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CNN Larry King Live

Two White House Picks Gone in One Day; Interview With Rod Blagojevich

Aired February 03, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, breaking news -- two Obama nominees gone in one day. Tom Daschle undone by taxes. And the chief performance officer pick is gone, too.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I made a mistake. And I told Tom that.


KING: Are other bombshells about to explode?

Then, Rod Blagojevich is back -- and we've got him. He was Illinois' governor the last time he was here. He's not anymore. But he's still declaring his innocence, facing a criminal trial and the prospect of prison.

And then the octuplets.

Think you've heard it all?

Wait just a minute. Their mom has something to say about money and marriage and the marketing of her children.


We begin with the exit of Senator Tom Daschle. He's withdrawn his nomination as Health and Human Services secretary following controversy over his tax records and following his reading "The New York Times" editorial today.

Before we meet our panel, here's what the president had to say talking with Anderson Cooper earlier.



OBAMA: Well, I think what happened was that Tom made an assessment that, having made a mistake on his taxes -- that he took responsibility for and indicated was a mistake -- made the assessment he was going to be too much of a distraction in trying to lead what is going to be a very heavy lift -- trying to deliver health care. And...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you feel you messed up in letting it get this far?

OBAMA: Yes. I think I made a mistake. And I told Tom that.


KING: Our panel.

In Jacksonville, Florida is David Gergen, CNN's senior political analyst, an adviser to four former presidents.

In Washington, Jennifer Palmieri, the Democratic strategist, who has worked with Senator Daschle.

And Bay Buchanan, the conservative president of American Cause.

David, he would have probably gotten through the Senate. He's very popular in the Senate.

Why did he quit?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Larry, it's one of those great puzzles. As of last night, clearly, he thought -- members of the Senate Finance Committee talked to him and thought he was going to be confirmed. He was making calls late into the evening.

And as -- I was just on a panel here in Jacksonville with George Stephanopoulos and Jim Lehrer. And George pointed out, you know, the White House wouldn't have scheduled Anderson Cooper or other people to come in and talk to the president today had they thought this was going to blow up this morning. It wasn't in their -- you know, it wasn't in their interests to have that kind of interview.

So he had to decide this morning. And by all accounts, it was not only "The New York Times" editorial, but the fact that "The New York Times" lead the paper -- lead the newspaper with that story. It just told him this -- this burden is going to get heavier and heavier -- I'm not in for the fight.

It's not in Tom Daschle. He's not a fighter, in that sense. He's highly respected and much beloved, frankly, among Democrats.

But I think he just felt I don't want to do this.

KING: Jennifer Palmieri, you're not only a strategist for the Democrats, but has worked with the senator.

What's your read on -- on why he dropped out?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think that David has it right. I think that he decided that he didn't want -- I think that he probably would have been confirmed. It would have been a difficult eight days, because the hearing wasn't going to be until next Tuesday. But I think that he probably would have made it -- but made the decision that -- that he didn't want to go through that kind of fight and perhaps thought that that kind of fight might linger over into his work on health care.

Although I think that once you're confirmed, you're confirmed. And he probably would have been OK.

But as David said, he's not -- he's not one who relishes a difficult political fight, particularly one that gets into some of the personal bounds. And he has some difficult family issues now -- a father who's very sick, as well.

So I think perhaps it was just all too much.

KING: Bay, was he not vetted?


Oh, clearly. I think what's interesting is to see this fellow, who's very close to Obama, has been a big supporter of Obama's, is very well-respected in this town -- he blindsided his president. He knew that he had this problem. He let them nominate him. He encouraged them to nominate him. And then he did not tell the president anything about this and continued to move ahead in spite of the problem with Geithner -- which is the same problem. And it was very embarrassing to the president.

So I think -- I think he was -- he poorly served his president, number one.

And number two, is the president fought to get one tax cheat through and then he was fighting to get a second one through and it became more and more difficult. The press was beginning to pick this up. He was showing that he wasn't standing up to the kind of promises he had committed to.

And so I think, politically, it was going to be very damaging to the president...

KING: All right...

BUCHANAN: ...and both sides knew they'd better back off.

KING: David, is that a good point?

Did he, in a sense, stab him?

GERGEN: Well, listen, first of all, I don't think he's a tax cheat.


GERGEN: I think it's unfair to call Tim Geithner that.

You know, he didn't -- he didn't fudge on any of his taxes. He didn't get a 1099 form from his employer.

Did he make a mistake?

Yes. He made a stupid mistake. But it seems to be unintentional. I don't think it's fair to call him a cheat.

Now, did he -- if he sat there knowingly, as Bay said, and did not tell the president or his people about his problem and let them encourage them to nominate him, then I think that was a terrible thing to do. But I'm not at all sure of those are the facts.

I think most of us who have known and worked around or with Tom Daschle over the years are actually very saddened tonight, Larry, about the way this has turned out. Yes, he made a dumb mistake.

But I think it's wrong to portray him in some sort of the hall of villains. There's nothing villainous about Tom Daschle. He's -- he's been a terrific public servant who is known for his integrity, as well as his sort of general likability...

