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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Tale of the Tape; Senator Busted; The Fallout; What Do You Think?; Hamas Leader Speaks

Aired August 30, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to play it all for you. You decide what went down and just what didn't. Then if you'd like, you can call us with your comments or any questions. Our toll free number is 877-648-3639, 877- 648-3639. Or send us an e-mail by going right to CNN.com/360. Scroll down to where it says "Contact Us."
First, though, some quick background. The tape was released today by the airport police department in Minneapolis. The voices you hear are Senator Craig, Detective Noel Nelson, and Investigative Sergeant Dave Karsnia, who did most of the talking for the police.

Now, the senator ended up pleading guilty to disorderly conduct, even though you will hear him dispute the specifics in the officer's account, which turns, for want of a better phrase, on some well-known signs and signals of men's room pickups.

Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DAVE KARSNIA, INVESTIGATIVE SERGEANT: Do you wish to talk to us at this time?

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I do.

KARSNIA: OK. I just want to start off with a your side of the story, OK? So...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG: So, I go into the bathroom here, as I normally do. I'm a commuter through here.

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: I sit down to go to the bathroom. And you said our feet bumped. I believe they did, because I reached down and scooted over, and the next thing I knew, under the bathroom divider comes a card that says "Police."

Now, that's about as far as I can take it. I don't know of anything else. Your foot came toward mine. Mine came towards yours. Was that natural? I don't know. Did we bump? Yes. I think we did. You said so. I don't disagree with that.

KARSNIA: OK. I don't want to get into a pissing match here. CRAIG: We're not going to.

KARSNIA: Good.

CRAIG: I don't -- I am not gay. I don't do these kinds of things and...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: That doesn't matter. I don't care about sexual preference or anything like that.

Here's your stuff back, sir. I don't care about sexual preference.

CRAIG: I know you don't. You're out to enforce the law.

KARSNIA: Right.

CRAIG: But you shouldn't be out to entrap people either.

KARSNIA: This isn't entrapment.

CRAIG: All right.

KARSNIA: You -- you're -- you're skipping some parts here, but what about your hand?

CRAIG: What about it? I reached down. My foot like this. There was a piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up.

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: What about my hand?

KARSNIA: Well, you're not being truthful with me. I'm kind of disappointed in you, Senator. I'm really disappointed right now.

OK? I'm not -- just so you know, just like everybody...

CRAIG: Yes?

KARSNIA: I treat with dignity. I try to pull them away from the situation.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: ... not embarrass them.

CRAIG: I appreciate that.

KARSNIA: And I...

CRAIG: You did that after the stall.

KARSNIA: I will say every person I have had so far has told me the truth. We have been respectful to each other, and then they have gone on their way. And I have never had to bring anybody to jail because everybody's been truthful to me.

CRAIG: I don't want you to take me to jail. And I think...

KARSNIA: I'm not going to take you to jail as long as you be cooperative, but I -- I'm not going to lie. We...

CRAIG: Did my hand come below the divider? Yes, it did.

KARSNIA: OK. Sir, we deal with people that lie to us every day.

CRAIG: I'm sure you do.

KARSNIA: I'm sure you do too, sir.

CRAIG: And, gentleman, so do I.

KARSNIA: I'm sure you do. We deal with a lot of people that are very bad people. You're not a bad person.

CRAIG: No, I don't think I am.

KARSNIA: OK. So what I'm telling you is, I don't want to be lied to.

CRAIG: OK.

KARSNIA: OK.

So, we will start over. You're going to get out of here. You're going to have to pay a fine, and that will be it. OK? And I don't call media. I don't do any of that type of crap.

CRAIG: Fine.

KARSNIA: OK?

CRAIG: Fine.

KARSNIA: All right, so let's start from the beginning. You went in the bathroom.

CRAIG: I went in the bathroom.

KARSNIA: And then what did you do when you...

CRAIG: I stood beside the wall, waiting for a stall to open. I got in the stall, sat down. I started to go to the bathroom. Did our feet come together? Apparently, they did bump. Well, I won't dispute that.

KARSNIA: OK. When I got out of the stall, I noticed other -- other stalls were open.

CRAIG: They were at the time. At the time I entered, I -- I -- at the time I entered, I stood and waited.

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: They were all busy, you know?

KARSNIA: Were you looking at me while you were waiting? I could see your eyes. I saw you playing with your fingers, then look up, play with your fingers, and then look up.

CRAIG: Did I glance at your stall? I was glancing at a stall right beside yours waiting for a fellow to empty it. I saw him stand up. And, therefore, I thought it was going to empty.

KARSNIA: How long do you think you stood outside the stalls?

CRAIG: Oh, a minute or two at the most.

KARSNIA: OK. And, when you went in the stall, then what?

CRAIG: Sat down.

KARSNIA: OK. Did you do anything with your feet?

CRAIG: Positioned them, I don't know. I don't know at the time. I'm a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA: I understand.

CRAIG: I tend to spread my legs...

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: ... when I lower my pants so they won't slide.

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I -- I looked down once your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA: Yes.

