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Partial Transcript, Abrams Report, April 5, 2005

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August 29
Partial Transcript, Abrams Report, April 5, 2005

[This is the John Culberson section of the transcript. For the full transcript from MSNBC, go here. For my commentary, go here.]

 

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I got to admit.  I was shocked by recent remarks from Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, who seemed to be placing blame on our nation‘s judges for the most recent courthouse violence.  In February, a man shot and killed the mother and husband of a federal judge in Chicago who ruled against him in a medical malpractice suit.  Last month in Atlanta, a man broke away from a deputy, stole her gun, fatally shot four people including the judge presiding over his rape trial. 

Now while the senator did not cite specific examples of violence against judges, he did say this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN , TEXAS:  We seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that‘s been on the news, and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—of all the political grandstanding, this ingenious argument is rhetoric I‘ve heard about judges and judicial activism.  This by far is the most reprehensible and downright dangerous I have ever heard.  I think he‘s subtly using the killing of a judge in Atlanta, the killing of a judge‘s family in Illinois to bolster a completely unrelated political agenda.  These judges work hard and judges around the country I think deserve better from the U.S senator.

Joining me now is Congressman John Culberson, a Republican from Texas.  Congressman, thanks very much for coming on the program.  Do you think I have this one wrong?

REP. JOHN CULBERSON , TEXAS:  Absolutely.  I think you‘ve pulled John Cornyn‘s comment out of context.  John Cornyn is a man of great honor and integrity.  He is a judge, served as a Texas Supreme Court judge, an appellate court for many years, justice.  He understands that the—how important it is to maintain the integrity of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law.  That quote is taken out of context...

ABRAMS:  How is it taken out of—I mean I looked at the whole context of it and the bottom line is he‘s saying—all he said before that is, he‘s saying that he can‘t necessarily say there‘s any cause and effect, and then he went on to say exactly what I just played a tape of. 

CULBERSON:  Right.  No, John Cornyn, again, respects the judiciary because he is a judge and he understands the importance of the rule of law.  He is expressing overall in that speech the frustration that a lot of Americans feel that the federal judiciary is completely immune to public opinion; they‘re completely immune from being accountable to anybody. 

My hero, Thomas Jefferson, said judges advance on noiseless steps like gravity, never yielding what they‘ve gained.  And that they had retreated to the bunkers of the judiciary in an effort to consolidate power in the judiciary and we‘ve seen that.  I think that Congress needs to take more steps to restore the accountability of judges. 

I‘m a member of a group of congressmen in the House who are working to pass legislation to make judges more accountable by limiting or controlling their jurisdiction, their ability to enforce orders.  I‘ll be filing a constitutional amendment with the support of a lot of other members to give state legislators the right to approve federal district judges every 10 years. 

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t that so self-serving?  Because basically what you guys are saying is you want more power.  You‘re saying hey, we don‘t want judges examining the constitutionality of what we pass, we just want to—we want to go unchecked. 

CULBERSON:  The genius of the founding fathers‘ Constitution was that it left control over our government in the hands of we the people.  Judges are immune.  They are absolutely unaccountable and we think, I believe very strongly as I know John Cornyn does, that judges need to respect the laws that the Congress passes.  Our president believes judges should interpret the law, not make the law.  So my point is simply is I know that Senator Cornyn believes, as most Republicans believe, judges should interpret the law and not make law. 

ABRAMS:  Fair enough...

CULBERSON:  Judges should absolutely follow the law passed by Congress.  The people rule here and the laws that we pass on behalf of the country, judges should respect and follow.

ABRAMS:  But it sounds like you‘re saying that they‘re a lesser branch of government.  It sounds like what you‘re saying...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s sort of along the lines of what we heard in the Terri Schiavo case, which was this notion that somehow that Congress ordered the courts to do X, Y, or Z.  I mean Congress can make laws but they can‘t order the courts to do anything. 

CULBERSON:  Well the problem here is the judges in this country have elevated themselves to essentially an oligarchy.  We have a judicial oligarchy in this country that is immune completely not only from accountability to the public, but from...

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t that what they‘re suppose to be...

CULBERSON:  ... accountability to the people...

ABRAMS:  But aren‘t they supposed to be...