KING: All right...

GERGEN: He was very, very popular on the Hill.

KING: Jennifer, has the president made some clearly bad steps here?

PALMIERI: Well, I think I know that the president said today that he felt that -- that this had been -- could have been handled better and that -- but I think that there are some things to keep in mind in terms of perspective.

I mean, first of all, just overall with the presidency, it's the 15th day of the presidency. They've been very effective. He's gotten a stimulus bill through the House. He has signed the Equal Pay Act into law. Tomorrow, he's signing the Children's Health Insurance Program into law. He announced that he was shutting down Guantanamo. He has, by and large, a very strong cabinet in place.

So I think just in terms of perspective, it's been a very strong start. And this -- when he worked in the Clinton White House in '93, both David and I can attest to the fact that that's not very easy to do.

But the second thing I think we need to keep in mind is that you have a president -- there's a difference here between other administrations. You have a president who's very straightforward and a process that's very transparent. You know, we know about the problems with Senator Daschle and the other nominees that had issues with their taxes because the transition brought them to the attention of the public.

And, you know, they knew that there were problems. They made a decision that they would move forward with these nominees because they didn't find them disqualifying.

KING: All right...

PALMIERI: And then they let the Congress and the American people decide.

KING: We've got a -- we've got a short period of time.

Bay and Jennifer will be back with us later.

Bay, is this going to just go away?

BUCHANAN: Well, the Daschle issue will go away, surely. But I think where the president is harmed is he's tried to say he's established very high standards. You know, we're going to come in with the white horse into Washington and clean everything up.

But he doesn't live by his own standards. I mean, in less than 14 days -- the first 14 days, he's hired 17 lobbyists, at last count -- are now working in the administration.

I mean this is ridiculous.

Why say I'm not going to hire them and then go hire them?

He wants credit for one thing. But it's been hypocritical...

KING: Yes...

BUCHANAN: then go and violate his own rules.

And the Daschle situation just goes to prove he will fight for people who really shouldn't be in office, considering the mistakes they've made...


BUCHANAN: he pointed out today.

KING: David Gergen, Jennifer Palmieri, Bay Buchanan.

Jennifer and Bay will be back later.

David will be with us another evening shortly.

We thank them all.

Rod Blagojevich is out of office, but he's still kicking and screaming -- about what?

He's back and he's next.

Stay with us.


KING: And he's back. Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, joins us from New York.

Now, Governor when you were here the last time, you said you were not going to attend the Senate trial and then you did.

Why? FORMER GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I did at the very end to make a closing argument because a lot of people -- and you very well may have been one of them -- rightfully asked, you know, if you feel so strongly about your position, they're not giving you a chance to defend yourself, bring witnesses in, bring evidence in that could show your innocence.

Don't you think you should go down there and make the case to them?

And so you persuaded me. Others who said it persuaded me. And I felt that -- understanding I was walking into something much like Daniel in the lion's den -- that the chances were pretty slim that I'd be able to convince them to bring my witnesses and prove my innocence. I felt if I'm going to go down, I should at least beg the case to them. And unlike the case of Daniel in the lion's den, lions are not cynical. These politicians threw a governor out...

KING: Let's...

BLAGOJEVICH: ...without proving a single act of wrongdoing. And so I take a certain pride in that.

KING: I'm going to ask you about that.


KING: Let's see a few moments from the Senate trial.



BLAGOJEVICH: How can you throw a governor out of office who is clamoring and begging and pleading with you to give him a chance to bring witnesses in to prove his innocence?

SEN. KWAME RAOUL (D), 13TH DISTRICT, ILLINOIS: It's not complicated, folks. All the evidence was overwhelming.

SEN. DAN CRONIN (R), 21ST DISTRICT, ILLINOIS: This man is without -- without a doubt -- unfit to govern. I vote without hesitation for conviction and removal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 59 senators voting yes and zero senators not -- zero senators voting no.


KING: All right. The vote, Governor, was 15 -- 58-0.

Is this something that if it looks like a duck and it acts like a duck, it's a duck?

Are you saying they all were ganging up on you?

They all had it in for you?

BLAGOJEVICH: I'm saying that there was a -- an agreement between the legislative leaders to get their caucuses and take a caucus position. Everybody in each caucus votes for removal. And they did it after a four day trial that prohibited a governor elected twice by the people to bring witnesses in that would prove innocence and allow all of the taped conversations and telephone calls that would also prove innocence.

And they didn't prove any wrongdoing. That's the other part of this, which is very interesting.

KING: So what was their -- what was their motive?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, there's -- you'd have to ask them. But several factors. One, what happened on the 9th of December -- allegations of a criminal nature create a political dynamic that's very difficult for the Democrats. They'd like to not have to deal with it.

The Republicans have a political issue that they certainly want to continue to persist.

