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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Interview with Andrea Mackris; Intelligence Community Upset Over Current Administration Course

Aired October 15, 2004 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


AARON BROWN, HOST: Good evening again.
The last thing I imagined writing about tonight -- or any night, for that matter -- was Bill O'Reilly and his employer, the Fox News Channel. Then, while going through the papers today, I read page three of "The New York Post." "The Post" is owned by the parent company that also owns Mr. O'Reilly's employer.

Quoting a restaurant chef, the headline reads, "Lunatic O'Reilly Gal Went Nuts in Bar."

So here we are, 2 days into the O'Reilly sex harassment and extortion cases, and the trashing of his accuser is on. She's a lunatic. Fair game, I guess.

By threatening to sue and then by suing, she has put herself out there to be eaten alive. Whatever the truth is, and that's not for reporters to say but for courts, she will be battered, bullied, probably humiliated, and worse.

And while he too is surely going to be embarrassed by all that is to come, my guess is she will get the worst of it. It often works that way and is already working that way on this one.

She and her lawyer will join us later in the hour.

The whip, on the other hand, begins with politics and a pretty good get, as we say around here, for CNN's Candy Crowley.

So Candy, a headline from you tonight.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, a question. What do Mary Cheney and Ralph Nader have in common? Answer, John Kerry wants them both to go away.

BROWN: Candy, thank you.

Washington next, and the state of relations between the White House and the eyes and ears of the White House and the country. CNN's David Ensor on that. So David, a headline from you tonight.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the CIA and U.S. intelligence officials are fundamentally loyal servants of the president. But in the last few months of blame for intelligence failures in Iraq, plus talk of reorganizing intelligence, maybe even chopping up the CIA, has some officials pretty unhappy, in part with the White House. Some are speaking of a poisonous atmosphere, Aaron.

BROWN: David, thank you.

Also tonight, we'll go to Iraq. Reported fighting, and also Jane Arraf reports tonight the extraordinary story of some heroes of 9/11, now over there.

That and more coming up.

And here is some of the more, a story that involves American soldiers refusing to do their duty, those soldiers calling that duty a suicide mission.

And as I mentioned, we'll talk to the woman accusing Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment. Many of you might have heard her story elsewhere. Tonight, you'll get it from her.

Plus later, bat boy catches ride with the rooster. After a long absence, the tabloids make an appearance tonight, perhaps in more ways than one. It is, after all, Friday.

All that and more in the hour ahead.

We begin tonight, and fully expect to for a while, with politics. While each side is doing what it can to gain even the slightest edge, there are, we've been told, a few experts who still maintain that come election day, it will not be that close, that one of these days, a tipping point will be reached. We'll believe that when we see it. By the looks of it, the candidates don't.

We have two reports tonight from here on out. First, Candy Crowley, who spoke at length today with Senator Kerry.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: He has it down pat now, the words and thoughts perfected over a two-year campaign and three thought-focusing debates. But with 18 days to go, John Kerry is mostly about being careful.

(on camera): Did George Bush deliberately distort intelligence information because he wants to go to war in Iraq?

SEN. JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Candy, I can't tell you that. I'm not -- I can't get into the intent.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Campaigning through Milwaukee, Kerry sat down for an interview with CNN following his standard economics speech, blasting George Bush for the deficit, the high cost of healthcare, and job loss.

(on camera): Middle-aged guy, lives in Wisconsin, he doesn't have a job. John Kerry becomes president in January. His life changes February, March, April?

KERRY: Well, his life will change very quickly, providing Congress responds. CROWLEY (voice-over): Make that, very, very careful. And after taunting George Bush for being unable to admit a single mistake, Kerry was ready with one of his own. He overpromised, he said, but he blames George Bush.

KERRY: Gosh. I think I made a mistake in terms of the breadth of some of the programs that I talked about in the primaries, because the deficit was larger than we anticipated, and we obviously couldn't afford it. So I've scaled them back since then.

CROWLEY (on camera): You never once said to yourself, I wish I hadn't voted for that war resolution?

KERRY: No, I -- it wasn't -- because, you see, what we did, we gave the president the authority to load the gun, to hold the trigger, so to speak. We didn't tell to him shoot himself in the foot.