CULBERSON:  No, not at all.  The founders...

ABRAMS:  Let me just ask the question.  I‘ll let you respond.

CULBERSON:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  But aren‘t they supposed to be immune from public opinion? 

CULBERSON:  Judges are supposed to be interpreters of the law.  Their responsibility as Alexander Hamilton said, the president holds the sword, the Congress holds the purse, and the judiciary in Hamilton‘s opinion essentially had no power whatsoever.  He considered them the weakest branch because all they could do is interpret the law.  And over the years as a result of the not only the War Between the States, but reconstruction, the new deal, all powers become concentrated...

ABRAMS:  But wait...

CULBERSON:  ... of the judges...

ABRAMS:  ... they should or they shouldn‘t be responding to public opinion? 

CULBERSON:  I think judges have an obligation to respect the law passed by Congress, the people‘s representatives, debate, and then pass legislation that the judiciary is obligated to honor and obey...

ABRAMS:  So they should just...

CULBERSON:  ... unless...

ABRAMS:  ... they should approve it all?  They should approve it all?

CULBERSON:  ... unless there‘s a specific violation of a very specific provision of the Constitution and that power is left up to the Supreme Court alone.  When it comes to district judges, the appellate courts, all of those judges draw their existence, their power and authority from the United States Congress period. 

ABRAMS:  Let me come back to one issue and this is about Senator Cornyn‘s comment specifically.  I mean I understand the argument about judicial activism and I think a lot of the points that you make are probably echoed by many in this country.  But the problem is when you start linking—he was linking violence against judges to judicial activism.  There‘s no other way to look at it. 

CULBERSON:  No.  John Cornyn is a man of integrity and who respects the law...

ABRAMS:  But he shouldn‘t have done it.  It was a mistake, right?

CULBERSON:  John Cornyn is absolutely not advocating or endorsing or condoning...

(CROSSTALK)

CULBERSON:  ... violence...

ABRAMS:  I agree...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  No, let me clear...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... I am in no way suggesting that, and let me be quite clear about that.  But I am saying that he seems to be saying that the frustration of the people in this country is boiling so much that violence is the necessary result of judicial activism...

CULBERSON:  Yes, I think that‘s a real stretch.  Because John Cornyn is not—would never suggest—none of us would ever suggest—we can do things like, for example, I‘m going to again be filing a constitutional amendment that puts a 10-year term limit on federal district judges and lets the states‘ legislators then vote to reaffirm those federal district judges in their states. 

We can pass a variety of other laws that limit the authority of judges.  I actually sued Federal Judge William Wayne, justice in Texas who had run our prisons for 30 years, but I had to pass a state law and then help write a federal law, and then I sued the judge in his own courtroom, and I won.  I won back Texas‘ 10th Amendment sovereign power to run our prisons free from the courts. 

ABRAMS:  Let me...

CULBERSON:  So there are ways to do this...

ABRAMS:  Let me...

CULBERSON:  ... legally by the books. 

ABRAMS:  ... play one more bite from the senator...

CULBERSON:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to ask you one more question.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORNYN:  I believe this increasing politicalization of the judicial decision making process at the highest levels of our judiciary have bred a lack of respect for some of the people that wear the robe and that is a national tragedy. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s not as controversial as the other comment, but let me ask you this.  Isn‘t it people, though, like Senator Cornyn and yourself who are breeding disrespect to the judiciary? 

CULBERSON:  Oh not at all.  If we weren‘t doing—we would not be doing our job as the people‘s elected representatives if we did not speak out against judicial activism.  Judges who ignore the laws that the Congress passes, our system of checks and balances in this country has been largely lost.  If judges can change the law by majority opinion and—excuse me, if the Supreme Court and judges by majority opinion can rewrite the Constitution, I think that‘s destructive of our system of government. 

You wonder why we haven‘t had any constitutional amendments in so many years, I think it‘s because the United States Supreme Court and our judiciary have taken it upon themselves to just simply amend the Constitution by a majority opinion.  And that is wrong and the Congress and the people need to pass laws.  We need I think all of us working with state legislators, the Congress and the state legislators through the legal process passing statutes...

ABRAMS:  Well...

