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Interview With Joe Lockhart; Disagreement on Iraq; Scott Peterson Trial

Aired September 21, 2004 - 8:59   ET


KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: We begin at the U.N., where Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sending a message of peace around the world.
Within the half-hour, Annan rang the 50-year-old peace bell outside the United Nations headquarters in New York. The bell was presented to the U.N. by Japan. It is made from coins collected by children in 60 countries.

The family of an American being held in Iraq is making a desperate appeal for his release. Patty Hensley says she wants to open communication with the group holding her husband, Jack.


PATTY HENSLEY, WIFE OF AMERICAN HOSTAGE, JACK HENSLEY: These gentlemen were there to help the Iraqi people. They were not part of any security or military-type operation. They truly enjoyed their work with the Iraqi people.


WALLACE: The plea follows the apparent killing of another American hostage. Captors are giving the U.S. 24 hours to release all female prisoners or risk more lives.

Florida Congressman Porter Goss, the nominee to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, says some prewar statements by senior Bush administration officials may have been overstated. Goss, who headed the House Intelligence Committee, also says he doesn't believe anyone in the administration had, "deliberately mischaracterized or misused intelligence preceding the war on Iraq."

And the trial phase of a record $280 billion civil racketeering suit against the tobacco industry gets under way shortly. The government says the tobacco industry conspired to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine. The suit also claims cigarette companies illegally targeted children through marketing campaigns.

That's a quick look at the headlines. Now back to Bill and Heidi.

HEMMER: All right. Kelly, thanks for that.

Back to our top story this hour. After days of questioning and controversy, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and the CBS network now admit they made a mistake by using questionable documents for a report about President Bush's service in the National Guard.


DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.


HEMMER: That from last evening. Despite the apology, the White House not letting go at this point.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: One thing that is not in question is the timing of these recent attacks on the president. It is clear that there's been an orchestrated effort by Democrats in the Kerry campaign to try to tear down the president and use old recycled attacks. And that's what this is. It's just an old, recycled attack.


HEMMER: And now this morning the waters get a bit muddier when CBS now admits to helping the anti-Bush source of the disputed documents get in touch with Joe Lockhart. Lockhart recently hired by the Kerry campaign as an adviser. Joe lockhart is my guest this morning in Washington.

Joe, good morning to you.


HEMMER: It's my understanding you talked to Bill Burkett just days before the CBS story aired. What was the content of your discussion, Joe?

LOCKHART: Well, the content of the discussion was he had some strong feelings about the way the Kerry campaign had responded to the Swift Boat attack, the -- Senator Kerry's record in Vietnam and, you know, the smear campaign that was going on against him. He believed that we should have responded more forcefully. You know, I listened respectfully, I told him I thought it was good advice, and that was the end of the conversation.

HEMMER: How long did that last, Joe?

LOCKHART: Probably three or four minutes.

HEMMER: And what details of the National Guard story came out during that three to four-minute discussion?

LOCKHART: Not a single detail. There was never any discussion. He didn't tell me anything. I didn't ask him anything.

He wanted to give us some advice. We get advice from a lot of quarters.

You know, the interesting thing is, you know, you can always tell when people are worried by how whipped up they get. And the White House is real whipped up on this, and they're making -- throwing a bunch of charges up there that are, you know, pretty meaningless and without foundation.

HEMMER: Let me get to the whole White House claim for a second here.


HEMMER: Did CBS work together with the Kerry campaign on this story?

LOCKHART: No. Listen, CBS did their story. I think they've been very open about answering the questions.

They called me and said this guy wants to talk to you. I was happy to talk to him. It's sort of the beginning and end of the story.

HEMMER: Hey, Joe, how common is that?

LOCKHART: Listen, Bill, you're a journalist. I think you probably know the answer to that. I'll let journalists talk about how common it is.

HEMMER: But when the suggestion for a source comes your way, I mean, here we are 42 days away from a presidential campaign, many would think that's probably not that usual after all. How would you phrase it?

