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House Ethics Committee Closes Book on Mark Foley Investigation; Interview With Donald Trump

Aired December 8, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us.
There's important news coming into CNN all the time, and, tonight, we are choosing these top stories for a more in-depth look.

The "Top Story" in politics: Now no one gets punished. The final report on the Mark Foley sex scandal finds negligence, broken rules and improper conduct among the top Republican leaders of Congress. So, why isn't anyone in trouble?

Then, on to the top survival story: the road to disaster -- a shocking new revelation about why a family got lost for days in the Oregon wilderness.

And then the "Top Story" in diplomacy: the $4 million-plus renovation. I'm going to ask real estate tycoon Donald Trump if the U.N. needs to be spending that much on renovating the secretary- general's house.

So, let's get right to that "Top Story" in politics tonight: Congress trying to wrap up its work, go home for the rest of the year -- one major piece of business out of the way, the final word from Congress on the Mark Foley scandal.

The Republican congressman was forced to quit in disgrace weeks before the election because of reports that he had repeatedly sent sexually suggestive computer messages to former House pages.

But the real scandal was whether Republican leaders knew about Foley's problem long before, and did nothing about it. Well, today, the House Ethics Committee reported that some Republican lawmakers were negligent, failing to protect teenage pages from Foley. But the Ethics Committee is punishing no one, not even slapping any wrists.

Let's get the very latest now on all of this from congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

A lot of people scratching their heads tonight, how they came up with this decision.


ZAHN: What about it?

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is certainly true, Paula.

You know, a lot of people were holding their breath, first, waiting for this decision. But, as you said, what the House Ethics Committee concluded today was that lawmakers certainly were negligent, and failed to protect the 16-year-old pages who are here in Congress under their protection.

But no one was fired. No one was even penalized, just harshly criticized.


BASH (voice-over): Republican lawmakers and aides were willfully ignorant about Mark Foley's inappropriate conduct with young male pages -- that is the conclusion of an exhaustive two-month House investigation into the pre-election scandal that rocked Washington. Yet, the House Ethics Committee determined, no one broke any rules, so no one will be reprimanded.

REP. DOC HASTINGS (R-WA), ETHICS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Twenty/twenty hindsight is easy. And we recognize that doing the right thing in a sensitive situation can be very hard and difficult.

BASH: The committee found, the weight of the evidence shows House Speaker Dennis Hastert was informed last spring about a questionable Foley e-mail, rejecting Hastert's contention that he didn't remember being told.

But House investigators concluded, no one knew about sexually explicit instant messages, like this, where Foley asked a former page, "Do I make you horny?"

The incoming House speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, slammed the bipartisan report for not punishing anyone, saying, "Members of Congress have a responsibility to protect their employees, especially young pages, who serve this institution so well."

No punishment for anyone, despite details taken from sworn testimony of aides witnessing questionable Foley behavior with teenage pages. "The subcommittee observed a disconcerting unwillingness to take responsibility for resolving issues regarding Representative Foley's conduct," the report said.

Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl testified, he warned the head of the page board last year Foley was a -- quote -- "ticking time bomb," and said he had been concerned about Foley's behavior since 1995, when he came to Congress, and even confronted him some 10 times.

"Here, you had a closeted gay guy who was putting himself in a situation of being one on one with young people," Trandahl said.

The report is especially tough on the House speaker's top aides for not taking action, despite warnings from Trandahl and former top Foley aide Kirk Fordham.

It concludes: "The weight of the evidence shows Fordham did talk to Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer about Foley's behavior three or four years ago, and that Palmer did confront Foley."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not looking to gloat or, you know, you know, point fingers today. I think the report points out where the breakdowns occurred. I think there are some people that are going to look back and wish they had acted differently.


BASH: And, during the height of this political scandal in the fall, Republicans were saying: Wait a minute. You should look into Democrats, whether they knew about the Foley e-mail, and whether they tried to spread the word.

Well, Paula, this report actually says that Republicans were right. Democrats, at least some of them, did know about it. In fact, it says that in, November 2005, Matthew Miller (ph), who was a -- a leadership aide for the House Democrats, got the e-mail, sent it over to the Democratic Campaign Committee, with the sole purpose of trying to leak it to reporters -- Paula.

ZAHN: I don't know. Dana, from here, it looked like there was a bunch of self-congratulatory stuff going on, and yet no one seeming to accept responsibility for what happened here.

BASH: Well, you know, it's -- it is interesting, especially when we were at that press conference today with the chair and co-chair of the Ethics Committee.

They simply would not take any questions. Now, this is a committee that always operates in secret. And they are very careful about what they say and don't say. That's why they didn't take any questions.