CROWLEY (voice-over): From inside the campaign, the view is good. They like the looks of his trend line. What they need now is 18 mistake-free days, 18 days without distraction. Which brings us to the subject of Mary Cheney.

(on camera): Do you understand why the Cheneys are upset that this feels like an invasion of their privacy?

KERRY: They have talked about it themselves publicly.

CROWLEY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it's their daughter.

KERRY: I think the point I was trying to make -- I've said, really, Candy, I've said everything that needs to be said yesterday about it. It was meant entirely constructively.

CROWLEY: In what way? How was it constructive?

KERRY: It's respectful of who she is. And they've embraced her, and they love her. And I think -- I have great respect for them for that. And, I mean, it seems to me that, you know, that's the point I was making.

CROWLEY (voice-over): What is more clear, perhaps, is that Kerry's Mary Cheney remark has become a distraction he needs to put behind him. A more serious political problem is standing in front of him, Ralph Nader.

KERRY: If people want a change, and they want responsibility for the middle class in America, don't throw away your vote. There's only one choice here. Either George Bush is going to be president, or John Kerry. And that's the vote.

CROWLEY: Nader is on the ballot in 30 states, nine of them battlegrounds.

(on camera): Though many Democrats have worried for some time about Nader's ability to play the spoiler again in 2004, Kerry seems unfazed, saying he believes the American people understand the stakes. Candy Crowley, CNN, Milwaukee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Now, the president, who, like Senator Kerry, finds himself campaigning hard in states once thought to be solid, and, like Mr. Kerry, the president continues to hammer away at themes from the debate the other night.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the post-debate world of sifting through what worked and what did not, the president's team put attacking John Kerry's health plan in the it- worked column. So he stepped it up in Cedar Rapids.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Studies conducted by people who understand small businesses concluded that his plan is an overpriced albatross. I have a different view. We'll work to make sure health care is available and affordable.

KERRY: God bless you all!

BASH: Bush aides know Kerry's constant reminders that millions lost health insurance or saw premiums skyrocket on the president's watch resonates with voters, but they say internal research shows labeling Kerry's health plan too costly strikes a nerve with swing voters.

The president later in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

BUSH: My opponent takes the side of more centralized government. There's a word for that attitude. It's called liberalism.

BASH: Plus, attacking the senator's plan, as one top aide said, is the perfect way to put some meat on the John Kerry is a liberal bone, a bone the president is throwing to his GOP base these final days to make sure they vote.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Let's face it. What the Bush campaign is trying do right now is to get as many voters up and out of their chairs and offices into the poll on election day as they can.

BASH: Two thousand election results in Iowa and Wisconsin, the two states on this leg of the final sprint, show how critical that is. The president lost both by the narrowest of margins. The difference in Iowa, 0.3 percent, a mere 4,144 votes. In Wisconsin, 0.2 percent, just 5,708 votes.

(on camera): Right now, Iowa is still a dead heat. But polls show here in Wisconsin the president is losing some ground to John Kerry since the debates. So the question now here and in other traditionally Democratic states where Mr. Bush has invested extensive time and money is whether or not it's still worth it. Dana Bash, CNN, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: On to Iraq now, and a first of sorts, the first report, the first, at least, that we know about, of soldiers refusing to follow orders in a combat zone.

This was not a mutiny, said one commander today, but it is being taken very seriously. There are questions about whether there was a breakdown in discipline, to say the least, but also whether a platoon was ordered to embark on a mission without adequate protection.

From the Pentagon tonight, CNN's Barbara Starr.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one of the most dangerous missions in Iraq, driving a convoy. This past Wednesday in Tallil, southeast of Baghdad, 19 soldiers from a supply platoon failed to report for a mission to drive a fuel truck north to Taji.

It is now believed five of the soldiers may actually have refused their orders.

Specialist Amber McClenny left this frantic message on her mother's answering machine.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SPEC. AMBER MCCLENNY, U.S. ARMY: Hi, Mom, this is Amber. This is a real, real big emergency. I need you to contact someone. I mean, raise pure hell. We -- yesterday we refused to go to on a convoy to Taji, which is above Baghdad...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

STARR: The Army is emphasizing this is an isolated incident, saying, "It is far too early in the investigation to speculate as to what happened, why it happened, or any action that might be taken."