CRAIG: Did we bump? You said so. I don't recall that, but apparently we were close.

KARSNIA: Yeah. Well, your foot did touch mine, on my side of the stall.

CRAIG: All right.

KARSNIA: OK? And then with the hand. How many times did you put your hand under the stall?

CRAIG: I don't recall. I remember reaching down once -- there was a piece of toilet paper back behind me -- in picking it up.

KARSNIA: And I know it's hard to describe here on tape, but, actually, what I saw was your fingers come underneath the stalls. You were actually touching the bottom of the stall divider.

CRAIG: I don't recall that.

KARSNIA: You don't recall...

CRAIG: I don't believe I did that. I don't.

KARSNIA: I saw -- I saw...

CRAIG: I don't do those things.

KARSNIA: I saw your left hand. And I could see the gold wedding ring when it when it went across. I could see that. On your left hand, I could see that.

CRAIG: Wait a moment. My left hand was over here.

KARSNIA: I saw -- there's a...

CRAIG: My right hand was next to you.

KARSNIA: I could tell it with my -- I could tell it was your left hand, because your thumb was positioned -- in a faceward motion, your thumb was on this side, not on this side.

CRAIG: Well, we can dispute that. I'm not going to fight you in court.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: But I -- I reached down with my right hand to pick up the paper.

But I'm telling you that I could see that, so I know that's your left hand. Also, I could see a gold ring on this finger, so that it's obvious it was the left hand.

CRAIG: Yeah, OK. My left hand was in the direct opposite of the stall from you.

KARSNIA: It's embarrassing.

CRAIG: Well, it's embarrassing for both. But I'm not going to fight you.

KARSNIA: I know you're not going to fight me, but that's not the point. I would respect you. And I still respect you. I don't disrespect you. But I'm disrespected right now.

And I'm not tying to act like I have all kinds of power or anything, but you're sitting here lying to a police officer.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: That is not a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm getting from somebody else. I'm... (CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: I have been trained in this.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: I have been trained in this, and I know what I am doing.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: And I saw you put your hand under there. And you're going to sit there and...

CRAIG: I admit I put my hand down.

KARSNIA: You put your hand and rubbed it on the bottom of the stall with your left hand.

CRAIG: No. Wait a moment.

KARSNIA: And I'm -- I'm not dumb. You can say, I don't recall...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG: If I had turned sideways, that was the only way I could get my left hand over there.

KARSNIA: It's not that hard for you to reach...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: It's not that hard. I see it happen every day out here now.

CRAIG: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) You do. All right.

KARSNIA: I'm just -- I'm just -- I guess -- I guess I'm going to say I'm just disappointed in you, sir. I just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. But, I mean -- I mean, people vote for you.

CRAIG: Yes, they do.

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

CRAIG: And I'm a respectable person. And I don't do these kinds of...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: ... respect right now, though.

CRAIG: But I didn't use my left hand.

KARSNIA: I saw...

(CROSSTALK)

CRAIG: I reached down with my right hand like this to pick up a piece of paper.

KARSNIA: Was your gold ring on your right hand at any time today?

CRAIG: Of course not. Try to get it off. Look at it.

KARSNIA: OK. Then it was your left hand. I saw it with my own eyes.

CRAIG: All right, you saw something that didn't happen.

KARSNIA: Embarrassing. Embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes.

Do you have anything to add?

NOEL NELSON, DETECTIVE: Uh, no.

KARSNIA: All right. It's embarrassing.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, that's quite a recording, isn't it?

Again, we're taking your calls tonight. The lines are open. The number is 877-648-3639.

CNN's Candy Crowley and Jeff Toobin are here. So is Defense Attorney Jayne Weintraub.

Before we talk about the tape, though, first, Candy's going to fill us in on where Senator Craig stands in Washington now and in Idaho.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To measure the trouble Larry Craig is in, listen to the delicate dance of a friend and supporter.

GOV. BUTCH OTTER (R), IDAHO: You never really un-ring the bell. And the bell has been rung. And, so, as we go forward, I suspect there's going to have to be additional consideration by Larry and his family on where exactly they're going.

CROWLEY: Consider, too, that Nevada's John Ensign, in charge of the committee dedicated to electing Republican senators, told the AP, if he was in Larry Craig's shoes, he would resign. The senator has not been seen publicly since the "I did nothing wrong" statement. Wherever he is, he woke up this morning to find that his home state newspaper wants him gone.

"If Craig wishes to keep his secrets," wrote "The Idaho Statesman," he may do so as a former U.S. senator. "His stunning misstep has now cost him his viability and his credibility. He must now step aside."

It is water torture of the political sort.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My opinion is that, when you plead guilty to a crime, then you shouldn't serve. I don't try to judge people. But, in this case, it's clear that it was disgraceful.

CROWLEY: John McCain thinks Craig should resign. Ditto Michigan Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: Right now, the facts are very clear. He pled guilty to what I think is a pretty ugly crime.

CROWLEY: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, in a press release: "Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming of a senator. He should resign."