But, certainly, there are a lot of unanswered questions, despite the fact that the 89-page report tries to lay out why -- why they did and didn't -- or -- or, I should say, really why they didn't reprimand anybody, specifically, about the fact that -- that there are House rules, really one House rule, which says that members of Congress and staff should conduct themselves appropriately, and that they simply did not find anybody bent or violated that rule. That was -- that was the problem.

So, there will be, Paula, a lot of discussion about whether or not the House rules need to be changed, in order to better protect members -- pages, and also to better -- to give people the ability to better police members of Congress on this issue and a host of other issues.

ZAHN: Well, there are a lot of people tonight saying, maybe it's not the rules that need to be changed, but the interpretation of the rules.

BASH: Perhaps.

ZAHN: Dana Bash, thanks. And that's what we're going to discuss right now with our "Top Story" panel. It is back with us again tonight, Republican political consultant the Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow from Air America Radio, and constitutional lawyer Michael Gross.

Welcome back.




ZAHN: All right.

So, can you explain this to me tonight, Rachel?



So, here, you have got this group showing the congressional leadership was negligent, but they didn't break any rules.

MADDOW: Right. The congressional leadership was negligent, and it did real harm to the institution of the House, and it posed a present danger to congressional pages.

There was all this bad behavior. All of these things were wrong, but nobody will be punished. And Dana is exactly right. The House ethics rule number 13 basically says, you have to be good. It's -- it's one of these broad rules that says, if you don't conduct yourselves in -- in a way that is becoming of this institution, you are breaking a House rule.

They definitely could have found people in violation of the rules. And they didn't. I think the Ethics Committee just made a really great case for how impotent and useless they are, and why they ought to be abolished, and replaced by somebody that -- that doesn't have these guys investigating themselves.

ZAHN: Reverend, you have looked at this case inside out.

Don't you even have to concede it appears as though some rules were broken?

REVEREND JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, wrong is wrong. There's no doubt about it. What Foley did was awful. It was wrong. And -- and he -- he certainly has paid the price for it by resigning. And he's being investigated.

ZAHN: I'm talking about the people...


ZAHN: ... who were alerted to what he had done. (CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: There is no doubt about it. There were mistakes made. There were people that didn't...


GROSS: ... cover-up.

WATKINS: ... that didn't do what they were supposed to do.

Sadly, there are no hard and fast rules that say what the consequences are of not doing your job. You know, it's wrong whenever it happens. When the Democrats do it or Republicans do it, it's wrong.

And Democrats have had the same problems in the '80s. And Republicans had it more recently. But it's wrong whenever it happens.

ZAHN: Don't you think this is a whitewash?

GROSS: It's not sad that they don't have the rules. That's their intent, not to have rules. Those rules police themselves.

They decide what they can do and what they can't do. And they decide they can do everything. They're incredibly arrogant. What about...

ZAHN: The rules are pretty clear, are they not?

GROSS: No, they're not. The rules...


ZAHN: You don't think it's the interpretation of the rules?

GROSS: oh, no, no. No, no, no. It's exactly like high crimes and misdemeanors.

It is whatever they say it is. You can't do what's inappropriate. How about, after they learn in Buffalo, Reynolds is told that Foley down in Florida is singing love songs at night outside the page's room while he's falling on the floor drunk, that Reynolds takes care of it, and a $100,000 campaign contribution comes from a guy in Florida in the Foley camp up to the Reynolds congressional campaign?

You tell me that's not a payoff? Did anybody look into that? This is serious corruption. And these people cannot police themselves, nor can anybody police themselves. Somebody outside the group has to.

ZAHN: So, if someone is not going to take a fall in -- in a significant way, how about sending some sort of ethical message through censure...


ZAHN: ... that this is not going to be tolerated?


WATKINS: That's been done before.


WATKINS: Gerry Studds was censured, and he stayed in Congress for another 13 years.


ZAHN: But do you think anybody in the House leadership should be censured for allowing this to go on, when, in fact, they were notified about the content of these e-mails...


MADDOW: Absolutely.

ZAHN: ... and they knew that some of these pages were allegedly being preyed upon?

MADDOW: Congress is a work environment. Those pages are essentially interns in the work environment.

The boss found out that somebody was behaving very inappropriately toward the interns, and let it go. The boss ought to be in trouble.


GROSS: It was a cover-up. It was an intentional...


WATKINS: It wasn't a cover-up.


GROSS: Come on. It was an election year. And all they release is what they are going to release against the opposite party.

They don't release anything that can possibly hurt their own party. A Republican-controlled Congress was not going to release bad behavior by a Republican congressman running for reelection.

WATKINS: Democrats knew about it, too. Let's face it. Democrats knew about it early.


GROSS: Then, all right, one of the problems with control -- with -- with corruption is, I will hide your story. You hide mine. So, I'm sure there was a lot of that going on. To me, they all...


