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McVeigh Defense, Prosecution Attorneys Discuss Execution; Daschle Addresses Senate Power Shift; Dodd, Thompson Debate Congressional Agenda

Aired June 10, 2001 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 11:00 a.m. in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Oklahoma City, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angles and 5:00 p.m. in London. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this two-hour LATE EDITION.

We'll hear from the new U.S. Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, shortly, but first, the hour's top story.

We begin in Terre Haute where Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be put to death tomorrow morning. It will be the first federal execution in the United States in 38 years. McVeigh was moved this morning before dawn to a holding cell next to the chamber where he will be executed. He was taken there in this white prison van under extremely heavy guard.

CNN's Susan Candiotti is outside the federal penitentiary with the latest on the final preparations for the execution -- Susan.


McVeigh was described as cooperative when he was moved to his holding cell.

This morning I talked with his two biographers, two reporters for the Buffalo News, McVeigh's hometown newspaper. One of those two biographers will be a witness to the execution at McVeigh's request.



CANDIOTTI: Lou, you're just a few hours away from witnessing a death. What are these few hours like for you?

LOU MICHEL, CO-AUTHOR, "AMERICAN TERRORIST": Susan, I don't know what to feel. As a journalist and biographer, I'm ready for it. But on a personal level, I have never seen that. I've been to hundreds of crime scenes in my career and I have seen death, but I've never seen somebody put to death.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTTI: Timothy McVeigh is spending his remaining moments of life in this holding cell just a few steps away from the execution chamber. Strapped to this gurney, McVeigh will be first person put to death by the federal government since 1963. Ten victim witnesses will stare at him through a one-way window from the middle room overlooking the chamber. McVeigh will not see their faces.

In Sunday's Buffalo News, McVeigh writes to his hometown paper he is sorry, sort of: "I am so sorry these people had to lose their lives," he writes. "It's understood going in what the human toll will be."

His biographers call the apology hollow.


MICHEL: Timothy McVeigh is going to his grave confident that he achieved what he set out to.


CANDIOTTI: In his final letters, McVeigh says again that there was no John Doe Number Two. McVeigh writes, "For those diehard conspiracy theorists who will refuse to believe this, I turn the tables and say, show me where I needed anyone else -- financing, logistics, specialized tech skills, strategy. Show me where I needed a dark, mysterious Mr. X."


DAN HERBECK, CO-AUTHOR, "AMERICAN TERRORIST": And anyone who reads our book can see that it lays out the bombing step by step, every single thing that was done. And there was no need for any huge conspiracy of people.



CANDIOTTI: McVeigh remains an agnostic. He doesn't believe or disbelieve in a God. But he tells his biographers that if indeed he finds out there is an afterlife, he'll adapt, he'll improvise, just like they taught him in the Army -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan, will McVeigh be receiving any visitors this afternoon?

CANDIOTTI: Yes, both of his lawyers will be visiting him separately an hour apart from each other, but it will be a no-contact visit.

CANDIOTTI: They will see him through glass.

And then the next time they will see him will be 15 minutes before he is walked into the death chamber to have the intravenous materials when he is strapped to gurney, Wolf. BLITZER: Susan Cadiotti in Terre Haute, thank you very much.

And now to Oklahoma City where the victims' family members and survivors of the bombing will be allowed to witness Timothy McVeigh's execution, via closed-circuit television. CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us now with details.

Gary, you and I were both Oklahoma City six years ago right after the bombing. Quite a difference between then and now.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very big difference, Wolf. There is no question about this. As we speak, 10 of those Oklahomans are getting ready to board a government plane to fly to Terre Haute, Indiana. They are the 10 who have been selected by lottery to watch the execution in person. The plane will leave early this afternoon.

Behind me, the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center. This is the museum that is a tribute to 168 people who lost their lives. This is where the Murrah building used to stand.

Right in the area to the right of the museum, that's the outdoor memorial. That is where the Murrah building was, and that is where Tim McVeigh said he was considering having his ashes spread. Now he says he is not planning on doing that.

Many of the people who will be witnessing this execution, including roughly 330 here on closed-circuit television, say they are concerned about how they will react when they watch the execution.

I can give them a little insight about that. Five years ago, I witnessed an execution. I was a news media representative with CNN, as a witness to another notorious execution because is was the last hanging in United States, January 1996, Smyrna, Delaware. The convicted man was named Billy Bailey. Delaware, at that point, had an option of lethal injection or hanging. Billy Bailey chose hanging.

We entered the room, five of the media representatives and seven family members of a couple that he killed. We all looked at each other when we walked in. We were told to remain silent. Billy Bailey stood 25 yards away from us for about 10 minutes before the execution. He stared at us. We stared at him silently. I watched the family members. They had no reaction.

Then a hood was put over Billy Bailey's head. Three executioners came out also with baseball caps and hoods. They dropped the floor below him, he twisted around six times really fast, two times in the other direction.

I once again looked at the family members. There was no yelling, no smiling, no crying. They were very silent, and later they said they felt good about it. But it helped perhaps that Billy Bailey had no final words. Tim McVeigh says he will.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Gary Tuchman in Oklahoma City, thank you very much. Joining us now is a guest who has been spending a lot of time with Timothy McVeigh in recent days and weeks. Chris Tritico is an attorney for Timothy McVeigh. He joins us from Terre Haute.

Mr. Tritico, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.

I want to get right to the most recent comments from Timothy McVeigh, as reported in the Buffalo News by the two authors. He doesn't seem to be showing any remorse whatsoever. Is he showing any remorse?

CHRISTOPHER TRITICO, MCVEIGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I've never talked to Tim about those letters and, quite frankly, didn't even know about the letters until last night.

I'm not going to speak for Tim. Ever since I got involved in this case, the public has been saying we want to hear from Tim McVeigh. Well, Tim wrote those letters, and those are his words. I don't know what his thoughts were, and I'm not going to try to get in his mind.

BLITZER: The whole issue, though, of what he calls collateral damage, the civilians who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, is something that the American people simply can't understand. You have spoken to him. What is going through his mind when he is talking about collateral damage, the 19 children, for example, who were killed in that daycare center?

TRITICO: Well, let me tell what I know is what Tim put in the book, is he didn't know there were any children in that building. I believe that to be true.

The collateral damage statement I view as a military term used by a military man who felt like he was on a military operation.

And again, that's as far as I can go. I'm not going to try to get into Tim's head about his statements about this case.

BLITZER: One of the things he does say as far as the cremation of his remains, he does say in this letter to the Buffalo News, "I don't want to create a draw for people who hate me or for people who love me." It suggests that he doesn't want anybody to know where his ashes will be sent.

Are those the instructions he has given you as well?

TRITICO: The instructions regarding what happens to Tim's remains after the execution are privileged and only a few people know.

I don't even know all of the instructions regarding the remains. But what I do know is that it is something that will remain privileged forever.

BLITZER: What do you think is going through his mind right now?

TRITICO: I don't know what's going through Tim's mind right now. I know from talking with Rob Nigh yesterday that Tim is in a good frame of mind. He is prepared. He has been prepared. And he is ready for this execution to go forward tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: Is he scared?

TRITICO: I have not spoken with Tim since last Thursday before the court of appeals rejected our last request for a stay. I do not believe that Tim is scared, though.

BLITZER: As far as any last minute appeal, it's, I take it, highly unlikely, but theoretically it's still possible. Do you anticipate between now and 8:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning that Timothy McVeigh will have a change of heart and decide that he does want to appeal after all?

TRITICO: I have no indication that Tim will change his mind, and I do not believe that he will.

BLITZER: In the book, "American Terrorist" by the two authors that we saw in Susan Candiotti's piece, one of the things that Timothy McVeigh says is this -- and I want to put it up on our screen.

He says, "There were times when I felt like jumping to my feet and screaming, `Knock it off. Everyone here knows I'm guilty. Let's get on with it.'"

He has admitted his guilt. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that he was responsible for planting that bomb in that Ryder truck and exploding it in front of the federal office building in Oklahoma City, is that right?

TRITICO: Well, again, everything that I have discussed with Tim, from the day I signed on as one of his lawyers through last Thursday when I last spoke with him, is privileged. And so I can't discuss what he and I have talked about.

He participated in the writing of that book and he has written several letters to media outlets. And those are Tim's words, and that's what Tim said. Tim was convicted of this act, and he was given a death sentence.

We have labored long and hard on Tim's behalf, and especially in the last three weeks, we have labored very long and hard to expose what the FBI did. And they cheated in this case.

But Tim is going to be executed on Monday, and he ordered to us stop his appeal, and so we did.

BLITZER: There has been, as you well know, these past few days a last bit of legal maneuvering involving another totally unrelated case, the videotaping of the execution in another case. They want to have a videotape of the execution to prove that there is what they call, cruel unusual punishment.

How do you feel and how does Timothy McVeigh feel about possibly having that execution videotaped? TRITICO: We learned about that, really, about last Monday, I believe. I was the one who spoke with the lawyer in Indianapolis about it.