Drip, drip, drip, and no end in sight.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DAVE KARSNIA, INVESTIGATIVE SERGEANT: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The release of audiotapes of a U.S. senator being questioned by police about what went on in a public bathroom only gives the story more oxygen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I -- I looked down once your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA: Yes.

CRAIG: Did we bump? You said so. I don't recall that, but apparently we were close.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CROWLEY: A spokesman for Craig said only, the tapes speak for themselves.

With Republicans in turmoil, no need to chime in here, so Democrats are in avoidance mode.

Hillary Clinton kept herself occupied as questions were thrown at her. And Chuck Schumer, never one to run from the camera, didn't want to talk about whether a Craig resignation would put ruby red Idaho in play for a Democrat in 2008.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Again, to me, we will have to -- we will -- we will discuss that in future weeks, not right yet.

CROWLEY: In truth, Idaho is so Republican, probably the only way a Democrat could win the Senate seat would be if Craig were to run again.

On the campaign trail, only McCain has called for Craig's resignation. But all Republican candidates seek distance.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there's no question but that -- that I and other leaders of this country, and parents across this country, are -- are disappointed and find conduct like that which is alleged here as being disgraceful.

CROWLEY: Until Monday, Larry Craig headed Mitt Romney's Idaho effort. In politics, sometimes it's not political opponents who do you in. It's your friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Candy Crowley joins us now, along with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin and Criminal Defense Attorney Jayne Weintraub.

Thanks to all of you.

Candy, let me start with you.

As you talked about in your piece, you see the senator's fellow Republicans bailing, ditching him pretty -- pretty darn quick. How do you think this scandal is different from political sex scandals of the past?

CROWLEY: I think, quite simply, he pled guilty to something. You know, he says now, well, he didn't mean it. He was totally innocent.

But the fact of the matter is that he pled guilty to -- to whatever he thought he was pleading guilty to. And there's no way around that. And I think that's currently what Republicans are hanging their hat on.

O'BRIEN: Candy, when "The Washington Post," was writing about this today, they said -- they characterized it as his colleagues pushing him under the bus. Do you think that's a fair characterization of what's happening here?

CROWLEY: Well, I -- I think what Republicans know is that they need to get rid of this problem. They have been trying to turn the corner. As you know, there have been scandals before this. The 2006 election was widely seen as also due to Republican corruption scandals and the like. They dearly want to turn this corner. And this is one big roadblock here.

O'BRIEN: Jeff, you have heard the tape now, and over and over and over again. And it essentially is his argument. If he had gone to court, I mean, kind of you can imagine that that would be the argument he -- he would have given.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And it's not a terrible argument.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I mean, would a prosecutor -- would this -- would a prosecutor be able to win if that was the argument in court?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't know. I mean, you would have to see how credible the cop's testimony was. You would have to see if there was corroborating evidence on either side.

And, if you read the police report, he has a much more detailed account of what went on there. And it included, you know, looking through the -- the door and many more minutes of activity than -- than Craig describes.

But the idea that the cop entrapped him and the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, defendants have gone to trial in these cruising cases and won with that defense. So, I'm not prepared to say it was an impossible defense at trial. The problem is, is he pled guilty. So, why should anyone believe this defense that he ultimately abandoned?

O'BRIEN: Jayne, let me ask you a question.

You know, Jeff was just talking about that entrapment issue, which Craig brings up -- Senator Craig brings up in the middle of that taping. You could hear it.

Do you think these actions, in any way, could be entrapment?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, officially, under the law as we know it, no, not really, because they're -- the police officer is going to probably make things up, and say that Senator Craig initiated it, and he was there to begin with; he had a predisposition for it.

However, what I will tell you, Soledad, is that we don't know what really happened here. And what Jeff was talking about is, this is a typical one-on-one case. Police officer says one thing and the accused says another.

In these kinds of cases, where it's a one-on-one, usually, they're not prosecuted. Why? Because we're talking about a criminal case, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It's a balance, not 50/50. It is a tipping of the scales, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. There's no tape, no surveillance, no corroboration, no witnesses. It is a one-on-one.

Senator Craig disposed of this.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: In other words, you're saying, he should have called a lawyer and taken his chances, it sounds like you're saying.

WEINTRAUB: Well, unfortunately, if he had called a lawyer and taken his chances -- I represented a very high public official on -- on Court TV, cable to cable, soliciting a prostitute, not guilty. We won the case, but he lost the war, because he was thrown off the bench four weeks later.

So, what would have been gained here? He was looking at this as a nuisance value. Get rid of it. The cop told him, you will just pay a fine. I'm not going to hurt you.

And that's what the senator did. He believed the cop.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, except that...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Well, also, I would like to -- I would just like to say, you know, Jayne said, well, of course the cop's going to lie. I mean, I think that's extremely unfair to this police officer, as far as we know, is an honest fellow.

And, you know, given what we -- you know, the -- what "The Idaho Statesman" has reported about Craig's past, this -- this behavior hardly seems out of character for him.

