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Passportgate; Barack Obama Gets Endorsement of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson; John McCain on Senate Business Abroad; Sex in Exchange for Citizenship

Aired March 21, 2008 - 23:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King, sitting in for Anderson Cooper.
Tonight, not one, not two, but all three candidates now can say, "Someone at the State Department looked into my passport record, someone who shouldn't have." New details on the scandal and the investigation unfolding all day. We will bring you the latest.

Also, Barack Obama picks up a key endorsement from a former Clinton insider. We will explore the impact with our panel, including senior political analyst David Gergen.

Later, the Wright contest -- you have heard the incendiary language. Tonight, a fuller picture that might surprise you. Roland Martin's been blogging about it. We will get his take and Bay Buchanan.

Plus, John McCain traveling the globe, polishing his credentials as a statesman. Is it working?

We begin, though, with the passport snooping scandal. When stories like this one break, you're always looking for the other shoe to drop. Tonight, there are shoes everywhere. And all three candidates are complaining.

The late developments from CNN's Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The "I'm sorry"s just keep coming, first to Senator Barack Obama after the revelation that State Department contractors had sneaked a look into his passport file three times this year.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I told him that I was sorry. I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She called me and offered her the apologies, which I appreciated, but I also indicated that this is something that has to be investigated diligently and openly.

VERJEE: Then word that a trainee, a State Department employee, got into Senator Hillary Clinton's file last summer. Rice called the senator again offering apologies. Next victim on the Republican side, Senator John McCain. He reacted to the Obama breach.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anyone's privacy is breached, then they deserve an apology and a full investigation.

VERJEE: That was John McCain before he found out he was also on the list. One of the same people who clicked into Obama's file surfed his as well. Rice telephoned him in Paris.

A top State Department official was dispatched to the Hill to brief all three senators' staff. Obama and the others are demanding congressional investigations.

Big questions remain. What exactly is in a candidate's passport file? Why would anyone want to see it? And was any of this politically motivated?

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: It is still our initial take that this was -- I referred to it as imprudent curiosity. But we are not dismissive of any other possibility.

VERJEE: We have been down this road before, an unauthorized leak of the passport files of then presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. The probe cost $2.2 million, and no laws broken.

The count so far, two contractors fired, one disciplined for the two violations, and a State Department trainee still on the job.


KING: And, Zain, let's peel back the curtain a little bit on how this works. It was actually only recently that more people were able to get access to these passport files. Is that right? And, if so, why?

VERJEE: Yes, that's exactly right, John.

The whole time that this breaching was going on, the Bush administration actually increased the number of federal agencies, and they want to get foreign governments, organizations like Interpol, for example, to be able to have access to some of these kinds of files into this system.

The reason is to fight terrorism. Privacy groups, as you can imagine, John, have a huge problem with this. But the bottom line is that it -- this is going to get a lot easier for many more countries and organizations to get involved and get to your records.

KING: I'm sure a lot of people watching find that troubling.

What about these specific contractors. Do we know who they are?

VERJEE: Yes. The State Department confirmed earlier today who these contractors involved were. They initially did not want to reveal the names. But they are Stanley Incorporated and The Analysis Corporation. Stanley, just days ago, renewed their contract with the State Department for something like $570 million. John, you know, it's pretty ironic that some of the contractors involved here that breached files, that breached these passport records of McCain, Obama, Clinton, and many others that we may not even know of are involved in the very organization that's setting up and spending millions of dollars processing and building big constructions to process some of this stuff for the State Department.

KING: Ironic, also, that they can peek into people's private information, and the State Department doesn't want to release their names.

Zain Verjee, thanks so much for working this so hard today.

And, so, with all three candidates now dead-even in the crucial passport spying victim race, let's turn to endorsements.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson served in the Clinton administration. He's friendly with both Bill and Hillary. He watched the Super Bowl with the former president. But, today, Governor Richardson endorsed Barack Obama.

Details from CNN's Jessica Yellin.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The one-time rival now sounds giddy as a schoolgirl.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: You are a once-in-a- lifetime leader.

You will make -- you will make every American proud to be an American.

Barack Obama will be a great and historic president who can bring us the change we so desperately need.

YELLIN: It wasn't always this way.

Hamlet, that's the name one Clinton staffer gave Richardson, because he couldn't decide which candidate to back, even after his former boss parachuted in to join him for Super Bowl.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do not get between Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson and the TV set when the Super Bowl is on. So...

YELLIN: Some say the Clintons made Bill Richardson's career, U.N. ambassador, Secretary of Energy. He joked about becoming Hillary's vice president.

As recently as last Friday, both Clintons called him to ask for his endorsement. He called Senator Clinton back last night with bad news.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think this was an act that took a lot of bravery, because he had -- he was close to the Clintons. They were wooing him. If Hillary Clinton won the nomination, he might well be the vice presidential nominee.

