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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Alberto Gonzales Announces Resignation; Michael Vick Pleads Guilty

Aired August 27, 2007 - 22:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening.
We're here at New Orleans in part to highlight, along with our friend Spike Lee, some pretty amazing stories that have been told to us by children of the storm in their own words with cameras that we gave to them.

We are going to lead off things tonight, though, with Michael Vick, who said he's sorry for running a dogfighting operation. We will take a look at his legal prospects, tackle the question, too, about just what to do about pit bulls.

Also, the nation's top law enforcement officer, Alberto Gonzales, fallout tonight from his decision to step down.

First, though, Michael Vick owning up and apologizing for something he once categorically denied, bankrolling and helping run a dogfighting ring, right down to killing pit bulls that didn't make the grade. His apology came second. His guilty plea to a federal conspiracy charge came first.

More on both now from CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, who was in the courthouse today in Richmond, Virginia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): A raucous greeting on a day of judgment. In court for just 15 minutes, Michael Vick speaks few words, answering the judge with only yes, sir, no, sir, and his plea to the charge of conspiracy, guilty. A few minutes later at a nearby hotel, the quarterback offers his first apology.

MICHAEL VICK, CONVICTED NFL QUARTERBACK: I take full responsibility for my actions. Not for one second will I sit right here and point the finger, try to blame anybody else for my actions and what I have done. I'm totally responsible, and those things just didn't have to happen.

TOOBIN: And he promises a new approach to life.

VICK: Dogfighting is a terrible thing, and I didn't reject it. I'm upset at myself. And through this situation I found Jesus, and I asked him for forgiveness, and have turned my life over to God.

TOOBIN: Next, sentencing on December 10. Federal guidelines suggest a range of 12 to 18 months, but the judge could go higher, up to five years in prison.

Vick's case introduced many Americans to dogfighting, but the so- called sport is already widespread and growing. The Humane Society estimates as many as 40,000 people participate every year in this underground world. The federal government is cracking down.

Just this May, President Bush signed a law making it a federal felony. Forty-eight states, all except Idaho and Wyoming, already make dogfighting a felony. As for Vick, his fate will linger in the courts for several more months. But, whatever his prison sentence, the Atlanta Falcon, at age 27, may have ended a brilliant career.

Today, the owner of the Falcons, Arthur Blank, rendered a judgment that many Americans may share.

ARTHUR BLANK, ATLANTA FALCONS OWNER: He has let down his fans and his team. He's damaged the reputation of our club and the entire National Football League and betrayed the trust of many people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Jeffrey is live in Richmond for us tonight.

You were in the courtroom, Jeff. You were at the news conference. What did you -- what did you make of his apology?

TOOBIN: Well, I thought it was, frankly, a good start. I mean, he has got to persuade the judge, one, that he is truly sorry, and, two, that he accepts responsibility for what he's done. He's not blaming other people.

And, you know, I thought this was not a scripted apology. This was something that he spoke off the cuff. And, sure, you know, it's convenient for him to express these sentiments now, but better expressing them than not, and I think he's -- he's off to trying to repair some of the damage. He won't repair all of it, but I thought he did the right thing today.

O'BRIEN: All right, Jeff, stay right there.

We are going to also bring in Court TV's Jami Floyd, along with sports agent and attorney Leigh Steinberg.

Let's, first, start, Jamie, with you. This -- this judge has a reputation for being very, very tough. Do you think that he's going to consider the sincerity of the apology? And Jeff Toobin just said he thought it was pretty sincere. Is that considered?

JAMI FLOYD, COURT TV ANCHOR: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Is that factored in when they think about the punishment? Yes?

FLOYD: Sure.

And I think Vick and his lawyers know it. And I agree with Jeffrey. It's probably somewhat of a strategic move, but it certainly can't hurt to have made this statement. There are other factors as well. There is a sentencing report, as well as aggravating factors in the underlying facts of the case. And the judge can consider all of it.

Federal judges have a great deal of discretion. And the judge made sure that Michael Vick understood that before he pleaded guilty.

O'BRIEN: Leigh, at the same time, there was a categorical denial first, before the sincere apology. Do you think it's kind of too little too late for Michael Vick?

LEIGH STEINBERG, SPORTS AGENT: Well, Soledad, I haven't seen a case of an athlete falling from grace so dramatically in contemporary American sports.