LOCKHART: I wouldn't. I think that's a question for journalists.

You're one. You can answer it. You know more -- more about how common that is than I do.

HEMMER: What did Mary Mapes tell you, the producer for Dan Rather, when she called you?

LOCKHART: She told me that there was a gentleman who had been helpful on a story that she was working on about the National Guard who wanted to talk to the campaign. He specifically asked to talk to me. And she gave me his phone number.

HEMMER: And what did you hope to learn from him then, Joe?

LOCKHART: I didn't have an expectation. You know, I talked to a lot of people. I got some advice. We get a lot of advice.

Listen, you know, this isn't about this phone call. This is about a White House that's desperately spinning.

You know, I looked this morning at the White House Web page and found out that Scott McClellan, the man who says we ought to have answers to these questions, has held two White House briefings in the last two months. Now, that is a White House that doesn't want to answer questions.

I used to -- you know, listen, I went through some pretty tough times as the White House press secretary, and I got myself during impeachment, during scandal, and I stood up there every day and answered the questions because I think the public has a right to know what's going on with the president, what's going on around the world. This White House has had two White House briefings in the last two months.

You know, it's a government job, but it pays pretty well. You know, that's a lot of money for one briefing a month.

HEMMER: I know at the outset of your answer there you said this discussion has nothing to do with -- does it really rely so much on a conversation you had on Saturday night? It was the 8th of September, was it, if memory serves?

LOCKHART: It was the Saturday -- that sounds right.

HEMMER: So it was the Saturday before, and the story aired on the following Wednesday, which is four days later. But the issue is, regarding this phone call, whether or not there was collaboration ultimately between the campaign and the network. What can you say about those who raised that possibility today?

LOCKHART: I can say two things. One, is the campaign had nothing to do with these documents, nothing to do with this story. And two, you have to question the motives of those people who are raising these questions.

The White House is raising questions about this because they don't want to answer questions. I mean, the guy has held two briefings in two months. These guys don't want to answer questions about the National Guard story.

They even don't want to answer questions about what's going on in Iraq, what's going on in the economy. And I think it's time for them to step up and stop posing questions and start answering them, because that's what -- that's what the public wants.

HEMMER: I apologize for interjecting again. But you knew Bill Burkett has a long history of a fight with the National Guard. And also for several years he's had his own fight with George Bush.

LOCKHART: Bill, what do you base that on?

HEMMER: The reports that we're getting. It's just that I interviewed him -- I interviewed him six months ago and he told...

LOCKHART: Bill, you just said what I knew. How do you know that?

HEMMER: I know it because I talked to him six months ago, in fact, on this program. And he raised the issue...

LOCKHART: No, no, no, Bill.

HEMMER: He raised the issue. Let's be clear.

LOCKHART: Let's be clear.

HEMMER: Some very important stuff here. He raised the issue that some files were seen by him and others in a garbage can 30 years ago about George Bush's National Guard service.


HEMMER: And now -- and to you, you say what?

LOCKHART: I say, Bill, how do you know what I knew? You're basing this on what maybe some other people were telling you. I didn't know who the guy was. I talked to him on the phone for three or four minutes. That's the beginning and the end of the story.

HEMMER: So let's be clear. You did not know about the history about Bill Burkett before you talked to him Saturday night?

LOCKHART: I did not. I did not.

HEMMER: What has Senator Kerry said about all this, Joe?

LOCKHART: He hasn't said -- he hasn't said anything. He's focused on the issues that, you know, Americans are worried about. Not what the news media in Washington is worried about.

HEMMER: So you have not talked to him about this matter?

LOCKHART: I have not. I have not.

HEMMER: Do you plan on it?

LOCKHART: No, I don't -- you know, I talk to him all the time. But I don't have any intention of using a lot of the valuable time we have left in this campaign to talk about this.