That chance has gone poof. He's not out there. He's taking himself off that list. That's an act of some bravery.

YELLIN: The governor says he grew fond of Obama during all those Democratic debates.

RICHARDSON: I noticed Scott mentioned everybody else in the poll. He didn't mention me. But that's OK.

OBAMA: Did that hurt your feelings, too?

RICHARDSON: Well, a little bit.

YELLIN: He saw him as a uniquely inspiring figure, and decided it was time to pull the trigger.

RICHARDSON: It's time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and prepare for the tough fight we will have against John McCain in the fall.

YELLIN: The timing could not be better for Barack Obama, changing the story after a run of bad news, including damaging stories about his pastor and an indicted former donor, missteps on NAFTA, and losses in Texas and Ohio's primaries.

So far, there's no sign this will cause a stampede to Obama's camp. Aides to superdelegates Al Gore, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden say, don't expect any imminent moves.

And John Edwards is playing coy.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, I think -- I think both -- either of them, I think, will be a great candidate. And I think either would be a great president.

YELLIN: But it doesn't hurt to have such an outspoken cheerleader on the team.

RICHARDSON: There's something special about this guy, and I want to be a part of it.


KING: Jessica Yellin joins us now from Indianapolis.

Jessica, to the point you were making near the end of the piece there, how helpful is this endorsement if it's just Bill Richardson, if it doesn't open the gates, if you will, to a flood of more superdelegates jumping in?

YELLIN: Well, look, John, what it does is, it shows that this is a sign of faith in Barack Obama's candidacy during a very rough period in his campaign. Bill Richardson basically saying that he thinks he will ride this out just fine.

It's also a show of faith in Barack Obama's ability to be commander in chief, because Bill Richardson has such significant foreign policy credentials. It says, he wouldn't get behind somebody who couldn't be the leader of this nation and this nation's military.

And, finally, it's a sign that, you know, to other superdelegates, it's OK to part with the Clintons, to make this choice, and you can live to tell the tale -- John.

KING: And maybe it will help him make inroads among the guys- with- beards vote.

Jessica Yellin for us tonight in Indianapolis -- Jessica, thank you very much.

Now, Bill Richardson is not the first governor to support Barack Obama for president. Here's the "Raw Data."

Obama has the backing of nine Democratic governors across different parts of the country -- you see them here in dark blue -- while Hillary Clinton has picked up 10 gubernatorial endorsements, most of them along the East Coast, shown in light blue -- nine Democratic governors still on the sidelines.

There's more on the Richardson endorsement, as well as Bill Clinton throwing a political punch. We will talk about it with our panel tonight.

Also, how John McCain is traveling around the world in part to distance himself from President Bush.

And you might be surprised by what else Barack Obama's former pastor said when he said some of those things that got Senator Obama in such hot water. We will play you some clips you probably haven't heard before -- when 360 continues.


KING: Bill Richardson, he's the former Clinton Cabinet member, current Obama endorser.

Bill Clinton, by the way, took a pretty tough shot today at Senator Obama. A lot of people reading it as an implication that his wife and John McCain both love America, and Barack Obama does not. Is that what he's saying? We will be playing that a bit later in the program.

Stay with us.

But, first, the Richardson endorsement, the passport scandal, and a whole more.

Joining us, CNN political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen, Democratic analyst and Obama supporter Jamal Simmons, also tonight, former Bill Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste. David, let's start with you.

All three candidates' files were breached. Does that indicate to you this is just curiosity or is there a potential political dimension here?

GERGEN: Well, it looks a lot less sinister than it did 24 hours ago, when we knew about only one candidate's files being breached, Barack Obama, on three occasions. Now that we have all three, it looks a lot more like a sort of garden-variety case of bureaucratic ineptitude in not bringing -- sending it up the line.

And you have some intern-type who has poked in there on an exercise. But I don't think we know all the facts. One of the facts we do need to know is exactly what was looked at. If it was passport application information, most of which is already public record, like your name and address kind of stuff, and your age, that's not very important.

You know, far more important is whether it had anything like security files. You know, when you get your clearance, they do these extensive searches, and there's lots of gossip in there, lots of -- you know, you can really get chopped up in those things, a lot of private stuff.

And we have seen security files breached before. We have seen tax files breached before. This does not seem, based on what we know so far, of that import.

KING: So, we will keep asking those questions.

But, Jamal, last night, the Obama campaign issued a scathing statement, essentially accusing the Bush administration of a politically motivated breach. If it turns out these are contractors making stupid mistakes, inept mistakes, but not politically motivated mistakes, does the campaign owe the White House an apology?


I think -- well, if we find out that it didn't have anything to do with the Bush administration, then, yes, maybe they do owe them an apology. But I'm not so quick to dismiss it. We know, with the Senator Clinton leak, it was a training exercise that was caught immediately last summer.

