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Special Report Roundtable - June 8

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


VOICE: We are not giving up. We are not giving in.

VOICE: We have a lot of important things to do here, but I can't think of very much that's more important than this.

VOICE: This should not end. Because if it ends, it means we are of faint heart, and we are not willing to carry out our responsibility.


ANGLE: Those were some of the thoughts today after the Senate was unable to move forward to be immigration bill last night. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, the executive editor of Weekly Standard, Mort Kondrake, the executive editor of Roll Call and Jeff Birnbaum, columnist at the Washington Post, FOX News contributors, all.

So the Senate couldn't find enough votes last night to move forward and Senator Reid took the Bill off the floor. Some people, as you heard there, obviously, still think it's alive. Where are we in this process?

MORT KONDRAKE, ROLL CALL EXECUTIVE EDITOR: I think, you know, I think they are going to try to revive it. And I think there's a chance, I don't know, maybe 50/50 chance that it will get revived.

Look, there are 60 to 65 senators who are prepared to vote for the bill on final passage. Both parties have an incentive to try to revive this and try to show that they can accomplish something.

The Democrats who have not got a great record so far of accomplishments in control this Congress want to get this done, or say they want to get this done, and so this would be an opportunity to do it.

The Republican party, this is a divisive, festering, cancerous issue within the Republican party. I mean, they go hammer and tong at it all the time. It's the number one subject in their presidential debates, and all that kind of stuff.

And so a lot of them want to get this off the board. And so they are going to try to re-visit it. And one hopes they can succeed.

ANGLE: Jeff?

JEFF BIRNBAUM, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: There's a saying in Washington, and I think it applies here, that delay is defeat. And I think in this case, the chances of reviving this are very small. The delay here is probably fatal to the immigration bill. I'm not sure where Mort finds the 60 votes in favor of this, but it's hard to find that many among -- I mean, there aren't that many Republicans, but only a minority of Republicans in the Senate are interested in this.

It has been highly-politicized. And it may be beyond getting enough support, especially in the president's own party. And so the president's efforts to revive this, coming to the hill next week, I think his pleas will fall on deaf ears. And he'll have to find some other way to provide himself a legacy in his second term.

ANGLE: Fred, I suspect one of the things the president will be saying is something he will say tomorrow in his radio address, which is that the fear that people have, to address the fear people have which is, look, last time we went through immigration reform in the 1980's, everybody promised stronger border enforcement, and the other things that people look back on as amnesty.

The stronger border enforcement did not happen, but the amnesty part did, and that has been a fear expressed by a lot of people in this debate. Yes, fine, you promised stronger border enforcement, but you won't do that, and the other stuff will happen anyway.

The president is promising he has learned the lessons of the past. Will that message take with Republicans on the Hill?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD EXECUTIVE EDITOR: No. The bill is going to have to pass despite millions of Americans having fears that it will not be enforced, be another amnesty and not enforcement. And the president is doing the best he can. He can promise more money and more buildup along the border. And then, I think, a lot of other things. I think it will be enforced, but it's hard to convince people of this.

Look, here where's a majority, and I think Mort's entirely right. If you can get the bill to a final vote and get rid of this stuff that is blocking it now. The key vote on amendments was the David Vitter amendment, he's senator from Louisiana, to kill the ZV's(ph). That's the thing that allows the illegal immigrants here to stay here.

That's what all the conservatives hate. It got 26 Republican votes and the 27th was for it. You add that to the democrat support and it could pass if Harry Reid, one person, Harry Reid, decides that it should come back.

ANGLE: OK. Now there was another major development that was also chalked up to the divisiveness in Washington, and that is that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he will get a new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than ask Congress to confirm General Pace to another term as chairman because he said that the confirmation hearing would be what he called a divisive ordeal.

Let's listen.


GATES: Because of his experience over the last six years, the focus of the hearings would be backward-looking instead of forward-looking and contentious, just because of all the issues that we're familiar with.


ANGLE: All the issues we're familiar with.

KONDRAKE: It starts with an 'R.' It's called Rumsfeld.

Peter Pace stood by Don Rumsfeld's side for years and years, all during the buildup for the war, and basically defended him in public, and did what he wanted Rumsfeld to do in private. And Pace was going to get pummeled by senators who were going to demand to know every last thing that Rumsfeld ordered when he was Defense Secretary. And that's what's backward-looking.

ANGLE: So what?

VOICE: Mort, I do know what Peter Pace has done in public. Mort seems to know what he said in private, too.

KONDRAKE: I don't.

VOICE: I thought you said you did.

It's ridiculous not to send up Peter Pace, who is a great American, a great patriot, an extremely articulate guy, who can defend everything he and the Pentagon have done. And he'll tell us which ones he's agreed with and which ones he didn't.

I think it's a mistake. So what if it's a contentious hearing? They are all contentious now. Why not send him back?

ANGLE: Well, and whoever the new person comes up may not be the same as General Pace, but that's likely to be contentious, too, isn't it?

VOICE: Yes, it's certainly going to be contentious. But Mulling the Admiral Mullin, who has been selected to replace Pace will not have to defend every decision about Iraq --I think there's another word beginning with 'I' that's involved here, Iraq, I think that's an even bigger one--as Pace would have had to.