HEMMER: Valuable time, indeed. In fact, six weeks from today, 42 days and counting. Is this the distraction again for the Kerry campaign?

LOCKHART: No, I don't think so. Listen, you all will have to decide what's news here.

The quagmire that this president has created in Iraq, a miserable economy, the worst in 72 years, and a White House that won't answer questions. I mean, the fact that we've gone two months with two White House briefings should say everything to the American public.

And if you think this is the news, that's fine. Well, you know, you go ahead and cover that. But I've been open. You know, I talked to reporters yesterday. I talked to them, you know, well into the night about the details of this phone call. And, you know, I'll be happy to talk.

You know, I'll be glad to give up this chair to Mr. Bartlett or Mr. McClellan to start answering some questions for a change.

HEMMER: Joe Lockhart, Kerry adviser down in D.C. Thanks for coming on and talking with us today, Joe.

LOCKHART: Thanks, Bill.

HEMMER: We'll speak again. All right -- Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush will address the United Nations general assembly about 90 minutes from now in an attempt to reassure world leaders about the United States' plan for Iraq.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry is leveling his toughest words to date against the president for invading Iraq. National correspondent Bob Franken live in Jacksonville, Florida, now, with more.

Good morning, Bob.


And when he comes here, he's going to be issuing some tough rhetoric about health care. But he's in New York right now making the rounds, sort of alternating between fiery rhetoric and some jokes.


FRANKEN (voice-over): Campaign humor in this kind of campaign is an oxymoron. Witness the sharp edges as John Kerry on the David Letterman show presented his top 10 Bush tax proposals.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cheney can claim Bush as a dependent.

FRANKEN: That was the fun part of the day. Earlier, there was nothing below the surface as Kerry ripped into his opponent over Iraq like never before.

KERRY: The president has made a series of catastrophic decisions. From the beginning in Iraq, every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and he has led us in the wrong direction. The first...


KERRY: ... the first and most fundamental mistake was the president's failure to tell the truth to the American people.

FRANKEN: As President Bush prepared to speak before the U.N. General Assembly, Kerry demanded he convene an immediate summit to try and repair international relations over Iraq. The president did not wait to come to New York to charge that Kerry was changing his mind again.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, my opponent continued his pattern of twisting in the wind with new contradictions of his old positions on Iraq.


FRANKEN: That's the flip-flop charge. It's one that's consistently put Kerry on the defensive, Heidi. Now the campaign, the Democrats say it's time to play offense -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. Bob Franken, thanks so much for that in Jacksonville, Florida, this morning.

And President Bush and John Kerry have signed off on details of their debates. There will be three debates beginning next Thursday at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.

Then Friday, October 8, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. And then Wednesday, October 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

The debates will last 90 minutes, during which there will be at least 16 questions. The candidates will have two minutes to respond to the questions. Among the more bizarre rules in the 32-page agreement, candidates may not be shown from behind or reacting to the other's answers.

And after an opening handshake, the candidates may not approach each other. They can't ask each other direct questions, only rhetorical ones. And neither George Bush nor John Kerry can use any device that makes them look taller. Always an old trick there.

HEMMER: No risers allowed. No props, no notes, no charts, no diagrams. And only rhetorical questions.

COLLINS: That's definitely...


HEMMER: You might be right about that.

A check of the weather again, and down to Chad Myers again at the CNN Center.

Hey, Chad, good morning.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: But they can wear pumps. So, you know -- so -- good morning, Bill.


HEMMER: September, Chad.

MYERS: Yes. It was awesome.

COLLINS: Love that. Chad, thanks.

HEMMER: Sure do. Thank you.

In a moment here, millions of diabetics may be at risk for heart disease because they are not being tested properly. Sanjay's back, talks about that.

COLLINS: Also, Zell Miller wasn't the only Democrat boosting President Bush at the RNC. We'll find out what Ed Koch says about Democrats who might say he's a traitor to the party.

