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John Boehner Elected as DeLay's Replacement

Aired February 2, 2006 - 13:36   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary Donald Ru right now speaking before the National Press Club newsmaker luncheon. But it was just a few minutes ago, he was interrupted by an anti-war protester. He had just been asked a question, where is Osama bin Laden? This is what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thousands are coming this weekend!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Rumsfeld, I'm sorry your First Amendment rights were not respected at the National Press Club.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take this program with you! You are torturing people!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyway, secretary...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This world needs to wake up and stop this war, this criminal war! You are a war criminal!


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: Well, we'll count her as undecided.


PHILLIPS: He always has a sense of humor. Continue to monitor that live event if you want to go to

Developing news coming from Capitol Hill regarding the GOP leadership, talking about replacing Tom DeLay.

Our Ed Henry on the Hill with more. What's going on, Ed?


Some dramatic developments so far. They went into a first ballot behind closed door, the House Republicans, and they had a problem -- they had more ballots turned in than actual Republican members of Congress that were here to vote, so there were concerns about voting irregularities. They had to do a revote. Once they finally cleared that up, they did not get a clear winner on the first ballot. They've now gone to a second ballot. That's the headline.

The second thing is that John Shadegg, the conservative favorite in this race, he was kind of a longshot candidate, but a lot of conservatives were pushing him, he has now dropped out. In the first ballot, Roy Blunt, the frontrunner, a Tom DeLay protege, got 110 votes. He needed 117 to win it. He had been telling everyone he had the vote to win. He did not get it.

That may open the door for the number-two candidate, John Boehner of Ohio. He got 79 votes on the first ballot. I'm getting these numbers from our producer Dedra Walls (ph) right around the corner from me here. John Boehner got 79 votes. They are now going to the second ballot. What's interesting is John Boehner has been insisting all along that if it goes to a second ballot, he can win this, that he had a lot of people who were going to vote for Blunt the first time, but would go to Boehner on a second ballot. They're doing that second ballot right now.

The problem for Roy Blunt is he thought he had this in the bag. He clearly did not. He may be seen as the status quo candidate because he was so close to Tom DeLay.

As you know, there's a shakeup going on here. A lot of Republican rank-and-file want change because of the lobbying scandals, an so they may get that. They're in the second ballot. We'll break back in when we find out whether or not they get a result from that.

But the headline here is Roy Blunt did not win on the first ballot. It's now Roy Blunt against John Boehner on a second ballot -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Ed. Let us know as soon as you know something. Ed Henry on the Hill there. Thanks so much.

Straight ahead, supporters say the Patriot Act has saved American lives. Critics say it has to change. We're going to hear from both sides when LIVE FROM continues.


PHILLIPS: Only one day left to save the Patriot Act, which runs out tomorrow, unless the Senate OKs a second temporary extension. A permanent extension remains the goal of the White House. But critics say the act, passed five weeks after 9/11, threatens civil liberties and needs to be revised. Supporters say it works and any changes will put Americans at risk.

Joining us from Washington, CNN contributor and former U.S. Congressman Bob Barr, and former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh who helped write the Patriot Act. Great to have you both.


PHILLIPS: Viet, let's start with you. And tell me what went into writing this act and how you gathered information and even dealt with the legal challenges.

DINH: From the very beginning when the president gave the attorney general the order to stop another catastrophic attack on the American homeland, we called in ideas from prosecutors, from investigators in the field. Of the thousands of ideas to help us prosecute this war in the short-term and win it in the long-term, we went through a very rigorous policy vetting process that asked three key questions.

One, is this operationally necessary? Two, is it fully consistent with our Constitutional standards? And, three, are there any effects unintended or intended, that we need to mitigate in order to make it work effectively in order to protect both freedom and liberty while providing security.

We also asked very carefully, with respect to the second question, whether there are any Constitutional problems that we can take care of. I think the Congress did its job very carefully passing the 50 provisions that we advanced.

And the result of that is that four years have gone by and not a single provision has been declared definitively to be unconstitutional. And of the thousands of complaints that have gone in, not a single one has been determined by the inspector general to be a credible allegation of a civil liberties of abuse of the USA Patriot Act powers.