CULBERSON:  ... through litigation and finally through a constitutional amendment such as the one I‘m proposing...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CULBERSON:  ... to limit the power of judges and make them accountable... 

ABRAMS:  Look...

CULBERSON:  ... and responsible.

ABRAMS:  ... I say you want to appoint more conservative judges, go for it...

CULBERSON:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  ... but the...

CULBERSON:  ... the Democrats and Ted Kennedy...

ABRAMS:  ... go for it, but the idea of the Congress getting involved in trying to restrict any judge‘s power, I don‘t care what their belief is, et cetera, I think is so dangerous.  But...

CULBERSON:  Well the president...

ABRAMS:  ... final 20 seconds...

CULBERSON:  ... I‘d say President Bush, the Congress, the people have spoken.  They want our president to be able to point to judges who reflect his will, and that is interpret and don‘t make law from the bench and the Senate needs to approve the president‘s judges and the judges need to respect the laws we pass. 

ABRAMS:  Congressman Culberson, thanks a lot...

CULBERSON:  Thank you very much.

ABRAMS:  ... for coming on the program.  I appreciate it.

 

This is a transcript of ABC's "This Week," September 19, 2004, of the interview with Senators Richard Lugar and Joe Biden.  Transcript is from Transcriptstv.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) And we're back with the two leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana and Ranking Democrat Joseph Biden of Delaware.  And, Senator Biden, let me begin with you.  You heard Prime Minister Allawi.  He was very on message this morning.  He says we're making progress.  He's confident.  He's determined.  They're making progress, but the media is misrepresenting the story.  What do you make of that?

[1]10:49:36                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

He's in a tough spot.  You know what he reminds me of?  Dick Lugar and I had President Karzai of Afghanistan before us, our committee, about a year ago, and we warned him, tell the truth, and he came in, and he painted a very rosy picture, said everything is fine and then went back and found out that everybody thought it was fine, that he didn't need much more help, and then he came back a little later and said basically, "I made a mistake.  We have real problems.”  Allawi is coming to address the joint session of the Congress, speak to the president.  He has to put a game face on.  There is serious trouble there.  The elections that's supposed to take place require them to set up -2,500 to 3,000 polling places.  The UN is supposed to do it, and they're talking about putting 35 UN personnel in there.  I mean, the list goes on.  There is some progress, but there is a fundamental disconnect between this rosy picture that is being painted and the reality of what's happening on the ground.

[1]10:50:29                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Lugar, you've criticized many in the administration for being part of what you call the dancing-in-the-street crowd.

[1]10:50:35                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Well, I talked about people who at the beginning when we first had hearings saw a situation with the United States where they left promptly, the Iraqis, somebody took over and established democracy.  We've been through that, and as Allawi said today, this is water under the bridge.  Our problem now is, as the president stated it, to realize we've given sovereignty to the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Allawi and President Yawar.  They need to train police, they need to train an army.  They need to take control of their country and its security.  We're in a delicate situation in which they don't have adequate police and army and, therefore, they call in our soldiers for bombing raids in Fallujah or other situations from time to time.  They are fighting sometimes terrorists that come from outside the country, but within the country have not really settled with most of the Sunnis, have a tenuous situation with the Kurds.  Now, having said all that, they have remarkably stayed on course.  They had the thousand assembly of Iraqis.  They named 100 people that are forming a government of sorts now.  They're headed toward elections.  My own view is that those elections are going to happen.  They may not be perfect, but they're going to happen.  Somebody is going to be elected to form a constitution, and it will finally be ratified and people elected but is likely to be very difficult in the meanwhile, and our course in the United States is to support this government, to make sure that the security is there as much as possible, to play our role along with them and eventually then to leave as they are secure and they have elected their people.

[1]10:52:14                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) I guess the question, Senator Biden, is how much imperfection can we handle in these elections?  Right now, despite what Prime Minister Allawi said, it does seem that the insurgents are in control of several towns, especially Fallujah.  Can you have credible elections as long as the insurgents control significant parts of the Sunni Triangle?