Patricia Ann McCook says the troops were worried about safety, including her husband, Sergeant Larry McCook.

PATRICIA ANN MCCOOK, WIFE OF SGT. LARRY MCCOOK: They don't have bulletproof protection on the vehicles. They just don't go fast at all. It's just not safe to be in a hostile territory.

STARR: Three probes are under way into the actions of the soldiers from the 343rd Quartermaster Company, a reserve unit from South Carolina. Investigators are talking to all of those involved, trying to find out what happened and why.

Another inquiry is determining whether there were violations of the uniform code of military justice. And the commanding officer has ordered a safety-maintenance stand-down, during which all vehicles will be inspected and retraining will be done.

Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson says relatives of the soldiers told him the unit had unsafe equipment.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: And it goes to the issue of whether or not we have adequately equipped our men and women to fight this war in Iraq.

STARR: According to a military source, some of the soldiers raised valid concerns, an indication there may have been safety problems with the equipment. But the source said the concerns were raised in an inappropriate manner, causing a breakdown in discipline.

(on camera): The convoy was eventually driven by other soldiers.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And if anyone doubts the danger in a broader sense, look no farther than Iraq today. Almost a year to the day since Defense Secretary Rumsfeld conceded it would be a "tough, long slog," his words. So much has happened since then, so little of it easy to report. And the same held true today. Americans doing battle in the Sunni triangle, ordinary Iraqis enduring another terrorist massacre.

From Baghdad tonight, CNN's Brent Sadler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A strong military push on Fallujah, aimed at breaking the hold of insurgents in the rebel stronghold, U.S. and Iraqi ground troops encircling the city on the back of an intense assault by American artillery and war planes.

Still, a powerful car bomb aimed at Iraqi police detonated in southern Baghdad on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, killing at least 10 Iraqi civilians.

It is in an attempt to stop such carnage that stepped-up military action on Fallujah has begun. It's not, say U.S. military officials, the start of a much-anticipated full-scale air and ground assault, but it could be the shape of things to come, given blunt warnings from the interim government here that multinational forces are poised to smash Fallujah's deeply entrenched and well-armed insurgents.

It follows weeks of sustained American air strikes, targeting the network of top terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and failure by Fallujah's leaders to cut their ties with Zarqawi and his allies.

(on camera): Not since April have U.S. forces moved into Fallujah, when a Marines-led offensive was called off and a tenuous ceasefire installed that later broke down, allowing nationalist insurgents backed by foreign fighters to gain control.

(voice-over): In Baghdad, investigators now say the bomb attacks on the city's top security green zone that preceded the Fallujah assault were carried out by suicide bombers, according to the U.S. military. Four Americans were killed, and 27 other people wounded.

The green zone has been repeatedly hit by rocket and mortar fire in recent months. But the suicide attacks break new ground, underscoring the vulnerability of even the most heavily protected places in Iraq.

Brent Sadler, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well, you heard it from Senator Kerry a few moments ago, a variation on a theme he's been echoing now for weeks, the notion that one way or another, the administration went into Iraq blind to the consequences. It's a message aimed at voters, by and large, but is being felt especially keenly among members of a not-so-small community along the Potomac.

Here's our national security correspondent, David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While President Bush campaigns around the country, he leaves a U.S. intelligence community back in Washington where many are frustrated, even angry.

REUEL GERECHT, FORMER CIA OFFICER: They are in pain, and I imagine they will remain in pain as long as there is serious discussion on Capitol Hill and in the White House about reorganizing the institution.

ENSOR: They are also upset by all the charges of intelligence failures. But the frustration may cut both ways. For over a month now, President Bush has had to dodge intelligence curveballs.

KENNETH POLLACK, FORMER CIA ANALYST: In the midst of a very tight presidential election, I think the Bush administration is probably very unhappy with the leaks that are coming out of the intelligence community.

ENSOR: First, the leak of a CIA estimate about Iraq, with three scenarios for the future, all of them gloomy. Next, word of a prewar CIA warning to the president that Ba'athists, terrorists, and nationalists would join forces against the Americans, which is exactly what they've done.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This report is one I asked for.