With the other two leaks, we're not so sure what the details are yet. The State Department doesn't seem to me like it's been that straightforward. And now that we have got the names of these companies, we need to figure out, you know, are there any connections between these companies and Bush administration officials? There's a lot of work to be done. And I want to follow -- I want to follow this trail a little bit while longer.

KING: And we will do so, I assure you.

Maria, let's turn to Governor Richardson's endorsement of Obama today, the other big headline. Here's a guy with a long history with the Clintons, both the president and the former first lady, now senator. So, he endorses Obama. How much of a disappointment is it that he chose him? Does it send a signal to people out there, wait a minute, this guy was a Clinton insider; why is he going the other way?


I think that it is a disappointment, but we also need to understand that endorsements are good to have, but they're not determinative in any way. And, second, actually, having Governor Richardson's endorsement really raises a question, because one of the Obama campaign's tactics has been to encourage superdelegates to go the way that their states have voted.

And, in the state of -- in the case of New Mexico, the state went with Senator Clinton. So, what does this mean? I don't think it's going to move a lot of people. And it may actually be politically calculated on the part of Governor Richardson, in terms of his own ambition.

KING: Oh, my goodness.

SIMMONS: God forbid there's politics.

KING: God forbid a political calculation...

Maria's on to something, even as we get a little cynical about it. She's probably on to something.

David, let's talk about the governor's message in making this endorsement. He talked about the party's desire to avoid a messy fight, go into the general election unified, saying, for him, it's getting too bitter.

Let's listen.


RICHARDSON: I think that Senator Clinton has a -- she has a right to stay in the race. But I think, eventually, we don't want to go into the Democratic Convention bloodied and negative. And we want to go in unified, because Senator McCain is going to be a formidable opponent.


KING: David, you remember this, the flip side. Remember when Governor Huckabee was staying in, and he said, well, the only people telling me to get out are the McCain supporters. So, why would I get out?

He didn't exactly say -- Richardson -- get out, but kind of suggesting, you know, it's almost past time.

Is there real pressure on Senator Clinton, do you think, real pressure that should she listen to, to get out? GERGEN: I don't think so. You know, she's running a very competitive race. She's on the verge of winning a major, major victory in Pennsylvania.

And we're going through this period of enormous testing of Barack Obama, one of the most important tests of the campaign so far. And I think people want to see where this comes out in the Democratic Party, so that I would just say it's inconceivable to be -- that serious people think she ought to get out now.

I think, after North Carolina, after we get through the primaries, there's going to be a push on to get the superdelegates to declare themselves. And Bill Richardson had argued before Ohio and Texas that it should be resolved quickly, and he thought the person with the most pledged delegates should get the nomination.

So, it appeared he was going to do this after Ohio and Texas. I think he stayed his hand when she won Ohio and then won the Texas primary, while losing the caucus. I think that stayed his hand.

KING: All right, a quick time-out here, but much more with our panel just ahead.

Also, new insight on the fiery sermons of Barack Obama's former pastor. We're digging deeper.

First, though, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin.

Hi, Erica.


We have an update for you on the death of that Florida woman who was hit by the spotted eagle ray while boating in the Florida Keys. Well, a medical examiner there today saying she actually died of head trauma, but he didn't say whether that trauma was from the ray's impact or from her head hitting the deck. The eagle ray weighed 75 to 80 pounds and had a six-foot wingspan.

At Rome's Coliseum, heavy rain and cold temperatures didn't keep the Catholic faithful from the Way of the Cross procession on this Good Friday -- Pope Benedict leading the worshipers commemorating the crucifixion of Christ.

And far, far away, a cosmic explosion for the record books, courtesy of a massive star halfway across the universe. We're talking, oh, you know, 7.5 billion light years away. For an hour early Wednesday, though, it was actually visible to the naked eye right here on Earth -- John.

KING: That's a long flight.

HILL: It would be a rather long flight, yes.

KING: Erica, stay right there. "What Were They Thinking?" is next -- two dog lovers make an unusual fashion statement. I doubt very, very much we will see them on the cover of "Vogue" or even "Doggy Digest."

Also tonight: Senator Obama and the preacher. We're putting some of Reverend Wright's sermons into context, new insight into his fiery messages, as we dig deeper.

Plus, sex for citizenship? Shocking allegations. We will investigate -- when 360 continues.


HILL: All right, time now for "What Were They Thinking?"

And, John, tonight, we are going to take a little trip across the pond, where a British couple is honoring their pets by wearing them. Yes, see those sweaters there, known as jumpers in the U.K.? They're made of the hair from their dogs, their dogs who have since passed.

But Penny, a black Swedish Lappland, and Kara, a white Samoyed, actually live on. We're told their fur keep the owners very warm and dry. In fact, it's almost waterproof, John. The fur was spun into yarn, which was then used to make the toasty jumpers.