The trial judge had ordered him to find out if Mr. McVeigh objected, and so I discussed it with Tim. He did not oppose the videotaping of his execution. And I forwarded a letter to Mr. Kammen (ph) informing him of that. And that, I think was, in part, what got the motion granted. Tim is not opposed to his execution being videotaped and used as evidence in the other case.

BLITZER: As you know, the attorney general John Ashcroft spoke out after all of the appeals, after you decided to withdraw any final appeals, and he says, in effect, that justice has been served. Listen to what the attorney general said.


JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling so clear that McVeigh attornies and McVeigh have decided not to pursue this matter further.

I believe that justice has been done, responsibly undertaken. And the completion of this process is very important.


BLITZER: Do you believe justice has been done in this case?

TRITICO: Justice has not been done in this case, and the attorney general participated in the denial of justice to Tim McVeigh in the last three weeks. The attorney general moved his execution to give us -- and I think this is a quote -- "time to read over the material and file whatever papers are necessary and take whatever action is necessary."

Now when we look back, those papers that we could file included anything other than a stay of execution. We needed time, and that's all we asked for, was time to investigate the FBI's misconduct in this case. And the attorney general went out of his way to ensure that an execution would go forward on Monday with real issues surrounding the fairness of that process.

BLITZER: Chris Tritico, we have to leave it right there. Thanks very much for joining us.

TRITICO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

And later on LATE EDITION, we'll hear from a guest who will eye witness Timothy McVeigh's execution. And also we'll get some legal perspective from a former McVeigh prosecutor and a former McVeigh defense attorney.

But coming up next, the United States Senate's new majority leader, Senator Tom Daschle, talks about the Democratic takeover of the Senate and what that means for President Bush's agenda.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.



LLOYD OGILVIE, U.S. SENATE CHAPLAIN: Grant all of the senators the gift of loyalty, and inspire the spirit of patriotism that overcomes party spirit.


BLITZER: U.S. Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie leading a prayer this past week as the Senate shifted from Republican to Democratic control.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Earlier today, I spoke with the new Senate majority leader Tom Daschle about the power shift and its possible impact on key legislative issues.


BLITZER: Senator Daschle, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on becoming the Senate majority leader. Some Republicans like to call you the "Senate plurality leader"...



BLITZER: ... taking a little swipe at you, but that's all right.

Is it possible, in your opinion, Senator, that, before too long, there could be this see-saw development: You're the majority leader right now, but you might wind up being minority leader once again, if, for example, Robert Torricelli, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, is forced out for whatever reason?

DASCHLE: Well, I think that we all have to recognize these majorities are very fragile. Anything can happen. And when it does, anything can change, of course, the circumstances we're currently facing. We have to assume that nothing is going to happen, but clearly that's within the realm of possibilities.

BLITZER: How worried are you about the fate of Senator Torricelli? He's under investigation allegedly for accepting illegal gifts.

DASCHLE: I'm not worried, Wolf. I think that obviously there's the legal question, which I really can't address -- I don't know the circumstances -- and then the political question.

I know this: Bob Torricelli is a real fighter, and I don't know of anybody who's more resilient, more willing to take on all comers. And he's done it successfully in the past. I'm convinced he'll probably do it successfully again this time.

BLITZER: And you think he's getting a fair shake right now in terms of the investigation? Because, as you know, he said publicly that he's being raped in this investigation.

DASCHLE: Well, I don't think the leaks are fair. How could they possibly be fair? I think this is very unfortunate. Obviously this is a very serious matter, and for these leaks to take place with such regularity shows a real undermining of the legal and the judicial process and the possibility that Bob could ever get a fair opportunity to be heard and be considered here. So, it's not right.

BLITZER: I want to move on, but, even though the U.S. Attorney investigating him, Mary Jo White, is a Clinton appointee, do you still think, as Senator Torricelli does, that there should be some sort of special counsel named to investigate right now, to take it out of the Justice Department, if you will?

DASCHLE: Well, as I say, I really don't know the circumstances. I intentionally don't want to know the circumstances. But if Senator Torricelli thinks that that would give him a fair opportunity, then I don't see any reason why we shouldn't support it. We've done it in the past. There are ample precedents for it, so it seems to me that that's a legitimate request.

BLITZER: President Bush was in Florida speaking at the Everglades this past week and talking about his record on the environment. But he also made a political comparison to what he saw down there and what he would like to see in Washington.

I want you to listen to what the president said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also visitors today in the home of 68 endangered species and the only place on earth where crocodiles and alligators live side by side. We're kind of hoping that's the way it gets to be in the United States Congress one of these days.



BLITZER: Is it possible that what the president wants, the kind of cooperation, the bipartisan cooperation that he speaks of, a new Washington -- are you ready to work with him on that front?

DASCHLE: Absolutely, one of the first calls I made, Wolf, after I was declared the next majority leader was to him to indicate that we do want to work together. I wanted to reach out to him with the hope that we could begin reaching out more effectively to each other. So that's our determination. And I think that the level of civility that we demonstrated this week, the tone that I tried to create in my opening remarks, that's exactly what you're going to see a lot more of in the coming weeks and months.

BLITZER: How did that dinner go you were invited to the White House to have dinner with him, what, Thursday night, right?

DASCHLE: That's correct.

BLITZER: Tell us how it went.

DASCHLE: It went very well. This was the first time he and I had had a chance to talk for some time, and so it was, I thought, a very productive way to get started in building a new relationship. We've had some tough weeks with the tax and budget debate, but this was a new day, a new opportunity for us to re-establish our relationship, and I think we did.

BLITZER: And you think the president is going to be more aggressive in reaching out to you, the Democratic leader, the majority leader in Senate, than was the case, let's say, in the first few months of his administration?

DASCHLE: Wolf, I don't think it's option, I think it's a requirement. I think we have to be able to do that. He won by a very, very narrow margin; so did I. We have a lot in common in that regard. We know what fragile majorities we have. I don't think we have any choice but to try to find a way to work together and try to get something done for this country.

It can be his agenda and my agenda. There's a lot of overlap, and I'm hopeful that we can do that.

BLITZER: The Republican leader, now the minority leader, in the Senate, Trent Lott, wrote a memo on June 2. It's received a lot of publicity, as you well know.

One of the things he wrote in there -- and I want to put on the screen -- is this: "Any reorganization of the Senate should reflect the reality that the Democrats hold the plurality, not a majority, in the Senate and that their effective control of the Senate lacks the moral authority of a mandate from the voters."

Those are pretty strong words.

DASHCLE: Well, I think they probably reflect the frustration and the disappointment that Republicans naturally would feel under these circumstances. I have had many conversations with Senator Lott, and I believe that I'll have just as effective a working relationship with him in future as I have had in the past.

I believe that when you set 51 place-settings in your caucus, you've got majority. There are ample precedents for that. All through the '50s that's exactly what happened. So, I don't think anyone would seriously challenge the right for us to organize as a majority. We are doing that, and I think we will be successful at it.

BLITZER: You still haven't completed the process, though, in terms of getting the committees, getting the new authority, the legislation, if you will, that is going to reorganize the Senate. What's the hold-up?

DASHCLE: Well, I'm waiting to hear back from our Republican colleagues. I told them that I'm not going to jam them, I'm not going to try to force the issue. I want to give them some time, some opportunities to think through what concerns, what issues they want to raise with me. I expect to have something tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: And then when do you think the vote for the reorganization will take place?

DASCHLE: Well, sometime this week. We can't wait much longer. But I've attempted to give them as much opportunity to come forth with ideas and suggestions, and they intend to do it. And they notified me last week that they hope to get us something as early as Monday.

BLITZER: They want assurances that you will allow nominees -- presidential nominees, judicial nominees, other nominees -- to reach the Senate floor. Are you ready to give them those assurances?

DASCHLE: Well, we're going to be as fair as we possibly can be. You know, circuit court judges during the Clinton administration, and with a Republican Congress, had to wait over a year to be confirmed. The average wait was over 365 days; 45 percent of them never were confirmed. And so, we don't want to do that.

We're not going to pay back. We are going to be fair. We're going to do as much as possible to ensure that we provide everybody with a fair opportunity to be considered as we possibly can.

BLITZER: Does that mean you are going to give them the assurance that they want?

DASCHLE: Well, I think we are going to give them as much assurance as we can. I don't know what they want, because I haven't heard yet directly from them. But I do believe that we can accommodate their concerns.

I'm going to be as determined as I can be to show, to demonstrate how fair we are going to be, that we are not going to participate in payback, and reciprocate for the kinds of things we think were done unjustly in the last five years.

BLITZER: The Republicans point to those words that you utter about no payback, being fair, wanting to reach out, but then they say some of the other statements you have made dispute that, contradict it. Listen to this exchange we put together that they would argue underlines that point. Listen to this.