And as I've said before, there's a real movement among the Democratic establishment in Illinois -- and I'm afraid my successor, Mr. Quinn, is part of that -- to raise the income tax on people. For six years, I fought very hard to keep the special interests and others from raising taxes on people. My lieutenant governor -- now the governor -- ran with me in two elections. We won. We promised the people of Illinois that we would not raise taxes on them. So I'm calling on him to keep the promise that I kept and don't raise the income tax on the people of Illinois.

KING: OK. The impeachment prosecutor is David Ellis.

Watch what he said.


DAVID ELLIS, PROSECUTOR: When the camera is off, what are his priorities -- for not just some decisions, but in his own words, every decision?

"This decision, like every other one, needs to be based on that" -- speaking of the Senate seat -- legal, personal, political. Nothing in that statement about the people of the State of Illinois. Nothing in that statement about the little guy.

Being governor is not a right, it is a privilege. And he has forfeited that privilege. He has abused the power of his office. He has traded it for personal gain time and time again.


KING: Rod, if you were not selling the Senate seat, what were you offering? Because the -- those ambiguous statements -- and you said taken out of context -- in a sense, what were you telling those people when you were discussing the Senate seat?

BLAGOJEVICH: Larry, here again, they didn't allow -- they did not prove...

KING: Then what were you?

Just tell me, what were you -- what were you doing?

If you weren't selling the seat, what were you doing?

BLAGOJEVICH: When the whole story comes out, there will be a story that -- that's very natural in politics -- different discussions, different idea, different potential candidates considered. Some ideas made sense. Some were stupid -- all conversations.

And, at the end of the day, the story will be a lot of that.

But here again, what they did with this impeachment was they took allegations. They didn't prove any of them. They were not required to prove any of them. And then they didn't allow me to disprove them. And I would have brought every witness that I -- that was brought into the criminal case. I would have brought in everybody and anybody I ever talked to about the Senate seat -- from Congressman to senators to labor leaders to potential candidates.

KING: All right...

BLAGOJEVICH: I was prevented from doing that. And then they decided that -- that they were going to do the political thing that they did.

KING: So...

BLAGOJEVICH: And it was something I predicted. And -- and now it's a situation where they have set a dangerous precedent, where the will of the people can be undermined and hijacked by a legislature that has its own agenda that's all about politics and not doing what's right.

KING: After the vote to remove you, you talked to the press. You got a little emotional.



BLAGOJEVICH: I love the people of Illinois today now more than I ever did before. And...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you, too.

BLAGOJEVICH: Thank you. And the fight goes on. Just because I'm not governor anymore, doesn't mean I won't keep fighting for you and for the causes that I've fought for my whole life.


KING: And, Rod, what you're saying is in no case -- no case, not ever, not one conversation were you ever selling that seat?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, I've said it before. And, again, I can't go into the details of the case. But I'll say it again. I never ever intended to violate any criminal law. I did not violate any criminal law. Nor do I believe anybody in any of those conversations did nor did they intend to do it.

But you're right, you know it is emotional when you're not in a position to keep fighting for people.

But I'm a private citizen now. I'm going to rebuild my life and take care of my family. I'm going to clear my name. But I still intend to be a voice to protect those same people -- the average ordinary citizen that's getting screwed by the special interests in Springfield, led by these phony hypocritical lawmakers who offered me a deal in December to step aside, get my full pay for two years, keep my executive detail if I would leave and not make a Senate pick.

When I refused to do that, I was threatened with an impeachment. I was told that if I made the Senate pick, the impeachment will happen sooner rather than later.

KING: Don't...

BLAGOJEVICH: Those are some of the undercurrents behind this whole story.

KING: All right...

BLAGOJEVICH: They should have proven...

KING: And we'll...

BLAGOJEVICH: ...something they didn't prove. And, as a result...

KING: We've got to...

BLAGOJEVICH:, we've got a precedent that can remove governors in a way that is really unconstitutional.

KING: Let me get a break.

We'll be back in 60 seconds with Rod Blagojevich.

Those tapes -- can he deny what's on them?

Well, stick around and hear for yourself.


BLAGOJEVICH: We're back with Rod Blagojevich. At your Senate trial, federal prosecutors shared four short tapes which were played in the chamber. The recordings were taped in November and December -- allegedly conversations between you, a lobbyist who once worked for you and your brother Rob.

According to prosecutors, your associates were looking for a large contribution from a racetrack operator in exchange for signing legislation to benefit the racing industry.

Here's an alleged conversation between you and your brother.

And let's listen.


BLAGOJEVICH: How are we doing?


I talked to Lon and he says Johnny Johnson is good for it.


ROBERT: He's going to give you -- you know, he didn't get it, but he says, you know, I'm good for it. I've got to just decide what -- what accounts to get it out of. And Ron is going to talk to about some sensitivities legislatively tonight when he sees you, with regard to timing of all of this.


Before the end of the year, though, right?

ROBERT: Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. So there was no waffling there. It's just that, you know, we've got to -- we've just got to figure it out. And so he'll give you the specific details.

BLAGOJEVICH: He's going to be there tonight, right?

ROBERT: He's going with you.


ROBERT: It's a basketball game?

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes, with a...