How about that?

KING: It takes a lot to make me speechless.

HILL: And -- and that may have worked.

Now, to make you feel a little bit better, apparently, she actually started doing this, Beth Willis, before the dogs died. And it just so happened that, you know, now they have got a little memento.

KING: It's a sign of true dedication, and an interesting one, but OK.

To each his own.

Thank you, Erica.

After the break, you have heard the sound bite snippets from the controversial Pastor Jeremiah Wright. Tonight, we're digging deeper, with more context to the words from Barack Obama's former pastor.

And here's tonight's "Beat 360."

The highs and lows for coaches and mascots alike in the NCAA tournament and a time for reflection between the two.

According to our staff winner, Mona: "This really isn't the time to discuss how we don't have much in common anymore."

Think you can do better? Go to Send us your submission. And we will announce the winner at the end of the show.


KING: The political furor over remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor, has dominated headlines because of sound bites like this.


REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT, TRINITY UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST: The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing "God Bless America?" No, no, no, not God bless America. God damn America -- that's in the Bible -- for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating us citizens as less than human. God damn America, as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme.


KING: Millions of Americans have heard now what Wright has said, but far fewer know the context in which he made those remarks.

Tonight, we're digging deeper.

CNN contributor Roland Martin has been listening to the controversial Wright's sermons and is here to talk now about what he has found, along with Republican strategist Bay Buchanan.

Now, Roland, we just heard the infamous "God damn America" sermon, you might call it, but that particular portion was the culmination of a longer sermon about America's social ills.

Let's listen to a little more.


WRIGHT: The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. Governments lie.


KING: Roland, that's pretty far out there: the government inventing HIV as a means of genocide against people of color.


KING: A pretty wild theory.

MARTIN: Right. In that particular point in the speech -- and, first of all, the speech was called "God and Government."

That particular one, that comment, wrong. He went and talked about syphilis, the whole issue of injecting African-Americans with syphilis. That point was wrong. But the government did allow African-American men who were infected with syphilis to go untreated for an extended period of time. And, actually, President Clinton actually apologized because of that. So, that element of it was true. What he did in his actual speech -- it's interesting we're talking on Good Friday. He took a passage out of Luke where he talked about, in the Bible the Romans governing that government and controlling them.

What he was making in the speech -- in the sermon, he kept talking about that you cannot equate government with God. And, so, in the same sermon, this particular sermon, he talked about al Qaeda. He said, when America kills in the name of God, we -- he said, we call it a crusade. Muslims call it a jihad.

Now, granted, this was a 30-minute sermon -- no, no, I'm sorry -- a 40-minute sermon that he gave, but he really gave a long list of examples in terms of how the government has treated Native Americans, Japanese, white women, African-Americans. So, it was an expansive sermon. His major point was, you cannot confuse -- you cannot put government above God.

KING: Well, I want to get Bay's opinion in just a second.

But, Roland, help me understand this. Is this way out there, or are sermons like this common in black churches?

MARTIN: Well, but, you know, I don't think the question is even is the sermon common in black churches? Is it in all churches?

For instance, I read a "Huffington Post" column by Frank Schaeffer. His father was Francis Schaeffer, who was one of the pillars of the evangelical movement, the religious right. I read many of his readings. And one of the things that he said in his readings is that he gave a basis for the people of God overthrowing the government.

He also said in his writings, you cannot put the government over God. Now, for Francis Schaeffer, his focus was abortion and homosexuality. For Reverend Wright, it was various social issues, like HIV/AIDS, like education, things along those lines.

So, it's interesting, you have a person on the left, a person on the right who are saying the exact same things when it comes to God and government.

KING: So, Bay, what do you make of all this? And, in your analysis, connect the dots, if they can be connected, to Barack Obama. Or is this just a pastor who is controversial, who might be worthy of national discussion, but you can't connect the dots to Barack Obama?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I will tell you what the problem is here.

This speech that Reverend Wright is full of hate for his country. It's full of hate for his fellow man. He talks about it in angry, angry, spiteful terms. He doesn't belong in a church, any church whatsoever that calls itself Christian.

And the problem that Obama faces is, he sat there. He sat there in the pew. I'm not sure if he was there that one speech where Wright condemns America three different times right in a row. I tell you, I don't know an American that wouldn't have stood up and walked right out that door.

MARTIN: Hey, Bay -- hey, Bay, I'm curious.

BUCHANAN: And that -- well, let me just finish.

That's where Obama has a problem. This guy is -- is way out. He's a maniac, as well as being hate-filled.

MARTIN: Now, here -- here...

BUCHANAN: And, so, the key here is, what happens with Obama?

