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Special Report Roundtable - June 4

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


JOSEPH PERSICHINI, JR., FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: To the American people, I ask you, take time, read this charge and document, line by line, scheme by scheme, count by count, this case is about greed, power, and arrogance.

ROBERT TROUT, JEFFERSON ATTORNEY: In this particular case, they picked the wrong congressmen and they picked the wrong facts.


HUME: And said the William Jefferson lawyer, he said, well, he was lured in a sting operation to a situation in which they were able to find - - or the feds -- marked bills in his freezer, to the tune of $90,000. A case that was expected to have resulted in charges before now, but now here they are.

Some thoughts on this 94 page indictment from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and Jeff Birnbaum columnist of the Washington Post -- FOX NEWS contributors all.

First of all, the case itself, how impressive for unimpressive?

JEFF BIRNBAUM, WASHINGTON POST: I think it's very impressive, 94 pages, 16 counts and Jefferson can be put away for more than 200 years. I assume that there's some...

HUME: He ain't Thomas Jefferson, so he probably won't...


BIRNBAUM: If there's -- I think this is a little padded in case some of the evidence has to be thrown out because there still is a dispute with the Justice Department over the rate of his congressional office where some of this evidence might have come from.

But nonetheless, it's really still quite a story. It tells -- including some bribery action within the members own dining room in the capital. Efforts by Congressman Jefferson, apparently, to bribe a Nigerian official -- himself to bribe a Nigerian official. It's really quite extraordinary and we should point out that Jefferson says -- his lawyer says he's done nothing wrong here.

I think the issue -- the question will turn on whether he used his official acts, whether he used his office to do some of these things and that will be difficult.

HUME: He turned his office into a criminal enterprise. And he had his family and...

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Yeah, he was basically trying to sell his contract -- or sell his influence to get contracts for communications companies, oil companies, with these various African countries -- about six different African countries: Condo, Nigeria -- mainly equatorial Guinea and so on.

The indictment alleges that he collected about $400,000, tried to do business in the millions, but got himself $400,000 in his pocket over years. Now, this would put him at the runner-up point in the recent bribery sweepstakes in Congress to Duke Cunningham who went away for taking a million- two. So, Jefferson's still behind.

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think that the 400,000 is the whole of it, it was a part of it, I don't think it was the whole amount, but that was the biggest figure there, so who's quibbling?

You know, when I read this indictment, it was absolutely breathtaking. It's incredibly weeping. I mean there was a telecommunications deal, oil concessions, starlight transmission contracts, offshore oil rights, waste recycling systems, development of sugar plants, bribes going back and forth -- he pocketed some of the bribe money that went in that freezer -- it's alleged, at least, in the indictment -- 11 different bribery schemes. It's a lot.

HUME: All right, so it's a big case. Long awaited. Came too late, the Republicans had hoped, of course, it would come before the '06 election and would not allow that election to be so much, in their view, about Republican corruption, of which there had been a number of instances.

Does this change the equation -- the political equation on that subject? Does this deprive Democrats of this issue? Does this is help the Republicans in their efforts to try to say, look, you know they're no different than we were? They're not.

KONDRACKE: I don't think s. Look, the Democrat, when his office was raided, back in the last Congress -- up on Capitol Hill, the Democrats kicked him off the House Ways and Means Committee. They left him on one other committee...

HUME: But now they're proposing to put him on the Homeland Security Committee.

KONDRACKE: Well, I can't believe that will ever actually happen. They've been -- Nancy Pelosi had talking about that for a long time. You're not going to put somebody who's under indictment...

HUME: But she was under a certain amount of pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to restore the...


KONDRACKE: Yeah, but now that he's indicted with this indictment, they are not going to do that.

HUME: So, you don't think this will tar the -- this hurts the Democrats as a group in Congress?

BIRNBAUM: I think it makes the allegations of corruption bipartisan, now, clearly. And it does help the Republicans and hurt the Democrats, essentially.

And I think the Democrats are trying to make sure that they are hurt less than they're about to be by speaking about this. They are trying to - - Nancy Pelosi is it trying to get Jefferson off of the Small Business Committee, which he's still on or move him. But, I think Boehner -- Congressman John Boehner, the majority leader in the House, is trying to press the political issue by pushing the idea of expelling Jefferson if he is actually found guilty and keeping it in the forefront, in large part for political purposes in the same way that the Democrats did that to the Republicans with Duke Cunningham.