This issue has transfixed the country for weeks and jumped off the sports section into the front pages. The country has been repulsed by all of the details of this dogfighting. And this puppy- gate has transfixed the entire country. He's waited so long. He should have issued this sincere apology at the beginning, and gone in to try to cut the best deal he has.

Having said that, history is replete with examples of athletes who have been sincere, made amends, gone through a period of rehabilitation, and come back into public favor. Ray Lewis is an example, Kobe Bryant is an example of athletes where it seemed incomprehensible they would ever come back into public acceptance.

And, yet, with the passage of time and with a sincere rehabilitation, they were able to regain their popularity.

O'BRIEN: Well, maybe that will happen, Leigh, with the passage of time. But the Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, said that the team is going -- is not immediately going to cut Vick. They do want their money back, the bonus money back, some $22 million. How likely, realistically, do you think it is that they are going to get that money back?

STEINBERG: Well, they won't get $22 million back. The way I calculate it, they may $4 million to $6 million. They will get the proportionate amount for the years that he misses.

He won't be a Falcon. They will waive him probably after June 1, for salary cap purposes. But he will play again, because he plays the most critical position on the playing field. He will still be young. There have been many quarterbacks -- I have had Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Steve Young -- who played well into their 30s, made Pro Bowls, Super Bowls, Hall of Fame. So, he will get another opportunity. He will always get another chance.

And time will pass, and he will have the opportunity. The American people love the fall of the high and mighty, but they also love a comeback story. And imagine a time when all this passes, and he's able to somehow come back to grace.

O'BRIEN: Jami, how much time do you think he's going to get?

TOOBIN: Soledad, you notice...

O'BRIEN: Well, I'm sorry.

FLOYD: Well, I -- I think...

O'BRIEN: Hang on.

Go ahead, Jami.

FLOYD: Well, the judge, as I said earlier, has discretion. There's a max of five years. And most people are predicting between a year and 18 months. That's, of course, what the plea agreement suggests.

Now, that's not binding on a federal judge. And while, Soledad, this judge is considered to be a tough guy -- and he is -- he's also, I think, somewhat immune from all of the public opinion that Leigh was talking about, a federal judge appointed for life. And part of the reason these folks are appointed is because they are able to tune out all of that high-level publicity.

He will look at the aggravating factors that have caused people to be so outraged, but this is not a murder case. There are many more federal felony cases that are far more serious. And the judge will take this in the context of the law, not so much in the context of the public outrage.

O'BRIEN: Jeff, I kind of cut you off there a minute ago. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: Well, I was just going to say, you notice the first person that Michael Vick apologized to today. It was the commissioner of football, Mr. Goodell. That's his main audience, because he's the guy who is going to decide how long the suspension is.

He has no control over what Judge Hudson is going to do, but he can work in trying to get back into the commissioner's good graces, having lied in the commissioner's face.

I think Leigh is right. I think he will have a chance to play again, probably not for about two or three seasons, but he will only be 30 years old at that point. And, even though it's very rare in football for someone to miss that long and then resume a career, he's a terrific athlete, and I think he will probably have another chance.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Jeff, he didn't plead guilty to gambling. Is that significant?

TOOBIN: I think it's very significant. And the -- the plea bargain, the statement of facts, was written in such a way that Vick couldn't really say he was not involved in gambling, but he tried to minimize his connection.

Gambling is what -- is the one fact -- that is the one act that could get him banned from football for life. But even football players who have gambled in the past, people like Paul Hornung and Alex Karras in the '60s, were banned for a while, but they came back and to have long and distinguished careers, and Vick will probably be back, too.

O'BRIEN: Story to be continued, as they say.

Jeff Toobin, Jami Floyd, attorney Leigh Steinberg, thanks to all of you for -- for talking with us tonight. Appreciate it.

STEINBERG: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Michael Vick said nothing today about how he took up dogfighting in the first place.

But, as you're about to see, it can start young, grade school young, as CNN's Drew Griffin recently found out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you are watching is a family vacation like none you have ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was filmed approximately an hour or so prior to the fight, in a hotel room. The person filming it is the dogfighter's wife.

GRIFFIN: He's getting himself and his family prepared for the big event that brought them from Richmond, Virginia, to Columbus, Ohio.