Obama went there week after week after week to a church that -- where its minister really tried to incite real hatred for one another in this country. And that's his problem. That's what he has to address.

MARTIN: Now, John...

KING: Roland, hang on one second. Roland, Roland, Roland, hang on just one second.

I want to get your opinion here, but I want to listen to a little more before we -- I want to listen...


KING: ... to a little more of this sermon we promised our viewers.

You listen. This has been called the 9/11 sermon. The sermon, we're told, was given on September 16, 2001, five days after 9/11, in which the reverend said, "America's chickens have come home to roost."

Let's listen to some of that.


WRIGHT: I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on FOX News. This is a white man. And he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end.

He pointed out -- again, a white man -- he pointed -- an ambassador -- that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true. America's chickens are coming home to roost.


KING: Roland, you wanted to jump in. In that context as well, we went back and we looked.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: We went back and we looked for any appearances by Ambassador Peck during this time once you pointed this out to the staff, and can't find any. MARTIN: Right.

And I actually called the church to find out, first of all -- first of all, Reverend Wright is out of the country -- to find out, was that the actual date of the sermon? Was that actually right? Or did he make a mistake in terms of where he saw the ambassador, who actually was a Republican ambassador to Iraq under Ronald Reagan?

Now, here's what's interesting in terms of the comments that Bay made. I have heard white preachers fire and brimstone. But when I turn on Rod Parsley and John Hagee, man, I hear the fire and I hear the condemnation and the -- that's what you get.

You get the fire and brimstone from some preachers. I was born and raised Catholic. Not everybody preaches very nice, very softly. "Here are my points."

You have a number of people, they bring it on Sunday.

Anybody who has come from a Southern tradition, not just black, but even white preachers, they bring it when they preach. And so what Bay might think is fiery, and anger and bitterness other people see as passion, as fiery rhetoric. It exists.

BUCHANAN: You know, Roland makes a point. I mean, I'm one who does speak passionately, and a lot of times people will interpret it as angry.

But now, let's put this in the context of a church. And you talk about the southern Baptists and the fire and brimstone.

MARTIN: Right.

BUCHANAN: That fire and brimstone goes right to sin. They talk about the sinner. You've got to clean up your act. And they really chastise them and tell them, in no uncertain terms, that's what you can't do. They try to lift the carnal man out of himself to be a better person.

That's not what I hear from this Minister Wright. He's in there saying, the government's lousy and the people in this country, the white people, look at the terrible things they've done, and America, it should be cursed. That is not uplifting. That's not turning people around.

MARTIN: Bay...

BUCHANAN: That's to turn them against their fellow man. And that's where the problem is.

MARTIN: Bay -- Bay, he says very simple, "God never fails. When God wills it, you better get out of the way, because God never fails. When God fixes it, oh believe me, it's fixed. God never fails. Somebody right now, you think you can't make it, but I want you to know that you are more than a conqueror through Christ. You can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you." Now, I understand your point. But the reality is when you listen to a social theology, you're going to have that mix.

Now, when I listen to a conservative white pastor, who use -- when they talk about abortion and homosexuality, I see the exact same passion, I see the exact same condemnation, but I'm seeing different issues.

KING: I need to call it -- Bay, very quickly. Very quickly.

BUCHANAN: You know, along those lines, I say amen.

MARTIN: Now you agree with that. OK, OK.

BUCHANAN: No, I agree with -- where I understand where there's people different out there and they say it differently. And when he says to people, "God is going to succeed under all circumstances," that's when I say amen. And build them up, and let them know they can be saved or they can turn their lives around, no matter what the circumstances are.

But to suggest -- to have that kind of hatred, to have them angry at their government, at their country, at their fellow man, that's where I really part. And that's where Obama's problem is.

MARTIN: But we get it on both sides.

BUCHANAN: He's got to convince white America he doesn't feel the same way.

KING: Time out. Time out, time out, time out, time out.

As you can see, this is a subject with a lot of passion, a lot of fire. No anger here. These two get along just great.

To find out a lot more about this, check out our 360 blog. We've got the sermons in question in their entirety, Roland's blog entries and your comments. It's at

Up next, John McCain racking up the miles traveling around the globe. He's got a policy motive and -- guess what -- a political one. We'll explore both tonight.

Also, 360 investigates the allegation green cards are being granted after sex. That and more when AC 360 continues.


KING: A look there at Senator John McCain and fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in Paris today. It was the final day of the group's weeklong tour of the Middle East and Europe.

It was officially John McCain on Senate business. But the question is whether John McCain, the candidate, scored any points with voters back home with this kind of international exposure.


KING (voice-over): Last stop, Paris. A meeting with the president and a final effort to make all this about his day job.

MCCAIN: I wish every senator would take the same trip that we have taken.

KING: But only one senator is the presumptive Republican nominee and without a doubt, the unspoken goal of John McCain's week on the world stage was to back up a favorite campaign theme.