And Pace also made two, I think, pretty big mistakes when he called homosexuality immoral, even though he apologized almost immediately afterward.

ANGLE: And even though he said "don't ask don't tell" was OK.

VOICE: And when he wrote a letter in praise of the professionalism of Scooter Libby to the judge in Scooter Libby's trial. I think that was a mistake too.

ANGLE: Now, should that be a disqualifying factor? Attesting to someone's character?

VOICE: Well, there's an old saying around town that in politics that you never get in trouble for what you don't say. And he said something on both of those very contentious issues that he might have been better off being silent about.

VOICE: But Iraq was going to be-- and this is why Gates wants to talk about what we're going to do in Iraq in the future and how we're going to run the military establishment in the future, not revisit all the decisions that got been made up to this point.

ANGLE: Rehash all that.

OK. Up next, Congressman William Jefferson pleads not guilty to federal charges of soliciting millions of dollars in bribes, but then admits to having the $90,000 in his freezer.

We'll try to explain right after the break.



JEFFERSON: The alleged facts in the indictment were contrived merely as part of a sting, and all of the allegations are misleading, and all of the allegations are untrue.

Did I make a mistake in judgment along the way? Yes, I did. But I deeply regret it. But did I sell my office, or conduct official acts for money? Absolutely not.


ANGLE: Well, there was Congressman Jefferson who pleaded "not guilty" today, who is sorry for something, but we're not sure what. If he's not guilty, Jeff, what is he sorry for?

BIRNBAUM: I don't know. If I were he, I would be sorry for getting caught with $90,000 in marked bills in my freezer, giving an entirely new elevation to the term cold cash. You've heard this one before?


ANGLE: Mort was going to say it.

BIRNBAUM: I didn't mean to steal his line.

But this is an extraordinary case, it really is. I mean, it's a 94- page indictment, 16 counts. If he were convicted on all of it he could be put away for more than 200 years.

The Justice Department thinks they have a very strong case, and the ethics committee in the House is finally getting geared up to take a look at this as well. I think Congressman Jefferson is going to need a lot more than admitting that he might have made some misjudgments in order to get out from under all of the weight of this evidence.

ANGLE: Before I bring you two guys in, let's play another bite from him where he is talking about that famous $90,000 in cash.


JEFFERSON: Did I bribe a foreign official? Absolutely not. The $90,000 was the FBI's money. The FBI gave it to me as part of its plan, parts of their plan, that I would give it to the Nigerian vice president. But I did not do that.




ANGLE: No. He didn't do that, he kept the money.

I mean, what I'm trying to figure out here is--he and his lawyer hinted this the other day--is he suggesting that yes, I took money that people intended as bribes, but I didn't do anything for it, and therefore, I didn't actually sell my office? Is that what he's--is that the defense?

VOICE: I'm mystified by this. I mean, what he's suggesting is that he was part of an FBI plot, that he was one of the people who was trying to uncover bribery going on by Nigerian officials for something, and so the FBI gave him the money which he was supposed to pass on--

ANGLE: You mean instead of being an unwitting--

VOICE: That he was in on the act.

ANGEL: Oh, he was in on it.

VOICE: Something like that. Look, for the life of me, I don't understand it. I'm trying to figure out what he's talking about.

The fact is that he put it in his freezer and did something for himself, apparently, with $10,000 more of the money. So he's got a lot of explaining to do.

KONDRAKE: He says the allegations are misleading and then their untrue. Well, which is it? I didn't know they were the same thing.

One of the problems with saying this, may be the $90,000, maybe that's a part of it where he's not going to be convicted, but I think the indictment sited 11 alleged separate bribes involved in this case, and it seems like a pretty strong one.

VOICE: I'm speaking to lawyers on this subject. Proving a bribe from an official is a very, very difficult task, and they do have to prove he exchanged for money an official act, and it may not be enough to show he simply used congressional stationary, or used his staff, or even used embassy personnel, which they do allege, but rather that he did something legislatively as a lawmaker, and I think that will be part of his defense here.

ANGLE: That's exactly what his lawyer was saying the other day. He was saying, he didn't say he didn't take the money, but he said there were no earmarks, there was no legislation.

So he's essentially arguing, yes, I took the money, but I didn't do anything in Congress.

VOICE: Then at a minimum--

VOICE: False pretenses.

VOICE: At a minimum then he'll get nailed for not reporting this outside income.

ANGLE: Well, there's that, but it also raises another question, which is Congress is talking about whether or not you can expel someone when they've only been indicted but not convicted. Now, that would be unprecedented.

But on the other hand, if you took bribes but didn't do anything, but you still took the money, that sounds like it could be the cause for expulsion.

VOICE: Well, I thing without question it has never happened before. Usually expulsion comes after the conviction. But in this case, I think the Democrats, along with the Republicans may be pushing for Jefferson's serious sanction and maybe expulsion in order to insulate themselves from the charge of being like the Republicans were before.

KONDRAKE: Honestly, I don't understand how they could expel somebody who hasn't been convicted.

VOICE: Well, maybe not, but Republicans are going to hammer this every day he stays.

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