DASCHLE: I don't believe in payback. There is ample reason to believe that perhaps payback is something we should entertain, but we're not going do that.

I think the Yucca Mountain issue is dead. So long as we're in the majority, it is dead.


BLITZER: That's a reference to nuclear waste in Nevada, and you're saying it's dead without even consideration, without even working with the Republicans.

If you want to work with them, why are you announcing in advance that that issue, a sensitive issue, is dead?

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, only because the votes haven't been there in the past. That isn't me, that isn't Senator Reid, who was pictured there. That is a reflection of where the votes are. Why do things and go after, pursue goals, for which you already know there aren't votes? That is what I was saying about Yucca Mountain.

I am going to try to be careful with regard to these declarative judgments. But in the past, when you've got such a clear record of failure with record to the legislative strategy, it just doesn't make lot of sense to repeat it again.

BLITZER: The other thing they point to is that you're basically saying no more need for compromise on patients' bill of rights. That there is this bill that John McCain, who is a Republican, John Edwards and Ted Kennedy, Democrats, are co-sponsoring and that's where you basically see the legislation going, even though President Bush has vowed to veto that specific piece of legislation.

DASCHLE: Well, Wolf, the bill that we're looking at is almost an exact replica of the Texas law right now, first of all.

Secondly, we have -- this is a case study in compromise. We started with the Democratic bill almost four years ago. We compromised first with Republicans a couple of years ago, compromised again less than a year ago with Senator McCain. I'm willing to talk to anybody. I'm willing to sit down and listen to any ideas. What I'm not willing to do is to water it down to the satisfaction of insurance companies and not have anything when it's over.

So we're willing to listen, we're willing to talk. We're willing to try to find ways with which to find even more common ground. But you can't have rights if they can't be enforced, and that's, in essence, what we're talking about here. An enforceable bill is one that really has meaningful opportunities for people to see change in our health care system today.

BLITZER: So are you saying it's take it or leave it right now?

DASCHLE: Not at all. In fact, just the opposite. What I am saying is that we have compromised and compromised and compromised. This is a case study in compromise. We're willing to compromise, perhaps, in ways that could accommodate some of the concerns. But what we aren't prepared to do is provide something in name only, which is what some of our opponents would have us do.

BLITZER: As you know, President Bush signed into law what many of his advisers called crown jewel of his legislation so far, the tax cut bill, $1.35 trillion over 11 years. I want you to listen to what the president said at that bill signing ceremony.


BUSH: This tax relief plan is principled. We cut taxes for every income-tax payer. We target nobody in; we target nobody out. And tax relief is now on the way.


BLITZER: And you know that these $300, $500 and $600 tax rebate checks are going to be sent out over the next several weeks.

He's going to get a lot of political mileage out of this, won't he?

DASCHLE: Oh, I'm sure he will. I've said many times, this is good short-term politics. It's disastrous long-term fiscal policy. We're going to pay a heavy price for this.

And I would also say that a lot of people who think they're going to get something are going to get nothing at all. There about 35 million people won't get a nickel out of all of this. So I think those who may have artificially high expectations could be disappointed as well.

BLITZER: But as you know, 12 of your fellow Democrats in the Senate voted are for this tax cut package. Among them, Senators Max Baucus, John Breaux, Max Cleland, Dianne Feinstein. These are not off-the-chart Democrats. These are some of your most important fellow Democrats. They thought it was good policy.

DASCHLE: Well, absolutely, and I don't dispute their right to have that view. I just strongly differ with it. The vast majority of our caucus felt very strongly that this was not good policy. I think that'll be borne out.

I think we also know that we are going to have to revisit this, probably sooner rather than later, Wolf. There are so many problems, so many glitches, so many ways with which this bill is not good even short-term policy, that we are going to have to figure out a way to address it.

But what's done is done. I'm willing to close that chapter, deal with the consequences, which could be very real in the short term, and we will go on from here.

BLITZER: Well, when you say revisit it sooner rather than later, when is sooner?

DASCHLE: Well, I don't have any time frame in mind. I don't think that there's any specific way with which to address it. But you've already got Republicans who want to deal with the artificial sunset that was put into the law. As you know, at nine years, this bill terminates. They don't want to do that for fear that accountants and everybody else could play with those dates.

So there are even Republicans already -- the ink is hardly dry and they are calling for revisiting some of this bill again.

BLITZER: Last weekend you were in Arizona at the ranch of John McCain, a Republican. Where you trying to convince him to do what Senator Jeffords of Vermont did, leave the Republican Party?

DASCHLE: Wolf, this has been a long-standing request. John and I have been friends for a long time; spent about the last 20 years working together on a number of different issues, most recently campaign reform. It was purely a social weekend. I think we've already spent more time talking about policy than John and I did last weekend.

BLITZER: So you have no indication, no reason to believe he's about to leave the Republican Party?

DASCHLE: None, whatsoever.

BLITZER: You'd be amazed if he left?

DASCHLE: I probably would, yes.

BLITZER: A final question. We only have a few seconds left. A lot of speculation, not only about you, but many other Democrats in the Senate, about 2004 presidential ambitions. Do you have that ambition right now?

DASCHLE: I don't, no. I want to stay exactly to what I'm doing. I've got a big job to do. I want to do it as well as I can. I'm going to defer any decisions on all of my political options until some time after 2002.

BLITZER: Thanks for joining us, Senator, and congratulations once again.

DASCHLE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, two of Majority Leader Daschle's colleagues square off on the new Senate, tax cuts, President Bush's judicial nominees and much more. We'll talk with Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd and Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) DASCHLE: Even in a time when Americans are evenly divided about their choice of leaders, they are united in their demand for action.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: So it's not really that important what role we serve in. What is important is what we do for the people that we serve.


BLITZER: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott speaking Wednesday on the floor of the Senate after the Democrats officially assumed control of the Senate.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We're joined now by two key members of the Senate: in Hartford, Connecticut, Christopher Dodd. He's now the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. And here in Washington, Fred Thompson of Tennessee. He used to be chairman but is now the top Republican on the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Senators, always good to have you both of you back on Late Edition. Thanks for joining us.

And, Senator Dodd, I want to begin with you. We want to get to all the issues involving the new Senate shortly, but a quick question: Do you think the federal government is doing the right thing by executing Timothy McVeigh tomorrow morning?

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, yes, I think, you know, certainly this was a fair trial. And the crime he committed was so horrendous, Wolf, obviously. 169 people died, 149 adults, 19 children, this is one of the most outrageous crimes in the history of the country.

And my concern in a way, Wolf, and I say this with due respect, is we're giving it far too much attention, in my view. This is a thug. This guy's just a bare criminal. He doesn't deserve to be lionized and made sort of a folk hero here. And I'm concerned at the attention we're focusing on this is sort of elevating him to a status he just doesn't deserve. It's a slap in the face to the victims and to the families of these people.

And I'm sort of -- I'm upset about it, quite candidly, and I say this because I know that CNN is spending a lot of time on this and talking a lot about it. I don't think this guy deserves it. I think he is going to get what he deserves tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: But, Senator Dodd, this is the first federal execution in 38 years. He was the terrorist who committed the worst domestic terrorist action ever in U.S. history. Why isn't there justification for the kind of coverage that we and the other major news organizations are providing?

DODD: Well, because my concern is that you are elevating him to a status he doesn't deserve. I grant you, it's a horrendous crime. But you're doing just what he wants you to do, in a sense, giving him all this attention, in my view.

So, look, I don't want to dwell on this. I'm sympathetic, by the way, to a piece this morning where people who are mentally retarded -- I join with those who think there ought to be at least a moratorium on the death penalty for them, but I've supported the death penalty historically.

I'm just concerned about giving so much attention to this, Wolf. I just worry about it. It makes him look better than he deserves to look.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, do you agree with Senator Dodd?

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: Yes, I do, I think in every detail.

I think, ironically, for those of us who think we are doing the right thing, we've got to acknowledge that, if he'd been given a life sentence, he would not be getting all this attention. And it's the death penalty that draws the attention and causes some of the concerns that Chris expressed.

But due process has been adhered to. I think that the administration was correct in postponing the execution because of some due process concerns. But having done that, I think that we've fulfilled our societal obligations now, and it's time to carry out the sentence.

BLITZER: All right, Senator Thompson, let's move on to talk a little bit about the new Senate. You just heard Senator Daschle say on this program, he wants to work with you, the Republicans. He wants to reach out and find some common ground. Do you believe him?

THOMPSON: Yes, I do. I think that that's Tom's basic instinct. I think he's going to do his best in that regard.

Of course, Tom didn't get to be majority leader by being a shrinking violet. He's tough, and he's going to carry out the Democratic agenda and, I think, very effectively. So we shouldn't think that we're going to have peace and harmony with regard to the substance of these issues.

But I think, more and more, the way you go about things procedurally, how fair you are, the comments that you make or don't make, is becoming more and more important as the American people look upon us and pass judgment on how we're doing things. And I think Tom wants to improve things in that regard.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, we heard from Senator Lott, the new minority leader, also words of conciliation, trying to reach out to the Democrats. Listen to what Senator Lott said earlier in the week.


