Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Illinois Governor Charged With Corruption; Oprah Winfrey Speaks Out on Weight Battle
Aired December 9, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news and broken trust.
Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, seen here returning home late today, out on bail, under growing pressure to resign facing federal corruption charges.
He's accused of a staggering array of sleaze, much of it caught on tape, according to the feds, including a scheme to sell Barack Obama's old Senate seat, and another to extort money from a children's hospital.
Early this morning, federal agents frog-marched him into custody, not letting him turn himself in, like they do with white-collar criminals, busting him like a thug.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree.
The most appalling conduct Governor Blagojevich engaged in, according to the complaint filed today or unsealed today, is that he attempted to sell a Senate seat, the Senate seat he had the sole right to under Illinois to appoint to replace president-elect Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Selling a Senate seat, that is not all. In a strange twist, the governor was thinking about appointing himself and running for president in 2016.
COOPER: That is not all either.
More from Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, if you wanted something big in Illinois, you would have to pay the governor, pay to play. The fabled Wrigley Field, "Chicago Tribune" journalists, and, most stunningly, a U.S. Senate seat, all of it figures into the early- morning arrest of Illinois Governor Rodney Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris.
FITZGERALD: This is a sad day for government. It's a very sad day for Illinois government. Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low.
GRIFFIN: That new low comes because the governor actually gets to appoint whomever would take over Barack Obama's now vacated Senate seat. And, according to federal prosecutors, Blagojevich has been secretly recorded discussing his intentions to auction the seat off to the highest bidder.
FITZGERALD: The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.
The governor's own words describing the Senate seat -- quote -- "It's a bleeping valuable thing -- thing. You just don't give it away for nothing."
GRIFFIN: How much? The complaint says $500,000 to a million dollars. The pay-to-play scheme, as prosecutors allege, also included trying to get "Chicago Tribune" journalists critical of the governor fired, in exchange for state help selling "The Tribune"'s Wrigley Field ballpark.
In another alleged scheme, $8 million in state help for a children's hospital was being held up in exchange for a political contribution. It had been an open secret all over Illinois that the feds had Blagojevich in their sights, ever since the conviction, this year, of political fixer and real estate king Antoine Rezko.
In October, Fitzgerald placed court-approved wiretaps on the governor's home phone and his political office. On Monday, Blagojevich addressed the media that had reported, just last week, the feds wiretapped him.
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: If anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead. Feel free to do it.
GRIFFIN: Today, appearing before a federal magistrate, the governor dressed in a blue jogging suit, said nothing, as a federal magistrate released him on a low bond and made him surrender his passport.
ROBERT GRANT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: This wiretap, I can tell you, from the FBI agents that participated in this wiretap investigation, were thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard. And I think even the most cynical agents in our office were shocked.
GRIFFIN: If convicted of the charges, the governor could spend a maximum 30 years in prison, a place where his predecessor, the former Illinois Governor George Ryan, now resides.
Illinois's current governor has not commented since being released.
COOPER: So, he's home tonight. He's on bail. Will he resign?
GRIFFIN: Well, certainly, many in his own party are calling for him to resign. Barring that, the legislature is going to meet here in Illinois next week to at least strip him of the ability to appoint that U.S. Senate seat he was trying to sell.
And the -- the attorney general here in Illinois says, if none of that works, she plans to go to the Supreme Court of Illinois and challenge whether or not this governor is fit to hold office.
But all that, Anderson, hold on, says his attorney, who says, look, the governor hasn't been convicted of anything yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHELDON SOROSKY, ATTORNEY FOR ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH: The governor is very, very, very surprised by all this, and he feels, certainly, that he didn't do anything wrong, and hopes the people of Illinois have faith with him that he will be vindicated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: (AUDIO GAP) all faith in him, and they're wondering what the next move of the governor is going to be -- Anderson.
COOPER: I mean, chutzpah doesn't begin to -- to kind of describe the -- what the -- at least the allegations of this governor -- I mean, he -- he apparently knew -- or at least it seems like a lot of people -- knew that he was being wiretapped, and, yet, some of the things he was saying are just unbelievable.