ENSOR: The next leak put Vice President Cheney on the defensive, about a CIA report that he'd requested, warning that there was no proof Saddam knowingly harbored the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before the war, despite Cheney's longtime public assertions to the contrary. After the first leak, the president reacted with irritation.

BUSH: They were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.

POLLACK: Exactly the kind of remark that has rankled many people inside the intelligence community.

ENSOR: One former senior CIA official says the atmosphere between Langley and the White House is, quote, "about as poisoned as I've seen it," with certain former CIA officials making clear their distaste for White House mistakes in Iraq and elsewhere.

JAMES BAMFORD, AUTHOR, "A PRETEXT FOR WAR": It's both distancing itself from the hawks in the administration, and also showing that its analysis wasn't all bad.

ENSOR: Among some present and former intelligence officials, Mr. Bush has become a controversial figure.

GERECHT: He certainly is viewed inside as a rash revolutionary who has unsettled their daily lives and perhaps, you know, whacked them for the next two or three years because Iraq is going to be hard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ENSOR: A knowledgeable senior official says he doesn't believe for a moment that CIA personnel systematically leak stuff to embarrass presidents. He says the leaks are likely coming from Congress or elsewhere in the executive branch.

The White House is left to wonder, though, whether any more bad news will leak out before the election day, Aaron.

BROWN: Beyond the politics of it, because -- well, I don't want to be dismissive of the politics, it's not as important, I think, more broadly, as the implications to the country and the kind of intelligence it gets and how it's used. So what are the implications of the bad feeling?

ENSOR: Well, you know, there's a new DCI, Porter Goss, who was chosen by the president. No doubt, the CIA and the rest of the intelligence services will salute the president and will serve him as they have in the past. They're pretty loyal, generally speaking.

But they are in a grumpy mood. They've been listening to months of being blamed about Iraq intelligence, and they are -- these leaks are presumably coming out because people want to say, Look, wait a second, we warned the White House things might not go so well. We made it very clear. That part hasn't come out yet.

So they're kind of in a defensive mood. And, you know, they have a lot of information. So bits of it are leaking out that are favorable to their side of the story.

BROWN: David, thank you. Nice job of reporting tonight. David Ensor in Washington.

Ahead on the program on this Friday, a group of soldiers who literally stood at ground zero in the days after 9/11 and now stand in ground zero in Iraq, some with second thoughts.

Also coming up, politics and the military. Normally, the two don't intersect, but this election season is not normal, not even close.

We take a break first from New York. This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: One thing we've said again and again in this space is that war changes people. That can clearly be said about a National Guard unit from New York State. In the early days after the attack on 9/11, they were sent to ground zero, but they longed, they will tell you, for a little payback.

What they got was Iraq instead. Today, they are hardened by battle and far more realistic about war.

Their story is told tonight by CNN's Jane Arraf, who was embedded with them when they helped take control of Samarra in the dangerous Sunni triangle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): This isn't what many of them expected. In their other lives, these are policemen, nurses, carpenters, lawyers. But these members of the New York National Guard have been put in the thick of battle in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) taking fire from (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in the alley south of it, that we need to go up.

ARRAF: In Samarra, the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment retook a sector of the city near the Golden Mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got five-four (UNINTELLIGIBLE), keep an eye on those balconies.

ARRAF: After nearly 14 hours of fighting, Charlie Company helped secure the ancient city center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) narrow city streets, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well done. Well done.

ARRAF: It won them praise from the top U.S. general in Iraq.

But they paid a heavy price. Sergeant Michael Yvonny (ph) was the only U.S. death in the fight for Samarra. He was the second soldier from Charlie Company killed since the unit deployed in February. At least seven others have been wounded badly enough to be sent home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Treating people you don't know is one thing. Treating all your friends is another. I've done it repeatedly, and I'm tired of it.

ARRAF: Medic Andrew Flynn (ph) is so haunted by the wounded friends he's treated, he says he doesn't want to be a medic anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it's, when you join the Army, it's not what you expect, you know. You're ready to do whatever, but when you join the National Guard, you expect to be going to drills and having fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This unit was the first actual military unit on the ground at ground zero September 11. And then after that, a lot of these kids that were here today are the same kids that were in the airports, in the subways, and on the streets of New York. And they came here willing.