[1]10:52:31                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

No, I don't think you can, and it runs the risk of, you'll hear some people start to say, well, let's have elections in the Shia and the Kurd area.  That is a prescription for disaster in terms of division within the country and, look, the thing that bothers me, George, is there seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of this administration, and they continue to mislead us.  For example, the secretary of defense, Dick Lugar is dead right.  We have to help train up their forces.  That's the key.  That's the ultimate exit strategy, and the secretary of defense said in February, we have trained 220,000 Iraqi military.  He said, what was he, amazing accomplishment.  That was malarkey.  Then he said last Friday, a week ago Friday, we trained 95,000.  We had a witness before us from the State Department on Thursday at Dick's hearings.  I asked him, I said, to the best of my knowledge Rumsfeld is saying 32,000 cops have been trained.  To the best of my knowledge, not one single, hear me, not one single Iraqi policeman has gone through the full complement of training.  Is that true?  And the administration witness said, yes, that's true.  So we have to get real with the American people here because what's going to happen, George, is that if, in fact, we don't start to level with them, if we level with them, they'll stay with us and help us change the course to win, but if you don't level with them and four months from now it turns out to be just what it is likely to be unless there's a major change, they're gonna say, hey, enough, enough, and that will be disaster for America, a disaster for the region.

[1]10:54:05                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Lugar, Senator Biden says we have to get real with the American people, the administration must, and there was a lot of talk last week about this National Intelligence Estimate which was prepared by the CIA in July.  Quite pessimistic.  It had three different scenarios.  One saying that Iraq would be in a tenuous situation at best, a third outlining the possibility of civil war.  I know you can't divulge the details of this memo, but do you think this is information that the American people should have?

[1]10:54:31                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Well, I thought it was very useful information.  I'm certain Joe Biden and I read it with a great deal of interest.  I would just say having been guided however by that paper, we have to do a whole lot better than that paper.

[1]10:54:42                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Exactly.

[1]10:54:45                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

I think both Joe Biden and I are on the track of making certain that we have constructive hearings of oversight.  We're going to visit with Prime Minister Allawi.  The president obviously will visit with him.  We're going to have frank discussions about what we need to do.

[1]10:54:58                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) So what does it take to do better?

[1]10:55:01                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

We must be successful.  Well, we have to have more police officers trained.  That's the first point.  We have to have better coordination between our people who are doing the bombing and the military side and the Iraqis who are doing the police work so that we do not alienate further the Iraqi people by intrusions that are very difficult and are costly in terms of lives.  We've got to get the reconstruction money out there.  That was the gist of our hearing this week, that $18 billion is appropriated a year ago and only $1 billion has been spent.

[1]10:55:31                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Buy why isn't that happening?

[1]10:55:33                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Well, this is incompetence in the administration.

[1]10:55:34                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

That's exactly right.

[1]10:55:34                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

That's why, you know, both of us said as critics of, we're, in fact, the most constructive critics.  We want the Iraqis to have a democracy.  We want the president and Allawi to have a great meeting in which they consolidate forces and we cheer Allawi in the Congress.  We push on against the terrorists, against all who would try to undermine this, as well as the Afghanistan situation or the wind-up of Kosovo.  We have a lot at stake in this world.

[1]10:56:04                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Biden, I see you nodding your head a lot there.  On this national intelligence estimate, let me just get one question there.

[1]10:56:11                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Sure.

[1]10:56:11                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) In the past the administration has scrubbed out classified sources and released information say on the CIA's estimates of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Should they do the same with this intelligence estimate?

[1]10:56:20                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

I think it would be good to do it.  Look, everybody knows what it said.  The only thing we have to know about is things aren't going well, and there's need to change course.  I think it should be released, scrubbed and released, and Dick and I, look, if you notice, you don't, this is a ridiculous thing to say.  People say this is partisan.  You don't hear Senators arguing among themselves about the course of action.  Dick Lugar, Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, I mean, we're in all the same page.  It's us and the administration.  This has been incompetence so far, 5 percent of the $18.4 billion that George Bush keeps beating, and this is, you know, beating the other candidate up and about the head for how he voted and didn't vote, and he's released 5 percent.

[1]10:57:08                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Let me, let me just stop, let me just stop you there for a second because I really just don't get this.  The administration must want this police training, must want this security training to go through.  You both blame it on incompetence.  What specifically do they need to be doing that they're not doing right now?