LOTT: He'll be the majority leader, and I'll be minority leader, the Republican leader. He'll call up the bills, and we will take advantage of our rights in the minority to offer amendments, as certainly the other side has, and sometimes we'll offer substitutes. But we commit and pledge our best efforts to finding a way to make it work.


BLITZER: Same question that I asked Senator Thompson: Do you believe Senator Lott?

DODD: Oh, of course I do. You know, look, this has been a tough couple of weeks, and I think a week or so ago Trent had a memo out talking about all-out war, but I understand that. I mean, this is a hard thing to accept. You've been in the majority. Now, Jim Jeffords moves away from the Republican Party to become an independent. That's a hard pill to swallow. And so I understand the frustration.

But I also accept -- I know Trent Lott, and we served in the House, the Senate together for more than 20 years now, and I'm very of confident that he means what he says, as Tom Daschle does, as Fred has articulated it.

DODD: There is a great political story here, obviously, and a change of control. But it's still the same 100 senators that were here two weeks ago, and their views have not changed substantially in my view. And so, you're still going to have these debates on patients' bill of rights and prescription drugs and election reform and energy policy.

The difference is Democrats can call up our bill, but the Republicans have their ideas, and they will be offering them. So, the substantive debate isn't going to change that much, just the batting order does and obviously the agenda, the witness list and hearings.

But other than that, I don't expect any great shift here. This wasn't an election that occurred where five or six seats shifted. It's one member, whose views have not changed, moving from Republican to independent. So, I would expect the same healthy debates as we've had in the past.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, as you know, it's 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans, one independent. It's a narrow, narrow majority. It could tip the other way if there was a change. And as you know, there's a lot of issues right now involving the Democratic Senator from New Jersey, Robert Torricelli. He's under investigation for allegedly accepting an illegal gift from a campaign contributor.

He was outraged earlier this week. I want you to listen to what he said about the way he feels he is being treated by the Justice Department. Listen to this.


SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), NEW JERSEY: I have been publicly raped. It causes a pain that I cannot describe, but it is a reality. I want you to understand this: I play by the rules, but I play tough. I win, but I make enemies. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Should there be, as he wants, a special counsel named to investigate him and take it out of the Justice Department? If he were forced to leave the Senate, of course, the Democratic majority would quickly become the minority since there's a Republican governor of New Jersey.

THOMPSON: I don't think that any Republicans want to get back in majority that way, to start with. Let me say this about that whole situation. A very, very sensitive, unfortunate with regard to a colleague. Bob and I have had strong disagreements on things, and we've worked together on some things.

But he's right to be outraged about the leaks and the trying of the case in public. We are all subject to leaks from time to time, but when you have a federal criminal investigation, the rights of the accused come into play. People are presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. So I don't blame him for feeling the way he does.

But we must acknowledge at the same time that this investigation started long before George Bush became president and has been conducted by a Clinton appointee in New York.

Whether or not technically a special counsel should be appointed in these circumstances, I'm going to leave that up to the proper authorities. Usually, I will say, it is done in a case of a conflict of interest on the part of the prosecutors. Nobody showed me any conflict yet, but I would be satisfied whatever they decided to do.

BLITZER: On that point, Senator Dodd, you know Senator Torricelli very well, obviously, as well. Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York was, and is, a Clinton appointee. Don't you think she is giving him a fair shot?

DODD: Well, I don't know. The fact someone's appointed by one president or another doesn't necessarily guarantee that.

Again I don't want to disappoint you here, Wolf, because Fred and I are agreeing too much with you probably. But he said it, he took the words out of my mouth.

I have known Bob for a long time. I have been very upset to watch this trial in the press. I mean, it seems almost on a daily basis there's information appearing in major news organs around the country, whether it's the print press or television.

And whether you agree or disagree with Bob Torricelli, or however this comes out in the end, trying someone in press like this is very unfair. And I think a lot of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, feel pretty much alike on this issue. So I'm hopeful that people could back up, allow this to go forward.

And whether or not it should be a special counsel or not, I think Fred said it well. I think you've got to let the authorities make that decision. I've received a letter -- I think many of us did -- on Bob's arguments and why he believes a special counsel is warranted. It made a lot of sense to me. But obviously that decision is made at the Justice Department and not on the Senate of the United States.

BLITZER: All right, senators, stand by. We have to take a quick break.

We still have a lot more to talk about with Senators Chris Dodd and Fred Thompson. They will also be taking your phone calls when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking with Tennessee Republican Senator Fred Thompson and Connecticut Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd.

We have a caller from Georgia. Please go ahead with your question.

CALLER: Senator Thompson, you just released a report last week showing that there was an incredible $35 (ph) billion worth of government waste. What can you do as a politician to stop this incredible waste for American taxpayers?

THOMPSON: Well, I tried to do something last week by having a press conference and having the head of the Office of Management and Budget come in and say that they were going to use that report as a blueprint to try to do better.

This government has been mismanaged for several years, billions of dollars wasted. The departments can't pass an audit. The government can't tell you what is on its books. We have lost assets left and right. We have an abysmal record in terms of financial management. We can't integrate information technology -- that is the driving force in the private economy today -- into our governmental systems. We've spent billions and billions of dollars trying to do that.

We have a human capital drain. We are losing good people in the government. Within five years, half the work force is eligible for retirement, at a time when we have greater dangers, both externally and internally.

So, we've got a real problem on our hands, and it's underneath the radar screen for the most part. But it's going to erode and eat way from everything else we try to do here in these next several years until we solve some of these governmental structural problems.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, earlier today, Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, was on one of the TV programs, Fox News Sunday. And he said that if the patients' bill of rights legislation comes out, the one cosponsored by Senators McCain, Kennedy and John Edwards of North Carolina comes out as is, he said it's not going to be welcomed at the White House. Listen to what Andy Card had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We think there is room for compromise. The president would like to sign a patients' bill of rights bill. But he will not sign Kennedy-McCain in its current form.


BLITZER: What's going to happen on patients' bill of rights?

DODD: Well it's going to come up, that's first of all. And as soon as we finish the education bill, I think Leader Daschle has indicated that the patients' bill of rights would be the next order of business.

It is a bipartisan bill. There are others that are out there, other ideas. The main points being, of course, is that all people in private health care programs would be able to get protected. Principally, when a bureaucrat makes a decision as to what sort of care they are going to get or who they're going to see, we don't think that ought to be left entirely to the bureaucrat. And if it is, then you ought to have right to sue. And that's something that I think is pretty fundamental.

I come from Connecticut. We're the insurance capital of the world. And my constituents up here think that that's a right you ought to have, as well as select, of course, specialists, if those are necessary.

So those are the basic principles of the bill, and I'm hopeful we can work something out.

John McCain has indicated that the White House is open to discussion. I think once that debate starts, it'll be a good one. And I'm very confident that the president will sign the bill. I'm very confident the Senate will adopt the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy bill.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, you supported Senator McCain on campaign finance reform. Are you going to support him on this patients' bill of rights?

THOMPSON: Well, I have got problems with it. And let me express a minority view, I suppose, with regard to all of these bills as they are presently formulated.

We set up HMOs, managed care, a while back because of escalating health care costs. The HMOs engaged in some abuses. States passed laws to address those abuses.

Now the federal government, I think long after the fact, is coming in and overlaying a federal health care system, as it were, through unfunded mandates on these private organizations and laying down specific rules that, in most cases, the states have already addressed.

There is no question that there is going to be increased lawsuits in any of these bills. There's no question that it's going to drive up costs. No question that a lot of small businesses are going to opt out and say, "I'm just not going to cover my employees now. It's too expensive and the bureaucracy is too great, and more people will be uninsured."

So I think during this debate, hopefully, we'll be able to step back and look at the big picture. And the bill that I support, if any, will be the one that addresses the concerns that I just expressed about what we are giving up in order to get what may seem kind of popular temporarily right now in the long run.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd, on the education bill, the president has been working very closely with your good friend Ted Kennedy and other liberal Democrats. He has effectively withdrawn his request for school vouchers, a very controversial issue.

BLITZER: Isn't the president reaching out to the Democrats on what he has always said is his key issue, education, and trying to pass some education reform?

DODD: Well, he is, and we had a good meeting last week at the White House. At least, I thought it was a good meeting, he may not have thought it was quite as good. But nonetheless there's an effort here to try to come to some common ground.

Let me tell you what the outstanding issue on that bill is, and the one that's going to have to be resolved before this bill leaves the Capitol to the White House, and that is the funding of this.

There are a lot of very -- what I would call very new, risky, in some cases, so-called reforms in this bill, that are going to put a lot of people at risk if we don't fund them properly.

Senator Collins of Maine and I offered an amendment on the floor of the Senate that fully funds Title I, which is really what the federal government is doing to help the neediest children in the country and have been for 35 years.