ZAHN: But you're not saying with a straight face that those Democrats who found out about it bear the same blame as folks in the House leadership?


WATKINS: ... used politically for political gain. At the end of the day, think about it. The pages are our kids. They are young people who are working on Capitol Hill, who are gaining experience, and...

ZAHN: And have a right to be safe.


WATKINS: Absolutely.

And, so, any time that that trust is violated, somebody ought to be penalized for it, no doubt about it.



MADDOW: And, this case, it ought to have been the boss. It ought to have been the leadership.


GROSS: It's not about Foley. It's about the cover-up. It's about the cover-up of any wrongdoing. That is corruptive. And the reason that happens is, they are doing it to help somebody...

WATKINS: I don't think it was a cover-up. I think -- I think it was just negligence. I think what it was is that they -- they get 1,000 complaints a day.

ZAHN: All right.

WATKINS: This was one of many complaints.


MADDOW: You don't get 1,000 complaints a day that there is a congressman trying to...


MADDOW: ... 16-year-olds.

(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: They don't call it negligence. They call it willful negligence.


ZAHN: All right, Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross, thanks.

We are going to see you all again in a few minutes.

The final report on the Mark Foley scandal is just one more reason why critics are labeling this Congress a bunch of do-nothings.

Continuing our coverage of tonight's top story in politics, we asked senior political analyst Bill Schneider to check the record to see whether this Congress did anything.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Here's what the new House speaker says.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It's been a do- nothing Congress.

SCHNEIDER: Worse, says this congressional scholar.

NORM ORNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the mother of all do- nothing Congresses.

SCHNEIDER: Congress worked 103 days this year, not even half as many days as a full-time worker. Did this Congress do anything?

Three hundred and seventy-four bills were signed into law. Over a quarter of them were bills to rename federal buildings, like a post office named for actress Ava Gardner.

The Republican Congress did make it harder to declare bankruptcy. They increased penalties for indecency in broadcasting -- no more wardrobe malfunctions. They authorized a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico, but they didn't fund it.

Congress failed to pass lobbying reform, or immigration reform, or Social Security reform. They failed to raise the minimum wage or make the tax cuts permanent.

They debated constitutional amendments to ban flag-burning and same-sex marriage, but didn't pass them.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? No. Will we address our staggering national debt? No.

SCHNEIDER: Congress' job is to pass a budget. Out of 12 bills needed to fund the federal government, they ended up passing two.

One thing they did do, go into emergency session to pass a bill aimed at saving Terri Schiavo.

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm heartened by the way Congress is uniting in a bipartisan, bicameral way in this unique situation.

SCHNEIDER: The Republican Congress was perfectly willing to placate its base, but totally unwilling to deal with the tough issues, or even debate them.

ORNSTEIN: As Republicans in Congress decided that the best thing for them to do approaching a pivotal election was to hunker down, hope that nobody paid attention, and let things pass them by.

SCHNEIDER: The Republican Congress tried to play it safe. They ended up losing everything.

(on camera): Now Congress is out of session. Maybe that's good news. As Will Rogers once said, the country has come to feel the same way when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: And Democrats are promising that Congress will work harder and longer when they take over next month. But will expanding the congressional workweek to five days really accomplish anything? We are going to go in-depth in just a minute.

Then, a little bit later on, the startling new revelations about a family's deadly crisis in the Oregon mountains.


ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in politics focuses now a big change in store next year in Congress, the end of the three-day workweek.

Congress is rushing to get its work done tonight, calling it a year, a year in which there was an awful lot of griping about how little Congress got done, and how little time members actually spent doing work in Washington.

So, the Democratic leadership in the House is promising that, next year, in 2007, for the first time in years, members will have to slog through a five-day workweek.

Here's congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sure, it may not look like a do-nothing Congress now, but this is what the place looks like much of the time.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: What we see is a drive-by Congress, Tuesday night to Thursday morning.

KOPPEL: Under House Republican leadership this year, lawmakers got to town Tuesday night, and were gone by Thursday. And get this. They only worked two days in January, eight in February, six in April, and then took the months of August and October off.

A grand total of 104 days were spent on Capitol Hill, the shortest legislative calendar in almost 60 years. That means congressmen, who make over 165 grand a year, earned the equivalent of about $1,500 each day they worked in Washington.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), MAJORITY LEADER-ELECT: And, in fact, we haven't gotten the people's work done.

KOPPEL (on camera): And do you think that -- what examples would you say there are of -- if you had, had more days here, and not back home, you would you have gotten more work done?

HOYER: Today.


KOPPEL: Is that right?

HOYER: Today. Here, we are, in the last throes, trying to get things through.