[1]10:57:20                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Let me be very, very specific.  Number one, on the police training, we've wasted 17 months.  We should be using some imagination.  Pick out the 500 most likely leaders on the police force.  Put them on a 747.  Fly them to Bonn, Germany, or to Berlin, and tell them to train them, and train them as leaders so they are paramilitary police.  There's gonna be a meeting of the IMF in October.  And what's going on here?  The IMF says you need debt forgiveness in order for the World Bank to lend Allawi any money to reconstruct his internal structures needed for a democracy.  None of it is coming forward.  The president is going to the United Nations.  You know what the UN lists, what we list as our priorities for the United Nations General Assembly?  Dealing with sex trade, which is important, dealing with cloning, dealing with spread of democracy.  Not one word of Korea.  Not one word with regard to Iraq and not one word with regard to Iran.  It's like wonderland.  It's like, I don't get it.

[1]10:58:17                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Lugar, do you have anything to add to the specific strategy the US should be following right now?

[1]10:58:21                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Well, I think that clearly the United States is now on the right track in terms of the training.  Although I would agree with Joe Biden.  We could accelerate that and we're probably making some better decisions on reconstruction after lost time and I think we have to recognize that Ambassador Negroponte is doing I think a great job ...

[1]10:58:41                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

He is.

[1]10:58:44                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

 ...  in terms of support of this government.  And we always have had deficiencies in public diplomacy.  I would add that as a very important part is the Iraqi people really understand what we in the United States are doing.  Understand, in fact, the progress that Prime Minister Allawi talked about.  It is extensive as you look at the map.  There are these various points where people are being killed everyday, and that is horrible but these are very, very small parts of the picture, and the big picture really never really comes through for us in the American public or for the Iraqis, either one, or the rest of the world.

[1]10:59:16                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Biden, on the campaign trail the other day Senator Kerry was quite tough with the president.  He was citing information that came from Congressman Jack Murtha, senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who says there is, you know, to paraphrase, a secret plan to call up national guard and reserves by this administration after the election.  Do you buy that?

[1]10:59:32                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

When I'm on with Dick Lugar, I try very hard, we both try not to be partisan about this.  Let me say it to you this way.  "The New York Times" front page today talks about the administration plan, I'm speaking from "The Times" now, the administration plan to use major force to go into Fallujah and the Sunni Triangle where ironically Allawi says there's no problem or there's not insurgency in control and go in, quote, "after the election to do that.”  The only explanation I have as to why they haven't spent the money to put the programs in place, to keep down the violence, they have not forced the issue of the UN resolution which they got passed which not a single UN Security Council member has come forward on, the only thing I can figure as to why they're not doing it with a sense of urgency is that they don't want to do it before the election and they want to make it seem like everything is status quo.  So that's why you hear this happy, ridiculous talk from the secretary of defense that we've trained 95,000 Iraqi forces.  They're ready, and they're up, and they're going.  I mean, that's the only thing I can figure.  These are smart men.  These are very, very well informed, why with six weeks left to go are they not doing the stuff the last six weeks now that urgently, urgently, urgently is needed?  My only guess is they figure they're going to settle this thing when the election is over.  By that time, they may inherit the wind.

[1]11:01:05                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Lugar, is it too, is it time now for the United States to go into Fallujah, to go into these other areas of the Sunni Triangle with ground troops?

[1]11:01:13                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

Well, you heard Prime Minister Allawi when you asked him about the same question.  He said he'll be guided by his advisors.  Now, those advisors are going to try to tell Prime Minister Allawi how many Iraqis are prepared to go into Fallujah.  How well trained are they?  I'm confident at that point that the Iraqis have, in fact, a substantial force that the word will come to us that this is the time to go.  I think it might ...

[1]11:01:39                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) But you say they're not close now.

[1]11:01:41                     SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

I don't think they are and I think that therefore there are going to be weeks that will ensue, whether it happens before the election or after, it will have to happen before the elections occur in January.  Fallujah is not in a position to have an election.

[1]11:01:54                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Finally, Senator Biden, I know you don't want to be too partisan here today but I do have to ask you about your own candidate Senator Kerry.  He seems to have so much trouble now making these points about Iraq.  He was on the Don Imus radio program this week with a friendly interviewer, and at the end of the interview Imus said, you know, he's making no sense.  I don't understand what he's saying about Iraq.  Why is he having so much trouble and what should Senator Kerry say?