ARRAF: They're still willing, but like Edwin Hernandez (ph), increasingly skeptical that they're fighting terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be blunt. We wanted payback. But then the mission changed. It's we're here to help the people, help establish stability to the country.

ARRAF: Part of stability is helping to ease the misery they say they see in Iraqi families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think -- sounds like MS. She's going to need to see a doctor.

ARRAF: There was nothing Sergeant Paluccio (ph) could do for this girl, who has symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Her father says they can't afford the injections that would control her tremors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) three to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) six, be advised, we're pulling our soldiers out of that intersection and putting them (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got on, they got on the end of this right here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) took fire.

ARRAF: At 44, Sergeant Mark Forbes (ph) is the oldest member of the National Guard here. Some of the youngest men deployed with him are still teenagers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look after them. I worry about them. I don't always tell them and show them, but I do. I went home on leave, I was a nervous wreck.

ARRAF: It's camaraderie that makes up for a lot of things.

Since 9/11, a lot of these New Yorkers say they've been waiting to do their part for their country. And here, despite the losses and the hardship in one of the most difficult places in Iraq, they believe they are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARRAF: After the battle, these troops have been out in Samarra, helping to rebuild and reconstruct damage from the fight and years of neglect. They are nothing if not adaptable, Aaron.

BROWN: Do they still believe the mission will be successful?

ARRAF: That's a very complicated question, and probably a relative term, because each one of them measures that success in terms of why they believe they're there. And it's very interesting, Aaron.

You see fewer and fewer soldiers who believe they're there because of weapons of mass destruction or terrorism, and a lot of what it comes down to now is the belief that they're fighting for their buddies there and fighting just to return home safely, Aaron.

BROWN: Jane, thank you. Jane Arraf. Good to see you again.

Coming up on NEWSNIGHT tonight, Bill O'Reilly's accuser, Fox News associate producer Andrea Mackris, will be here with her lawyer.

And later, a pianist who single-handedly made a name for himself. The story of Leon Fleischer in three movements.

We'll take a break first. Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Now to the Bill O'Reilly sex harassment scandal. You could, we suppose, write a master's thesis on how to report it, whether to report it, how much is too much, and is too much even enough?

You could, but for us it's a whole lot simpler. In addition to being big news, and Mr. O'Reilly is also the biggest deal on cable, he is a big boy. He says so all the time.

So we're doing the story and talking to the principals. Mr. O'Reilly said no, his accuser, colleague and associate producer Andrea Mackris, said yes. To us, it's that simple.

She is here, along with her attorney, Benedict Morelli.

Good to see you both.

You have been -- and this is a world you kind of oddly know about, because you've been in television, you've been in cable, you've booked guests. You have been in the eye of this publicity thing now for two days. What's it like?

ANDREA MACKRIS, FOX NEWS ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Surreal.

BROWN: Did you anticipate it?

MACKRIS: Absolutely not.

BROWN: You never thought, if this comes public, I'm going to be on page three of "The New York Post," called a lunatic?

MACKRIS: I mean, that was a throwaway thought, because my focus was -- my intent and my focus was to never go public.

BROWN: I'm not sure if he'll let you answer this. But did your lawyer ever say to you, look, you got to understand that, if we end up having to file and this becomes public, you are going to be, for a while, red meat in a shark tank?

BENEDICT MORELLI, ATTORNEY FOR MACKRIS: Well, actually, actually, what I did say to her was that she and I both have to be ready to be attacked. And that's what happened.

BROWN: Well, they fired the first shot, at least in the legal sense, accusing you of extorting -- accusing you, literally you, Mr. Morelli, of extorting them, wanting $60 million. Essentially, they say it's blackmail. What say you?

MORELLI: I say we were negotiating a settlement.

BROWN: How long was the negotiation?

MORELLI: A little over two weeks.

BROWN: OK.

MORELLI: It's something that happens every day, garden-variety negotiations. Every civil case is for money. Every case is negotiated before you go to battle.

We sent them letters, one letter, actually, to four executives stating that we represent one of your employees in a sexual harassment suit against one of your personalities, didn't name either one because we didn't want to embarrass anybody at that point, and said to them, if you would like to meet with us to discuss it, give a call.