HEMMER: Also, alternate theories in the Scott Peterson trial. Testimony that police once considered Laci's brother as a suspect.

Still to come this hour on AMERICAN MORNING.


COLLINS: And we're going to get to the Scott Peterson case now. The prosecution in that double murder trial is expected to finish its case sometime next week. Meanwhile, the lead police detective testified yesterday that Peterson had his own ideas about his wife's disappearance.

Dean Johnson, former San Mateo County prosecutor, was in the courtroom. He is with us this morning from Redwood City, California.

Dean, good morning to you. Thanks for being here, as always.


COLLINS: You know, the lead detective with the Modesto Police Department, this Craig Grogan, actually testified that Scott Peterson told him that Laci had been wearing her grandmother's jewelry, went to the park, was robbed by a transient. How effective will this type of testimony be?

JOHNSON: Well, I think it's very important testimony, because Scott Peterson is trying, it seems, is trying to throw the police off the scent, even from the beginning. It was pretty clear that Laci did not wear her grandmother's jewelry. Her favorite piece of jewelry was, in fact, found on the dresser in her bedroom.

And that was all part of the prosecution's theme, suggesting that the defense theory that the Modesto Police and Detective Grogan rushed to judgment simply wasn't correct. Because every time they tried to eliminate Scott Peterson as a suspect, he told them something that they knew wasn't true. So every time they turned over a new piece of evidence, everything pointed to Scott.

COLLINS: Well, so then do you think Grogan's testimony actually helped or hurt the defense strategy?

JOHNSON: Oh, I think it hurts the defense strategy. For the last two weeks, the prosecution's approach has been to eliminate every trial balloon, every red herring that the defense has floated out there. And, of course, the principal one has been the so-called rush to judgment.

It's clear from Detective Grogan's testimony that this was anything but a rush to judgment. That so many suspects were considered, every suspect was considered, including the entire Rocha family. But they were all eliminated. All except Scott.

COLLINS: And also, you know, in more testimony talking about Grogan, his conversations with Scott Peterson, he said, well, you know, he lied to me about a lot of different things, first and foremost the conversations with Amber Frey. Why do you think these are especially significant?

JOHNSON: Well, because it shows that Scott Peterson was...

COLLINS: Pardon me Dean. Pardon the interruption just real quick.

We're getting some live pictures coming to us right now. I want to take you directly outside the United Nations building right here in New York.

We are seeing Secretary-General Kofi Annan greeting President Bush there, you see to the right of him. Again, live pictures today. President Bush will be addressing the U.N. General Assembly a little bit later on.

There's Laura Bush there. Once again, we just saw the hand shake between the president and Kofi Annan, secretary-general.

We'll get you back to that story as soon as it develops. Hopefully around, as we said, 10:30 this morning.

Want to go back quickly now to Dean Johnson on the Scott Peterson trial.

I'm so sorry for the interruption. Go ahead, if you remember the question, about why some of these lies between Scott Peterson and his detective were especially significant to the case.

JOHNSON: Well, you know, Scott Peterson was putting up an elaborate facade, saying that the only thing that was important was finding Laci Peterson. Detective Grogan virtually begged him to help, particularly when Detective Grogan found out about Amber Frey, that Scott Peterson was having an affair.

He found a picture of Scott and Amber together, and said, look, tell us if you're having an affair, this may lead to something. And Scott Peterson looks at the picture, which is shoved under his nose, not only does he deny recognizing his mistress, Amber Frey, he even denies that it's him in the picture. And that suggests that Scott Peterson had some motives other than helping to find Laci.

COLLINS: OK, Dean. The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case by the end of next week. Can you characterize for us quickly what strategies you think so far have actually worked?

JOHNSON: I think the prosecution has done two things very well. First of all, they have characterized Scott Peterson as a liar, as a fraud, as a cad. The jury does not like Scott Peterson.