The big event is secret, a championship dogfight, the stakes high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each fighter put up $5,000, winner take all.

GRIFFIN: They also know the loser may be left with a dog that may never recover. In all, 40 people have come to watch, which, in Ohio, is a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's actual business people who will frequent these, street people, and everyone in between. One of the fighters brought his grandkids.

GRIFFIN: All will be arrested when the raid begins, but right now, oblivious to the police gathering outside, the ring is the only attraction.

This undercover detective, who does not want his face shown, has been on 40 raids in the last five years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a largely underground, clandestine activity. People may hear about a dogfight, but, you know, they don't think well it happens in my community.

COMMANDER GEOFF SHANK, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: We encountered what we later found out was 13 caged pit bulls. And one of the interview -- people we were interviewing, claimed to be called trainer. We put two and two together and realized he was a -- quote, unquote -- "dog trainer."

We called the local -- Chicago Police Department. They were fully aware of who this guy was, told us they would been looking for him for a couple of years.

GRIFFIN: Felons, gangbangers, drug pushers -- all have been linked to dogfighting. In Chicago's public schools, the problem is so extensive, school programs are being developed to try to tell children dogfighting is not OK.

DR. GENE MUELLER, ANTI-CRUELTY SOCIETY: The earliest surveys that we did showed about one in five grammar school children in Chicago were actively participating in dogfighting.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Gene Mueller, the head of Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society, says inner city dogfights have become entertainment, and the dog owners have become, in many cases, role models.

MUELLER: Kids are certainly involved. Felons, gang members. So we have these felons there who are fighting these dogs, for entertainment, or for gambling. Somebody has to protect the money. So there's weapons there. And, hey, it's an entertainment event, so we better have some drugs there.

GRIFFIN: This pit bull, dropped off for adoption, may have a chance. It has not been used for fighting.

But authorities have little choice when it comes to dogs trained and raised for sport. Usually vicious, they must be put to death.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Well, Michael Vick trained his dogs to fight, but all kinds of dogs can be violent. Here's a look at the "Raw Data."

The editor of "Animal People" magazine says there were more than 2,200 serious dog attacks in the United States and Canada between 1982 through 2006. Two hundred and sixty-four of those were fatal. Pit bulls accounted for more than half of all attacks. Rottweilers came in second with 409, followed by wolf hybrids, German shepherds, and chows.

Tonight, though, our focus is on pit bulls. Is it fair or is it typecasting? We're going to dig a little bit deeper.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Their bite and fight are unmistakable, but are pit bulls truly a breed apart? Some people want to ban breeding. Others want to destroy them all, and some say there's no such thing as a dog that was born to be bad -- the controversy up next. Bedtime for Gonzales. The man best known for saying this...

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Can't recall.

I don't recall.

I can't recall.

I -- I have no specific recollection.

O'BRIEN: ... finally has a moment to remember.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that he will leave the Department of Justice.

O'BRIEN: His legacy, how his decisions changed everyone's lives, and what comes next -- tonight on 360.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: The figures are both staggering and heartbreaking. According to the magazine "Animal People," roughly 700,000 pit bulls and pit bull mixes were euthanized last year. Many of them were fighting dogs.

Other dogs, of course, can kill, but few others are trained to kill and in such great numbers. And that kind of makes them everybody's problem.

John Goodwin deals with the issue on a daily basis. He's with the Humane Society. He joins us from Washington, D.C.

Nice to see you, Mr. Goodwin. Thanks for talking with us.

You know, the basic question comes down to, is the pit bull inherently a vicious, evil dog, or is it the owners who are vicious, evil people who train their dogs to do bad things?

JOHN GOODWIN, ANIMAL CRUELTY CAMPAIGN DEPUTY MANAGER, THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: Most pit bulls are in fact very human- friendly and sweet-natured dogs.

The problem is, is that we do have a subculture in this country that's been exposed, through the indictment -- by the indictment of Michael Vick, that breeds dogs for aggression, that breeds dogs for the purposes of having them kill other animals. And that's when the pit bulls' reputation and pit bulls' behavior starts to kind of go down the wrong path.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, with that in mind, then, do you think it's the right idea for certain cities, like the city of Denver, like the city of Miami, to -- to ban the breed?

GOODWIN: I do not.