GRIFFIN: Yes, and -- and not only caught on tape, but he knew that the feds were after him for a long time, Anderson.
I mean, this prosecution case has been swirling around the governor's office for years. So, it's hard to believe that he would carry on in this way, if these allegations are correct, knowing that they were -- they were indeed coming after him.
President-elect Obama spoke very briefly about the scandal today at a photo opportunity with former Vice President Al Gore. During the campaign, opponent John McCain had used Obama's Chicago connections against him. It never really stuck.
The question tonight, will it stick now?
More on that from Jessica Yellin.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Illinois' mushrooming political scandal quickly became president-elect Barack Obama's problem.
QUESTION: Are you aware at all of what is happening with your Senate seat?
YELLIN: Just as quickly, Obama tried to distance himself from the tainted governor.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so we were not -- I was not aware of what was happening. And, as I said, it is a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don't think it is appropriate to comment.
YELLIN: There is no suggestion that Obama or any of his people did anything wrong.
PATRICK FITZGERALD, STATE'S ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: I should make clear the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever.
YELLIN: But, at the very least, it's an unwelcome distraction, as Obama tries to build a new government.
Some presumably unpleasant details for team Obama? The complaint alleges Blagojevich was angling to profit by naming the replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat. It repeatedly refers to "Senate Candidate One," a female Obama adviser. That seems to be Valerie Jarrett, who is one of Obama's closest aides.
Blagojevich is quoted, saying -- "Unless I get something real good for 'Senate Candidate One,' 'expletive,' I will just send myself. You know what I'm saying."
The prosecutor says, that ploy fell apart when the candidate decided not to seek the Senate seat.
FITZGERALD: This part of the scheme lost steam when the person that the governor thought was the president-elect's choice of senator took herself out of the running.
YELLIN: In fact, Jarrett withdrew from consideration while this investigation was ongoing. She was named a senior adviser to Obama in the White House.
Late today, another one of Obama's top advisers was drawn into the story.
Two weeks ago, David Axelrod told a local Chicago reporter that Obama did have conversations with the governor about the Senate seat. This evening, Axelrod released a statement saying: "I was mistaken. And they did not then or at any time discuss the subject."
This is not Obama's first brush with brass-knuckle Chicago politics.
As he liked to say during the campaign:
OBAMA: I may be skinny, but I'm tough.
OBAMA: And I'm from Chicago, and -- and we know how to play politics.
YELLIN: His ties to convicted Chicago felon Tony Rezko dogged him throughout his race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: Tony Rezko, client, patron, convicted felon.
Barack Obama, born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: But Obama has never been linked to illegality himself.
Even Blagojevich seems disappointed. The prosecutor quotes the governor complaining that, even if he did appoint a person of Obama's choosing to the Senate seat, Obama's people "are not willing to give me anything, except appreciation."
COOPER: And, Jessica, that appreciation statement indicates that -- that this governor may have had some kind of contact with the Obama team.
What do we know?
YELLIN: Well, Anderson, I have been asking that question of Obama's aides all day, and I have gotten no answer. They're meeting this with stony silence.
Look, it does seem to indicate that at least Obama's aides had contact with Blagojevich or his aides. And, frankly, it wouldn't be surprising if the staff to the president-elect would reach out to the governor's office for the state that the president-elect comes from.
But, at the same time, I guess it's not surprising that the Obama team would be on lockdown over this, Anderson. They definitely don't want to feed this headache.
COOPER: Yes. It would almost seem unusual if they didn't have some sort of contact.
We will talk about that more with our panel. Jessica, thanks.
If you have an opinion on this whole -- this bust of the governor, does it affect your view of president-elect Obama? Let us know. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. Also, you can check out the live Webcast during the break.
Up next, David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, Roland Martin weigh in on the governor and the situation.
And, later, would you believe he started out as a crusader for clean government? How did this guy get from there to here, from reformer to criminal defendant? 360 investigates.
Also, a new picture of O.J. Simpson, his prison photo, and new developments where his co-conspirators are concerned. Will they be doing time? Find out.