[1]11:02:14                SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE)

I think Senator Kerry should say, had I been president I would have asked for the same authority I voted to give President Bush.  Number one.  Number two, I could not, I should not be held accountable for the absolute incompetence in the way in which this administration used the authority we gave them.  Number three, if the president does not act quickly doing the following three or four things that I don't have time to speak to right now, we are likely not to be able to succeed and on, you asked me what I would do as president.  You tell me what I'll inherit on January the 20th and I'll tell you what my options are.  All the good options are evaporating because of the incompetence, the misleading and misunderstandings on the part of this administration.

[1]11:02:58                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Senator Biden, Senator Lugar, thank you both very much.

[1]11:03:02                                                       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) I'll be back with George Will and Robin Wright of "The Washington Post."

 

This is a transcript of ABC's "This Week," June 20, 2004, of the interview with Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean.  Transcript is from Transcriptstv.

 

 

 

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH (UNITED STATES)

The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

[1]10:42:36       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) That was President Bush last Thursday responding to the 9/11 commission's staff's conclusion that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda, quote, "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden."

[1]10:42:49       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) And here to confront that apparent contradiction are the two ranking members of the 9/11 commission, Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton.  And, Mr. Keane, it does appear that the commission and the president have reached different conclusions about Iraq and al Qaeda.

[1]10:43:04       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

Well, I don't know how different honestly, because, first of all, this is a staff report, and we will be spelling out in our, in our report when it comes out a lot more about the relationship between, any relationship that existed between Iraq and al Qaeda.  But secondly -our job is 9/11, and what we have concluded, there is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States, in other words, on 9/11.  What we do say, however, is there were contacts between Iraq and -Saddam Hussein.  Iraq, Saddam -excuse me.  Al Qaeda didn't like to get involved with states that -except -unless they were living there.  They got involved with Saddam.  They got involved with, in, where they lived, but otherwise, no, so, but there were contacts.  We don't know what they are.  We don't know how shadowy they are in some cases, but they existed.

[1]10:44:04       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) But the question is, Mr. Hamilton, did those contacts grow into a collaborative relationship?  And the 9/11 staff report does seem very clear.  It says, "No collaborative relationship.”  You told "The New York Times" that means no collaborative relationship, period, at all, not simply connected to the 9/11 attacks.

[1]10:44:20                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We make two points in the staff statements.  Number one, there were contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq going back clear to the early 1990s when Osama bin Laden was in Sudan, then when he was in Afghanistan.  I don't think there's any dispute about that.  The second claim we make in the staff statement is that there was no collaborative relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein with regard to the 9/11 attacks.  Our whole report, as the governor mentioned a moment ago, is on 9/11.  Our mandate does not run to the Iraqi war.  So, far as I know, I've looked at these statements quite carefully from the administration.  They are not claiming there was a collaborative relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda with regard to the attacks on the United States.  Now, all of us understand that when you begin to use words like relationship and ties and connections and contacts, everybody has a little different view of what those words mean.  But if you look at the core statements that we made in the staff statement, I don't think there is a difference of opinion with regard to those statements.  If they, if they, if there is -it has to be spelled out to me.

[1]10:45:44       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Well, let's start to spell it out then, because I want to show you first something that Vice President Cheney said on CNBC the other night.

[1]10:45:51                VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (UNITED STATES)

In the fall of '95 and again in December of '96, bin Laden met with Iraqi Intelligence Service representatives at his farm in Sudan.  Bin Laden asked for -terror training from Iraq.  The Iraqi Intelligence Service responded.  They deployed a bomb-making expert, a brigadier general in the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

[1]10:46:07       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Now that compares to, here is what was in the 9/11 commission report.

[1]10:46:09       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) It said, "A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan and finally met with bin Laden in 1994.  At that time bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded.”  Now, Mr. Kean, that report makes no mention of meetings in 1995 or 1996.

[1]10:46:29       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) In fact, your report says that by May of 1996 Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan.  Your report says that Iraq didn't respond to the overtures.  Vice President Cheney said that they did.  Is the vice president mistaken?  Or does he have information that the commission didn't have?