You know, one of the problems in Denver was that there were families who had pit bulls that had been in their families for years that were well socialized, that never had demonstrated any sort of behavioral problem, and these dogs were taken away from people. There was no grandfather clause, put down, killed.

And, really, that was tragic. And I think that what happened in Denver really went outside the boundaries of what was ethical and good common sense.

O'BRIEN: On Michael Vick's property, you got some 50-odd dogs. What should happen to them? Can a dog that's been trained to fight, been trained to kill, can that dog be rehabilitated?

GOODWIN: Dogs that are right off of these yards where they have been bred for fighting, these are dogs that have been bred for aggression. They come from bloodlines where every dog in the previous litters that did not demonstrate enough aggression and enough willingness to continue fighting, even when suffering severe pain, were killed.

We saw that in the Michael Vick indictment, where they killed the dogs that didn't have enough aggression. And then the ones that did demonstrate the willingness to keep fighting and killing other dogs, even when they were hurt, those were the ones that were taken and then later bred.

And, so, you end up with dogs who really have this bred into them. And I don't think that rehabilitation is an option for dogs that have had this bred into them. It's sort of like getting a retriever not to retrieve. But there are pit bulls that are several generations removed from this who are behaviorally quite different.

O'BRIEN: So, you think they are going to have to be put down.

I know you were in the -- in the courtroom for the Michael Vick case. How did -- how did it come across to you? Now, some of these -- these folks involved in the dogfighting claim to be animal lovers, which has really surprised me.

GOODWIN: Yes. You know, that's such an absurd claim. I have gone on these dogfighting raids before. I was on a raid in Ohio in March where we found a female pit bull who had had the front half of her lower jaw completely broken off.

Another one of these dogfighters that claims to be an animal lover had a dog named Grand Champion Haunch, who was fought five times. And, in the fifth fight, he had his muzzle broken, and he suffocated on his own blood.

These people aren't animal lovers. These are people that view these dogs as tools that they just throw in these pits to fight to the death or fight until they are so injured, they cannot continue to go anymore. And it's just for gambling purposes. It's sadistic, and it's sick. O'BRIEN: So, do you think, then, at end of the day, this case and all the publicity that it's getting is helping your -- your case or -- or hurting your case?

GOODWIN: Well, you know, this case has really been a dark, dark cloud, when you look at the graphic cruelty that was taking place there in Surry County.

But, if there is a silver lining, it is that there's now much greater awareness about this problem. We're seeing an increase in dogfighting arrests since the Michael Vick indictment. And, hopefully, this will lead to more prosecutions.

And, if we can continue with this higher level of awareness, turning it into substantive action, then maybe, just maybe, this can be a tipping point, where we start to make significant progress towards reducing and hopefully eradicating dogfighting.

O'BRIEN: Well, one would certainly hope so.

John Goodwin joining us this evening -- thanks, John. Appreciate your time.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Do you think pit bulls should be banned? We want to hear from you. You can send us a v-mail. That's a video mail. Just to CNN.com/360. Click on the link there.

Let's get right to Gary Tuchman. He joins us now with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Soledad.

Much of Greece has become an inferno. Across the country, 89 fires broke out over a 24-hour period. And local media report that more than 60 people have died. The top prosecutor in Greece is looking into whether the fires are a terror crime. And the country's prime minister says it can't be a coincidence that so many fires broke out simultaneously. So far, at least two people have been arrested.

In New York, a deadly fire at a condemned ground zero skyscraper has led to the demotion of three city fire officials. The fire department had said there was no plan to fight fires at the former Deutsche Bank building. A blaze there on August 18 killed two firefighters. A preliminary investigation suggests careless smoking by construction workers may have started the blaze.

And "Wedding Crasher" star Owen Wilson is recovering tonight at a Los Angeles hospital a day after an ambulance brought him there from his home. A hospital spokeswoman says the comedic actor is in good condition, but won't elaborate as to why he's there. "The National Enquirer" reported that Wilson had tried to commit suicide.

In a statement, Wilson asked that the media allowed him to -- quote -- "heal in private during this difficult time."

He's a very funny guy. And it's a very sad story, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, it certainly is, isn't it?

All right, Gary, thanks for bringing us up to speed.

Coming up next on 360: After months of controversy, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally announces he's stepping down. Why now? And why the president is still standing by his man.