MCCAIN: I've spent my entire life addressing national security issues and I know how to handle them. I don't need any on-the-job training. And I am prepared to lead.

KING: Prepared as well, he says, to do some repair work. To much of Europe, George W. Bush is viewed as a go-it-alone cowboy, Guantanamo Bay as a moral outrage. And from day one, Europeans felt ignored by Mr. Bush on climate change.

McCain promises he would not be more of the same.

MCCAIN: I'll join with them to try to address climate change. We won't torture any prisoner that Americans hold in our custody. I think I can improve those relations and have us work together in a more cooperative fashion.

KING: As Mr. Bush knows, it is often not what you say, but how you say it that can ruffle feathers.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's an old poster out west, as I recall, that said, "Wanted: Dead or Alive."

KING: So while Senator McCain is known to wish the British would keep more troops in Iraq a bit longer, outside of 10 Downing Street, the picture of diplomacy.

MCCAIN: I believe that that decision is made by the British government and people.

KING: No apologies, though, for a musical parody that many around the world took as a true sign of his thinking.

MCCAIN: Bomb Iran. Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb -- anyway.

When veterans are together, veterans joke. And I was with veterans, and we were joking. And if somebody can't understand that, my answer is, please get a life.

KING: What he calls straight talk in a time seemed brusque, like in Israel, when asked about Palestinian complaints he scheduled no time with their leaders.

(on camera) They say it's proved to them you wouldn't be an honest broker. Or that, at least until you're president, you're pandering to the lobby back home.

MCCAIN: They're free to say whatever they want to say. Thank you.

KING (voice-over): And colleague Joseph Lieberman stepped in to note McCain had telephoned the Palestinian president, as he did a day earlier when McCain needed some help.

MCCAIN: We continue to be concerned about Iranian taking al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.

KING: Iran is Shia, al Qaeda Sunni. Lieberman leaned in to remind McCain there is no such training.

MCCAIN: I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists. Not al Qaeda. Not al Qaeda. I'm sorry.

KING: Not sorry, though, to spend a little time sight-seeing. Very much unlike the president he hopes to succeed.


KING: Some awkward moments from McCain, who's focused much of his campaign message on national security. Will such apparent foreign policy gaffes hurt the candidate? We'll answer that question after the break with our panel.

And while McCain was having his moments overseas, it's been a tough week to be a presidential candidate here at home, too. Hillary Clinton had primary troubles, and Barack Obama still trying to refocus after the Reverend Wright controversy.

More on that with our panel, coming up.


KING: Like everybody else -- trust me -- presidential candidates have good days and some, well, not so much. This whole week's been one of those.

John McCain's apparent foreign policy gaffes that I mentioned earlier, the pastor controversy chasing Obama, and Hillary Clinton losing a key endorsement, that of Governor Bill Richardson today, to Obama. Was it the worst of weeks for all three? Somewhere in the middle maybe?

Back again, our political panel: Bay Buchanan, Jamal Simmons, Maria Echaveste.

Bay, you heard McCain. He messed up the Shia thing, the Shia/Sunni, Iran training Sunni al Qaeda, which is not true. A successful trip? A gaffe that hurts him?

BUCHANAN: I don't think the gaffe hurts him at all in the long run. It was something that -- you know, you can almost see anyone could make that mistake. He's very, very knowledgeable, John, as you know, in foreign policy. He's got a reputation. And so I don't think he's hurt on that. I'll tell you, though, he is going to have to come back to this country. He had a good week, thanks to the Democrats, I must say. But he's had a really good week, and I think he comes back but he's got to start focusing on the economy. If he doesn't shore himself up on that, he could be in trouble in November.

KING: So Maria, I want you to listen to something your former boss, Bill Clinton, said on the trail today. He talked about how Hillary Clinton and John McCain, how they've demonstrated leadership skills by working together in the past. He continued on to say much more on the topic.

I want you to listen to this. Again, remember, he's talking about Hillary Clinton and John McCain.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think it'd be a great thing if we had an election where you had two people who love this country and were devoted to the interests of the country and people could actually ask themselves who's right on these issues. Instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our policies.


KING: Is all this other stuff and all these other things that seem to be intruding in our politics, is that a back of the hand at Barack Obama, in some way saying Hillary and John McCain love their country more?

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, that's it. You're trying to read the tea leaves here. And the fact is Senator Obama made very clear in his speech earlier this week his love and dedication to this country and what it stands for. So I think that, again, things taken out of context.

The fact is that Senator Clinton has the skills and the experience to be commander in chief. But I will say this; that either one of them, Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, would be much better for this country than Senator McCain. And that is ultimately what Democrats are looking for.

KING: So, Jamal, Senator Obama today -- even today again -- felt the need to further re-clarify some of these controversial comments from the Reverend Wright, clarifying which ones he'd heard before, which ones he hadn't heard before.

