right up. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Breaking news. Sources confirming to CNN that Caroline Kennedy indeed has withdrawn her name from consideration for the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton who is now the secretary of state. Obviously, withdrawing her name, informing Governor David Paterson of New York. Reports saying that Kennedy withdrew her name because she has concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, who collapsed, had a seizure yesterday, during President Obama's inauguration luncheon.

As we've been reporting here, Hillary Clinton tonight has been sworn in as the new secretary of state. Again, we have confirmed that Caroline Kennedy has told Governor David Paterson of New York she is no longer willing to be considered for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the new secretary of state.

Joining me now, three of the best political analysts in the country. Republican strategist, former White House political director, CNN contributor, chairman of the Mike Huckabee presidential campaign, and a whole bunch of other stuff, Ed Rollins. Good to have you with us.

In Washington, D.C., Democratic strategist, Democratic National Committeeman, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman. Columnist and Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," Lynn Sweet. Good to have you with us, Lynn.

Let me turn to you, if I may, Robert Zimmerman, this is turning out precisely as you called it. Your thoughts about this news that has just -- that we're just now reporting here on CNN that Caroline Kennedy indeed has withdrawn her name from consideration for the Senate seat vacated by the new secretary of state?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I certainly don't doubt Caroline Kennedy's desire to be at her uncle's side as he's confronting this illness, and we all pray for his recovery. I don't doubt that. But I think the political point here to remember is as this process was unfolded, Caroline Kennedy was not either to make the case that she was either politically or governmentmentally able to effectively be appointed to the U.S. Senate. The polls continually showed she was losing ground. She wasn't galvanizing groups to support her around issues. In fact, many women's organizations were supporting Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

And in fact, as this process unfolded, the more media scrutiny she faced also brought about greater conflict. And rather than rally people together, as many thought she would when she came into the race, there was almost a grassroots rebellion that was developing over the way she was approaching this -- her perspective candidacy with a sense of entitlement.

DOBBS: And Andrew Cuomo in poll after poll emerging as a much stronger candidate in the minds of at least those surveyed in New York. Is he automatically the front-runner? Are there candidates that Governor Paterson...

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This governor has made this into a very Shakespearean exercise here and has not handled it as well as he could have. This is something he could have done very privately. He should have done very privately. Cuomo is obviously the strongest candidate. He'd be the toughest candidate for Republicans to beat and as we've said over and over again, this is two-fer. You've got to run in two years, you've got to run in two more years. So you've got to be a very strong candidate who can raise tremendous sums of money and Cuomo can do that.

DOBBS: It certainly seems that Governor Paterson is showing some -- I think in many quarters might be considered unexpected strength and independence in managing this the way he has. Shakespearean, yes, but apparently, exhorting a pretty strong will.

ROLLINS: I have no reason to say this and obviously Robert and I will take Caroline Kennedy at her word, but my sense is someone should have told her yesterday, two days ago, four days ago, that she wasn't going to cut it and maybe that did occur. That's pure speculation on my part with no facts or figures.

DOBBS: Lynn, let's turn to you. We've just received word are you ready, we have just received word here at CNN -- you know what, we've got our White House correspondent. We have just received word that, as you will recall, there was a blunder by the chief justice, John Roberts, yesterday, during the inaugural oath of office. That has been corrected, we now understand. We want to go to the White House, to Ed Henry, who has the very latest for us. Take it away, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, that's right. Just in the last few moments, CNN has confirmed that this evening Chief Justice John Roberts came over here to the White House to readminister the oath of office to President Barack Obama. White House officials are telling me that they are confident that he was still effectively sworn in and became president yesterday at noon.

But I'm told by officials here that in their words, out of an abundance of caution by the White House counsel here, Greg Craig, he advised the president to nip this in the bud and make sure there was no confusion, it would be smart to bring the chief justice over here to the White House this evening, readminister the oath here at the White House, privately. They brought in a small group of reporters. We're going to get a read out of that in a moment. And I happened to run into Chief Justice Roberts as he was leaving and that's when we knew something had happened here.

We're now confirming they've readministered the oath, just to make sure, out of an abundance of caution, that in fact, Barack Obama is the president.

ROLLINS: Does that mean we had President Biden over the last 24 hours?

DOBBS: Ed, how did John Roberts do this time? How did the chief justice do?

HENRY: I was not in that meeting so I cannot grade it, Lou. But I can tell you that White House lawyers and officials here now believe it's done.

DOBBS: You know what? I thought it was a very human moment, if I may say, Ed, and bless them for being -- going to the belt and suspenders approach in law. But as far as the Constitution goes, he's been president since noon yesterday, irrespective of the way in which they did that oath of office. I mean, man, it's a nation of lawyers, isn't it?

HENRY: Well, guess one could look at it that way, Lou. I think they want to be a little extra careful and make sure there are no lawsuits.

ROLLINS: It's one of the benefits of having a conservative court.