Also ahead, a U.S. senator arrested for something he allegedly did in an airport bathroom. The strange story is coming up in "Raw Politics."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A day to remember for Alberto Gonzales. Yesterday, the U.S. attorney general and his wife joined President Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, in Crawford, Texas. Lunch was being served, and so was something else, as Gonzales made clear today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government service as attorney general of the United States effective as of September 17, 2007.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The resignation follows months of blistering criticism and controversy concerning Gonzales' handling of the firing of the U.S. attorneys. Democrats have also accused him of lying to Congress. Several top Republicans have raised doubts as well about his credibility.

Today, the president suggested his fellow Texan was a victim of a witch-hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's sad that when we live in a time when a talented and honorable person, like Alberto Gonzales, is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Political reasons perhaps, but today's announcement wasn't exactly a surprise. Gonzales' reign at the Justice Department was troubled from the very beginning.

CNN's Kelli Arena has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all started with his nomination in late 2004 with charges that Alberto Gonzales was just too chummy with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 17, 2004)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I have no objection to presidents appointing close friends, but will he keep the kind of independence that a attorney general has to keep from the president?

ARENA: Then, at his confirmation hearings in 2005, Gonzales faced sharp criticism for a memo he approved as White House counsel which some say legitimized torture and may have set the foundation for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 6, 2005)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You were warned that ignoring our longstanding traditions and rules would lead to abuse and undermine military culture, and that is what has happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: The Republican Congress let Gonzales coast for a bit, but, when Democrats took over, they seized on a new controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys late last year.

(on camera): Gonzales just couldn't keep his story straight, contradicting other Justice officials and sometimes even himself.

(voice-over): Top-level resignations followed, but the attorney general stuck it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MARCH 30, 2007)

GONZALES: I don't recall being involved in deliberations involving the question of whether or not a U.S. attorney should or should not be asked to resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: It got testy. Then it got ugly. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified in May that Gonzales, as White House counsel, tried to bully his predecessor, John Ashcroft, into approving a controversial domestic wiretap program wile Ashcroft lay sick in a hospital bed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, MAY 15, 2007)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Comey testified that both he and the FBI director had threatened to quit over the program, contradicting the attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FEBRUARY 6, 2006)

GONZALES: There's not been any serious disagreement about the -- the program that the president has confirmed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: It came down to who to believe. And, in the end, almost no one believed the attorney general. Democrats even pushed for a perjury investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JULY 24, 2007)

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: It's just decimating, Mr. Attorney General, as to both your judgment and your credibility.

ARENA: Although controversies over the war on terror dominated his tenure, Gonzales also presided over a bad spike in violent crime, and:

JOE RICH, FORMER JUSTICE SECTION CHIEF: To put it bluntly, I think he was the worst attorney general I served under.

ARENA: He leaves behind a department that many say is disorganized and demoralized, a legacy that poses especially big challenges for whoever succeeds him.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: President Bush called Gonzales a good man who got unfair treatment. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid wasn't quite as kind, saying that the attorney general lacked judgment and was never the right man for the job. Strong words from both sides.

So let's see what CNN senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin thinks. He worked as a federal prosecutor in the Justice Department. He's back with us again.

Jeff, you said you were actually surprised that in the end Gonzales resigned. Why the surprise?

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Alberto Gonzales has been a bipartisan laughingstock for months. There is no new development that happened, and yet George Bush has stood by him and stood by him, and now suddenly he left.

I mean, if his ineffectiveness and if the fact that he was an embarrassment to the administration and to the Justice Department would have mandated his departure, he would have been gone already. So the fact that he left at this point where nothing new particularly came out, that was a surprise to me. O'BRIEN: The way Senator Chuck Schumer tells it, and he is a member of the judiciary committee, he says that the DOJ has been "virtually nonfunctional" -- that's a quote -- for the last six months.

First of all, is that true, and if it is, exactly how big of a mess is it?

TOOBIN: Well, I think that's an exaggeration. The U.S. attorneys' offices, which is the core of the department of justice, the line prosecutors who operate independent -- independently of politics, they have been basically continuing business as usual.

What has been dysfunctional is the political leadership of the department, which deals with Congress, which sets policy on larger matters. That has been an absolute fiasco for months, and that is where there's not only a political absence but a literal absence. There's hardly anyone there.