If you don't fully fund that program, you're only serving a third of the eligible children in the country. If you're going to make them take a test and you don't provide them with the tools to pass the test, you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My hope would be, in the next week, that the president would step up and say, in my administration, in these first four years, we will fully fund Title I. If he says that, he gets a bill that I think gets 80 votes on the floor of the Senate.

BLITZER: Senator Thompson, is that your hope as well?

THOMPSON: Well, the president's tried to interject some reform in the process.

The two big issues have to do with money and reform. We have demonstrated amply that increased money alone does not solve our problems. We've also shown that we're ranking behind underdeveloped countries in some respects, in terms of our younger children's education.

So what have we done? We've increased the money again drastically and cut back on the reforms that the president wanted. I'm hoping, at the end of the day, that there's still something there that can be supported. But we're not going to be able to do the same old thing the same old way and expect to get different results.

And increased dollars, unprecedented amounts from the federal level, are not going to solve those fundamental problems.

BLITZER: Senator Dodd...

DODD: Let me just respond to that, because...

BLITZER: Very briefly.

DODD: ... we're going to mandate some things in this bill we've never done before. We're going to mandate that every third through eighth grader take a federal test every year. That's got to be -- if you're going to do that, you've got to provide the resources to make it possible for these kids to do better. Needy kids don't have the same educational opportunities as kids from more affluent communities. That's been the federal role.

So, if we're going to do that, you've got to serve more than one- third of the kids in the country who are eligible.

THOMPSON: We're willing to go with some increased spending if we can have increased reform. So far, we've seen more spending and less reform.

DODD: Well, I disagree, but...


BLITZER: Unfortunately to both senators, we are all out of time. I thank both of you for joining us. Senator Thompson, Senator Dodd, always great to have you on our program.

DODD: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

We have to take a break.

For our international viewers, World News is next.

For our North American audience, stay with us for the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll go back to Terre Haute, Indiana, and talk with a guest who will be an eyewitness to Timothy McVeigh's execution. Then we'll get legal perspective from two attorneys who have been involved in the McVeigh case. Plus, our LATE EDITION roundtable and Bruce Morton's "Last Word."

It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.


BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has reached the point that he wants us to press no further, and we have to respect that decision.


BLITZER: Nineteen hours from now, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has a date with death. We'll get legal analysis on the U.S. v. Timothy McVeigh from former McVeigh prosecutor Larry Mackey and former McVeigh defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt.

Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Tamala Edwards and Christopher Caldwell. And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on the political dark horse of 2004.

Welcome back. We'll get to our guests on the Timothy McVeigh execution in just a moment. But first, let's go to CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.


BLITZER: Timothy McVeigh has asked five people to witness his execution. Four of them were able to come, and one of them is with us today. She is Kate McCauley. She joins us live from Terre Haute.

Ms. McCauley, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thank you very much.

Tell us how you established this relationship with Timothy McVeigh.

KATE MCCAULEY, MCVEIGH EXECUTION WITNESS: Well, I first began working on the case, the Oklahoma City bombing, by working for a citizens' group in Oklahoma. And when I started, it seemed like the logical thing to do to talk to the defendants in the case or least try to communicate. So I started communicating really with both Terry Nichols and Tim McVeigh in March of '98.

BLITZER: And what has been the nature of the -- you have been writing to him I assume. Have you ever seen him in person?

MCCAULEY: Yes, I did. I had a chance to meet him when I left Oklahoma City. The road back home to my home in Providence, Rhode Island, comes through Terre Haute. I did see him in July 2000.

BLITZER: So what's your impression of this man?

MCCAULEY: Well, you know, of course we have the crime, and everybody has talked about that. But there is another side to Tim McVeigh, who is a very thoughtful and intelligent person. He has always been very businesslike and very polite to me through the course of our correspondence. BLITZER: But you realize that this man is a mass murderer, the worst terrorist, at least domestically speaking, in U.S. history, someone who's caused so much destruction and death. A lot of people listening to you right now just can't believe that you would be saying that there is another side to this individual.

MCCAULEY: Well, I think that all individuals are multifaceted. And I believe it was Elizabeth McDermott, who knows Timothy McVeigh very well, who said, "A man is not defined by the worst thing he ever did." We are multidimensional people.

BLITZER: Why did you personally want to come and witness this execution?

MCCAULEY: Well, I don't know if "want" is a good question there. But I have seen this case through for four years. I have communicated with Tim McVeigh for three.

MCCAULEY: I made two promises in the course of this investigation. The first one was to the victims and to the rescue workers to tell the truth. And the second one was to Tim McVeigh to say that I would see it through to the end, and tomorrow will be the end.

BLITZER: And what about the victims who will be watching? There will be some in Terre Haute, some of the family members of those victims. And there will be others in Oklahoma City watching via closed-circuit TV.

What do you say to those people, the family members, the survivors, who want closure, right now, at least some semblance of closure, and are looking forward to the execution of Timothy McVeigh?

MCCAULEY: Well, I know when you lose a loved one you never get over it -- every anniversary, every holiday. But for them, I think it's much more difficult because there is so much media glare, and it is a constant reminder to them.

And I would tell them that I cry for them, too, and I have through this whole four years.

BLITZER: But from what I'm hearing, you do have some sympathy for Timothy McVeigh, don't you?

MCCAULEY: I have sympathy for all people, sir. You know, I didn't come into this to be able to pick sides or to be judgmental. I'm a researcher, an investigator and an observer, and I didn't pick sides. I just tried to do the best I can to get it all down.

BLITZER: During the past six years do you believe that Timothy McVeigh has been treated fairly, that he did get justice served?

MCCAULEY: No. I think there were several problems in the legal case. And of course, greater legal minds than I can argue that.

I did work as a defense investigator on the appellate team with Dennis Hartley and Nathan Chambers, so I know that there were problems that we outlined in that petition.

And we do have to be careful about the rule of law. Justice is supposed to be blind. So I will let greater legal minds than I argue the finer points, but I would have to say no.

BLITZER: And so we only have a few seconds left. But what will be -- if you could say something, final words to Timothy McVeigh, what will you say to him?

MCCAULEY: Well, you know, it's leaving human hands tomorrow and going into God's hands, and I wish him Godspeed.

BLITZER: Kate McCauley, thank you so much for joining us.

MCCAULEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: And when we return, with Timothy McVeigh facing his final hours of life, we'll get legal perspective from two attorneys who worked on his case. We'll talk with former McVeigh defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former McVeigh prosecutor Larry Mackey. Stay with us.



ROBERT NIGH, MCVEIGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We believe that the rule of law has been brushed aside because of the nature of the case. And we do believe that what has been created is the Tim McVeigh exception to the rule of law.


BLITZER: Timothy McVeigh's attorney Robert Nigh speaking Thursday after a federal court refused to order a stay of execution for the Oklahoma City bomber.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Joining us now are two guests who have been closely involved in the McVeigh case: in Denver, Jeralyn Merritt, a former McVeigh defense attorney, and in Indianapolis, Larry Mackey, who was a prosecutor in the United States v. Timothy McVeigh.

Welcome to both of you to LATE EDITION.

And, Jeralyn, I want to begin with you. Tell us, in the conversations you had with your former client, what makes a Gulf War decorated veteran go through a process that results in this kind of act of terrorism?

JERALYN MERRITT, FORMER MCVEIGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if you're asking me to tell you what he said to me directly about his involvement in the crime, of course I can't do that. I'm still bound by the attorney-client privilege and will be even after he dies. BLITZER: But you must have some thoughts about, you know, what -- without violating any attorney-client privilege, why he decided to become in effect a mass murderer.

MERRITT: I can talk about the evidence that was presented in his defense, during the death penalty phase, and it was that after the Gulf War, when he came back to the United States, he was extremely distressed with the federal government and that Waco sort of was the final moment. Watching the government storm that building, watching the deaths of those children inside, he decided that he needed to take matters in his own hand and that only such an act as the bombing of the Oklahoma City building would, you know, result in people becoming aware of what the federal government was doing to them.

I certainly don't agree with that position, but that is the evidence that was presented at his trial.

BLITZER: Larry Mackey, a lot of people say, including people who despise Timothy McVeigh, including some family members of the victims, that there are still loose ends, unanswered questions in this case that, perhaps down the road at some point, Timothy McVeigh could help us better understand. And they say, what's the rush, why not allow him to live a bit longer to see if some of those loose ends can be tied up?

LARRY MACKEY, FORMER MCVEIGH PROSECUTOR: Well, I think all of those questions have been answered long ago in the jury trial that resulted in the conviction of Tim McVeigh. And all of us were reminded last week with Judge Matsch's ruling that he was the instrument of death and destruction on that day.

And as to that question, who it was that delivered that bomb within feet of a daycare center, there's no doubt about it. And there's nothing about the prospect of additional investigation that's going to change the outcome of that question.