KOPPEL (voice-over): Once they're in charge, the Democrats' new majority leader promises, that will change. Come January, Congressman Steny Hoyer says, the first votes of the week will happen late Monday, and they will keep working until -- gasp, say it isn't so -- Friday.

REP. JACK KINGSTON (R), GEORGIA: Most members of Congress work six days a week. We work about 60 hours a week.

KOPPEL: For Georgia Republican Jack Kingston, he says spending time out of Washington, and back in his district, keeps him in touch with real people.

KINGSTON: When you are back home, people grab you by the collar and say, hey, you crazy SOB, what did you and your friends do on that last bill?

KOPPEL: And some lawmakers, like Kingston, live apart from their families during the week. A longer workweek means less time at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they got here, there were no paved roads.

KOPPEL: Senate historian Don Ritchie says, back before the jet age, even before the railroad, lawmakers in Washington had no choice but to stay in town, crowded into boarding houses.

But, these days, when it is possible to get across the country in a matter of just hours, Democrats say, that's no longer a good excuse for the essentially two-day Republican workweek. (on camera): And I have a bone to pick with you.

HOYER: Oh, dear. Did I make a conflict with something you want to do?

KOPPEL: Well, I have no vacation time.


HOYER: You know what? There are about 434 people in there who will say they want you lobbying for them.


KOPPEL: (AUDIO GAP) Paula, but the truth is, journalists look forward to those long breaks, too.

ZAHN: Oh, of course you do, particularly those that -- you -- you follow the actions of all those folks in Congress.

But tell us what the reaction is from other folks you have talked to on the Hill, particularly those whose families are behind in their home districts.

KOPPEL: Absolutely. And that really is the case.

For those with young children, who can't afford to have two houses, two places to live, they have left them back in their district, and especially those in the West Coast, it is difficult.

But the truth is, Paula, there are some Republicans who will even admit, yes, this was a do-nothing Congress. They didn't get that immigration reform passed. They didn't get Social Security reform. And they think, well, maybe if they are here for a longer week, they will actually get to push that through -- Paula.

ZAHN: We will see. Andrea Koppel, thanks.

We are going to go straight back to tonight's "Top Story" panel, Republican political consultant the Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow from Air America Radio, and constitutional lawyer Michael Gross.

So, what message does this send to the American public that, somehow, it was acceptable to have members of Congress, who are making three or four times what the average working person is in America, taking those long breaks at holiday times, and averaging, you know, 48 hours of work during the week?

WATKINS: Well, it's always a little bit tricky.


ZAHN: I didn't ask you. I asked Michael.


ZAHN: Don't jump in.

Oh, boy. I have never cut a reverend off before.


ZAHN: I'm sorry, sir.

MADDOW: There's a special circle in hell for people who cut off reverends.

GROSS: Thank you for giving me a chance, because I need it.


GROSS: It's not about the service.

You know, if you are getting lousy service, you don't want more of it. It's about the quality of the service. And it stinks. And it is not just that it is negligent, or sloppy. It is corruptive. And...


ZAHN: So, wait. Are you saying these people, who are working, on average, three days a week, were compromised because of the quality of the work, and the -- the number of hours put in are irrelevant?

GROSS: Paula, there is one issue which we're dancing around here.

There is a word that we don't use, bribery. Instead, we use campaign contributions. We use lobbyists. We use trips. We use study groups. We use speaking fees.

ZAHN: Right.

GROSS: We use all kinds of ways, euphemisms, for bribes. You are beholden to people who put you in office. They are doing it in order to get paid back. And, when do you that, it's not just that you pay them back. You steal it from the people who you don't serve.


ZAHN: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.


ZAHN: What does that have to do with a short workweek?


WATKINS: I don't think it has anything to do with the short workweek. I think what it has... GROSS: The point is, there's nothing wrong with coming to Congress two days, three days, four days, or five days. I don't want them there five days. I would rather have them not at all.


GROSS: What they're doing is a disservice to the country...

ZAHN: All right.


GROSS: ... not because they're not there long enough...

WATKINS: Not fair. Not fair.

GORE: ... but because they're cheating us.


WATKINS: It's not fair to broad-brush Congress and say, every member of Congress is not doing his or her job. That's not true.

A lot of hardworking people in Congress on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and, who take their job very seriously and work very hard.

ZAHN: All right. You're not too happy with the results of this Congress, Reverend?


WATKINS: Well, no. The last Congress could have gotten more done.

ZAHN: Could have gotten more done?

WATKINS: No -- no doubt about it. No doubt about it.

And maybe the additional working days will help get that done, because at least it sends a...

ZAHN: Maybe?

WATKINS: Maybe, but not necessarily, because, remember now, I mean, a lot of these hardworking people who were spending those days outside of Congress were spending the time in their home districts, working and doing things for...