There are so many vacancies at the top of the Justice Department, and now starting with the attorney general, that there is essentially nothing going on at the top level. But in terms of the people who do the actual work, they're basically doing fine.

O'BRIEN: How difficult is it going to be for the president to fill that top job? Some people have said, homeland security chief Michael Chertoff could be named to take over, and I know that you know Chertoff well. You interned with him right after law school, so just a few years ago.

Do you think that's a possibility?

TOOBIN: Right, yes. I do think it's a possibility. George Bush is very loyal to the people who have been with him a long time, and Michael Chertoff was assistant attorney general at the beginning of the Bush administration in 2001. He was appointed to a federal judgeship by this president, and then he was, you know, brought back as homeland security.

He'd be a fight. There would be people who would oppose Michael Chertoff because, among other things, of his leadership of the response to Hurricane Katrina. But he's certainly, I think, a possibility.

There are less confrontational possibilities out there. Larry Thompson, the former deputy attorney general and now general counsel to PepsiCo. Ted Olson, the former solicitor general, the man who won "Bush v. Gore," 67 years old. He's a little older, a little more removed from the political fray. He might be a less controversial choice.

But this president is not one who shies from fights, whether it's about Iraq or about the Justice Department. So I don't expect a conciliatory choice, and Chertoff might not be one.

O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, we'll wait and see. Thanks, Jeff. TOOBIN: OK. See you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Another item showed up on the radar a little bit late today. Up next we're going to tell you about a U.S. senator's guilty plea, which is surfacing just now, to a disorderly conduct in an airport men's room. Some very "Raw Politics" there.

Also tonight, more on what the attorney general's departure, rather, means to a president who is losing his inner circle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Rumsfeld, gone. Rove, gone. Now Gonzales.

BRUCE BUCHANAN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Well, it's a time when, you know, the train is almost past your station.

O'BRIEN: What a president minus the big names can still accomplish and what this one's secret weapon may turn out to be, tonight on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: President Bush swept into office with a group of friends and loyalists who would form his inner circle. Many made up what became known as his Texas posse, and one by one they've left his side.

Some were forced out. Others decided it was just time to go. With their departure, a president who surrounded himself with familiar faces may be more alone than ever before.

CNN's John King reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the second time in two weeks, a good-bye that hit home.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the long course of our work together this trusted advisor became a close friend.

KING: Alberto Gonzales is stepping down. Like Karl Rove, he has been at this president's side dating back to his days as Texas governor, and like Rove, he had become a political pinata for an administration whose days are numbered.

BUCHANAN: Well, it's a time when, you know, the train is almost past your station.

KING: Seventeen months left, and lame duck is a term that makes him bristle. But Mr. Bush is a president defined by an unpopular war and lacks the political muscle to sell his big-ticket domestic priorities. BUSH: With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicare -- Medicaid and save Social Security.

KING: Those State of the Union ideas went nowhere, and Mr. Bush also failed to make his 2001 tax cuts permanent or pass major immigration reforms.

Now the departures of old friends magnify this president's increasingly lonely place.

His approval ratings are in the dumps. Republican candidates barely mention him as they compete for control of the party, and the opposition Democrats run the Congress.

NEIL NEWHOUSE, GOP POLLSTER: The one saving grace, is the only group that's rated lower than the president right now is Congress. That doesn't bode well for Democrats in Congress, truthfully, but, you know, their numbers are even lower than the president's.

KING: Even most Republicans are dubious, but those close to Mr. Bush see a small window of opportunity, and to that end a house cleaning makes sense.

Say good-bye to political liabilities, even if it stings a bit, and move quickly to change the subject. For the president, that means fresh pressure on the Democrats to give his Iraq strategy more time.

BUSH: I congratulate Iraq's leaders on the agreement reached yesterday in Baghdad.

KING: Voicing confidence that Iraq's brawling political factions might finally find a path to reconciliation is a huge gamble yet trademark Bush.

BUCHANAN: His hair is grayer, his wrinkles are deeper but he still smiles. He still sustains the impression of being at peace with himself and confident in the decisions he's made.

KING: Trademark, too, were the departures of Rove and then Gonzales after months of defiant White House promises they would not bow to pressure from Democrats.