All these clarifications, are they necessary, because this has gotten so much attention? Or does he just keep giving the story oxygen?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I think he's got to get beyond the story. I think he started that this week with the Iran speech. He had a great day today with Bill Richardson. It's time to talk about the future and how his vision of hope and change are going to make things better for the country. I'm glad that Maria is being very generous in her comments about Senator Obama, but her candidate and former President Clinton aren't really being so generous. I mean, remember, her candidate is the one who said that John McCain was ready to be commander in chief, unlike Barack Obama.

And I think that's sort of a over-the-top statement on behalf of any Democratic candidate in a Democratic primary, to take the side of a Republican.

So hopefully we're going to have a little bit more generosity, and this gets back to what you said earlier, John, what you said earlier about -- you know, with Bill Richardson, is it going on too long? You know, it may not be going on too long, but I do think we've got to keep those blows above the belt and make sure that we're not opening up any wounds that are going to last to the fall.


KING: Go ahead. Jump in, Bay.

BUCHANAN: There's no question that what the president was doing there, President Clinton, is stirring this thing up a little bit further. Because as long as it becomes apparent that maybe, indeed, Obama cannot win in the general, they have a chance. Hillary has a chance.

And what he was saying and sending a message is, look, all this stuff with Wright, that's going to be a 527 out there, John. You and I both know. It's going to be run ads. And what they're going to say is Barack Obama didn't even have the courage to stand up when people were cursing his country.

Compare that to John McCain, what he's done and the love he has. That's what they're saying, is that Hillary can hold her own against John McCain, possibly is what he thinks, and Barack cannot.

KING: Let me wrap it up. You get two sentences each.

All this attention on the Democrats, some of it's about controversy but still, all the attention on the Democrats, does it help or hurt John McCain at this moment -- Bay?

BUCHANAN: It's helped him enormously when it's so negative on the Democrats. They're beating the blazes out of each other. I mean, these guys -- I thought the Democrats had it. But as of this week, I think John McCain may have a very good shot here.

KING: Jamal?

SIMMONS: Well, I think if the Clintons sort of continued the line of attack they've been on for the last few weeks, it could damage the whole party. But hopefully, we're going to, like I said, keep the blows above the belt and have finished this campaign out on a good, positive note.

KING: Maria, you get the last word.

ECHAVESTE: Two are throwing blows here in the Democratic Party, so we need to remind viewers that it isn't just Hillary Clinton who knows how to fight.

The important thing is that this is the longest campaign in history. And this week is not going to be determinative of November. And Democrats are going to come together, I firmly believe, because the sake -- for the sake of the country.

KING: Maria Echaveste, Jamal Simmons and Bay Buchanan, thanks for spending your Friday night with us. Have a great weekend.

Still to come here, is it a shortcut to citizenship? Tonight, a federal immigration officer is accused of asking for sexual favors for a woman in exchange for giving her a green card. That's next.

Plus, from the icy deep of the Antarctic, a surprising discovery, a two-foot starfish. And my favorite: it's a sea pig.

This is AC 360.


KING: The desperation many immigrants feel in their quest to gain a citizenship card has created a new avenue for sexual blackmail.

Tonight, a federal immigration official is accused of demanding sex from a woman before processing her paperwork for a green card. And it's not the first time such allegations have surfaced against the keepers of the cards.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the United States normally get their green cards. They take a number.

But investigators say this man, Isaac Baichu, a federal immigration official who interviews green card applicants, had other ideas. Last December, authorities say Baichu met with a woman from Colombia and her new American husband to go over her application at this Long Island immigration office. That's when Baichu allegedly asked for her cell phone number.

According to local prosecutors, Baichu later called the woman and asked her to meet him here in the parking lot of this diner. What Baichu did not know is she was recording the conversation on her cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Just tell me we're going to be friends, or...?

ISAAC BAICHU, FEDERAL IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL: Be friends. I want sex. One or two times. That's all. You get your green card. You won't have to see me anymore.

ACOSTA: What prosecutors allege happen next is detailed in the criminal complaint. The woman told prosecutors she attempted to leave the car, but that Baichu grabbed her by the arm and told her he expected her to perform oral sex upon him then and there.

She says she gave in to his demands, prosecutors say, due to his position of authority.

BAICHU: I'm a nice guy. I'm a honest guy. I'll do it for you. I'll order my green cards. You're nice to me, I'll be nice to you. All right? Don't worry. Just lean over. I'm going to be one second.

ACOSTA: At that moment, the recording, obtained by "The New York Times," goes silent.

SALLY ATTIA, BAICHU'S LAWYER: We have pled not guilty, and we deny any wrongdoing.