Plus, Oprah Winfrey opening up about her battle with weight -- for the first time, she is revealing how much weight she has actually put on, and why -- that and more tonight on 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FITZGERALD: But the most cynical behavior in all this, the most appalling, is the fact that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by president-elect Obama. The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.
The governor's own words describing the Senate seat -- quote -- "It's a 'bleeping' valuable thing -- thing. You just don't give it away for nothing" -- close quote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Patrick Fitzgerald, stinging accusations, Governor Blagojevich allegedly finishing that thought about Mr. Obama and the Senate seat with this -- quote -- "F. him. For nothing? F. him."
Later in the transcript, he contemplates appointing himself senator, in part to make it easier to defend against criminal charges, in part to groom himself for -- get this -- a presidential run.
Hunter Thompson was right. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
With us now, CNN senior political analysts David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin, also CNN political contributor and Chicagoan Roland Martin.
David, you know, of all the things this guy did, trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, I mean, it -- it boggles the mind.
(LAUGHTER) DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I have a hard time pronouncing his name. I just call him the idiot...
GERGEN: ... because this man has given crooks a bad name.
I mean, he's been -- he's been so brazen and so foolish with a high-profile seat, and knowing that...
COOPER: A high-profile seat which was formerly occupied by someone who is now in -- in jail as well.
GERGEN: And, also, the fact he talked to so many people, at least a half-dozen people.
The surprising thing to me is that nobody turned him in, that -- it suggests a culture of corruption that surrounded him, not just he personally, but the people around him. And he comes from a state which, unfortunately, has had a lot of this.
Over the last six governors of Illinois, stretching back to 1961, three out of the six have been found guilty of criminal charges.
COOPER: Roland, you're from Chicago. You're familiar with politics in the state. I mean, is it -- is it as bad as it appears?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, actually, I will say this here. I'm from Texas. I live in Chicago.
COOPER: Oh, sure. Now you're trying to distance...
COOPER: Now you're trying to distance yourself.
COOPER: Oh, before, you were like, "Oh, I'm from Chicago, blah, blah, blah."
MARTIN: You know I'm a Texas man.
COOPER: All right.
MARTIN: Look -- look, here's the reality, Anderson.
Look, culture -- corruption is in the DNA of this state. It's not just the governors. You're also dealing with the reality of what happens in the old offices. The city clerk was convicted in terms of taking bribes. You have aldermen -- you had one alderman who went down this year as well, same thing, taking bribes.
And, so -- and what's interesting is, the voters in this state, when I talk to people, since I have been here, they're pretty much like, you know what? This is what we expect.
I mean, there is a long history of that. Not only that -- you mentioned earlier you're talking about setting himself up for a White House run. In fact, Blagojevich was actually laying the groundwork to run for the White House in November 2004. They were already going into Iowa.
And, so, he had his eyes set, naturally, on this year. And, so, look, he also -- it's amazing. You read the criminal complaint. He has been under investigation from the moment he came into office. He came in, took Dan Rostenkowski's job. What happened to him? He went to federal prison for corruption.
MARTIN: And, so, this is what is expected in this state, for some reason.
COOPER: So, Jeff -- he -- he hasn't been indicted. This is a complaint. What does that mean? And -- and how surprised are you by the allegations?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, the real tipoff to how amazing this case is, is, this is a white-collar case.
In normal circumstances, in a white-collar case, the defendant is informed a day in advance or so, and says, you know, surrender the next day with your lawyer.
They went to the governor of Illinois's house at 6:00 in the morning and said, you're coming with us.
They treated this guy like a mafia don, because they were afraid that, today, he was going to commit acts in office that would continue what Fitzgerald called this crime spree.
COOPER: There -- there was this $8 million -- there is this children's hospital that is expecting to get $8 million, but the guy -- I guess the head of the hospital or the guy on the board hadn't given a contribution to -- to the governor. And...
TOOBIN: And that deal is still pending, is still sitting on his desk. And Fitzgerald felt, understandably, he had to take a dramatic step to stop this crime wave. So, he arrested him in his house, in his track suit.