O'BRIEN: Well, plus, Jayne, you said he -- you know, he -- he just believed the cops, as in, here he is a victim, didn't even really understand what he was signing away guilty. He didn't under -- I mean, he's a U.S. senator.

TOOBIN: Well, and, also, why would -- why would this cop make -- make something up about this random person who happened to be in the next stall, unless this person in the next stall was doing something?

WEINTRAUB: Why do cops have to give so many tickets a month, Jeff? It's the same kind of a thing.

TOOBIN: Well, I mean -- but that's -- I mean, what do you mean? They -- they don't make things up as a matter of course.

WEINTRAUB: I didn't say he made -- they make things up, but I think they have quotas. And I think they look for people sometimes going three miles over an hour or 20 miles over an hour. And I think there's a big difference. O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, it brings you back to the question, if you didn't do it, and you're a U.S. senator, who should kind of understand what a guilty plea means, why plead guilty? Why not -- why not...

WEINTRAUB: As a matter of convenience.

O'BRIEN: It's not going to go away.

TOOBIN: Convenience? Come on, Jayne.

O'BRIEN: That's...

TOOBIN: I mean, how many innocent people would you know, prominent people, who are capable and have the financial wherewithal to hire a lawyer, decide, well, you know, it's more convenient to plead guilty to an extremely embarrassing crime?

WEINTRAUB: Because then the media comes up with, whoa, they lawyered up. That's a new quote of the decade. You know that, Jeff.

TOOBIN: Oh, come on. But it's a heck of a lot better...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: If he had hired a lawyer

TOOBIN: It's a heck of a lot better to be -- to say that, you know, you hired a lawyer than you pled guilty to soliciting someone in a bathroom.

Do you really think those two things are equally bad?

O'BRIEN: OK. That's an excellent question to end on...

TOOBIN: Yes. OK.

O'BRIEN: ... for the moment. Of course, you're going to stick around with us for the next couple of blocks.

We have got much more to talk about with our panel, more on Senator Larry Craig.

But, first, we want to check a little "Raw Data" for you.

The senator voted against the gay marriage -- supporting the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, campaigned against civil unions in his own state. Before he served in Congress, he worked as a farmer and a rancher, 62 years old, got married back in 1983, has three children, nine grandchildren.

That's some of the "Raw Data" there.

Your calls and e-mails up next. Again, our toll-free number is 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639. Or send us an e-mail. Just go to CNN.com/360. Scroll down to "Contact Us." A short break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

CRAIG: I don't -- I am not gay. I don't do these kinds of things and...

(CROSSTALK)

KARSNIA: That doesn't matter. I don't care about sexual preference or anything like that.

Here's your stuff back, sir. I don't care about sexual preference.

CRAIG: I know you don't. You're out to enforce the law.

KARSNIA: Right.

CRAIG: But you shouldn't be out to entrap people either.

KARSNIA: This isn't entrapment.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: We're taking your calls now on Larry Craig's arrest, the tape, the guilty plead, the political implications.

With us, CNN Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, our Senior Legal Analyst Jeff Toobin, who is also a former federal prosecutor, and, for the defense -- so to speak -- Attorney Jayne Weintraub.

We have got our first caller on the line. It's Bill in New York.

Hi, Bill. What's your point?

CALLER: Hi, Soledad. Thanks for -- thanks for taking my call.

I just want to know what your experts think. Does this guy survive the week? Or is he done by tomorrow?

O'BRIEN: Interesting, yes, political question.

Let's throw it right to Candy.

You know, when your friends line up, your colleagues line up, Candy, even though he has said he's going to stick it out because he thinks he can do a lot more for the folks in Idaho, but you look at the polls, how long, realistically, can he last?

CROWLEY: Well, realistically, obviously, as all his friends say, it's up to him.

But, in the end, again, when you see somebody like Senator Ensign, who heads the Republican Senatorial Committee, the guy who helps get Republican senators elected, come out and say, boy, if I were him, I would go ahead and resign, these are large, public hints. One has to believe he is getting them in private as well. And, if he doesn't, he just has to read his paper.

TOOBIN: And as important as the people whom we're hearing from are the people we are not hearing from.

There is not one senator or one public official that I'm aware of who said, stick -- you know, hang in there, Larry, and fight, you know, not one. I mean, he has no support. He's gone, I think, probably next week.

O'BRIEN: We have got a phone call from Bart in Virginia.

Hi, Bart.

CALLER: Yes.

Hi. How are you?

O'BRIEN: I'm well. Thank you.

What's your question.

CALLER: OK.

I am a gay male. And I have a lot of -- if this is true, if it's true, I -- I have a lot of friends that have done this act. And -- but it's not my choice. OK? I personally think it's disgusting, if it's true.

But, on the bottom line, what does it have to do, if it's true, with the way he handles political affairs?

O'BRIEN: Well, that's an interesting question, but doesn't it come down -- let's give that to Jeff Toobin -- because, at the end of the day, is this related more than anything to the idea that he -- he pled guilty to a misdemeanor...

TOOBIN: Well, I think there are two things.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: ... and didn't tell anybody.