BROWN: At what point did the negotiation turn from the sort of normal lawyerly, businesslike talk to this nasty turn it took two days ago?

MORELLI: It's interesting that you ask that, because they did not give an indication of that, OK? We were negotiating -- actually, they came to my office, lawyers from Fox, at least six or seven times over a couple week period.

And that was after they asked me that they -- would I not file and could they do an internal investigation about this matter, about Andrea, and meet with Bill O'Reilly? They called me and said they did both. Can -- they said they found her solid. Can they come in and talk and try to resolve it?

And then we met for two weeks, OK? So it was up until 7:30 at night the day before they sued us -- and they sued us at 10:00 in the morning.

BROWN: Right.

MORELLI: So, at 7:30 at night, the lawyers spoke. And they said, we need until tomorrow morning to put together a proposal to settle this case. OK?

BROWN: Yes.

MORELLI: And the next morning, they served Andrea with papers. She called me.

BROWN: Yes.

MORELLI: And 15 minutes later, I was served.

BROWN: OK, a couple just quick questions for you, really quick, if we can.

MORELLI: Sure.

BROWN: In these negotiations, did they ever explicitly deny the allegations that she makes in her suit?

MORELLI: Never.

BROWN: Not once?

MORELLI: Never.

BROWN: What they've said is that it was joking, Andrea. They said maybe it was joking, but it certainly was never threatening. Did you ever think of it as joking?

MACKRIS: Absolutely not.

BROWN: Did you think of it as threatening?

MACKRIS: Absolutely.

BROWN: In what sense was it threatening?

MACKRIS: Every single sense.

BROWN: Give me an example. How was it threatening?

MACKRIS: How is it ever appropriate for an employee to ever speak and ever think that they can speak to an employee the way he spoke to me, bottom line?

BROWN: But where is the threat in that?

MACKRIS: Where is the threat?

BROWN: Yes. MACKRIS: I'm supposed to say, Bill O'Reilly, that's immoral -- click -- and then walk back in and book his A block the next day and have a fine day and everything be kosher? I don't think so.

BROWN: I think that people -- forget the lawyers for a second, even though you have one got sitting next to you. And there is a legal issue here and then there's what I think -- the way people look at cases. And I think one of the things they'll ask is, why didn't you just hang up?

MACKRIS: I just answered that.

BROWN: Answer it again. Why didn't you just hang up?

MACKRIS: I was put in a position with a man that, whenever he would call me at work or at home, work-related, he would say jump and I'd say how high and I would jump.

I'm not used to saying no to this man on any level. I had said no to him and no to him and no to him and no to him and no to him and no to him about his saucy language. It had never gotten to this level until I came back. It got to that level. Immediately, it escalated. We had an eyeball-to-eyeball agreement at a restaurant before I came back that, if I came back, he would never talk to me that way again or I was simply saying no.

He disregarded that entirely when I got back, blew out that agreement and spoke to me with language that you can read in the complaint, similar. And it was very threatening. He had threatened that anybody who ever would speak of it would be raked through the mud. That's evidence of this. I was absolutely threatened.

How can I say no? How can I hang up when I've been absolutely threatened? And how they've treated me since, it's borne out in their actions.

BROWN: By filing the lawsuit or something else?

MACKRIS: I'm sorry. I don't understand.

MORELLI: By suing.

MACKRIS: The minute that I...

BROWN: By their filing their lawsuit, is that what you mean by how would you take it in any other way, or is it something else that you're not saying here in terms of threats? Have they threatened you since you filed?

MACKRIS: Absolutely.

I mean, they're threatening -- my career is over. You know, everything I've worked so hard. I've worked extremely hard since about 17 years old, you know, as a White House intern on up. I take my career very seriously. I absolutely loved what I was doing. Everybody who works with me knows that. I had no intention of this ever happening.

BROWN: OK.

Just -- let me go back to where we started, OK?

MACKRIS: Sure.

BROWN: Unless you've lived it, in a way, it's almost impossible to explain what it's like to be in the center of public attention in this way. You're taking on an extraordinarily powerful person and, I can tell you from firsthand experience, a company that plays hardball to the extreme. Are you scared?