BUCHANAN: At least a couple of occasions he has stuck by people longer than it was in his interest to do, thinking of Secretary Rumsfeld and, to a degree, Attorney General Gonzales, and yet that's been his modus operandi and he's going to stick to it.

KING: His way, even as the job gets increasingly lonely.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: From the embattled president to the candidates who want to succeed him. Today they fanned out across the campaign trail, taking shots and talking tough about Alberto Gonzales and Iraq. And for one contender an office break-in.

CNN's Tom Foreman gets us up to speed in tonight's "Raw Politics".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, pull your toes out of the water. The Democrats are in a feeding frenzy over the Katrina anniversary and the sudden Gonzales good-bye.

(voice-over) Several Democratic candidates were at a Lance Armstrong cancer forum when the resignation came. It brought spontaneous applause and swipes at the White House over just about everything.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president wants a surge in the war in Iraq. I want a surge on the war on cancer.

FOREMAN: But the "Raw" read: with Gonzales and Karl Rove gone, the Dems have lost two terrific targets, so watch for a Republican counterattack.

Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki is wailing into Democratic senators Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton for saying he should step aside. He and President Bush are ballyhooing the latest progress on Iraq's thorny political progress, and Maliki suggest other U.S. politicians should keep their traps shut.

Conservative Republican Senator Larry Craig has been fined after admitting to disorderly conduct at the Minneapolis airport. "Roll Call" newspaper says the incident involved supposedly lewd behavior in an airport restroom in June.

We say supposedly, because a spokesman for the Idaho lawmaker is now saying his actions were misconstrued by investigators, and in hindsight he should not have pled guilty.

And Senator Chris Dodd's Connecticut office was burgled this weekend. Police say an intruder broke in and picked up a TV and a computer. They picked up the suspect a little while later.

(on camera) This wasn't exactly Watergate. The police say this guy had no idea Dodd is running for president, and that's no surprise because the polls suggest neither does the rest of America -- Soledad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Tom.

Up next, our special report, "Children of the Storm", a raw look at life after Katrina through the eyes of New Orleans' kids.

And then a little later, a dog gets revenge on Michael Vick. It's our shot of the day. It's still ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Two years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast causing more damage than any other single natural disaster in U.S. history.

Nobody thought it was going to be easy to rebuild the region. Nobody expected the blunders that we've seen either.

On Wednesday, the anniversary of the storm, Anderson is going to be here in New Orleans, "Keeping Them Honest" with a special report on the recovery effort.

Several presidential candidates will be making stops in the city, as well, this week. Today there was a recovery summit that included two of the top Democratic contenders, Senator Hillary Clinton and former senator John Edwards.

Here's a little bit of what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I know is as time passes, attention lapses, and people stop paying attention. And that's where presidential leadership is absolutely crucial, because if the president of the United States would have done what the people of New Orleans have done, what I've done on occasion when I've come here and continue to bring the attention of America to what's happened in New Orleans and how the people of New Orleans are struggling, then there would be action.

And the American people would not be apathetic about what's happening. The American people will respond. They responded right after the hurricane. They would respond today, but the president of the United States needs to ask them to respond.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel very strongly that you deserve to have the help of the rest of the country, and maybe I feel it especially strongly because of the experience that I went through representing New York after 9/11, but I will pledge to you this.

If we don't get done what you deserve to have done by the time I'm president, then when I'm president, this will be one of my highest priorities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN; You cannot begin to know what the last two years have been like for survivors of Katrina without spending a little bit of time with them.

Back in January, I teamed up with filmmaker Spike Lee to work on a project that, well, at least tried to do just that. We gave cameras to 11 young residents of New Orleans and asked them to record their lives. Their stories have become a documentary that's going to air this Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. One of the students you'll meet in the documentary is Amanda Hill.

Here's a little bit of her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANDA HILL, HURRICANE KATRINA SURVIVOR: This is my mother's grave. She died seven years ago, and we don't even have a name plate for her. All it is, is a square of cement that I write on with a sharpie. I love you, mom.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hill's mother died of cancer. Since Katrina, Amanda has lived in a FEMA trailer with her 66-year-old grandmother, Delores.

Amanda has been using the video camera she got in January to tell us about the debt they've piled up after the storm and the toll it's taking on her grandmother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My bills are more than I can handle. I'm very, very, very depressed about that.