[1]10:46:45       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We believe in the commission that there were a lot more active contacts frankly with Iran and with Pakistan than they were with Iraq.  Our investigation is continuing.  We're not finished yet.  If the administration has materials that we still need to see -I'm sure we'll see them.  The administration has been cooperative in that regard, but this -our investigation continues.  There's an interim report and as the vice chairman said, up to this point we don't see any serious conflicts between what we're saying and what the administration ...

[1]10:47:14       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But, but excuse me there for a second, though.

[1]10:47:16       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Is it fair to conclude that if you knew that Osama bin Laden met with representatives of the Iraqi government in 1995, in 1996, you would have put that in the report?  You didn't put that in the report.  If you thought that Iraq responded you would have put that in the report, correct?

[1]10:47:31                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We did put in ...

[1]10:47:32       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We may put it in the report, yeah.  Go ahead.

[1]10:47:33                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We, in the, in the, excuse me, Tom ...

[1]10:47:37       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

No, you go ahead.

[1]10:47:38                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

In the report, we do mention these visits.  Now, there is a difference, George, between our report and the vice president.  The vice president, I believe, said that there was a response by Iraq to some of Osama bin Laden's requests.  We found no evidence of that response and so we asked the vice president if he had information we did not have.  One of the very good things about this commission is that we're open to evidence, and we've said that all along.  We just have no evidence at this point that there was a response from the Iraqi government.  This was a very difficult, complex relationship.  At one point Osama bin Laden was actually supporting anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraq.  And then it evolved in a different direction, so it's not easy to sort out.

[1]10:48:35       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) When the vice president was on the interview he was asked if he had information that the commission didn't have, and his response was, quote, "probably."

[1]10:48:41       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Would you therefore like to reinterview him?  It's been reported that you're gonna reinterview Mr. Tenet and Condoleezza Rice.  Would you like to reinterview the vice president?

[1]10:48:51       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

I don't know if we'll need to interview him, but, obviously, if there is any information still that has to do with the subject of the report we need it and we need it pretty fast.  But we'll ask for it and see, and if the administration has information that we don't have, then hopefully we'll have it very soon.

[1]10:49:09       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Let me show you something else that the president said on February 8th, 2003.

[1]10:49:15  PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH (UNITED STATES)

Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training, and an al Qaeda operative was sent to Iraq several times in the late 1990s for help in acquiring poisons and gases.

[1]10:49:28       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Mr. Hamilton, could the commission corroborate that charge?

[1]10:49:31                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

No, we cannot.  I know there was a request by Osama bin Laden for training.  I'm not sure about the poisonous gases.  And our information at this point in time is that Iraq did not respond.  So, there may be a difference at that point.  There is not a difference with regard to our fundamental core statement about no contacts and no collaborative, cooperative relationship with regard to the attacks on the United States.

[1]10:50:04       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) You're really limiting it now to, with regard to, the attacks of the United States, which does seem to be a slight change from before.

[1]10:50:09       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) And both of you have emphasized this is a staff report.  Mr. Kean, let me begin with you.  Do you expect now to revise the report and to lose that sentence that says there does not appear to have been a collaborative relationship or least a change in?

[1]10:50:23       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

This is not the report.  These staff reports have come along every now and then in, in connection with our public hearings.  These staff reports are interim documents.  The commission, for instance, does not get involved the members in the staff reports.  When we do the report itself, that will be a product of the entire commission, the staff reports will inform them.  There will be new information that we'll get before the report comes out which will be entered into the report and it'll be a fact-based finding.  Based exactly what happened on 9/11 and all the threads that went into it.  One of the threads is, obviously, the formation of al Qaeda, how it exceeded, what states helped them, where they lived, all of that.  So, that'll be in the final report.

[1]10:51:05       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) One more apparent contradiction between the vice president and the commission is over this allegation that Mohammad Atta, one of the ringleaders, the ringleader of the September 11th attacks, met in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in April 2001, April 9th, 2001, with an Iraqi intelligence agent and Vice President Cheney is not yet convinced that it didn't happen.  Here's what he said.