MARTIN: But, Anderson, he pulled a Gary Hart yesterday. He said: Hey, take me. Go right ahead. I have done nothing wrong.
I mean, he, in essence, was flouting this...
COOPER: But -- but, Jeff, now, legally, what is...
MARTIN: ... yesterday.
COOPER: ... legally, what is...
TOOBIN: What happens now is, a criminal complaint is filed. The government has 30 days to present the case to a grand jury for an indictment. And, certainly, there will be an indictment.
There will also be plea negotiations, undoubtedly, certainly with Harris, his chief of staff.
COOPER: And you're saying that is why he hasn't resigned?
TOOBIN: That -- I don't think he is going to resign until or unless he can get a package deal. He's got leverage over the prosecutors, over the state.
COOPER: Spitzer tried to do this a little bit, too, didn't he, I mean, sort of a negotiate?
TOOBIN: Well, that's right.
I mean, whenever...
TOOBIN: Unfortunately, we have a lot of precedent here with governors under criminal investigation.
TOOBIN: And the decision to resign and remove the trauma of an impeachment proceeding is a piece of leverage they have.
If there is one thing we learned from these wiretaps, this is a guy who understands leverage. So, he is not going to walk away from the governorship unless he gets something in return.
COOPER: David, what do you make of Barack Obama's -- I mean, he said today, look, I never talked about -- about the Senate seat.
You had David Axelrod, though, a while back saying that there had been communications between the offices. I mean, it would seem -- it would seem obvious that there would be some sort of communication between these offices.
GERGEN: Well, the -- the -- the long FBI affidavit today said that there was some representative who -- coming from a labor union who talked to the governor about appointing "Candidate One." And "Candidate One" appears to be Valerie Jarrett.
And when -- when the governor said to the labor union representative, look, I might be interested, but there's going to have to be some money involved, and the labor union person said, I will have to run that up the flagpole; I have no idea if that will fly, basically, and, after that, everything got cut off.
So, she -- if there was a communication back to her, she cut it off. And it was right around that time frame that she -- they -- they announced she is going to the White House.
I think they did not want to go down that road. But I think the larger question here is, will the Republicans, will conservatives, will bloggers, will others go after Obama, coming from a culture of corruption in Illinois, and given his relationship with Tony Rezko, who has -- you know, who was -- who was a fund-raiser both for Obama and for this governor, will they use that in some way?
I personally think that would be very, very unfair. But I will have to tell you that I think it -- it removes one layer of protection for him in the next few months. And that is, if something else were to happen around him, he's a little more vulnerable. His team is a little more vulnerable today than it was yesterday.
MARTIN: Well, David, Tony Rezko also raised money for Republicans in Illinois, so he's an equal-opportunity guy.
GERGEN: Well, that's...
MARTIN: Here's the other thing.
Blagojevich could -- because he is still governor, he could still appoint a U.S. senator.
COOPER: Yes, but there's no way that's going to happen. I mean, that's -- that's -- that's not going to happen.
MARTIN: Anderson, Anderson, you cannot say that about this guy. The House and the Senate have decided...
TOOBIN: The Senate would never even allow...
COOPER: Roland, what is your advice for the Obama -- for Obama at this point? I mean, they -- what they say next is going to matter an awful lot.
MARTIN: Well, I think what he said today is, simply, I'm not going to comment further. This is an active investigation.
And, so, you stand back. You allow the House and the Senate in Illinois to initiate proceedings to take the power out of his hands. You clear yourself of that. And then you are very careful as to what you say, because every comment, every e-mail can now be part of a federal investigation. That's what happens right now.
TOOBIN: I think there's a different political problem for Obama.
He's staked his stimulus package on the idea of...
TOOBIN: ... infrastructure, governors, projects that are ready to go.
Infrastructure in -- in Illinois equals pork, equals corruption. Obama has got to now present...
TOOBIN: ... a stimulus package that is free of this tent -- taint. And Blagojevich just made that harder.