ACOSTA: Baichu's lawyer, Sally Attia, claims her client was entrapped and that the woman wanted something called a U-visa, which offers temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who are the victims of a crime.

ATTIA: My understanding now is the alleged victim in this case is eligible to apply for this visa.

ACOSTA: Baichu is not the first official accused of taking advantage of the undocumented. This ICE agent in Miami is scheduled to stand trial on charges he raped a woman in his custody.

In 2006, this former high-level immigration official testified before Congress on what he described as rampant corruption in the agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Charges including soliciting sex for citizenship.

ACOSTA: The Department of Homeland Security released this statement: "The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has absolutely no tolerance for employee misconduct."

Isaac Baichu himself, an immigrant from Guyana, knows a green card is gold.

BAICHU: I got my green card just like you. I became citizen just like you. I know how hard it is for you, OK?


ACOSTA: Earlier this month, prosecutors say Baichu was arrested after he allegedly once again propositioned that Colombian woman for sex. That time, the prosecutors say, they were listening in, too -- John.

KING: Horrible allegations, if true. We'll keep an eye on this one. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Almost time for our "Shot of the Day." Some unbelievable moments from the NCAA tournament; dramatic video from courtside to say the least.

But first, Erica hill joins us again with the "360 News and Business Bulletin."

Hi, Erica.

HILL: John, a fresh batch of severe weather throughout the Midwest today; heavy rains and swollen rivers bringing more flooding. This is the last thing they need there. Further north, a severe snowstorm is creating big headaches for travelers.

A little extra cash for the baristas at California Starbucks shops. A judge ordering the coffee chain to pay non-supervisory employees $100 million in back tips, plus interest. That's because tips intended for the counter help had only been paid to their shift supervisors. Starbucks plans to appeal.

And giant creatures from the deep. This is your story, John. Twelve- foot jellyfish -- actually, their tentacles are 12 feet; two-foot starfish; and a sea pig. Who knew there was such a thing? Scientists making these discoveries, including several new species, during a study of Antarctic waters off the coast of New Zealand, John. A sea pig.

KING: Got to get a collection -- got to get a collection of those for home.

HILL: Absolutely.

KING: Absolutely. All right, Erica.

Time now to check out our "Beat 360" picture. You know how it works. We put a picture on the 360 blog and ask viewers to come up with a caption for it that's better than ours.

Tonight, a photo from the NCAA regional playoffs. Cornell coach Steve Donahue and the team's official mascot, Big Red Bear, striking a similar pose yesterday after a tough game against Stanford.

Here's the staff pick from Mona: "This really isn't the time to discuss how much we don't have in common anymore."

HILL: OK, so that was Mona's, which I thought was pretty good. Here's our viewer winner. From Kevin: "Wonder Twin powers, activate! Form of a bear. Shape of a losing coach."

Ouch. Cornell got romped by Stanford 77-53.

By the way, one of the folks on our staff, Julia, also wanted me to point out, in case people weren't familiar with the Wonder Twins, they were, of course, cartoon characters, Zan and Jana, who were being trained to be super heroes.

KING: My alma matter's not in this tournament. They sort of stunk the lights out this year.

HILL: Mine isn't either.

KING: UConn? They were.

HILL: I didn't go to UConn. No, I was -- my sister did. I went to BU.

KING: BU, no.

HILL: We're rarely there.

KING: No. They're rarely there.

HILL: We're going to have to beat them (ph) in hockey.

KING: All right. Well, they're here in town in Washington, I might sneak in the games tomorrow.

HILL: Sounds good. And of course, anybody can play along. We'll put up the shots every day at

KING: All right. "Shot of the Day" is next. Tonight, more amazing shots from the NCAA tournament. And they were truly amazing.


KING: Time now, Erica, for "The Shot of the Day;" a nail-biter at the NCAA tournament in Tampa, Florida.

A drive by Western Kentucky, a tricky hand-off to Ty Rogers, and a long, long shot; Rogers sinking a game-winning 3-pointer -- look at that -- in over time. Western Kentucky beating Drake, 101-99 as the clock ran out.

I have no skills at sports announcing.

HILL: You don't?

KING: No, I don't.

HILL: Well, you know, you were supposed to read this next one, as I was told, because you're a guy. You want me to give it a try?

KING: Give it a try.

HILL: John, another overtime heart-stopper. San Diego's De'Jon Jackson, hitting the biggest shot in school history to score a major upset. Thirteen-seeded San Diego beats No. 4-seed Yukon, final score 70-69. That one, also a little overtime.

Watched the end in my office. It was a little sad.

KING: And Jim Calhoun and your sister disappointed.

HILL: They are, indeed are.

KING: Jim Calhoun would be the coach. See, I'm a guy. HILL: You're good. You know who the coach of the Huskies is.

KING: For our international viewers, "CNN Today" up next. Here in the states, Larry King is coming up.