BLITZER: You know what Stephen Jones, one of the former attorneys for Timothy McVeigh, has been saying, that there probably were some others, at least one other person involved.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Stephen Jones recently said this. And I'll put it up on our screen. "The greatest obstacle to defending Tim McVeigh was Tim McVeigh. He lied from day one. He will go to his grave saying there was no one else." That's one of his former defense attorneys, Stephen Jones.

MACKEY: Well, when I laid out the evidence presented in the courtroom by the government with Timothy McVeigh's book, I find the same story. And that's a story that identifies McVeigh as the principal mastermind of this horrible crime and Terry Nichols as his essential co-conspirator in gathering and building the bomb and to a much lesser extent than Michael and Lori Fortier.

And that's the end of the analysis. Both in his book and in the government's investigation, the list is short.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Jeralyn? Go ahead.

MERRITT: No, I don't agree with it at all, and I don't think that this should be the end of the analysis. We are beyond the issue of the guilt or innocence of Timothy McVeigh. We are at the issue of whether or not he got a fair trial, whether America can trust in the integrity of his trial, in the integrity of the verdict. And the late turning over of these documents casts a pall on both of those.

His lawyers were only asking for more time to investigate the 4,000 pages and 11 computer disks turned over to them. What is the hurry? What is the rush? If they had had sufficient time to investigate these documents, they believe they could have shown to the court that a fraud on the court had been perpetuated by the FBI in withholding these documents. And now we will never know.

The judge has said it isn't his role to investigate the FBI and why the FBI withheld these documents. But clearly he should have been able to try and establish that there was a fraud upon the court, and I believe it just casts a pall on the proceedings.

BLITZER: Larry Mackey, what do you say about that?

MACKEY: Well, that's an unfortunate insult to Judge Matsch, who I think worked harder than anyone to protect the constitutional rights of Tim McVeigh throughout the five years that he presided over this matter. If he had any reason to believe that a further delay of any dimension would have assured that justice was done, he would have granted it. But he saw through a defense argument that had no law and worse facts, and concluded there was no reason why the jury's verdict of long ago should be further delayed.

MERRITT: One can criticize a judge's verdict without insulting the judge, and I was not insulting Judge Matsch.

BLITZER: On that point, Jeralyn, I want to read an excerpt from what Judge Matsch said in his ruling. He said this: "Whatever may in time be disclosed about possible involvement of others in this bombing, it will not change the fact that Timothy McVeigh was the instrument of death and destruction."

MERRITT: My problem with that analysis is that the jury was instructed at the trial that evidence of the involvement of others and the non-prosecution of others who were equally culpable as McVeigh is a mitigating factor they could consider in deciding what penalty to impose, whether it be life or death. And should these new documents, as the defense lawyers have claimed, reveal that additional people were involved or were equally culpable as McVeigh, then it should go back for new decision on what the verdict in his case should be.

BLITZER: Larry Mackey, if that were to happen, wouldn't that, in effect, later down the road after the execution, provide ammunition to some of the some of those on lunatic fringe out there who are making McVeigh out to be martyr?

MACKEY: I don't think so. And more importantly, Judge Matsch saw through argument that Jeralyn just made and reminded all of us that, at the time of trial, she and the entire very deep and talented experienced defense team on behalf of McVeigh had literally truckloads of information about John Doe 2 and other possible co-conspirators. They were armed with plenty of information where they could have gone forward with such a defense.

They decided instead to wave the flag around Waco and other things. That was a calculated choice. Maybe they regret it in hindsight, but nothing was stolen from them at the time of trial.

BLITZER: All right. I want both you to stand by.

Hold your thought for a second, Jeralyn.

We're going to take a quick break. When we return, we'll get that thought. And we'll also get your phone calls for Jeralyn Merritt and Larry Mackey. LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the Oklahoma City National Memorial dedicated to the 168 people Timothy McVeigh killed in a bombing six years ago.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

We are talking about the Timothy McVeigh case with former McVeigh defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and former McVeigh prosecutor Larry Mackey.

Jeralyn, you wanted to make a point on the last comment that Larry made. Go ahead, I'll give you a chance to respond.

MERRITT: You know, I'm not sure I even remember Larry Mackey's last comment.

What we were talking about, though, I think, was the judge's decision and the fact that I wasn't criticizing or insulting Judge Matsch, I was taking issue with his ruling.

And his lawyers were never trying to argue actual innocence. They were trying to argue that the sentencing phase was unfair because they hadn't gotten to see all these documents.

And it's not enough that the government turned over most of the documents. The government in this case agreed to turn over all of the witness statements, and the defense is claiming that they have still not gotten all of the documents.

And so we really do need to have a full investigation. And maybe it will happen in Terry Nichols' case since the Supreme Court has indicated that it is interested in hearing from the government as to why these same documents were withheld in his case. But somebody really needs to look into what documents were withheld and why, and was it intentional or was it mere negligence.

BLITZER: On that point, Larry, what happens if down the road the FBI, lo and behold, finds some more documents out there that were not turned over even in the final hours, the final days before the execution? Will that forever raise questions about this execution?

MACKEY: I don't think so. And I don't project that any such late day discovery is going to be made. But what's important is what's in those materials. And after 30 days -- and that's the grant that Attorney General Ashcroft gave all the parties to review the materials -- in the end, those lawyers could find nothing to establish that it wasn't Tim McVeigh who ended lives of 168 people.

MERRITT: They didn't have enough time to investigate it. They got materials 18 days before the scheduled execution. All they had time to do, according to them, was read through materials once and listen and view the documents on 11 computer disks once. The investigation is needed of those documents. We can't just take the government's word that what's in the documents is true.

BLITZER: But on that point, Jeralyn Merritt, you realize that Judge Matsch reviewed it all, he looked at those documents, he said there was nothing there that could undermine the guilty verdict. The court of appeals, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals took a look at it and said Judge Matsch was right. The U.S. Supreme Court took a look at it said Judge Matsch was right.

Why are all these judicial layers saying he was right and you're saying he was wrong?

MERRITT: Well, I don't think that the Supreme Court took a look at it. I think the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Judge Matsch.

And I guess I say it because nobody has investigated these documents. Everybody seems to be taking the government's word that these documents wouldn't have made a difference.

Yet, his lawyers say that there are 360 names of people in these documents that they had never seen before. They need to go out and interview these people or do some more investigation and see what these people could have had to say.

And they were not talking about John Doe 2 sightings. They also said that they have found through their investigation that numerous people have been talked to and there are still no reports of it, even in these new materials. So Judge Matsch wouldn't have known about those.

BLITZER: And you're right. The Supreme Court didn't get a chance because they withdrew. They didn't go for a final appeal before the Supreme Court. Thanks for the correction.

But getting back to you, Larry Mackey, if it had gone to the Supreme Court one final, last-ditch appeal, and the defense attorneys, Robert Nigh and Nathan Chambers and all of them, were saying it was long shot that the Supreme Court might have reversed the court of appeals decision, what was the chance, in your opinion, that the Supreme Court might have given Timothy McVeigh a little bit more time to live?

MACKEY: Absolutely no chance.

And ironically, when Tim McVeigh exploded the bomb in 1995, he caused a number of consequences, not just to the people in Oklahoma City, but to the laws in this land. And one of the changes made, as a result of that explosion, was the reform of the habeas laws. And it set a new and very difficult standard for defendants like Tim McVeigh to come in and ask for a second bite of the apple.

Don't forget that Tim McVeigh sought direct appeals to the 10th Circuit, to the Supreme Court, again to Judge Matsch in a 2255; denied every time. So his case has been reviewed by a great jurists over the last three and half years. They found no reason to discount the jury's verdict or to stand in the way of his execution.

BLITZER: Jeralyn, in one of the letters that Timothy McVeigh wrote to those two reporters from the Buffalo News published this morning, he seems to take a final parting shot at, I guess, a lot of people. He, once again, doesn't seem to show much remorse if any remorse at all.

But he does say this. He says, "If I am going to hell, I'm going to have a lot of company."

BLITZER: Is this the Timothy McVeigh that you got to know when you were defending him?

MERRITT: In some ways.

I got a letter from him two weeks ago, and it was a very nice letter. And in the letter, he mentioned that he was not going for this day to cause any more torture for victims. That wasn't his point. It was to hold the FBI accountable.

The Tim McVeigh I got to know was a very bright, articulate, engaging person who was interested in his own case, and he was generous with things. He was so much more than the sum of his misdeeds.

BLITZER: Larry Mackey, as you know, there is a separate case alleging cruel and unusual punishment, in effect, being the execution of Timothy McVeigh. They want it to be videotaped to prove that it's cruel and unusual punishment. It's a long shot right now.

But do you think there should be as videotape made of the execution of Timothy McVeigh to see if the way he is killed is a form of cruel and unusual punishment?

MACKEY: I don't think that's necessary. I mean, at the core of that question really is the death penalty in this question. And at this point in our history, it is a viable option, and the juries across this land have to consider it. And in the Tim McVeigh case, they did so.