ZAHN: I heard a very interesting argument today, where a Republican was saying, this is just like the Democrats, to force us into a five-day workweek in the city. They hate families.

(LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Right. Exactly.



ZAHN: It was an interesting...


ZAHN: ... spin on this.



MADDOW: It wasn't Mr. Smith goes to the district office. It was Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

We hire these people to be members of Congress. Being a member of Congress means showing up at Congress. You can't expect anybody to have sympathy for them arguing for their three-day workweek. We don't need to build in incentives for them to have more time with their constituents. Every two years, it's their constituents in their home districts who decide whether or not to send them back.

They have got plenty of reason to pay attention to their constituents.


ZAHN: Is there no value in going home, back to the home district to hear people talk and sound off?

WATKINS: There is lots of value. You have got folks. You have got people who have all kinds of problems.

I worked for a U.S. senator. I know the constituent problems that people have. And they're all kind -- and these are regular people, not contributors.

ZAHN: Can't -- can't you do that work on the phone?



WATKINS: You can do it on the phone, but it's nice to do it in person.


WATKINS: People like to see the folks that they elect. They like to see the folks that they elect.

GROSS: Regular people don't get their phone calls answered, believe me.

WATKINS: It is good for them to see the folks that they elect...

GROSS: Try calling.

WATKINS: .. in person.

GROSS: Try calling, if you haven't made a contribution, and see if you get your phone call answered.

Don't you think there's a relationship between the first story we talked about, the Foley scandal, which is not Foley's problem, but the problem of everybody covering up misbehavior of congressmen, and this issue, which is, why aren't they working? Because they're not there for that purpose. They're not there to serve us. They're there to serve the people who paid for their campaigns.


ZAHN: Quick closing thought.

WATKINS: Let's see what Democrats get done. They have control of the House and the Senate. Let's see if the five-day working week actually results in more legislation passed. Americans have a very, very -- very short patience with Congress. They want to see something happen.

ZAHN: Will they -- will they accomplish what they are setting out to do?


MADDOW: They are actually going to work in January, for the first time in my lifetime.


MADDOW: I think that's a step in the right direction.

GROSS: Let's see what they do if they don't have campaign contributors.

ZAHN: Well, that could be a very interesting unknown.

GROSS: Well, they couldn't even get McCain-Feingold passed bipartisan.

ZAHN: All right. We have got to move along.

Reverend Joe Watkins, Rachel Maddow, Michael Gross, see you again in a bit.

MADDOW: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: We are going to move on to tonight's top survival story. This is absolutely amazing. We are going to hear a startling revelation about why a family ended up on the wrong road in the Oregon wilderness -- coming up next, new evidence that someone else's negligence may be to blame. Wait until you hear what happened.


ZAHN: Our "Top Story" in survival tonight, we have troubling new details on a story that has touched so many of us this week, the challenge of the Kim family in Oregon, who were lost in the Oregon wilderness for more than a week.

James Kim, his wife and their two young girls were driving back from Thanksgiving in a blinding snowstorm. They took a wrong turn down a backcountry road, and got lost.

On Monday, searchers found Kati Kim and the girls alive, but, by then, James Kim had hiked off alone in search of help. His body was found on Wednesday.

And you may be shocked to hear what we have learned today.

For that, we go to Drew Griffin, who is covering the story for us in Oregon.

So, Drew, you spent most of the day tracking the path of the Kim family. What did you learn?


They were 15 miles up into this wilderness area, this true wildlands in the Rogue River wilderness area, when they came to a fork in the road, go left or right. Left was the right path. Right led down to a road that should have been locked by a locked gate just like this from the Bureau of Land Management.

But what we learned today is, that lock had been tampered with. The lock was open. The gate was open. And the Kims simply went down that road, because it looked to be, at the time, the better road. That lock was vandalized.

In fact, I have a piece of the broken lock that they actually found, Paula. Underneath it, somebody broke that lock and it allowed the Kims to continue making this terrible decision to go deeper and deeper into the wilderness area.

I then followed their route all of the way back in to where their car was found, where the Kims burned tires on the ground, where they waited out that so many days in their car. And literally it was another 20 miles back into these woods as the road just got narrower and narrower and narrower. In fact, one of the rescuers and a sheriff's sergeant who was with us for the first time going back there said I would have turned back so long ago, just couldn't understand why the family kept going deeper and deeper into these woods. ZAHN: As we hear more of these details, the story gets sadder and sadder. What else did investigators tell you today that you were surprised by?

GRIFFIN: Well, I was surprised at how far they went in. And the fact that before they even got to the gate, Paula, before they got to the gate where vandals broke it over, they passed through three different warning signs telling them the road ahead might be blocked because of snow. Those are permanent signs. And keep in mind, the rain down here in the valley was already turning to snow as the Kims were heading in.