TOOBIN: Right.

I mean, a misdemeanor is a crime. He is now a convicted criminal. United States senators, politicians cannot be convicted criminals. They have -- they have to leave.

Second, I think there is a hypocrisy issue here. You know, Larry Craig is an extremely conservative, so-called family values politician, who has consistently voted against gay rights and equality for gay people. And to be, apparently, a closeted gay person yourself while holding those...

O'BRIEN: Allegedly.

TOOBIN: Right -- hold -- well, he's not -- he's not allegedly criminal. He is a convicted criminal. And that activity -- and it was associated with gay activity. So, I don't think he's -- he's not innocent until proven guilty. He's guilty.

And I think the hypocrisy issue is a real one for any politician. And I think it's a fair point to make here.

O'BRIEN: All right.

We have got an e-mail from Tom in Oregon.

Tom writes this: "Nothing the guy did was obviously criminal. It is the interpretation of the cop. Why plead guilty to a lesser charge? Obvious! Much more time and money necessary to go to Minnesota to trial to defend himself. The only rational approach is to pay the $500 fine and forget it."

You know, you hear this a lot. And this was actually Senator Craig's own argument kind of in that press conference, which was: You know, listen, I just wanted to make it go away. It just seemed like the simple, easy route.

But I guess it brings us back.

Let me throw -- get Jayne...

TOOBIN: OK.

O'BRIEN: ... to -- to -- to jump in on this.

It brings you back to the -- the -- the opposite side of that, Jayne, which is, I mean, would you ever advise a client, listen, you know what, you're going to -- 500 bucks, get it over with; just plead guilty?

Would you ever tell your client to do that?

WEINTRAUB: It would depend on my client's interests.

I mean, when I was -- if I was representing a senator, I might tell him that he, in considering whether or not to take a plea like this, in writing, you don't even have to appear in court. Maybe nobody will know. Maybe we can get this through the paperwork.

O'BRIEN: Jayne, Jayne...

WEINTRAUB: That's what he did, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You're going to -- you would tell...

WEINTRAUB: That's the convenience. O'BRIEN: You would tell your client, a U.S. senator, listen, maybe no one will find out; go ahead; you -- you say you didn't do it; it's not true; go ahead, you know, because you don't want to have to come back to Minnesota; it's just better to plead guilty?

WEINTRAUB: No. You don't want it on the front page of "The National Enquirer."

O'BRIEN: Well, guess what? Guess where it is now?

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: You don't want a media circus.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: But that was the risk that he took, Soledad, because a trial isn't going to hurt him if he's found not guilty. No matter what, the publicity kills him.

So, that's the problem.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: Like, with my case, it was winning a battle, but losing the war.

TOOBIN: Part of...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB: What did -- what did the judge accomplish?

TOOBIN: Part of...

WEINTRAUB: Nothing. He was kicked off the bench.

TOOBIN: What happens in every guilty plea is, the judge says to the defendant, are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?

WEINTRAUB: Jeff, he wasn't even there. It was done in paper.

TOOBIN: Well, I'm not even -- are you sure that's correct? I'm not sure.

WEINTRAUB: Yes. As a matter of fact, I have...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: I have seen the paper. You know, I have seen the paper. But I'm not -- I'm not sure -- he didn't appear at all?

WEINTRAUB: It's my understanding from the paperwork...

CROWLEY: The paper clearly says...

WEINTRAUB: ... and -- and the AP that it's a written plea.

CROWLEY: The paper...

WEINTRAUB: We have that in Florida.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead. Go ahead, Candy.

TOOBIN: Yes, but...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Hang on.

Let me get Candy in here.

Go ahead.

CROWLEY: I just want to say, the paper clearly says, no judge will accept a guilty plea from someone who is innocent. I mean, it says that. It's almost the last thing before he signs his name.

So, I mean, I do think that the only hope Larry Craig thought he had politically was that this wouldn't come out in public.

WEINTRAUB: Exactly.

CROWLEY: I think that is why he signed it.

I mean, that was his only hope here, because he can't -- I mean, a trial would have the same effect as this is having.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And he was...

CROWLEY: So...

O'BRIEN: It -- it didn't come out for a long time.

Listen, guy, we have got to take a short break.

But then we're going to have much more with our roundtable straight ahead, more calls, more e-mails as well.

Once again, our toll-free number is 877-648-3639. Or just go ahead and send us an e-mail, CNN.com/360. Scroll down to where it says "Contact Us."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KARSNIA: OK. And, when you went in the stall, then what?

CRAIG: Sat down.

KARSNIA: OK. Did you do anything with your feet?

CRAIG: Positioned them, I don't know. I don't know at the time. I'm a fairly wide guy.

KARSNIA: I understand.

CRAIG: I tend to spread my legs...

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: ... when I lower my pants, so they won't slide.

KARSNIA: OK.

CRAIG: Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I -- I looked down once your foot was close to mine.

KARSNIA: Yes.

CRAIG: Did we bump? You said so, I don't recall that, but apparently we were close.