DOBBS: Well, our liberal disposition to use all the lawyers available. Ed Henry, thank you very much for breaking that news for us here. We appreciate it. Ed Henry reporting from the White House, doing his usual outstanding job.

Lynn, let me bring you in here. Is this sort of emblematic of Barack Obama? Is he this -- is this his caution, as well as Greg Craig's?

LYNN SWEET, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Absolutely. I think this is a nice little opening chapter, especially in this era of blogging. They did the right thing because by nipping this in the bud, they -- they have people that still think he wasn't born in the United States that they're still trying to make this case, which is absurd and wrong.

I think they understand now that if -- even as the confusion was not Barack Obama's, it was on Roberts' part, and in case there are people out there that think there was a problem, they readministered it and --

DOBBS: I've got to admit, Lynn, I'm sitting here -- George Washington Professor of Law Jonathan Turley today, was saying he should do this over. And I was sort of scoffing at it. Here they go, doing it.

SWEET: It was laid out. It did not go as prescribed. It is -- you know, I'm not a constitutional lawyer as by the way, as Barack Obama is. And if he agreed to do this, I suspect somewhere he agreed with Greg Craig because this is right down his alley, his experience. You know, I would think of all the things he has to do, he didn't need the speech.

ZIMMERMAN: What's so significant here is that he also during the course of the day made sure not to make an issue of it. And when apparently there was some talk of an exchange between senator -- Vice President Biden and ...

DOBBS: We're going to be talk about that very issue here next. A little reminder today who the president is and who's turf you're on when you're in the White House. We'll be right back with our panel.

First, at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown, "NO BIAS, NO BULL." Campbell, tell us all about it.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, we're going to have more details on all that breaking news that you've been covering. Of course, sources confirming to CNN that Caroline Kennedy has withdrawn from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate. We've also got pictures of Secretary of State Clinton's swearing-in just a few hours ago.

We're also taking a "NO BIAS, NO BULL" look at President Obama's first full day on the job, how he's going to tackle the war in Iraq, crisis in the Middle East, the nation's economic mess, secrets from the inauguration. Also, inside stories that have just come to light. And of course, the latest on the president retaking the oath as well. Lou, all at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: All right. And definitively without question, our Robert Zimmerman, the first one to stand up publicly and in front of cameras and microphones and say, Governor David Paterson, far too Independent to be railroaded on the issue as to who he would appoint to the Senate seat vacated by our new secretary of state. We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel. Nancy Pelosi telling our Larry King airing tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, that she wants a criminal probe of George W. Bush, his administration. Lynn Sweet, that's directly in contravention of what President Obama wants.

SWEET: This is going to be a fascinating story to see unravel, Lou. You have a lot of Democrats who want to have an accountability. That's what this issue will come to be called, the accountability issue, who want to have an assessment, maybe not a whole war crime tribunal, because that would be maybe the wrong word to call it, but they don't want to have the past just disappear. Meanwhile, the Obama administration does not want to get bogged down in looking at whatever the Bush administration did or what criminal laws might have been broken. You have many Democrats on the Hill that do want to take this look back. Nancy Pelosi seems to supporting it.

DOBBS: Do they have the stomach to fight the most popular Democratic president since -- well, let's say John F. Kennedy?

SWEET: Well, I think they have the stomach to exert independence, not just take orders from the White House. This is the type of issue -- because they have staff to do investigating, they have committees to do it.

ROLLINS: The interesting thing is that John Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will be the one who is leading the charge here. But if the people who are summoned, ex-administration officials, choose not to basically come, will the Justice Department, will Barack Obama's Justice Department, go enforce?

DOBBS: Robert Zimmerman, you get last word.

ZIMMERMAN: Let's remember, it was John Conyers, to his credit that was advocating an impeachment resolution, even when the Democrats were in the minority. I certainly respect and admire the Democratic leadership in Congress for holding the Bush administration accountable. I don't think it will be a fight. I don't think it's going to paralyze the government. But I think this debate is critical. And I think it's to the credit of the House leadership to want to have accountability over the past eight years.

DOBBS: Oh, my goodness, it looks like Democratic [arty is arraying against its new president.

ROLLINS: Robert's got his new talking point.


DOBBS: I've got a Republican talking point that I bet you we're going to hear. They're going to appreciate the air time because how other way could Republicans break into this party?

ROLLINS: We would actually love this fight. We would absolutely love this fight and we would look forward to it.

ZIMMERMAN: It won't be a fight, Ed, but it will be seeing the Democratic leadership do what the Republicans didn't, and that's be an equal branch of governments.

SWEET: But the White House is going to try -- and I think try and dissuade a very hard look back.

DOBBS: Thank you, all, for being here. Appreciate it, Lynn. Thank you, Robert, thank you, Ed.

Tonight's poll result, 93 percent of you say there should be a full investigation of George W. Bush for putting the interests of Mexico ahead of the interests of the two agents defending our border.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Campbell Brown, "NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts right now -- Campbell?