It's the mind set of what drove them to keep going that is really puzzling us, especially as you retrace those steps. At one point, Paula, we're in a big SUV and the road is so narrow that both sides of the SUV are being battered with brush and it was just strange that they would keep going and then try to make a stand deep within those woods.

Literally, I stepped out of that car and realize they had nowhere to go. And they were in the middle of nowhere, Paula.

ZAHN: How terrible. Drew Griffin, thanks.

I want you all to join me Monday night for a special hour on this story -- "Stranded: The James Kim Ordeal."

The United Nations is about to get a new secretary-general and he's about to spend more than $4 million on his renovation. Some people are outraged about that. I will ask the king of New York real estate, Donald Trump, if he's one of them and if he could do it any cheaper.

Then a little bit later on, the top story in entertainment may be Mel Gibson's biggest gamble ever. His new film has no big stars, tons of violence. You're not going to understand a word of it. How is it going to do? We'll talk about it.


ZAHN: Our top story in diplomacy tonight deals with money out of your pockets, U.S. tax dollars help pay for the United Nations. So how do you feel about the U.N. spending more than $4 million for a splashy renovation of the Manhattan town house where the U.N. secretary-general lives. We asked Jason Carroll to find out what's behind that huge home improvement bill.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Manhattan's upper east side, a place where well healed pure breads routinely walked past million dollar properties like this one, a 14,000 square foot four-story town house, current home of United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan but not for long.

It's about been to be renovated. Cost: an estimated $4.3 million. The bill paid by taxpayers from all U.N. member countries. But to some Americans, paying this much for diplomacy is too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $4.3 million, that's a lot of money. It seems extravagant for even New York standards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is too much money.

CARROLL: You think it's too much?


CARROLL: Inside a sweeping staircase, marble foyer, wood paneled breakfast room, a grand dining room where Annan and previous U.N. secretaries have entertained dignitaries since the 1970s when the U.N. received the home as a gift. Extravagant? Not to the Greek ambassador.

ADAMANTIOS VASSILAKIS, GREEK AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It has to be appropriately presentable and to have all of the facilities in order to receive people.

CARROLL: Annan says the opulent looks are deceiving, the residence hasn't been renovated since the 1950s.

According to a U.N. report, urgent repairs are needed on corroded pipes, electrical wiring and an outdated exhaust system that poses a, quote, potential fire hazard.

Annan has been living there throughout his ten-year term which ends this month.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think it does need refurbishing.

CARROLL: The renovation, according to the U.N., will include $2.1 million for new air conditioning, $397,000 for architectural and engineering fees, $250,000 for electrical upgrades, $200,000 for a new kitchen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $200,000 is a lot of money, but the truth is this is going to be a commercial kitchen.

CARROLL: John Buchbinder is a contractor who works in the neighborhood.

(on camera): Can you understand why some people might say this sounds like this is a lot of money to upgrade somebody's town house?

JOHN BUCHBINDER, CONTRACTOR: In truth it is a lot of money. On the other hand, it is the secretary-general of the U.N. And taken as an overall square foot cost for construction in Manhattan, it is actually a very moderate cost.

CARROLL: Moderate? Maybe for an expensive Manhattan town home, but given the U.N. is also spending an estimated $1.9 billion renovating its headquarters, some say given so much need in the world all of that money is better spent some place else. Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: And joining me now, someone who knows a thing or two about Manhattan real estate, Donald Trump.

Welcome. Always good to see you.


ZAHN: Hi, Donald. So the U.N. argues that the secretary-general residence has to be renovated because the kitchen is a fire hazard, it hasn't been renovated since 1950, that the electricity goes out from time to time. Why would the Bush administration approve this price tag?

TRUMP: Well, it's a lot of money to renovate a building of any kind, especially a small building. And, of course, they are spending $1.9 billion on the United Nations building and they're spending at least a billion and probably a billion two more than necessary to do that job.

So why would they try to save money here? I mean, they are spending a lot of money on this building also. But the big waste is the $1.9 billion which I predict in four years from now you will talking to me, Paula, and it will be $3.5 billion that they will have spent.

ZAHN: Are you more angry about the potential incompetence in the way the U.N. procurement process works, or just the idea that we're even talking about these kinds of numbers in the first place?

TRUMP: Well, you know what Paula, I'm a big fan of the United Nations. And when it worked well it was great. Bring back (INAUDIBLE). The fact is we have a war going on in Iraq. We have problems all over the world. They don't do anything except spend money. They spend money but they don't solve problems.