MACKRIS: I'm aware of the threat. I'm not threatened. They're trying to. I'm centered. I know that I'm right.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: How does this -- in 40 seconds, tell me, how does this end?

MORELLI: It ends by them giving up. It ends by us prevailing in court. It's really their choice.

BROWN: Do you have tapes?

MORELLI: I've always answered the question the same way, Aaron. And I'm not going to change now. We have concrete, irrefutable proof of all the allegations in the case. We will prevail. We're not afraid. We won't back down. We'll never back up.

BROWN: We really do know a bit about what you're going through, though it's a lot easier, I will tell you, at 55 than I imagine it is in your early 30s. So that had nothing to do with the right or wrongness of all of this. That's somebody else's deal.

Good luck, OK?

MACKRIS: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MORELLI: Thank you.

BROWN: We have much more. We'll take a break first.

This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The military vote is always important, perhaps as much for its symbolism, maybe even more than the actual numbers, though the numbers do count.

According to a new poll from the National Annenberg election survey, almost 70 percent of people in the military want President Bush to remain commander in chief of the military. That's not surprising. The military traditionally votes Republican. And the sample itself was skewed that way because of the military people. Civilians, when asked the same question, also prefer the president, who should be commander in chief of the military, but the margin is considerably less, 50 percent to 41 percent.

We need to take a break. Got a little behind on time during the last segment.

When we come back, a world renowned pianist behind the ivories after a 40-year struggle to do what he was clearly born to do.

And a mere moments away, morning papers. And this being Friday, it may include an appearance by Bat Boy.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: It's a quote variously attributed to John Lennon and Tommy Smothers, among others. Life is what happens when you're making other plans.

Tonight, the story of a pianist whose life did not go according to plan, who began life with talent enough for three hands, then was left to get by on just one.

Segment seven tonight reported by NEWSNIGHT's Beth Nissen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was a true prodigy, studying with the great pianist and teacher Artur Schnabel from the age of 9, making his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1944 as a teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leon Fleisher, 16-year-old pianist, is the soloist.

LEON FLEISHER, PIANIST: I don't remember the time when I wasn't playing. My life revolved around music.

NISSEN: By his late 20s, Leon Fleisher was an internationally known concert pianist, playing 60 to 80 concerts a year and recording a series of successful albums. He was at the peak of his playing ability, his professional career, when it started.

FLEISHER: I began to notice the fifth and fourth fingers on my right hand involuntarily and uncontrollably curling under. I couldn't play. I could not use my right hand to play the piano because the fingers would not remain extended.

NISSEN: He saw a score of doctors, specialists. No one could help him, even diagnose his problem.

FLEISHER: That was the beginning of a terrible depression for me. I thought almost daily of ending it all. My life as I had known it was over. NISSEN: He was 36. It was many dark months before Fleisher had what he calls an aha moment.

FLEISHER: I realized that my connection to music was more than just as a two-handed piano player. I needed to be connected with music.

FLEISHER: Staccato. Staccato.

NISSEN: He started a new career as a conductor and as a master teacher. Over the years, he gave occasional piano recitals, concerts playing music written for left hand alone. And he continued his exhaustive search for treatment that would release his crabbed right hand, surgery, shock treatment, acupuncture.

FLEISHER: I tried everything from aroma therapy to Zen Buddhism and everything in between.

NISSEN: Doctors first diagnosed repetitive stress injury, then carpal tunnel syndrome, before they finally identified the cause, a neurological movement disorder called dystonia.

FLEISHER: It attacks surgeons. It attacks people who use their hands, typists. In this country alone, there are some 300,000 people with dystonia and, throughout the world, some 10,000 musicians.

NISSEN: In 1997, Fleisher was finally referred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

FLEISHER: They had discovered botulinum toxin type A could be used to relieve these curling-under symptoms.

NISSEN: Botulinum toxin, better known as Botox. Injections of Botox relaxed his hand muscles, allowed his fingers to extend fully.

FLEISHER: It just changed like almost instantly overnight. And I sat down and I began playing pieces and I could suddenly play them again.