There is nothing about envisioning what will happen tomorrow morning that changes nature of the ultimate punishment. We don't need that bit of evidence to know what happens.

What's important is whether we want to arm our citizens with the right to take a life when someone like a Tim McVeigh, an intelligent man, planned a crime over long, long months and then, on morning of April 19, ended lives of so many other people.

BLITZER: You have a few seconds for the last word, Jeralyn.

MERRITT: I think it should be televised. Tim McVeigh would want -- not televised, but videotaped. I think if it could help stop another person from being executed by the government, it should be done and McVeigh is in favor of it.

BLITZER: All right. On that note, I want to thank both of you for joining us. Jeralyn Merritt and Larry Mackey, thanks again for joining us.

MACKEY: Thank you.


BLITZER: Thank you.

And just ahead, will the Democrats' narrow control of the Senate force a change in President Bush's agenda? We will go 'round the table on that and much more with Steve Roberts, Tamala Edwards and Christopher Caldwell.

LATE EDITION will be right back.


BLITZER: Welcome back, time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.

Joining me, Tamala Edwards, staff writer for "TIME" magazine. She's sitting in this week for Susan Page. Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report." And in for David Brooks, Christopher Caldwell, senior writer for "The Weekly Standard."

I should also mention that both Tam and Chris are regulars on our new program, our excellent new program, "TAKE FIVE," every Saturday night.

I hope you guys are...



BLITZER: I hope you guys are enjoying that program.

All right, Steve, let's start off with you. No plugs for you.

(LAUGHTER) This was an historic week for the Democrats. Tom Daschle, you heard him on our program earlier, the new majority leader, Trent Lott, the minority leader. Is this going to make a huge amount of difference?

STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: No. It will make some difference. I think, as you discussed, they'll bring up a patients' bill of rights. They get to talk about what they want to talk about. That doesn't mean they get to pass what they want to pass. The votes still the same, the presidential veto.

I think, though, there's one word that it's very important to remember, and that word is "subpoena." Democrats now have the ability to hold hearings. Senator Thompson's committee, Government Operations, now in the hands of Joe Lieberman, announced this week they're going to look into energy prices in California. Big energy companies are big supporters of George Bush.

This is exactly the kind of power that will make a difference, not so much on legislation, but this other dimension, an important thing to watch.

BLITZER: And Joe Lieberman, of course, one of those perhaps eight or nine Democratic senators...

ROBERTS: Or 20 or 30.


BLITZER: ... thinking about a presidential run in 2004. That's probably going to have impact as well, all these Democrats positioning themselves to get some good publicity.

CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Oh, sure. Lieberman can use this well, too.

I think one of the things Republicans, when they held both houses, regretted they didn't do more of is this type of investigation. I think Republicans think that one of the most successful things they did in the '90s was their hearings on the IRS.

You don't want to get caught in a position where you're issuing partisan attacks. But if you can shape the discussion of an issue in a way that's favorable to you in a partisan way, that really helps. And I think that that's what Lieberman is doing.

BLITZER: Tam, is it realistic to assume that Lott and Daschle are really going to work together? Or is this going to be a real clash between these two very, very political, very, very partisan politicians?

EDWARDS: Well, Wolf, that's a great question, and I think there are two things going on here. They do have a good personal relationship, but let's look at a couple of the political issues, if you will. Daschle, he's stuck in middle of trying to get things done. He's got conservative members of his own party like Zell Miller, who's pretty much right there at the door with the Republicans. But he's got a lot of left-leaning groups who are saying, "You are our only backstop." We've got a Republican White House, a Republican House, and if Daschle has his own aspirations in 2004, here is where he makes the case, "Here's why I'm a good nominee."

Lott, so much trouble in his own party. What do you mean you didn't know that Jeffords was heading out the back door? If he didn't do a good job as majority leader, he's got to now prove he's going to be an excellent minority leader, that he can bring the warfare in a way that's good for his party.

So, no matter how much they want to work together, the politics, I think, will pull them to opposing sides.

BLITZER: You take a look at these two men, and they do have a relationship that's been sort of collegial over the past few years.

ROBERTS: They were able to work out a set of rules earlier this year when it was 50-50. I think they'll be able to work out another set of rules. I think that the Republicans understand that the Democrats are going to use their power to block some judgeships. I mean, no matter how much Daschle says "We're not going to play payback," of course they're going to play payback, at least on a few of them.

In many ways, the biggest impact, in terms of judges, will be the nominations that are never made. George Bush is now on notice. The more ideological, the more conservative nominees not going to get through. Everybody knows it; Daschle knows it; Republicans know it. And so, he's not going to make those nominations.

But I do think Daschle has to make a decision, Wolf. Is he going to be a legislator who troops down to the White House and shakes George Bush's hand on patients' bill of rights and a number of other issues? Or is he going to be more of a political figure and draw lines and set up issues for the next campaign? We don't know that yet.

EDWARDS: I think Steve makes a great point on the judicial nominees. In some ways, the beneficiary here may be George Bush. He's now got cover. When both houses were held by the Republicans, you know, he could say, "The right of my party wants me to do certain things." Now he can say, "When I don't get the policies I want, when I don't send up that judicial nominee, it's not my fault. It's Daschle's fault."

BLITZER: You know, on Trent Lott's future, Chris, and I know you've been looking at this bill closely, because Bill Bennett, the Empower America co-chairman, former secretary of education, the drug czar, outspoken conservative, he was quoted in the New York Times on Friday. I don't know if you noticed it, but I'll try to put it up on the screen now. He was quoted as saying this about Trent Lott: "He should consider maybe it's time for someone else to do this" -- meaning being the Republican leader. "We have a somewhat uncertain trumpet in the Senate."

CALDWELL: Well, that's fine. But I think that any potential successor would have very hard time reconciling the two wings of the party the way Lott has done.

Lott is a conservative, but he's also basically an appropriator. He likes pet projects that are the glue that you can work on bipartisan things with.

Larry Craig as a potential replacement, the conservative from Idaho, would only exacerbate the problem that Jim Jeffords is an example of.

BLITZER: What about Chuck Hagel, from Nebraska, the more moderate Republican?

CALDWELL: More promising, but I think with much shallower roots in the Senate and perhaps an unknown quantity to conservatives.

ROBERTS: And remember that the biggest criticism Lott is getting is coming from the right wing. It's coming from the Larry Craigs, Don Nickles, his own deputy who's from Oklahoma. Their argument is he's not tough enough, he's not strong enough against the Democrats.

Now I think politically that's nuts. I think that you willfully take your own party out of the mainstream, you please your base, and that is 30 votes, that's 35 votes in the Senate. It certainly is not a majority.

As I said, Daschle has to decide whether he is going to be a legislator or a politician. Some ways that is true about Lott, too. Is he going to compromise or not?

EDWARDS: And let's not count him out. I mean, this is guy who's known for being smart and ruthless. So, I would be very careful about saying he may be headed out.

BLITZER: That's Trent Lott you're referring to.


BLITZER: And, of course, if there is another see-saw, another tip, if something should happen to Torricelli, for example, of New Jersey, that could change the equation once again. And the Democrats will be out, the Republicans will be in.

The fact of the matter also, and I want to get to this. There was a huge win for the president this week -- the tax cut signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

There's probably going to be another win coming up on education in the not too distant future, another signing ceremony. Maybe even on patients' bill of rights.

All of these kinds of legislative wins, if the president does decide to compromise down the road on patients' bill of rights, the way he has on education, won't that suggest that this president has not only made the commitments but is delivering?

CALDWELL: They're qualified wins. On taxes, where Bush, at the signing ceremony, actually played "Hailed to the Chief," a lot of the discussion that followed the tax signing had to do with, what happens if the projections don't work as planned? And whether some of the parts of the tax cut, like the full estate tax repeal, might have to be eliminated from it in the out-years.

On education, I'd argue that was as much a triumph for Tom Daschle as it was for Bush, because it allowed him to present himself as the new man who is opening up the Senate to a full discussion.

So I don't think it is clear victory on either one.

ROBERTS: You know, Tom Daschle said to you in answer to a question that it's a short-term political victory for President Bush. It clearly is, no doubt about it. But he could pay a long-term price.

And, you know, Republicans are two-faced about government. Everybody in America is two-faced about government. They hate it in the abstract: "Cut taxes, get rid of bureaucrats, get rid of regulations," except when it comes to money for their projects, their districts, their hometowns. Senator Lott's going to pave over the state of Mississippi before he is through with federal money.

And the fact is, when you cut these taxes, the money is not going to be there for a lot of things that the Republicans, not only the Democrats, that the Republicans want to put through. That's going to be a crunch. He's going to pay a price down the road when there is no money for things that are popular.

EDWARDS: But Daschle will pay that price as well. And he pointed that out this week, that a lot of things that his chairmen would want to do, they cannot do because the money is not there.