I mean, why do we have this ridiculous war in Iraq going on? Where was the United Nations to help stop it? It is just -- if they did a great job there, let them spend whatever they want on there buildings. But to be so incompetent in every facet including construction in New York is pretty disheartening to me.

ZAHN: I want you to respond to these numbers. $200,000 to upgrade the kitchen. $100,000 to renovate two small bathrooms in the entryway. $2.1 million to install central heating and air conditioning. Could you do it for less than that?

TRUMP: Well, anybody can do it for less than that. That's a lot of money. And of course that's the peanut money compared to the bigger picture, but that's still a lot of money for those individual items that you just named. Certainly maybe double and triple what it should cost.

ZAHN: So how outraged do you think U.S. taxpayers should be about this?

TRUMP: I think they should be more outraged by the fact that the United Nations, which has the power to do great things, doesn't do anything. That to me bothers me a lot more than their renovation bills.

But when you look at food-for-oil and oil-for-food and all the scandals and Kofi Annan's son, and then you see about apartments costing millions of dollars to renovate, and then you see much more importantly about a building in the United Nations -- at the United Nations. Here's a building that's built, and they are going fix it for $1.9 billion?

And this all began when the Swedish ambassador called me and said you built a building across the street, 90 stories for $350 million. How come it costs $1.9 billion to renovate a building that's smaller? So it's a very terrible thing going on over at the United Nations, Paula.


ZAHN: And that was my conversation with New York real estate developer Donald Trump.

Tonight's top story in entertainment: A horrifically violent movie where no one speaks English. Can Mel Gibson start a comeback with a film like "Apocalypto?"


ZAHN: A potential hit movie opening today, that's our top story in entertainment. Some early reviews on Mel Gibson's new film, "Apocalypto," say it could be an Oscar contender, but Gibson's recent behavior may stand in the way of any nominations. His anti-Semitic outburst after a drunk driving arrest is still fresh in the minds of Oscar voters and much of Hollywood. So can Mel make a comeback? Here's entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas.


MEL GIBSON, DIRECTOR: Pandaluco (ph) means a new beginning.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And a new beginning is just what Mel Gibson could use. Just months after his highly publicized drunk driving arrest that culminated in a verbal attack on Jews, his Mayan epic is finally in theaters.

Industry insiders had speculated Gibson's work would be overshadowed by his anti-Semitic rant, but early buzz and reviews seem to suggest otherwise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Critics everywhere are raving.

VARGAS: Like his box office success, "Passion of the Christ," Gibson chose to depart from the typical Hollywood formula, using a cast of unknown actors and filming entirely in an obscure language -- this time, a Yucatan Mayan dialect.

Could be a tough sell, and Disney's marketing has been strategic and limited. He's only done three high-profile interview, one with ABC's Diane Sawyer, a feature in "Entertainment Weekly" magazine and an appearance on Jay Leno.

JAY LENO, HOST, TONIGHT SHOW: I know you've been laying low the last couple of months.

GIBSON: Not too bad.

ANNE THOMPSON, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: They have done a lot to try to separate him from his words and to make him into what he is, a talented director.

VARGAS: Gibson is also using strategies learned while promoting "Passion of the Christ," showing advance screenings and parts of the film to a select audience. While with "Passion," he targeted Christians. This time, Gibson is focusing on Native and Latin Americans.

THOMPSON: Mel, I think very intelligently, is hoping that this movie could chase a large Latin American constituency.

VARGAS: But while Gibson is out campaigning for Latin and Native American support, what about the group he alienated? Will Jews embrace the film?

RABBI MARVIN HIER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: You know, I think that some -- you know, some people will be willing to forgive him, just saying, well, you know, that was a long time ago. But I think many others will remember that, that he said that Jews were responsible for all wars, and the wound is too raw.

VARGAS: Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says don't look to him for support. And with Oscars just around the corner, Hier, who is also an Academy member, says Gibson, if nominated, can forget about his vote.

HIER: I can't speak for the Academy. I can tell you that I have no plans on seeing this film whatsoever.

THOMPSON: Is Hollywood going to embrace Mel to the point of giving him best picture and best director? I don't think so. They're mad at Mel.

VARGAS: But a little extra attention, even negative, may not be such a bad thing for an unconventional film trying to break big at the box office.

THOMPSON: I mean, now, everybody has heard of "Apocalypto."

VARGAS: Sibila Vargas, CNN, Hollywood.


ZAHN: And we'll have a sense on Monday how it did over the weekend.

Right now, we're going to move on to a quick business break. Stocks posted gains going into the weekend. The Dow rose 29 points. The Nasdaq was up 10 points, while the S&P gained 2.5 points.

And it's now up to the Senate to pass some popular tax breaks. Today, the House voted to renew deductions for tuition expenses, teacher's classroom expenses and mortgage insurance payments. The Senate could pass that legislation later tonight, or over the weekend.