KARSNIA: Yes, well, your foot did touch mine, on my side of the stall.

CRAIG: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: We're talking your calls tonight on the Senator Craig bathroom sting interrogation tape. Should he resign? Don't ask, don't tell affair. That's what we call it for short.

He's off of Governor Romney's campaign. He's off of the Senate committees for now. His hometown paper says he should go. So do a majority of Idahoans, by the way.

You've heard the police tape now. So we're taking your calls and your e-mails, as well.

With us tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley, Jeffrey Toobin, and Criminal Defense Attorney Jayne Weintraub.

Let's get right back to the phones.

David in Pennsylvania is on the line for us.

Hi, David.

CALLER: Hello, Soledad. Thank you for taking my call, first off.

O'BRIEN: OK.

CALLER: My comment is, as Senator John McCain has said, he should resign. But the thing is, one of you also said that, you know, the judge won't take a guilty plea, even though he it's not guilty.

Is it fair to say that justice is blind? But is it just saying that he won't take the guilty plea? Isn't that saying that justice is peaking a little bit or what?

TOOBIN: No. I mean, if you look at the form that he signed, it very clearly says the reason you are -- you certify, by signing this form, that you are guilty of the crime.

And one thing judges are concerned about when they take guilty pleas sometimes, is that the defense -- is the defendants are taking pleas to get it over with and/or to, you know, put the whole matter behind them, but they're not really guilty. And judges don't want to do that. That's not how the system is built. You have to be guilty to plead guilty.

And that's what Craig certified in this document he signed.

O'BRIEN: Matthew in North Carolina, sent us an e-mail. It says this: "Yet another so-called 'family values' guy gets busted for public behavior of the type he has vehemently tried to forbid others to exercise in private. It's not a question of being a Democrat or a Republican, but of being morally consistent between 'values' and personal behavior."

Candy, to what degree do you think -- if you could sum that up under a hypocrisy -- question mark -- headline. What -- to what degree is that really at issue here politically for him?

CROWLEY: Well, politically, it's very much at issue. The larger political problem is the party not needing any more taint on it and wanting to move beyond this.

They are not all that concerned with hypocrisy. Let's face it, if hypocrisy were a fireable offense up on Capitol Hill, there'd be more than Senator Craig out there.

But the fact of the matter is that perception in politics is reality. And the perception that he has been hypocritical because he has voted anti-gay in many instances, is a very powerful thing that propels this story forward.

I still think the most powerful thing about this story is that signature on that plea agreement.

TOOBIN: I think this is a problem particularly for Republicans in sex scandals. First of all, because they happen to be the ones in sex scandals at the moment. You know, whether it's David Vitter and prostitutes in Louisiana or Mark Foley with the pages in Florida.

The Republican Party is the party of morality, of family values. And to have those people getting in trouble for this kind of behavior makes it more difficult for everyone in the party.

O'BRIEN: I think we've got time for just one more call. Mel in Washington is on the line. Hi, Mel. What's your question?

CALLER: I really don't have a question. I just think this guy is getting taken to the cleaners. And it's all a war between the Democrats and the Republicans. And we need to start taking care of the country, instead of worrying about this kind of stuff.

O'BRIEN: Meaning, you think he should -- people should just back off, let him remain as a senator and stop asking him probing questions?

CALLER: That's right. He's there to represent Idaho, in which I lived for 38 years. And they need to leave him alone and let him do his job.

O'BRIEN: All right, well let's give Candy the final response, then tonight.

Candy, a lot of people who want him out have said he can't do it. He's lost so much credibility that, as far as it goes to representing Idahoans, he really is not in a position anymore to do that well.

CROWLEY: Well, not only that. When he comes back to Capitol Hill, this is still an issue when they come back from recess. It will remain an issue for a while. He will be under scrutiny. And it is one of the things that is almost impossible to get around.

I mean, I think as you heard the governor say, you know, the bell has been rung here. And it's very difficult to unring that bell. And I think politically, it's very, very difficult for him to come back and be viable.

And, you know, you heard our Dana Bash reporting on the embarrassment there is in Idaho and the feeling that, if this is allowed to stay this way, he cannot do Idaho's business.

O'BRIEN: Well, thank you, Candy Crowley, Jeff Toobin, Jayne Weintraub, for joining us. We appreciate it, from our expert panel.

Thanks to our callers, as well, and our e-mailers. If you didn't get on the air tonight, well, we still want to hear from you. Do you think Senator Craig should resign? Send us a v-mail. That's a video e-mail. Just go to CNN.com, click on the link. We're going to play some of those on the air.

Erica Hill joins us now. She's got a "360 Bulletin" for us.

Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, a scare at the U.N., where chemical substances were found. U.N. officials cleaning out offices about five blocks from the Secretariat Building, were surprised to find samples of material from an Iraqi chemical weapons plant, including what may be a poison choking gas used in World War I.

The officials say the substances remained sealed and posed no immediate danger. They were taken from a plant north of Baghdad in 1996.

An independent assessment says the Iraqi government has failed to meet at least 13 of the 18 political and security goals set by the U.S. Congress. The draft report from the Government Accountability Office will not be released publicly until next week.