ROBERT: Yes. He -- he knew it was the United Center. He wasn't sure what the venue was but good.

BLAGOJEVICH: And so -- but clearly before the end of the year, right?

ROBERT: Yes. Yes.

BLAGOJEVICH: And he's down there right now with him lobbying on a bill.

ROBERT: He was with him last night and he's still down there.

BLAGOJEVICH: Yes. They're pushing a bill. So that's probably what he -- he wants to wait on.

ROBERT: Well, whatever. I mean I think that's probably likely. He didn't get into details with me.


KING: The racetrack operator, by the way, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

How do you defend that conversation?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, again, this -- I can't go into the details. But the conversation speaks for...

KING: Why?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I mean the conversation speaks for itself. I don't -- that doesn't prove of any criminal act whatsoever. That's a conversation about fundraising. And there's a deadline where -- when campaign contributions are brought in, you need to report and disclose when the contributions come in. At the end of the year is the period of that deadline. And that's an example, again, of how something that, you know, that speaks for itself.

There's no criminal act on that tape. And I did address that at the -- in my closing argument before them. And what I, again, would like to say is the whole thing should be listened to. Every one of those tapes should be listened to so the proper context is given.

KING: I agree. I agree.

BLAGOJEVICH: This is not Watergate.

KING: Here's...

BLAGOJEVICH: This is just the opposite. I want people to hear the whole story.

KING: Here's how the Republican state senator, Dan Cronin, reacted after hearing the tapes. He says: "It sort of reminds me of some Hollywood movie or a couple thugs in a car driving around. It's so surreal and so perverse."

He hears it a lot differently than you do.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, that's just gross hypocrisy. These same guys -- these same guys talked to me about fundraising. And they -- they do fundraising with all those very lobbyists that they're accusing me of doing fundraising with. It's just blatant hypocrisy.

And being judged by those who, again, unfortunately, they were given an opportunity because of the allegations and the criminal complaint, but they didn't prove it. And they didn't give me a chance to disprove it.

And, again, to undo the will of the voters by these lawmakers, who do a whole bunch of fundraising, wheeling and dealing, and law business on the side with special interests, and doing it on the backs of working people with higher taxes. These are the same ones who made a decision to throw me out of office.

KING: OK. More...

BLAGOJEVICH: But I'll continue to keep trying...

KING: Hold on a second.

BLAGOJEVICH: clear my name. And I appreciate you giving me a chance to do that.

KING: And we'll be back with more of Rod Blagojevich right after the break.



ELLIS: Thirty-one conversations intercepted by the federal government and related in the affidavit of Daniel Cain. Thirty-one conversations in which the governor made it crystal clear that he was trying to trade that Senate seat for something of value to himself.

How did the governor himself characterize his power to appoint a United States senator?

"It's an (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) valuable thing."


KING: And, of course, the main crux of all of this, Rod, has been about that Senate seat -- some of the comments you allegedly made on tape about that seat. According to the complaint, on tape, you say: "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know? And, therefore, I can drive a hard bargain. The Senate seat is a (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) valuable thing. You just don't give it away for anything."

Now that's not out of context.

What else could that possibly mean?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, again, you have to hear all the tapes to get a context. But...

KING: Yes, but...

BLAGOJEVICH: But here. It's very simple. The governor can appoint himself to the United States Senate. KING: Right.

BLAGOJEVICH: I could have done it the day after Barack Obama became president.

If it was about me, I would have done it and I wouldn't have any of these problems.

But, you know, these -- these senators, the hypocrisy -- some of those guys are on telephone conversations with me during this period. Some of them are talking to me about their fundraising. The new Senate president is bragging to me -- whether it was in person or on the telephone conversation, or both -- that he raised $400,000 and he'd raised that money to give to those very senators whose chose them as their Senate president. And then those same senators vote to throw me out of office without proving a single act of wrongdoing and preventing me to prove my innocence and show that none of that stuff happened.

So the hypocrisy of these politicians is -- is incredible. And I think part of the reason to kind of add quickly is I don't think they want anybody looking into their stuff. And yet some of those very ones were in conversations with me shortly before all of this broke on my situation. And it's not exactly like those who judged me are, you know, exactly acting with clean hands, either.

KING: I see.

BLAGOJEVICH: Clean hands.

KING: Yes. You've made several media appearances now.

Let's watch.


BLAGOJEVICH: The fix is in.


BLAGOJEVICH: I know the fix is in.

BLAGOJEVICH: I have done nothing wrong.


BLAGOJEVICH: What have you heard?


BLAGOJEVICH: That is true.



BLAGOJEVICH: It is true that among the many potential candidates for the Senate seat, we discussed Oprah.



OPRAH WINFREY: I think I could be senator, too. I'm just not interested.



D.L. HUGHLEY, HOST: I'm a bad influence.

BLAGOJEVICH: Oh, (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE). They're going to throw me out anyway.

Who cares?



BLAGOJEVICH: I thought at first somebody was playing a practical joke on me.


BLAGOJEVICH: Under no circumstances am I comparing myself to Dr. King or Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela.


JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST: And he does a fabulous Nixon impression. Do it for us.


BLAGOJEVICH: Who said that?

BEHAR: Somebody told me. Come on.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no...

BEHAR: Just say, "I am not a crook." Do it.



BLAGOJEVICH: I'm not going to say that. No.

BEHAR: Come on.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Specifically, Rod, what did you mean by the fix is in?

What's the fix?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it's the deal I talked about. They wanted me to step aside when this whole thing broke, get paid for two years as governor, keep a security detail, don't make the Senate pick. And then, if I didn't do that, they were going to impeach me.

When I chose not to do that -- I didn't want to be bought off and leave a job that the people hired me to do because I did nothing wrong. Because there are allegations, but I know what the truth of the matter is and ultimately I'll prove my innocence. I wasn't going to quit on the people.

And then the pressure was don't make the Senate pick. And I think you might remember what it was like when I decided that Roland Burris should be senator -- all of the complaints from, you know, the Washington establishment people as well as the leaders in Springfield, Illinois.

And then, at that point, it was made abundantly clear through emissaries that the impeachment process is going to be accelerated and I'll be out before Lincoln's Birthday. Those were public comments.

And so when I said the fix was in, that's exactly what I meant. They made a pre-decision that unless I was willing to step aside so they could do their own politics and raise taxes on the people -- which is coming -- that they were going to do what they did.

And the fact that it was unanimous just shows, again, this thing was, you know, cooked long before they ultimately voted on the day that they...

KING: Every...

BLAGOJEVICH: ...decided to remove me.

KING: Everybody has regrets.

So what does Rod Blagojevich wish he could do over again?

That's next.


KING: We're back. Any regrets, Rod?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I don't -- I can't say that I have regrets on this particular episode, because I didn't do anything wrong. And when the truth comes out, that will be the case. But looking back at my years as governor, you know, have I made mistakes? Have there been misjudgments? Did I put my trust and faith in some people that betrayed it and were not the people I thought they were or didn't believe in the purpose or the mission that I was on to try to help average ordinary people in our state improve their lives, expand health care?

KING: But no?

BLAGOJEVICH: But in terms of this, you know, I want to apologize. At the same time I can't apologize because I didn't do anything wrong. And again when the full story comes out, I think that will be shown. And I think again...

KING: In other words, there is nothing you would change?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, nothing I would change with regard to this episode?

KING: Yes.

BLAGOJEVICH: I mean, hindsight being 20/20, had I known that this would happen right after Obama was elected president, I would have left town for a couple of months and just hid out. But I didn't know that. And I -- you know...


KING: Or appointed yourself?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, I could have appointed myself. And that would not be -- I would not be in the position that I am in today, that is true.

KING: What do you make when an old friend, like Representative Stacy Feigenholtz (ph), who served with you in the Illinois House, said, I am afraid at some point the governor lost his moral compass, too many politicians fall to money and power and fame and that's where the governor fell off track?

That is a friend -- a former friend.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, again, there is an establishment in state government that does the bidding of the special interests. They want to raise taxes on the working people of Illinois. She supports that as well.

They -- all of their ideas come from these lobbyists, what I call the political industrial complex. I took that system on. I view my experience more like a modern day Frank Capra story. And I know that gets mocked by some people.

But I'm the guy who is out there idealistically with a high purpose to try to fight for the average, ordinary guy, give them health care, give their kids a chance to go to preschool, help their elderly parents with cheaper prescription drugs, help them get free public transportation, and not burden middle class families with higher taxes.

Everybody in Springfield, the lobbyists on the left and the right are looking for a big tax increase on the people to pay for the things they spend the money on. And these lawmakers are part and parcel of that. And that's what this epic struggle has been about.

KING: By the way, you're on Letterman later tonight, was that fun?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, it was challenging. He is -- you know, he is a very smart guy. And he asked tough questions. And he is a funny guy and a witty guy. And so it was filled with all kinds of challenge. But I will say I like David Letterman more today than I did yesterday. Though I've got to say it was not an easy thing to do.

KING: You are becoming a hit on "Saturday Night Live." Watch.


SETH MEYERS, "WEEKEND UPDATE": The Illinois state legislature on Thursday voted unanimously to remove Governor Rod Blagojevich from office and barred him from ever holding public office in the state again. When informed of his impeachment, Blagojevich was so stunned his hair stood on end, killing six people in the office above.


MEYERS: This week, Governor Rod Blagojevich went on LARRY KING LIVE, the "TODAY" show and "The View" to tell his side of the story. Joining us now, Governor Rod Blagojevich.


JASON SUDEIKIS, "ROD BLAGOJEVICH": You know, I'm just going to relax now, now that this whole ordeal is over.

MEYERS: Well, you do have a federal criminal trial coming up?

SUDEIKIS: Oh, yes? What do you think, the news will cover it?


SUDEIKIS: Hey, you hear that, Brushy (ph), we're back in the game.


MEYERS: Governor Blagojevich, everyone.



KING: Now that was funny.