BARNES: It is not going to impress the voters. Nancy Pelosi wants to take this guy with this horrendous indictment off of the Small Business Committee. I mean that's not going to help much. Look, this hurts Democrats.

Look, I don't think congressional corruption was going to be huge issue in the 2008 election, in 2006 it won it. It was, it killed Republicans, but this will, I think, make Democrats a lot less likely to try to use that issue again.

HUME: Next up with the panel, we'll discuss last night's Democratic Presidential Debate in New Hampshire; see who won, who lost, if anyone. Stay tuned.



JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris Dodd spoke out very loudly and clearly -- but I want to finish this -- others did not, others were quiet. They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right to vote, but there is a difference between leadership and legislation.

SEN BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is important to lead. And I think, John, the fact is that I opposed this war from the start. So, you were about four-and-a-half years late on leadership on this issue. And it's important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this.


HUME: Well, that was the exchange from last night's debate, in New Hampshire, done by our friends at CNN and WMUR, and the Manchester Union Leader, that has gotten most of the attention in the day after in clips -- you just saw it. So, for the benefit of audience that might not have seen all of it, was that representative, was that the big moment, was there any overall winner and loser here? What do you think -- Mort.

KONDRACKE: Well, I think that John Edwards has been watching Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton moving left on the war and got -- was afraid that they were going to occupy his space. He's the most left candidate on lots of issues in the Democratic Party. So, he made a thrust at both Obama and Hillary for not...

HUME: For not opposing the troop funding bill noisily enough.

KONDRACKE: Noisily enough and so -- and he got zapped back by Obama, which you saw. Yeah, I think that...

HUME: Because he had voted for the original resolution authorizing the war. For which he says it was a mistake and he's sorry.

KONDRACKE: Yeah. So, you know, I think you know, tot the extent that there was a moment -- a key moment, I think that that was the key moment.

But, what impressed me in this debate is how these Democrats say that they are all willing to use of force in certain circumstances. Now, all -- immediately, as soon as we leave Iraq they're going to devote troops to Afghanistan. They're willing to enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur for moral reasons, and so on.

The question is, if the going got tough, in either of those place, Afghanistan or Darfur -- say Darfur developed into another Somalia -- you know, would they stick it out? And given the record in Iraq, I can't see how you could possibly think that they would. Including Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton voting against aid to the troops, voting against funding for armored vehicles while the troops are in combat. I mean, that is a total cave to and the left.

BIRNBAUM: Yeah, I agree with that and the Democrats are painting themselves into a corner. If the war in Iraq were to go in a different direction, if President Bush, as there have been some reports indicating, comes up in September, with a way to reduce the number of troops in a way that is not a timetable, but changes the dynamics of the war in Iraq, the Democratic candidates, because they are moving to the left and have moved so far, I think are really going to find it impossible for them to come into the middle which is always the place they have to ,be in the general election and so the Edwards prod, the pushing to the left, I think is a real problem for the Democrats, especially if there's any improvement in the war in Iraq.

The other issue that I think I see here is how narrow this -- these, you know, dancing on the head of a pin with Iraq has been. Edwards complaint here was that neither senators Clinton nor Obama said any thing before they voted, from his view, in the right place and that, to me, is so far away from where voters are thinking. You know, they're not judging based on some protocol inside the U.S. Senate.

BARNES: I think Edwards was extrapolating from his own style, you know he thought, you know, being a blowhard was part of voting in the Senate, you know, you have to bloviate about what you're doing.

I didn't think it was a particularly good debate for Edwards. I actually thought Hillary Clinton, who always has everything to loose because she's the establishment candidate and she's the frontrunner, did quite well. Particularly on the question -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- I think she was the only one who spoke about this -- English being the official language of America or the national language of America. And she made a very smart distinction why she's against it being an official language, but it should be our national language. I thought that was good.

She also said, I thought, honestly, and this is not Democratic dogma capital D-Democratic dogma -- that we are safer than we were before 9/11. And obviously, we are, in this country, Obama disputed that. But It think Hillary got the best of that. And look, she wasn't trying to score any big points, as a result, I thought that she did fine.

HUME: So, Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic candidates are moving left. And wouldn't you both agree Fred Barnes is, too?


BIRNBAUM: Absolutely.

KONDRACKE: Not quite.

The other issue that they're moving left on is on healthcare. Hillary Clinton has not learned from her 1994 experience. She's still out there attacking health insurance companies and drug companies. It was the health insurance industry that Harry and Louise ads that defeated her 1994 plan. She's right back at it again.

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