GERGEN: Well, we -- we should leave tonight without making a point that the vast, overwhelming number of people who serve in public office today are not corrupt. This is a much more honest system today than it was 25 years ago, 30 years ago.
COOPER: All right. There is still the problem with pork, though, in this -- in this -- in this system.
GERGEN: There is a problem with pork.
COOPER: We are going to leave it there.
David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, Roland Martin, thanks.
When we come back: He's being called insane, literally insane, and deluded. And that's just some of his fellow Democrats talking -- how the governor, Blagojevich, went from promising beginnings to America's least popular governor, even before his arrest. Imagine what his numbers are like now.
COOPER: Later: new details of O.J.'s incarceration and how little incarceration his co-conspirators -- co-conspirators got today. That's O.J.'s new mug shot, I guess, or prison photo.
And Oprah Winfrey speaking out about her weight gain, revealing how much weight she has put on, and why. We will tell you about a major setback in a battle she has been fighting for years -- that and more when the program continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FITZGERALD: He wanted to do it to avoid impeachment in the Illinois legislature for his conduct. He wanted to do it to have access to greater financial resources, if he were indicted. He wanted to do it to see if he could help his wife work as a lobbyist. He wanted to do it to remake his image to run for office in 2016, and he wanted to do it to see if he could generate speaking fees.
At the end of the day, the conduct we have before us is appalling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald listing some of the charges against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who, by the way, turns 52 tomorrow, not exactly a happy birthday, although, maybe, for this guy, who knows.
Our breaking news on this shocking story continues with a profile of the guy accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. Who is he? And how did this former prosecutor -- that's right -- he's a former prosecutor -- allegedly stoop so low?
Gary Tuchman reports.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day before he was arrested, Rod Blagojevich was supporting laid-off Chicago factory workers and playing tough guy toward authorities, who have been investigating him for years.
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I don't care whether you tape me publicly or privately. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful.
TUCHMAN But the authorities feel oh so differently.
FITZGERALD: Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree.
TUCHMAN: The first Democrat to be elected governor of Illinois in three decades was taped all right. The allegations against him stun even reporters steeped in Illinois's sorry history of corrupt politics.
RICK PEARSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": It just defies explanation.
TUCHMAN: Rick Pearson has been a political reporter with "The Chicago Tribune" for 20 years. He says, in the first year of Blagojevich's first term, he made an effort to be a reasonable governor.
BLAGOJEVICH: I support the governor's decision on the moratorium. TUCHMAN: Blagojevich backed a moratorium on the death penalty supported by previous Republican Governor George Ryan, in prison now because of his own political troubles.
But, after Blagojevich's first year, he started making a lot of enemies, not just Republicans, but his fellow Democrats.
PEARSON: He's a very difficult person to try to figure out. People were always asking about, will Blagojevich do X or do Y? And, somehow, he would end up doing Z.
TUCHMAN: A "Chicago Tribune" poll in October showed the governor's approval rating at 13 percent. But, even recently, the governor, who used to be a state representative and congressman, characterized himself as a popular guy when talking about who he would pick to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat.
BLAGOJEVICH: I have never had more friends than I do today. And, when I make the final decision, I won't have nearly as many as I have now.
Thank you very much. God bless all of you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TUCHMAN: Blagojevich has made some politicians very angry. Democratic state Senator Mike Jacobs told us by telephone the governor threatened to ruin his political career if Jacobs didn't support a bill.
MIKE JACOBS (D), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR; The governor acted like a -- like a 10-year-old child. And if I would have been in one of my local taverns in East Moline, I would have drug him outside and kicked his tail end, because that's how he confronted me, like a madman.
TUCHMAN: In a Chicago magazine article, State Representative Joe Lyons, another fellow Democrat, told reporters the governor was -- quote -- "insane."
And Representative Jack Franks, also a Democrat, says the governor has -- quote -- "delusions of grandeur."
PEARSON: A lot of people have -- have raised a number of questions, including fellow Democrats, wondering if there isn't some kind of psychological imbalance going on.
TUCHMAN: Only hours before his arrest, a smiling governor declared:
BLAGOJEVICH: I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me.