[1]10:51:27                VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (UNITED STATES)

One thing we had is the -Czech Intelligence Service report saying that Mohammad Atta had met with senior Iraqi intelligence official at the embassy on April 9th, 2001.  That's never been proven.  It's never been refuted.

[1]10:51:44       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) But Mr. Hamilton, the commission does not believe, you're, you're smiling there, that that meeting happened.

[1]10:51:48                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

We do not have evidence that the meeting happened.  We have a picture of Mohammad Atta just a few days before that meeting is supposed to have taken place taken in Northern Virginia, I believe.  We have his cell phone records during the time of that meeting.  Those calls were placed in the United States.  That is not conclusive proof that he was not in Prague.  What we said is that we do not think he was in Prague on the basis of the evidence that we had.  And here, again, we're open to evidence on it.  But the vice president’s statement, which you had just a moment ago, itself, he said the proof was not clear one way or the other.  And there has been confusion, I think, or a difference of opinion within the Prague government as well.  This, this meeting simply is not proven one way or the other.

[1]10:52:45       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Let me pick up on that, Mr. Kean.  Because "Newsweek" magazine reports this morning that Czech and US investigators have corroborated evidence that shows the Iraqi spy was actually not in Prague that day.  Have you seen that evidence?

[1]10:52:57       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

No, I haven't seen that evidence.  The vice chairman has told you that the evidence we have -that we have as this moment, that's the evidence that our interim staff report was based on.  And if there's new evidence pointing one way or the other, obviously we'll get it and we'll incorporate it into the final report.

[1]10:53:16       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Finally, sir, you mentioned earlier that you were more concerned about al Qaeda's contacts with Iran and Pakistan.  And this morning's "Los Angeles Times" reports that your commission believes that the Taliban and Osama bin Laden received significant help from both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Quotes one of your staff saying that, "Pakistanis were up to their eyeballs with the Taliban and al Qaeda," and describes an overture that Saudi officials made to Osama bin Laden in 1996.

[1]10:53:41       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) It says, "A formal delegation of Saudi officials met with top Taliban leaders and asked that a message be conveyed to "their guest," bin Laden.  "They said, 'Don't attack us.  Make sure he's not a problem for us and recognition will follow.' And that's just what they did," according to the senior commission staff member.  Do you believe that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia cut some sort of protection deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda?

[1]10:54:05       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

Well, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Osama bin Laden changed materially.  They came to realize over the years, particularly after he got to Afghanistan, that he was a danger not only to people in the United States but to Saudi Arabia itself.  And that relationship evolved where they actually went after him toward the end of this period.

[1]10:54:25       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But you're saying that at first they weren't.

[1]10:54:27       THOMAS KEAN (CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION)

At first they weren't.  And, and, and Pakistan, there's no question, the intelligence services in Pakistan were very much for the Taliban and worked with the Taliban very, very strongly because they thought that was a help to them in their war with India and then their problems with Iran.  And al Qaeda became part of that relationship, in fact, the major part until it, until, really, it became indistinguishable.  The Taliban and al Qaeda became almost the same organization, and al Qaeda being the military arm in some ways of the Taliban.

[1]10:54:56       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Finally, Mr. Hamilton, did Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have a deeper relationship, a, quote, "more collaborative" relationship with al Qaeda than Iraq did?

[1]10:55:05                 LEE HAMILTON (VICE CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION)

I think comparisons are very difficult here.  With regard to Saudi Arabia, that is, and their ties to Osama bin Laden, we've looked at that very closely.  We're still having some ongoing evidence presented to us about it.  At this point, we believe that the Saudi government did not support Osama bin Laden.  There isn't any doubt that Saudi money from individuals, from charities, went to al Qaeda, to Osama bin Laden.  But we found no evidence that the government itself, that the Royal Family was involved in support for Osama bin Laden.  We've been challenged on that as recently as yesterday, as far as I'm concerned, and our posture is the same as it's always been.  Look, we'll, we'll listen to your evidence, and we want your evidence, and we get a lot of conflicting evidence.  And in the end we'll call it like we see it.

[1]10:56:06       GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS)

(VO) And, Mr. Hamilton, we'll be watching for your conclusions.  Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Kean, thank you very much.

Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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