But the Bush administration is already reacting to the leak, criticizing the assessment for giving only pass/fail marks with little nuance.

And a small victory for former astronaut Lisa Nowak. A Florida judge has ruled she no longer has to wear the electronic tracking bracelet, citing in part, her lack of a prior criminal record.

Nowak will stand trial next month for allegedly driving from Texas to Florida to assault a romantic rival, to which she has pleaded not guilty -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's an interesting development there.

HILL: Indeed it is. We were a little surprised.

On not to the "what were they thinking?" for tonight? Kind of an unusual robbery, you might say. And one of the more entertaining stories of the day.

This is surveillance video, which strategically has a blurred out spot in the upper right-hand corner. There we go, blurred again, because it's a naked man. Apparently, trying to distract the clerk of this Desoto, Missouri, convenient store earlier this month, doing a hula dance as his buddy stole a case of beer.

But the plan didn't really work. The two ran off and joined another friend in a car. Somebody got the license plate number. And all three were caught a few days later.

O'BRIEN: Well maybe they were just -- they were drunk. And he got naked.

HILL: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And tried to steal some beer.

HILL: They probably didn't need the extra case of beer. They'd probably already had enough.

O'BRIEN: Yes, one would guess, wouldn't they?

All right. Erica, thanks.

Some other crime video to show you now. Pretty amazing stuff. Speeds up to 130-mile-per-hour, arrest, a shoot-out. Well, imagine sitting in the passenger seat on that one. We'll tell you what happened to that passenger in just a few moments.

Also tonight, these stories. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): He rarely gives interviews. Now, the leader of Hamas has a warning for the United States. It's a CNN exclusive.

Later, find out which powerful congressman wants to spend a small fortune on a portrait of himself to hang in the halls of power. "Raw Politics," only on 360.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN (on camera): The heat that Republicans are feeling from the Larry Craig scandal has some in the party calling for the Idaho senator's resignation, as we reported earlier. That's the big political story in play tonight. But it is not the only news. There's plenty of "Raw Politics" too.

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, Labor Day is looming. And the campaigns are throwing gasoline on the barbecue, heating up the ad wars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (voice-over): Mitt Romney has spent more than any other Republican to buy first place in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. But his latest ad has a shoestring budget.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney. And I approve this message.

FOREMAN: The "Raw" read, politicians love looking fit for the presidency, as if it revolves around weightlifting and triathlons. But careful. John Kerry knows this can backfire.

John McCain, struggling to get back in the pack, is rolling out a new video, emphasizing his courage and his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

On the Democratic side, big Joe Biden passing the hat. Short on cash, he wants supporters to adopt an ad, with specific donations to pay for TV time.

Two quick hits. Fred Thompson, his staff is leaking like a sieve. News that he will be in the race in one week, starting a five- state campaign tour.

Hillary Clinton, donating $23,000 of her campaign dollars to charity. Turns out the guy who raised it is wanted for fraud.

And our country is at war. The approval rating for Congress, never lower. So, what does Congressman Charlie Rangel want? To spend more than $64,000 on a portrait of himself.

The New York Democrat is asking the Federal Elections Commission if he can use campaign funds for a portrait to be displayed in a committee hearing room.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN (on camera): Now this is not tax money. It is money that Rangel raised, and he is very happy about this. Nonetheless, there will be some constituents, no doubt, who will not be too pleased with the priorities -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Tom.

Don't miss "Raw Politics" and the day's headlines with the 360 daily podcast. You don't need to have an iPod. You can watch it on your computer. CNN.com/AC360podcast. Or get it from the iTunes store, where it's a top download.

Coming up next on 360, an unprecedented access to a leader in exile. His group practices terror, fights for the destruction of Israel. So why does the leader of Hamas think he deserves a spot at the peace table? Nic Robertson's exclusive interview is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: To Hamas fighters, he's their leader. But to the U.S. and Israel, he is a terrorist. Tonight, you're going to meet him.

In an exclusive interview, CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson sat down with the exiled head of Hamas, the militant organization that wields power over Palestinians and Gaza. It is a rare look at a man who sanctions suicide bombings.

Here's Nic Robertson's exclusive report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To get to the leader of Hamas, you need to come here to Damascus in Syria. He lives here in exile, shuffling between secret safe houses.

Israeli agents tried to kill him 10 years ago, and Hamas is convinced Halid Mashal remains a target.

We were told to meet a contact in a hotel.

(on camera): We weren't allowed to film that meeting. In fact, we had our cell phones taken away. And our photographs taken for their records. They weren't taking any chances that we were being bugged or followed.

And I was beginning to wonder, what was this man, seen as a terrorist by Israel, the United States and many others, going to say? Does he plan to block U.S. peace efforts? (voice-over): On the way to the safe house, we were allowed to take a few photographs, but no video. By the time we meet Mashal, we'd been through more security checks. They apologize. But reminders of why adorn the walls of the safe house.