TUCHMAN: It should be noted, when he was taken into custody, there was no sun to be seen in Chicago's gloomy sky.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Chicago. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: All right.
Just ahead: new details on at Sarah Palin's Alaska office -- what she received in the mail today and how authorities are responding.
Plus, Oprah Winfrey -- Oprah Winfrey coming clean about falling off the wagon in the battle of the bulge. How much weight has she actually gained? For the first time, she reveals why the weight has come back on.
And I didn't think I would be talking about this guy, but Joe the plumber, he is back. For a while, you couldn't avoid him. Now he's speaking out. And wait until you hear what he is saying about his former BFF, John McCain.
COOPER: That is O.J. Simpson, posing for the camera at the Nevada prison he has just moved into, the picture just one of the new details to surface today. We'll have much more on Simpson's new home and how he's settling in ahead.
But first, Randi Kaye joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the FBI is investigating a letter containing white powder that arrived today at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's office in Juneau. The powder will be sent to a lab for testing.
Right now it's unclear if the incident is connected to similar letters sent to seven other governors on Monday. Tests show the powder in those letters was not dangerous.
A surprise twist in the Chicago workers' revolt that's grabbed national attention. The Bank of America today offered to extend credit to the factory that's been occupied by employees it abruptly laid off four days ago without the pay they are owed.
A Minnesota court has denied Senator Larry Craig's latest attempt to withdraw his guilty plea 18 months after his arrest in a sex sting operation in an airport men's room. The three-term Republican retires in January.
And Joe the plumber is back in the headlines. According to Politico.com, today he lashed out at John McCain, the man who made him famous. Joe told conservative radio host Glenn Beck that he felt, quote, "dirty" after being on the campaign trail and seeing some of the things that take place. I guess he's turning on him.
COOPER: He's turning on John McCain. Of course, he had nothing but nice things to say about guess who?
KAYE: Sarah Palin. COOPER: Yes, the one who's still in the race and has, perhaps, a political future in terms of running for president. So maybe Joe the plumber has an agenda. I don't know.
COOPER: Say it ain't so, Joe.
Important program note. CNN's second "Planet in Peril" documentary premieres this Thursday night. It's the reason why the letters "CNN" on your screen are green, not red, this week. We'll have a preview of that in a moment.
Also ahead, O.J. Simpson, a new mug Shot as he settles into a prison home. Tonight new details, including how prison officials plan to keep the celebrity convict safe while he awaits his appeal.
And Oprah opening up about her struggle with her weight. A revealing interview coming up.
COOPER: There it is, the official prison photograph of O.J. Simpson. He's been transferred to Nevada's High Desert State Prison yesterday. Today his new prisoner offender report was released. It rolls off his convictions, his weight, eye color, his new I.D. number. It also describes his build as, quote, "stocky."
Today another busy day for Simpson. Corrections officials are processing him and deciding what housing unit would be best for him. 360's Dave Mattingly has the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" reports, starting off with news on his former codefendants.
JUDGE JACKIE GLASS, LAS VEGAS DISTRICT COURT: Jointly and severally among all the defendants.
DAVE MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First they talked; then they walked. Four of O.J. Simpson's former friends who testified against him each escaped jail time and got probation. One of their victims couldn't believe it.
GLASS: Whoever is causing there to be a problem needs to leave the room right now.
MATTINGLY: Bruce Fromong, one of the two memorabilia dealers robbed by Simpson and the others, blurted out, "You've got to be joking me."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't say a word. Don't say a word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quit looking at the judge.
MATTINGLY: Fromong was especially angry over the punishment of Michael McClinton, who pulled a gun on Fromong during the 2007 robbery. McClinton faced up to 11 years in prison. Instead, he received a suspended sentence and eight years probation.
BRUCE FROMONG, SPORTS COLLECTIBLES DEALER: He pulled a gun out. He put it directly, was pointing it directly at me. He threatened to shoot me. And she gave him probation. I mean, and nothing else. I mean, basically, the man walked away.
MATTINGLY: In the end, only one of Simpson's five codefendants went to prison. The rest went free with a mild lecture from the judge. All of it, the reward for giving prosecutors the testimony they needed to convict Simpson.