BLAGOJEVICH: Of course that's funny. But -- it's funny. But here again, Larry, this is serious business. And I am facing serious allegations and terrible things have been said about me that aren't true.

The presumption of innocence has been thrown out the window. There has been a media sensation and frenzy that is unparalleled. And -- and now I need to go out and rebuild and restore and regain my reputation...

KING: Yes.

BLAGOJEVICH: ... which I take very seriously. And you know, these comedians can laugh about it. But if I was some guilty crook, I would be cowering in some office in the fetal -- in some corner in the fetal position hiding. But I'm asserting my innocence because I know it to be true.

And there is something bigger at stake here and what I've said before, and that is, my daughters, my little girls need to know that their father is not the guy some of these people are saying he is. And I am not going to back down because some of these politicians and media people do what they do because that's the schtick that they're in.

KING: Thanks so much, Rod. Good seeing. Look forward to seeing you again soon.

BLAGOJEVICH: Thanks, Larry. Appreciate you giving me a chance to talk to you.

KING: His political career may be in ruins. So what does Rod Blagojevich accomplish by talking? I'll ask the experts as we go to break. Here he is, by the way, on Letterman.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Why exactly are you here, honest to God?


BLAGOJEVICH: Well, you know, I have been wanting to be on your show in the worst way for the longest time.

LETTERMAN: Well, you are on in the worst way, believe me.


LETTERMAN: There is no getting around that.

BLAGOJEVICH: I figured I had to get impeached and thrown out of...



KING: Joining us now to discuss what we just heard, all in Washington, Jennifer Palmieri, the Democratic strategist; Bay Buchanan, the conservative president of American Cause; and also aboard is Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief.

Start with you, Lynn. Has he got some points? LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: He has a lot of points. But, you know, when he does talk about schtick, he also has a lot of that himself too. He has a lot of points, when he talks about the blatant hypocrisy in the Illinois political community, he is absolutely right.

But, Larry, there is a difference between the fund-raising that he did and the line that he crossed that is the subject of the criminal allegations that he has to fight in court when the expected indictment comes down and the others.

Now, Illinois is a cesspool of pay-to-play politics. That doesn't excuse what he did. He is trying to play off the blatant hypocrisy -- and I'm agreeing with him. I know who he is talking about, of others as if to somehow give him some excuse. What it does I think is just provide a context.

He got caught, the allegations are he went too far. I do feel bad for him. I have known him for years. But, when he portrays himself as Daniel in the lion's den, I think that's just another colorful way of his talking about himself.

KING: Jennifer, in essence, did he get a fair shake?

PALMIERI: Well, I think that -- I think that what Lynn is saying is right in terms of the relativeness of his crime. And it may be that in comparison to other people in Chicago it's not that big of a deal.

But it certainly -- it doesn't excuse what he apparently did. But I think that it is -- and I understand it is also difficult when you are in a criminal trial and you really -- there isn't a lot that you can say.

And so I think that does make for an uncomfortable situation for him. Obviously none of this looks very good. But I suppose that by doing this round of talk shows he -- you know, it's not as if he has got a lot to lose in terms of his public standing and I think that he thinks he can probably do himself a little bit of good by putting some context into these charges, because without that they do seem, you know, pretty preposterous.

KING: Bay, he does not come across as unlikable, does he? He is likable.

BUCHANAN: He's very likable. I think he is doing himself an enormous good by being out there talking to you and others. You know he -- he really is a character. And I think he won a lot of people's support when he went against Harry Reid and just said, the heck to you guys, don't tell me what to do, and went and appointed the senator.

And I think what he is doing now, he is really making himself a champion for the little fellow. He is playing to the jury pool, Larry. He is playing right to those guys to say, I have been fighting for you and those big bad guys try to come after me, and this is politics as usual. KING: Lynn, he seemed a very progressive governor, was he not? And legislator? And congressman? What went wrong?

SWEET: Well, you know a few things can be true at once. He did some very good things for Illinois: children's health insurance, the free rides for seniors. What went wrong was that he made tens of millions of dollars in campaign money to win re-election. And campaign money is in Illinois where (INAUDIBLE) a new law that went into effect January 1, could be raised in unlimited amounts from almost anybody.

And what he is alleged -- lost in this conversation is the serious charges that he did -- he traded state boards and commissions, and state business, in exchange for people who helped him do massive fund-raising, and squeezed people in contracts and all of that.

I know the selling of the Senate seat is this very sexy think that people talk a lot about. That's just what triggered the arrest. He never sold it. It's the trading of influence in exchange for campaign contributions that's really at the heart of the case.

KING: Gotcha. We're out of time. We're going to discuss more on this. And I thank you all very much.

The octuplets outrage, it continues to grow. But it looks like mom is fighting back. More in 60 seconds.


KING: Wow, the anger and outrage over the octuplets debate last night on our show was incredible. And the questions keep on coming, how are the babies? Do they all have the same father? Is their mother using the kids to cash in? Some think so.


KING: Kate, we learned that Nadya's mother says Nadya had eight leftover frozen embryos from a previous in vitro session, had them all implanted because she didn't want them destroyed. And later when given the option to abort some of the resulting fetuses, she refused. What do you make of that?