And the second thing they've done is they've shown systematically that all of these red herrings that the defense has floated are misleading. That when you look at the facts, they're simply not true.

And I think the prosecution ultimately is going to say, ladies and gentlemen, we've eliminated all of the other possibilities, even those outlandish possibilities raised by the defense. That leaves only one explanation for how Laci and Conner Peterson were murdered.

COLLINS: Former San Mateo County prosecutor, Dean Johnson, from Redwood City, California, this morning.

Dean, thanks so much. And thanks for your patience, too.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Heidi.

HEMMER: We're about an hour away from President Bush's address before the U.N. General Assembly here in New York. We will not leave that story this hour certainly.

Also this hour, CBS and Dan Rather apologizing for the Bush document scandal. But questions still remain on the president's Guard service. We'll have a look at that.

Back after this with Jack in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: Quickly back to the U.N. again. President Bush arriving there a short time ago. We're about an hour away on the clock from his address before the U.N. General Assembly.

A 35-minute address, talking about Iraq, and also much bigger issues, as well, facing the world today. And will say in part, "Never in the history of the United Nations have we faced so many opportunities to create a safer world by building a better world."

Part of the theme we will all hear in about an hour. We'll get you there live when it happens.

In the meantime, back to Jack and the "Question of the Day."

Good morning.


Despite the documents being phony, we're still talking about the questions that were raised in that infamous "60 Minutes" piece about President Bush's military service. For example, why didn't he show up for that much publicized flight physical? Why are there gaps in his service record in which nobody seems to be able to account for his whereabouts? And did anyone use influence in order to get him into the National Guard in the first place?

The "Question of the Day" is, what questions should the president answer about his National Guard service?

Jan in Madison, Wisconsin, "President Bush has more important questions to answer than his National Guard history. He should tell us why we really went to Iraq, or how about where is bin Laden?"

Rick in Ithaca, New York, "The questions Bush needs to answer are very simple. Please, Mr. Bush, describe for me in commonsense terms where you were, what you did, and who you served with. Also, please explain why the gap in the paper records coincides with the gap in everyone's memory."

Art in Hamilton, New York, "Bush should answer the question: Dude, where did you find such killer weed?"

Maybe Art knows something the rest of us don't know about that era.

And a viewer who didn't want his name mentioned on the subject of health insurance, "There's an easy answer to this dilemma. I'm looking into it for my 20-year-old daughter. She needs to go to Mexico, then sneak back across the border into Arizona, get caught, and be declared an illegal alien. Then she'll be eligible for free health care, free college education, and she'll only have to work six quarters not 40 in order to qualify for Social Security benefits."

And that ain't funny. That's sad. But it's true.

HEMMER: Your question, though, is very poignant, too, on a day like today, where -- I mean, the message has been distracted based on what happened with the National Guard story on CBS.

CAFFERTY: I'm not sure anybody cares. Maybe they do. You know, it seems to me, with how many days before the election?

HEMMER: Forty-two.

CAFFERTY: I mean, aren't there things like this health insurance? Shouldn't we be talking about that?

HEMMER: That's the question. Is this election going to be decided on what happened 30 years ago, be it President Bush or Senator Kerry or what's happening today?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. I just want it to be over.

COLLINS: There sure has been a lot of talk on both sides about what happened 30 years ago, though.

CAFFERTY: I just want it over, yes.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

A break here. Kelly Wallace back with our weeklong series, "Promises, Promises," in a moment.


WALLACE (voice-over): The war in Iraq, one candidate launched it, the other voted for it, and both promised to bring home the troops. But when? We cut to the truth in part two of our weeklong series, "Promises, Promises."

Stay with us.



HEMMER: There's the opening bell on Wall Street. A lot of eyes on the Fed, meeting later today. A lot of analysts say they will raise that key interest rate about a quarter point.

The question is, what will be in the language from Alan Greenspan and others down in Washington? We'll watch it.


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