District Court Judge Jackie Glass would not comment afterward.
LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": This is really a window into the ugly inner workings of the criminal justice system. This happens every day. It's first in first out. Whoever makes the deal first with prosecutors is going to get out of jail first.
And so anybody who has had some information about, especially, a mastermind of a criminal conspiracy is going to get a sweetheart deal, and that's what happened here.
MATTINGLY: Meanwhile, O.J. is already behind bars. His latest mug Shot shows him with a slight smile as he begins the standard procedure of physical and mental evaluation.
(on camera) The years ahead will not be easy. The head of Nevada Prisons says Simpson's celebrity will be a problem. And keeping him safe until his release means he may not be able to mix freely with the general prison population.
HOWARD SKOLNIK, DIRECTOR OF CORRECTIONS, STATE OF NEVADA: If you were a young gang member trying to make a name for yourself or even just a young inmate, any inmate trying to make a name for yourself, looking for your 15 minutes of fame, O.J. would be a really great vehicle to help you get there.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Simpson's codefendants offered words of apology, some saying their actions were stupid. The judge agreed. But if any of them violates the terms of his probation, he could still wind up doing time with O.J.
David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: Looks like it goes on. Let's dig deeper tonight. Joining me again, CNN's senior analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who wrote a best-selling Simpson book, "The Run of His Life." Also with us, CNN analyst and radio talk show host Roland Martin.
Four of O.J.'s codefendants basically got off on probation. It does sort of bolster the argument that O.J. Simpson is being held to a different standard than others.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, criminal cases are usually built towards a single target. The John Gotti case was built around John Gotti. His No. 2, Samuel Gravano, admitted to killing 15 people, and the government still gave him a deal, because they wanted Gotti so much. This is standard operating procedure.
COOPER: But isn't this -- I mean, the guy who carried the gun and pointed the gun at somebody else, shouldn't they get more of a penalty than some guy, you know, the guy who encouraged the guy to hold the gun?
TOOBIN: The system is built on the idea of encouraging guilty pleas, avoiding trials, so that people who cut a deal always get much better treatment than those who go to trial, especially if the real target is the one going to trial.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Anderson, I'll answer your question. Yes, it's foul. It's ridiculous.
Look, I don't care about O.J. I really don't. OK? But I sat there, and I listened to this judge rail about this being a violent act, a gun being present, how it was serious. And the guy with the gun, she let him off? No, no, no, no. She can't try this nonsense about somehow it's all fair.
You know, I get this whole notion about the system. OK? But if you're going to sit here and go after O.J. and this other guy, talking about a gun being present, let this guy off? No. That's foul. All three should be in jail.
COOPER: So -- it does bolster the argument, though, that -- that O.J. Simpson was the target of this. I mean, was the target of the prosecutor. And would he have been a target, had he not had the past that he has?
TOOBIN: I don't think he would. I think that's what's troubling about this case, that because of the acquittal in Los Angeles, he was prosecuted in a case that, if it would have been prosecuted at all, certainly would have been a much -- much lower level prosecution. You wouldn't have kidnapping charges. You wouldn't have armed robbery.
COOPER: He made that decision, just the local prosecutor?
TOOBIN: The local prosecutor. I mean, that's the thing about the system that people need to understand. That once it gets into the system, the judge pretty much operates according to standard procedure. But the decision to bring the case at all and what to charge, that power in the prosecutor is just enormous.
COOPER: Roland, a "Chicago Sun-Times" columnist, Mary Mitchell, wrote today that, quote, "Simpson's recent robbery trial exposed the same racial fault lines we saw 13 years ago." Do you think that's true?
MARTIN: Well, I think what Mary is saying there is that you have this different reaction, when you have a segment of the white community, who is still just flat-out going nuts about O.J., where black folks are saying, "I don't really care."
I got a blog on Essence.com, and look, my readers are saying, "We don't care about O.J. We're tired of talking about O.J."