HILL: Are you ever happy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to be, but not no more. Not since Hurricane Katrina got over with.

HILL: Before the storm, we struggled, but we made it, and we were fairly comfortable. Now she is so far in debt and so stressed out. I can physically see what it's doing to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm all dressed for work.

O'BRIEN: Delores had trouble finding work when she returned to St. Bernard Parish. The job at McDonald's was the only one she could get, and she doesn't make enough money to pay all the bills.

She told me she doesn't know how she's going to pay the bills this month, and it's enough to make someone want to commit suicide. All I could say was it's going to be OK, when in my head I don't think it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: You can see all of Amanda's story, plus the stories of the other "Children of the Storm" from New Orleans on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. It's called "Children of the Storm". We hope you're going to watch because their stories truly need to be heard.

When we come back, one last long shot effort at locating six missing miners, and a real scare for the son of professional wrestler and reality star Hulk Hogan, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: After Michael Vick pleaded guilty to a federal dog fighting charge today, he apologized to many people, including his youngest fans, but not everybody is willing to forgive him. In just a moment, how one former fan is channeling his disappointment with the help of his dog. That's tonight's "Shot".

First, though, Gary Tuchman joins us again with a "360 News and Business Bulletin".

Hey, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Soledad, hello to you.

President Bush today applauded what he calls a promising sign of progress by Iraq's leaders. Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish officials said yesterday they found common ground on some key issues standing in the way of reconciliation, but no details were released, and there's no guarantee that Iraq's parliament will approve the plans.

In Utah, an anxious wait as a robotic camera does its work deep inside the Crandall Canyon mine. The 8-inch device was lowered into a bore hole last night to locate signs of six coal miners who have been missing now for exactly three weeks.

Today, rescuers began drilling a seventh bore hole in the mountain. They're calling the latest effort a long shot.

Homeowners trying to sell last month faced the biggest glut on the market in almost 16 years, and a report shows the number of homes for sale in July jumped more than 5 percent.

Meantime, declining sales and growing problems in the mortgage market helped push home prices down for the 12th straight month, one whole year.

And the son of wrestling icon Hulk Hogan was discharged today from a Florida hospital after crashing his car into a palm tree yesterday. Police say the 17-year-old was speeding when he lost control of the car in Clearwater, Florida, and jumped a median. His passenger remains in critical condition.

No charges have been filed, at least yet, because, Soledad, the investigation continues.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm sure it does.

Well, Gary, tonight's "Shot" is a reminder of all that Michael Vick could lose on top of his freedom. Thirteen-year-old Tyler Reib (ph) used to be a huge fan of Vick's, and one of Tyler's most prized possessions was his football, which had been autographed by the NFL star.

But then the dog fighting charges came, kind of changed everything for little Tyler. Tyler decided he didn't want to keep the football anymore. He gave it, as you can see right there, to the family dog. His name is Otis. This video ends up on YouTube and Yahoo, and now Tyler has posted the football on eBay. He says if it actually sells he's going to donate half the proceeds to the Humane Society. You can see little Otis shredding the football.

TUCHMAN: Soledad, I call it the revenge of the dogs.

O'BRIEN: Getting back as Michael Vick.

We want you to send us your "Shot" ideas, if you've got some. If you see some amazing video ,tell us all about it. Go right to CNN.com/360.

Coming up next, Michael Vick in his own words, talking about dog fighting and the NFL.

Also ahead, Alberto Gonzales' resignation. Why did he quit now, and who's going to replace him? That's when 360 returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good evening from New Orleans. We are here in part to highlight, along with our friend, Spike Lee, some amazing stories told by the "Children of the Storm", in their own words, with cameras that we gave them.

We're going to lead things off tonight, though, with Michael Vick, who said he's sorry today for running a dog fighting operation. We'll take a look at his legal prospects and tackle the question of what to do about pit bulls?

Also, the nation's top law enforcement officer, Alberto Gonzales. Fallout tonight from his decision to step down.

First, though, Michael Vick, owning up and apologizing for something he once categorically denied: bank rolling and helping run a dog fighting ring, right down to killing pit bulls that didn't make the grade.

His apology came second. His guilty plea to a federal conspiracy charge came first.

More on both now from CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, who was in the courthouse today in Richmond, Virginia.

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