And Bush, if he's smart, might spin it as, aren't you are glad I got through that tax cut before Teddy Kennedy took over that chairmanship?

BLITZER: And let's not forget there were a dozen Democrats that supported that tax cut. It wasn't just a Republican-passed piece of legislation.

We'll take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about with our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues.


BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable.

Chris, I want you to listen to what President Gerald Ford had to say this week. He was in Washington and spoke at the National Press Club. A very wise man, a lot of experience. He's offering some advice to Republicans. Listen to this.


GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's my hope, and I happen to believe that the White House has learned that if they want their program through, whether it's with the Republican control or Democratic control, they have to be willing to sit down and negotiate and come up with final answers that are bipartisan.


BLITZER: Do you think the White House has learned that lesson from the Jim Jeffords defection?

CALDWELL: Well, President Bush would say he never had to learn that lesson. He's always said he worked so well with Democrats across the aisle in Texas. I think the lesson he's learned is that the national Democratic Party is a very different animal than the Texas Democratic Party.

BLITZER: Well, do you think that -- let's be more precise. Did Karl Rove, Andy Card -- did the political operatives, let's say, in the White House learn that kind of lesson from the defection?

CALDWELL: They have to a degree. But I also think that they decided to let Jeffords go because they don't want to be held over the barrel by the moderate wing of their party.

EDWARDS: Well, you know, I wondering if really it was a lesson about diplomacy as much as a lesson about maybe having a better whip organization. The fact that they were caught so flat-footed by Jeffords leaving, I don't think that they would have given him much more. But they hated the fact it was the last moment when they knew about it.

ROBERTS: You know, Gerald Ford's an interesting figure because he represents an older style of Republican, sort of a moderate, Middle Westerner. There's very few people like Gerald Ford left in the Republican Party.

Since he was president, the whole focus of the Republican Party has shifted to the South, the West and the right. And they have bolstered their strength in the South and in the Mountain States, absolutely true.

But Ford is basically right. In the end, everybody in Washington today has a veto power over everybody else. And you got to decide -- Daschle's got to decide, Lott's got to decide, Bush has got to decide. You're going to compromise to get something done, or are you simply going to play politics?

BLITZER: All right. Tam, there was a fascinating article in Vanity Fair, just came out, by Marjorie Williams. And it talks about the rift, the strains in the relationship between Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

And one of the things she has in the article is a quote from Bill Clinton to a confidante, an unnamed confidante, in which he says this: "Hillary was able to figure out how to deal with her relationship with me and win by 10 points in New York State. He should have been able to do as well," referring to Al Gore and his inability to win the presidency.

EDWARDS: You know, it's really funny. As somebody who covered that campaign, that's what we were all saying for months. That's what we were saying in January.

You know, the article was great, I think, at fleshing out what many of us had already come to see, that this was a badly arranged marriage. And that Al Gore was not a smart divorcee. He was not figuring out the way to get the big pay out and the things he wanted in leaving the marriage.

BLITZER: And it's interesting, if you read that article, as I'm sure you did, Chris. The Gore supporters are blaming Clinton, and the Clinton supporters are blaming Gore for the defeat.

CALDWELL: Right. Well, it was Gore's presidential campaign to run. I mean, I don't think that any of us should be under the illusion that the entire country is as liberal as New York. Hillary Clinton, in retrospect, had an easier time of it than Gore would.

But what Gore thought was that he could pick and choose the parts of Clinton that he would run on. So he said, "I don't like the adultery business," which is going to be with him forever. "And I don't like the economy," which was his to take or leave. So he wound up with the very worst parts of Clintonism and saddled with the personal stuff.

ROBERTS: Look, you know, we always forget that being vice president and running for president is a really tough thing to do. Before George Bush did it successfully, the last person who had done it successfully was Martin VanBuren 150 years before, because it is so tough to move from number two to number one.

Having said that, I think Gore made a hash of it. And I tend to agree with the Clinton view that he -- because he had this so gnarled and so twisted and such complicated relationship with Clinton, who had always been the big brother, that he couldn't use him to advantage. I know that all that polling said that Clinton was unpopular.

I still think he made a mistake. I think Clinton was basically right. I think he's right that Hillary figured out a way, of all people, and Gore wasn't able to do it.

EDWARDS: But the other point is Hillary got the sympathy. She was the scorned wife. Nobody felt bad for Gore.


CALDWELL: And we forget the George Bush was involved in this race too. His greatest weakness was a risky tax scheme, a risky economic plan. Gore tacked away from Clinton's safe-sounding economics to present a risky plan of his own.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to see how risky all that is now, now that it's the law of the land.

CALDWELL: That's right.

BLITZER: Christopher Caldwell, Tamala Edwards, Steve Roberts, great to have you. We'll -- we won't have you next week. Presumably our regular roundtable guests will be with us. Thanks for joining us.

EDWARDS: Wolf, thanks for having us here.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some conservatives during that campaign tried to label McCain as some sort of a liberal. He must be, they argued, reporters like him. That was silly, of course.


BLITZER: The senator who's making waves. Can John McCain resist another run for the White House?


BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on one of the Republican Party's most maverick politicians.


MORTON (voice-over): Well, the Senate is now solidly Democratic, 50 to 49 with one independent, Jeffords of Vermont, voting with the Dems. But that has done nothing to quite speculation about a second possible defector, John McCain of Arizona.

The theory is, he, too, would become an independent and would run for president as one in 2004. Is this likely?

Well, when he was first organizing his 2000 run, McCain always said that would be his only chance at the White House. He was 63, a good age. In four years, he'd be 67. Thus, 71 at the end of the first term, and that was dicier.

He said that before he knew how much fun he'd have in campaign 2000, of course. But even after that, his standards answer was that lightning doesn't strike twice, that the circumstances of 2000 wouldn't repeat themselves.

Some conservatives during that campaign tried to label McCain as some sort of a liberal. He must be, they argued, reporters like him. That was silly, of course. Reporters liked McCain because he talked to us.

We knew his voting record. Pretty standard conservative: anti abortion, pro-defense, fiscal conservative. Unorthodox on a few issues: campaign finance reform, for instance, patients' bill of rights.

But the Senate has passed a campaign finance bill. And with Tom Daschle now majority leader, the patients' bill of rights will get a hearing soon.

So what might make him run?


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That's what this is really all about.


MORTON: Some men seem driven to be president. Richard Nixon, for one. And Bill Clinton certainly dreamed of it all his life, but he may have wanted to be Elvis, too.

McCain -- and this is subjective, of course. Nobody can be certain about another person's intentions. McCain never seemed that drive to me. I remember going to interview him once at his Arizona home, which is, to put it mildly, a fine place.

"You can see," he said, while I looked admiringly around, "why running for reelection doesn't always seem like the most attractive option going," or words to that effect.

If he did run, he might be formidable. Over and over in 2000, he talked about getting young people to commit to something larger than themselves. Young people do that but in private charities, public service; not, since the cynicism bred by Watergate and Vietnam, in politics.

McCain tapped some of that latent idealism, that desire for a cause, in 2000.


MCCAIN: ... the school of your choice.


MORTON: He just might do it again in 2004.

I'm Bruce Morton.


BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce. Now it's time for you to have the "Last Word."

About media coverage of the Bush daughters' troubles, Marge in Indiana writes this: "You have gone way overboard on coverage of Jenna and Barbara Bush. Under the guise of discussing whether it has been covered properly, you all keep talking and talking and talking about it ad nauseum. Let these girls alone."

About our discussion on last week's show about cancer, Mac (ph) says, "I really enjoyed the segment about cancer on your program of Sunday, June 3, 2001. I have been afflicted with cancer of the prostrate and, by reading newspapers and watching television, have been following the progress of Mr. Milken, who has also been afflicted by this disease. With my profuse thanks in advance and warmest wishes for continued success in your Sunday and daily programs."

Thank you very much.

Finally, Len of Wisconsin had this to say: "I heard the secretary of the Treasury say on your show that he would be informing everyone on July 12 when their check would be coming and how much it would be for. Why doesn't he just print the checks and put "pay to the order of" and the amount on a check? It is just like the government to do double what is required for this program and others just like it."

As always, I invite your comments. You can e-mail me at And don't forget to sign up for my weekly e-mail at\email.

When we return, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines. Stay with us.


BLITZER: And now a look at what is on the cover of this week's major news magazines.

"TIME" magazine has "Blind Faith: An Exclusive Inside Tale of Blind Climber Erik Weihenmayer's Daring Conquest of Mount Everest" on the cover.

Tiger rules the cover of "Newsweek": "Five Secrets of the Golfer's Dominance and His New Life Off of the Course."

And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report": "Cracking the Case, What's Wrong With the FBI?"

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, June 10. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

And if you missed any of today's program, you can tune in tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for a one-hour replay of LATE EDITION.

And at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, a CNN special report, "THE MCVEIGH EXECUTION."

I'll see you tomorrow night on Wolf Blitzer Reports at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.



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