PHILLIPS: Now, Bob, I know you think it's not consistent with the Constitution. Can you give us both exact examples?

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, a couple of things, I think, Kyra, are very relevant in your question and my dear friend Viet Dinh's response. Yes, Congress did look very carefully at it.

But, of course, at the time the Patriot Act was passed -- and I was in the Congress, considered it very carefully, probably one of the handful of members that actually read the whole thing several times, and urged some additional safeguards.

The Congress did not put those additional safeguards in, but the Congress did something that was very important for this discussion, and that is, they put sunset provisions in there so that after a period of time, after a few years, which is now up, the Congress could go back, take a look at these problematic provisions, make sure that the law was working as it was intended, make sure there were not abuses and see if any changes needed to be made.

We're now at that point. With regard to changes that need to be made, one example would be the fact that under the Patriot Act, unlike prior law, the government can gain access to your or my or Viet's most personal papers -- perhaps our medical records in our doctor's office, our firearms purchase records with the local pawnshop, our education records, our library records -- without any sort of even reasonable suspicion that we, in particular, have done something wrong, such as associating with terrorists.

We think -- those of us on the right and the left that have expressed these concerns, we think that requiring at least that reasonable suspicion that a particular U.S. citizen has done something wrong or is suspected of doing something wrong before the government can access our records, is the most important change that we can make. And it would not in any reasonable way limit the power of our government to continue to protect us against acts of terrorism.

PHILLIPS: Viet, do you agree with that? Should that be changed?

DINH: I think what we're talking about here is millimeters, in terms of what is the conference report that both houses of Congress had agreed to, and the current stalemate that we see in the Senate right now.

I think Congressman Barr's excellent suggestion is a good one, but I think the conference report, as part of the bipartisan legislative process, has come up with a safeguard that approximates it, maybe not 100 percent, but there's a reasonable suspicion that information has to be relevant to an investigation into terrorism or into national security.

We're talking about millimeters here, but at the cost of very significant improvements in our procedures. We're not just not talking about the reauthorization of these provisions with modifications as may be agreed to, but central to the bill that is being debated is the implementation of the Robb-Silberman's bipartisan commission's recommendation on how we revise and revamp the Department of Justice so as to be able to integrate intelligence.

PHILLIPS: Viet, let me ask you -- well, let me ask you. You wrote this. Are there any changes that you would make right now? Looking at where we all are now, would you make some changes?

DINH: Sure. I think that the conference report that was agreed to both by House and Senate members, reflecting a bipartisan, bicameral compromise process, is a very good set of additional protections to make sure that we ensure, as Bob said very eloquently, that we continue to secure America, but at the same time, secure our liberties also.

PHILLIPS: Tell me what's in that conference report. You're referring to the conference report. But give me an example to where, you know, the layperson will understand what do you mean? Like give me an example of something that would change.

DINH: Right. On the library records provision that Bob was referring to, there is now a specific standard of a reasonable suspicion that is relevant to a terrorism investigation that was not there before.

There's an explicit provision for people who receive these kinds of orders to challenge them in court. Same thing with respect to the national security letters, a prior law. Now they have an express right to go into court.

PHILLIPS: What are the national security letters?

DINH: The national security letters were created in 1996. They've been longstanding for 20 years under the law. That is the equivalent of the FBI's administrative subpoena to go search for records in the name of national security.

They have been operated for 20 years but never has there been an explicit right either to enforce them in court or to challenge them in court. I think the conference report does a very good job of asking the court to get involved in the enforcement and quashing of these subpoenas as necessary.

PHILLIPS: So, Bob, it sounds like that probably some changes will be made.

BARR: Well, some changes, certainly, will be made. The administration has met with some of the -- particularly the Republican senators who have expressed concerns about the Patriot Act, for example, senators Larry Craig, Chuck Hagel and John Sununu, among others.

But the problem is, we still have two very different versions of the bill. You have a House version and a Senate version. The House version does not provide the necessary protections that many of us, from the right and the left, believe are essential and which would not interfere with the government's ability.