And thanks to blockbusters like "Pirates of the Caribbean," 2006 looks to be a really good year at the box office. The latest figures show movie ticket sales up nearly 6 percent from this time last year.

Well, as you know, former President Jimmy Carter seems to court controversy whether he wants to or not, but his new book is making some people absolutely furious. Coming up, why one man is accusing the former president of distorting history.

And then a little bit later on, a conservative U.S. senator who would like to move to the big White House at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, that makes him a person you should know. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: We're going to move on to our other top story. It is in politics tonight. The controversy over former President Jimmy Carter's new bestseller on the Middle East. A long time associate says the book is biased and distorts history. But the president is fighting back. In an editorial in today's "Los Angles Times," Carter says his book is, quote, "devoted to circumstances and events in Palestine, not Israel." Brian Todd has more on these startling allegations.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A former president now stands accused of taking sides by some of those who worked closest with him on Middle East peace. Among Jimmy Carter's critics, Emory University Professor Ken Stein, who just resigned as a Carter Center fellow. He tells CNN Carter's new book "Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid" distorts history.

KENNETH STEIN, RESIGNED FROM CARTER CENTER: I don't believe that a former president of the United States has special privilege of prerogative to write history and perhaps invent it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your problem with this title, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid?"

STEIN: There's too much emotion in the Arab/Israel conflict already and I think this adds heat rather than light. When you use the word "apartheid," what you're doing is you're saying that what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the territories is equivalent to what happened to the blacks in South Africa. TODD: President Carter claims he's not insinuating that Israel is perpetrating racial apartheid, but...

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Israel has penetrated and occupied, confiscated and colonized major portions of the territories belonging to the Palestinians.

TODD: As for the inaccuracies Stein alleges are in the book, most deal with dates or events. Carter says he fact-checked the book with a prominent Middle East journalist and an Emory University history professor, who also works at the Carter Center. But Stein also suggests Carter took material without attribution.

STEIN: Two of the maps -- two of the maps that appear on page 148 of the book are very similar, are incredibly similar, to two maps that appeared in Dennis Ross' memoir "The Missing Piece."

TODD: But Stein is clear -- he is not accusing Jimmy Carter of plagiarism. As for the former president...

CARTER: I've never seen Dennis Ross' book. I'm not knocking it. I'm sure it's a very good book. But my maps came from an atlas that is publicly available. And I think it's the most authentic map that you can get.

TODD: Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross says the maps didn't exist until he created them.

DENNIS ROSS, FORMER MIDDLE EAST ENVOY: The maps he uses are maps that are drawn basically from my book.

TODD: We tried to contact the firm that President Carter says he got those maps from, the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem, to see if they got them from Dennis Ross. We were unable to reach that company.

Ross says his publisher has sent a letter to President Carter's publisher, Simon & Schuster. A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster tells us they are tracking these accusations, but they stand by the president's book.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: And tonight, just days after announcing plans to seek the Republican presidential nomination, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is going to prison in Louisiana. The senator says he's spending the night behind bars to highlight the need for prison reform, but it is also part of his attempt to stand out in a crowded field of GOP White House contenders. And that makes Sam Brownback the focus of tonight's "People You Should Know."


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ever since he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Kansas' Sam Brownback was widely regarded as one of the most conservative voices on the Hill.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R), KANSAS: I serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, we worked...

SNOW: A favorite of the religious right, Brownback is a practicing Catholic. The 50-year-old says faith drives his opposition to gay marriage, abortion and stem cell research, but his political interests go far beyond those issues.

BROWNBACK: We have to expand the compassionate conservative agenda to address issues like prison recidivism rates, and I would like to see us take on a big topic that touches a lot of people's lives.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Senator Brownback sees himself in a position to reach to the conservative base, but also appeal a little more to the center on issues such as poverty and human rights. Is it a long shot? Yes, but sometimes long shots win.

SNOW: Brownback has teamed with Democrats on several bills, like trying to eradicate AIDS in Africa and stop the genocide in the Sudan. His allies in that fight include Senator Barack Obama and actor George Clooney, with whom he gladly shares the spotlight.

BROWNBACK: It reminded me of a mule being in the Kentucky Derby. You know, you may not win the race, but you really like the company.

SNOW: That type of publicity may be exactly what Brownback needs to gain the name recognition of other GOP hopefuls, like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

Mary Snow, CNN.


ZAHN: And coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," one of the highest profile polygamists in North America talks about his lifestyle with Larry. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: That wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for joining us tonight. And we have a programming note for you before we leave you. Please join us on Monday night for our special, "Stranded: The James Kim Ordeal." We will walk you through their nine days of terror.

Have a good weekend, everybody. Again, thanks for joining us.


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