KATE GOSSELIN, "JON & KATE PLUS 8": You know, honestly, I believe that every life that is created is created for a purpose. But I feel like responsibility needs to come into this. If that is the truth, it scares me.

In our situation, we set out for a third child. We actually did IUI, which is intrauterine insemination where the ovaries are stimulated and then the sperm is implanted and basically whatever happens, happens.

And in no way shape or form did we set out to have multiples again. But we are aware that that could happen. So, you know, it is just one of those situations I always say, modern medicine is not perfected. And everybody needs to make their own decision where they are concerned.

KING: Apparently, Lisa, the woman wants to sell her story, we learned, to media outlets for money to raise her family. What do you make of that? Does that put a damper on this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if that is true or not.

KING: We don't know, again, that's reports.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You hope that the babies wouldn't be -- yeah, wouldn't be used in that sort of fashion, but we don't know. All we know is that this woman is going to need economic support, she's going to need support from family. Because to raise all those babies all at once, she is going to need, you know, a lot of support.

KING: Sanjay, do you understand the outrage?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN: Yes, I mean, you know, I think that it's shocking just to hear the numbers. I think, you know, I think some of your guests have said it well. You are sort of balancing this woman who has had multiple births with, with, you know what -- what typically happens in a situation like this. So it's hard to understand.

Also, I think people are trying to forecast what their lives are going to be like. You know, I was reading that they're going to require about 25,000 diapers in the first year, 90,000 wipes. I'm about to have a third child myself. I just, you know, it is hard to imagine taking care of that many children, Larry.

KING: Is this mother of 14 children really asking Oprah for $2 million? The PR person speaking for her has the answer, next.


KING: Anderson Cooper will join us at the top of the hour with "AC 360." Turns out to be a big day into a news day, huh?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It sure was. Tonight, Larry, on "360," my one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama. Why he says he screwed up, his words. What his plans are for the economy, and what keeps him up at night, literally keeps him up at night.

The president also talks about why he doesn't use the term "the war on terror," and we talked about some lighter subjects as well. We asked him about the search for the White House dog, and whether or not he has had a cigarette since he has been in the White House. It is an interview you won't want to miss.

Plus, president and Mrs. Obama take their message about education back to school. The Obamas dropped in on the second graders at a local school today. Of course, cameras followed them. No coincidence, that. We'll take you up close tonight.

And Michael Phelps. He said he was sorry after a photo surfaced showing the Olympic superstar smoking from a bong. But sorry may not be enough. Now threats he may face criminal charges. The latest ahead. Those stories, and Christian Bale's expletive-laced tirade. It makes Rod Blagojevich's bleeps seem bleeping tame, Larry.

KING: That's "AC 360," never dull, won't be dull tonight. At 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

We're joined now by Joann Killeen, the publicist for Nadya Suleman, the mother of 14, including those new octuplets. First, how are they all doing?

JOANN KILLEEN, PRESIDENT, KILLEEN FURTNEY GROUP: They're doing great, Larry, absolutely great.

KING: Mother and children.

KILLEEN: Mother's doing well. The children are off ventilators, they're breathing on their own. They're doing really, really well.

KING: How are they paying for all this?

KILLEEN: How are they paying for what?

KING: Medical bills.

KILLEEN: Well, she's a Kaiser patient. Kaiser Permanente. So...

KING: She's covered.

KILLEEN: She's covered.

KING: For all of it?

KILLEEN: She's covered.

KING: How is she -- is she married?

KILLEEN: No, she's not. She's a single woman.

KING: How old are the six children that she's had previously?

KILLEEN: They range from age 2 to age 7. She now has 14 children under the age of 8. She has 10 boys and four girls.

KING: Do the six have the same father?

KILLEEN: They all have the same father.

KING: And what -- first of all, how did you come to represent her?

KILLEEN: We're a public relations firm here on the West Side. We have a good reputation. We're known for doing great work, and compassionate and ethical practice...

KING: She retained you personally? KILLEEN: Yes, she did.

KING: Tell us about her.

KILLEEN: She -- my client is a wonderful woman. She's smart, she's bright, she's articulate, she's well educated. She's got a degree. She's working on her masters degree. She is just a delight. And I can't wait for the media to get to meet her.

She is very, very excited about the miracle of the birth of her eight children. And she's really looking forward to being the best mom that she can possibly be to 14 children.

KING: Does she have any doubts about all this?

KILLEEN: I don't think she has any doubts. I mean, once she had the...


KILLEEN: ... ultrasound, and you know, initially everybody thought she was going to have seven. And you can imagine seven babies inside. And they weren't quite ultrasounds (ph). You know, they move around, you can't see anything. So the miracle was the day that she had the c-section and the doctors were in the operating room, and they thought they were finished. They said, well, wait a minute, there's a little hand in there. So the little one put his finger on the surgeon's glove. And they said, oh my gosh, there's another one. And they weren't really ready for eight. So they quickly had to get, you know, ready for eight in the surgery suite.