PHILLIPS: So the conference report doesn't involve all of this?

BARR: No. As I said, the conference report that was passed by the Senate includes the protection that I mentioned a few minutes ago. And this is what it boils down to, Kyra.

If the government decides that it is conducting a broad-ranging investigation involving terrorism, and certifies that to the court, under the Patriot Act currently, they can go to the court and get your most personal, private records or mine or Viet's, without linking us -- us as U.S. citizens -- to any suspected bad or illegal actions.

That is far too broad a power for the government, and they ought to at least be required to show the court that they have a reasonable basis to suspect that we in particular, before our privacy is invaded, as guaranteed in the Constitution, have done something wrong. That's all we're asking.

PHILLIPS: All right, well, we're going to, of course, monitor to see if the Senate OKs a second temporary extension. Viet Dinh, Bob Barr, thank you so much.

BARR: Sure.

PHILLIPS: We've got to head straight to Ed Henry on Capitol Hill. Of course, we're talking about the GOP replacing Tom DeLay.

What's the word, Ed, another vote?

HENRY: Yes, the second ballot has been decided. John Boehner of Ohio is the winner. This is an amazing story, a comeback bid. He was in the leadership after the Republican revolution of 1994. He got bounced out after the '98 elections. He has been mounting this comeback for a few years. As I noted a couple minutes ago, the front-runner, though, was Roy Blunt of Missouri. He was somebody who is a Tom DeLay protegee. This is the race to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. Roy Blunt was telling everyone that he had the votes locked up. He went into this thinking he was going to be the winner. Instead, he did not win on the first ballot.

John Boehner has been gaining and gaining and has been saying all along that if it made it to a second ballot, he was going to win. Republican officials just coming out the room around the corner from me saying that Boehner has won on the second ballot.

We don't have the tally yet, but this is a clear sign that Republican rank and file members are very concerned in this mid-term election year that Roy Blunt was going to be too close to Tom DeLay, too close to the status quo. He was the acting majority leader after DeLay stepped aside after being indicted twice down in Texas.

This is a very interesting sign. John Boehner of Ohio, not Roy Blunt, the new majority leader -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Ed, stay with me.

Bob Barr, are you still with us? We were talking about Patriot Act. I'd love to get your reaction to this. Are you still here, Bob? OK, we lost Bob Barr. I apologize. We're going to try to get him back up, Ed, actually.

And looking at all this, we could go back -- where should we start? Should we go back to the initial investigations into Tom DeLay's questionable activity, and then move into Jack Abramoff, of course, the lobbyist that created quite a stir among Republicans and Democrats? Let's sort of go back to what led us to this point.

HENRY: Sure, that's clearly where it started. Tom DeLay was indicted down in Texas. As you know, a very controversial investigation by a Democratic prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, down there. But since he was indicted -- DeLay still maintains his innocence, says he'll beat that -- but there was a House internal Republican rule up here that basically said you would have to step down from leadership post if you get indicted. So he had to step down, reluctantly, but he did, as you'll remember, late last year.

But then the Abramoff scandal kept breaking and breaking and that one could be a more wide-ranging, widespread investigation, obviously, for Republicans, than this narrow investigation down in Texas. And so you're right to point to that, Kyra.

That really -- as Jack Abramoff cut that plea deal, it just became more and more apparent, Tom DeLay has not gotten a sign that he's in any legal jeopardy there, but there's a lot of political jeopardy for him in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. Some of his former staffers had been implicated in that scandal. And so it became clear DeLay had to step aside permanently. A lot of nervousness.

We're hearing that the results are about 122-109, as I understand. John Boehner over Roy Blunt. And again, Roy Blunt just was seen as someone who was status quo. He was already a member of the leadership team. Yesterday, Republicans rejected a wider leadership election, taking on other races, so they wanted to take out Blunt and just have change.

PHILLIPS: Ed Henry, we're going to come back to you with more on the Hill. We've got to take a quick break. New House Majority Leader John Boehner. More after this.


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