Upstairs, where we had the second of our two lengthy, exclusive meetings, a picture of Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheikh Yassin, killed by an Israeli missile three years ago. And a huge poster of more than a dozen deceased Hamas leaders.

It's the first Western TV interview this powerful Palestinian leader has given since Hamas won Palestinian elections a year and a half ago.

When we finally get to talk to him, he has a warning. The peace talks the U.S. has set up for later this year will fail if Hamas is not invited.

HALID MASHAL, EXILED HEAD OF HAMAS (through translator): This conference will fail for many reasons. First of all, because it's lacking seriousness from both the American and Israeli side. And Hamas is excluded.

ROBERTSON: Whether or not Hamas goes to the talks, what they want is U.S. pressure on Israel to make concessions. Withdraw from the West Bank, go back with conditions, to borders before the 1967 war between Israel and Arab nations. Which Mashal says is a softening of Hamas' demands a decade ago.

MASHAL (through translator): Pressure Israel to admit Palestinian rights and allow a Palestinian state. Then, put pressure on Palestinians and Arabs. And test them to see if they will accept new demands or if they recognize Israel.

ROBERTSON: Until demands are met, Mashal says he makes no apology for targeting Israeli civilians.

MASHAL (through translator): When Israel stops its occupation and aggression, we will stop, as well.

ROBERTSON: He was relaxed and firmly in control. He even took a phone call in the middle of the interview that he claims was from an Arab leader. Proof, he says, that he's not entirely isolated.

Mashal's unwavering message: Hamas is here to stay. The U.S. and Israel, he says, will ultimately have to talk to him, if they want peace.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Damascus, Syria.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Just ahead, one woman's huge promise to nearly two dozen kids. A promise many people thought would be impossible to keep. We'll tell you what it is and how it made her a CNN hero. 360, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: In many cities across the country, school begins next week, making this the perfect time to introduce you to CNN Hero Oral Lee Brown.

Nearly 20 years ago she made a remarkable promise to a class of struggling first graders, young children facing all the obstacles of poverty.

Well, her promise changed their lives. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ORAL LEE BROWN, CNN HERO: These are our kids.

We should at least take them to a position in their life that they can leave their way. And they can't do it without an education.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

36 percent of public school students in Oakland, California, never make it to graduation.

(END GRAPHIC)

BROWN: An education can get you everything you want. You can go wherever you want to go. It's the way out of the ghettos, bottom line.

YOLANDA PEEK, FORMER SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: She says, give me your first graders who are really struggling and who are most needy.

I want to adopt the class and I want to follow the class until they graduate from high school. And she says that she was going to pay their college tuition.

BROWN: At the time I was making I think $45,000, $46,000 a year. So I committed $10,000 to the kids.

I grew up in Mississippi. I lived off of $2 a day. That's what we got -- $2 a day for picking cotton.

And so I really feel that I was blessed from God and so I cannot pay him back, but these kids are his kids. These kids -- some of them are poor like I was.

LAQUITA WHITE, FORMER STUDENT: When you have that mentor, like Ms. Brown, a very strong person, you can't go wrong because she's on you constantly every day. What are you doing? How are you doing?

BROWN: The world doubted us. I was told that, lady, you cannot do it. And I would say, you know what, these kids are just like any other kid. The only thing is that they don't have the love and they don't have the support.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

19 of the 23 original students were sent to college.

Oral Lee Brown's program continues today.

(END GRAPHIC)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They called me yesterday and told me that I was accepted.

BROWN: You're looking at doctors and lawyers and one president of the United States.

When you give a kid an education and they get it up here, nobody or nothing can take it away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: To learn more about Oral Lee Brown and her foundation and to nominate a hero of your own, go to CNN.com/Heroes. You've got until September 30 to get your nominations in.

Winners will be honored during a special broadcast on December 6, hosted by Anderson.

Ahead on 360, your reaction to our Katrina special last night. We'll read some of your messages "On the Radar," right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "On the Radar," tonight, your opinions on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the so-called Katrina fatigue of those who want to move on.

Eric in Dallas writes: It is easy to say I'm sick of Katrina. And it's hard to put yourself in somebody else's shoes. But maybe if we all pull together, long-term recovery and restoration in Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast could be a real example of how great America is.

Todd in Dover, New Hampshire, though, wants more attention elsewhere. He writes this: What I really want to know is why there isn't an anniversary show for the 2003 Iranian earthquake (20,000 killed) or the 2003 Kashmir, Pakistan earthquake (73,000 killed) or the 2004 Asia Tsunami (283,000 killed!)? Don't these places deserve at least as much, if not more, coverage than a city in the richest country in the world?

And finally, an upbeat note about those trying to recover in the Gulf. Corey in Lakeview, Louisiana, writes this: We'll never give up; it's a southern thing.

Well, we certainly hope you don't.

As always, we want to hear from you. You can log on to CNN.com/360Blog or post a v-mail through our Web site.

I'm Soledad O'Brien. Be sure to catch a special edition of 360 tomorrow, the Anvil of God.

For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in the states, "LARRY KING" is coming up.

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