NISSEN: "With Two Hands," that is the title of his newly released C.D., his first solo recording in 40 years. He's once again booking recitals and concerts in the U.S., Europe.

FLEISHER: In the spring, I go back to China and Korea, Japan.

NISSEN: The passage of so much time has changed his playing.

FLEISHER: I can't play everything. I'm now 76, you know. I can't scamper around the keyboard the way I used to.

NISSEN: Yet he can play, make music again with his own two hands.

Beth Nissen, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: Nissen.

Morning papers and we'll throw in a tabloid just because after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(ROOSTER CROWING)

BROWN: Okeydoke, time to check...

CREW: Okeydokey.

BROWN: ... morning papers from across the country and around the world. I never knew this was an audience participation program, gentlemen.

"The Washington Times" starts it off tonight. And why not? "Kerry Brings Up Draft to Put Down Bush" is their big story. Well, it's not like a scoop or anything. They were just out on the campaign trail. "GOP Camp Calls Tactic Desperate Bid to Win Voters." Every bid to win voters with 18 days to go is desperate. Also, a headline that's an interesting one to me. "Greenspan Optimistic About Oil." The head of the Fed, Chairman Greenspan, said today that he didn't think the $55-a-barrel oil was going away anytime soon, but he also didn't think it would lead to the inflation it led to in the '70s, OK? So, in that regard, he was optimistic.

"The Times." I just like the picture here. Imagine seeing you here, when Kerry met Lennon. By the time, the Internet gets done with this, this will be Jane Fonda. It could be Che Guevara, Fidel, Hitler. Who knows who they'll have in that picture standing next to John Kerry? But we presume that's an accurate picture.

"The Des Moines Register." The president was out in Iowa today. "Bush Says Kerry Out of Touch." "In Cedar Rapids, President Says Opponent Doesn't Recognize Changing Realities." I think there's a campaign theme there. Also, this is a nice job by the paper. They're taking a look at a number of issues, seven of them. "Big Deficits. What Will Bush, Kerry Do?" is the headline on the story. And I reminds that, next week, we'll begin a series of pieces on issues, specific issues.

"Unhappy Start to the Holidays" the headline in "The San Antonio Express-News," the thanks being Ramadan. "Blood Continues to Flow Across the Country as Month-Long Ramadan Holiday Begins." There was one other I wanted one to get to. Well, to heck with that. Maybe I'll come back to that.

OK, from "The Weekly World News." We haven't done this in a while. And there's probably good reason. "AFLAC Duck and Geico Gecko" -- not that easy to say -- "Married." OK? And they actually have a picture of that. And oh, no, they're expecting a baby, according to "The Weekly World News." Not bad.

A political story that I find shocking and you may as well. In fact, they call it an election stunner. "Laura Bush on Why I'm Voting For John Kerry." Now, I kind of doubt that. "But I'm voting for John Kerry for president because sooner or later, when it becomes politically expedient, he shares my views."

How much time? "Lawyers Find Loophole in Ten Commandments." If you were thinking of breaking any of the Ten Commandments, New York lawyers have found loopholes in all of them.

OK, we haven't -- really been a long time since we've seen him, but there he -- and this is why we haven't seen normal a long time, because terrorists have kidnapped Bat Boy. "Pull out of Iraq or we'll send him back, they warn." Mmmm, says Bat Boy. But, then, he's gagged.

OK, the weather tomorrow in Chicago is droopy.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Quick program note before we go.

Immigration was a debating point earlier in the week in Tempe. The fact is, it is much more than that, an opportunity for some, a burden for others, and clearly a force changing the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my time that I work here, I don't see American people in the kitchen.

Buenos dias. Buenos dias, Marle (ph).

The American people stay for the better jobs. Maybe they say, I don't like to win $7 per hour, $8 per hour. The American people say, oh no, I like for me $15, $18, $20. But the Mexican people, it's $6, $7, $8 per hour.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: This weekend, we explore the question of immigration in full, the reporting of CNN's Maria Hinojosa. "CNN PRESENTS" premieres Sunday, 8:00 Eastern time. Good program, that, every week.

Good to have you with us tonight. It was a very interesting NEWSNIGHTy sort of night, wasn't it? We'll see you on Monday. Have a terrific weekend.

Good night for all of us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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