KING: Why would someone -- I guess she will eventually do media?

KILLEEN: Yes, she will.

KING: Why would someone with six children, six children, want more?

KILLEEN: Well, you know, this is part of the story that she's going to tell. I mean, she was hoping to have seven children. That's something that Nadya always wanted to have. And she got the surprise, like everybody else. She got a few more.

KING: Did she at all -- is she at all aware that a lot of people are criticizing this?

KILLEEN: Yes, she's aware of it.

KING: And how is she reacting to that?

KILLEEN: You know, she's a very balanced woman. She's got perspective. She really wants to tell her story.

And I just want to set the record straight and let everyone know that the rumors and the innuendoes and what I call the creative ideas about what's going on with her in her life, you know, are just not true.

KING: Let's cue them up. What's not true?

KILLEEN: It's not true that she is being paid multiple millions of dollars for going on the media. She is not doing a talk show in London. She is not going to have her own reality show about how to be a mom. I mean, all those stories that people are making up are just not true.

KING: How about "People" magazine?

KILLEEN: Larry, everybody's called me. I have been retained as of Friday night. I have multiple packages and proposals to review. I told everybody that's called me -- and of course, everybody wants me to make a decision yesterday, what are we going to do. So I'm looking through every single proposal and I am going to sit down with my client this week and say, here are the pros and cons. You know, where do you want to go? How do you feel most comfortable? And you know, which one of these media do you want to go to and tell your amazing story?

KING: Now, of course, television doesn't pay. Although some might, right? I don't...

KILLEEN: Well, none of the major studios pay. This is a news story. So nobody's made any kind of offers for money.

KING: Is monetary part of her goal here?

KILLEEN: Absolutely not. And she wanted me to set the record straight.

KING: Please.

KILLEEN: She is a working professional. She was able to provide for her six children on her own prior to being pregnant with eight children. Now, she was a health care professional before these new ones came.

She wants everybody to know that she's not on welfare, has no plans on being a welfare mom, and really wants to look at every opportunity that she can to make sure that she can provide financially for the 14 children that she's responsible for now.

KING: Still a lot more to learn. She does live with her parents though, right?

KILLEEN: No, she lives on her own. As you know, she's been in the hospital for quite a few weeks on bed rest, anticipating the birth of the children. Her parents are helping out with the children right now, because obviously Nadya is still in the hospital. So her mom and dad, the grandparents, are taking care of the little kids, making sure they get to school and get on the bus, and everything else that you would do for little ones.

KING: How do the six feel about the eight? KILLEEN: Well, they're excited, but you know, typical kids, they think the eight new playmates are going to come home. They don't understand that they're tiny and they're little and they're not going to be playing Legos and coloring. I mean, it's going to take a while for all of them to be able to play together as a group.

KING: Thanks, Joann. Hope to see you soon.

KILLEEN: Thank you, Larry. Thank you.

KING: Joann Killeen, the publicist for Nadya Suleman, the mother of 14.

Barack Obama is taking the blame for what is the worst day so far in his tenure as president. Hear what he has to say, next.


KING: Anderson Cooper sat down with President Obama today to talk about a number of things. Among them, the economy. The president says it's the one thing that keeps him up at night. Watch.


OBAMA: What is alarming right now is how fast the economy's been deteriorating. I think even two or three months ago, most economists would not have predicted us being in as bad of a situation as we are in right now.

COOPER: It keeps a lot of Americans right now up at night. Does it keep you up at night?

OBAMA: It keeps me up at night and it gets me...

COOPER: Literally?

OBAMA: Literally. Because we've got a range of different problems. And there's no silver bullet. We're just going to have to work our way through the problem.

So, No. 1, we've got to have a recovery package that puts people back to work and ensures that states that are dealing with rising unemployment can deal with unemployment insurance, can provide health care for people who lost their jobs. So that's one set of problems.

Then you've got a banking system that has undergone close to a meltdown. And we've got to figure out how do we intelligently get credit flowing again so that small businesses and large businesses can hire people and keep their doors open and sell their products.

And, you know, part of the problem, unfortunately, is that the first round of TARP, I think, drew a lot of scorn. We learned -- we now learned that people are still getting huge bonuses, despite the fact that they're getting taxpayer money, which I think infuriates the public. So we also have to set in place some rules of the road. And tomorrow, I'm going to be talking about executive compensation and changes we're going to be making there.

Even after we get that done, we still have to get a financial regulatory system in place that assures this crisis never happens again. And we've got to do this in the context of a world economy that is declining, because in some ways, the Europeans are actually doing at least as badly as we are. You've even seen China, which has been growing in leaps and bounds over the last two decades, starting to decline.

So trying to do all those things on parallel tracks at a time when people are scared, and legitimately so, I think is going to be a big challenge.


KING: You can see all of Anderson's conversation with President Obama next on "AC 360."

And have something to say about government officials and taxes? Or your own tax situation? Go to and sound off. We're open 24/7.

Time now for Anderson and Obama -- Anderson.