Look, in the case the guy with the gun, he's African-American. He got off. O.J.'s black. He's going to jail. And so, you know, look, people see these things differently.
I just think the bottom line is America was so transfixed by this whole trial that, yes, I think that was the thing here, saying, "We're going to finally get this guy, whatever we have to do."
TOOBIN: I think the original trial, there was a tremendous racial divide. It was a big, big-ish deal to a lot of people.
This case, many fewer people followed. I don't think there's much interest, one way or another, on the racial aspect of it. But I do think white folks, for the most part, are happy this guy has gone away.
COOPER: Do you think he's going to be segregated in jail for his own safety?
TOOBIN: Initially, he will, but he will argue strongly that he will be able to get along with people, and he will try desperately to get out of that segregation.
COOPER: Because he likes being around people?
TOOBIN: He likes being around people. And he's confident he can maneuver in any situation. The isolation will be very hard on him.
COOPER: Can you think -- I mean, is this -- I've asked you this before, I guess. But is this the end of the story? Are we -- is it done?
TOOBIN: You know, I think this is going to be a serious appeal. I think, given the...
COOPER: Do you think he really could...
TOOBIN: You know, most appeals fail. It's a better than 50 percent chance this one will fail. But this is not a frivolous appeal, given -- given what an unusual case this is.
COOPER: Especially, Roland, given the makeup, the racial makeup of the jury, there are only two African-Americans on the jury. They were alternates on the jury.
MARTIN: Well, again, that could be one of the things argued. And so we don't know how it's going to turn out, but I will say this, Anderson. For O.J. Simpson, we can never say, this is the end. Drama surrounds O.J., and I'm sure we have not heard the last of O.J. Simpson.
COOPER: Roland Martin, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks again. Coming up next, Oprah's admission. She is opening up about her latest battle. It's really an old familiar one. But tonight, she is talking in her own words on the struggle and why she's -- why she says she's mad at herself.
And later, saving the gentle giants, trying to keep elephants from extinction. A preview of our "Planet in Peril" investigation, when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: An outy. And an outy.
When I see people who are overweight and see myself being overweight, I feel like that's what I see.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Words and images of inspiration from an icon, Oprah Winfrey. In a home video released 11 years ago, describing how she was able to control her weight and conquer a lifelong problem.
Tonight, however, Oprah Winfrey says the weigh has returned. She admits to gaining 40 pounds in the last two years, weighing now about 200 pounds. She calls it embarrassing and confesses to falling off the wagon.
Here's Randi Kaye with an up-close look at Oprah's struggle.
KAYE (voice-over): With all her success, Oprah Winfrey is failing at one thing: dieting. Her on again, off again battle of the bulge is back on, she admits.
In the January issue of "O" magazine, the cover says it all: "How did I let this happen again?"
Remember this? That was 20 years ago, 1988. Oprah hauled a cart full of fat on stage. It represented the 67 pounds she had lost while on a liquid protein diet. But the days of strutting her stuff in size 10 Calvins didn't last. Oprah gained it all back.
In 1992 she weighed her heaviest, 237 pounds. She was just 38. But in 1994, she slimmed down again. She finished the Marine Corps marathon, and in 1996, she hired a personal trainer and announced her struggle with food was over.
Yet today, Oprah weighs 200 pounds, up 40 pounds from just two years ago. She candidly writes, "I'm mad at myself. I didn't just fall off the wagon. I let the wagon fall on me."
Oprah says she's embarrassed. She won't fit into the dress she had hoped to wear to Barack Obama's inaugural ball next month. While taping a show with Tina Turner and Cher, Oprah says she felt like a fat cow and wanted to disappear.
Nutrition expert Lisa Drayer says Oprah is not alone.
LISA DRAYER, NUTRITION EXPERT: It can become a vicious cycle, because we tend to get frustrated when we gain weight. And then oftentimes, we just want to throw in the towel, and we head to the corner bakery or the vending machine. We eat something sweet and fattening, and we think it's going to make us feel better.
KAYE: Oprah's height and weight puts her body mass index, or estimated body fat, at 32.3, which is considered obese. About 2/3 of all Americans are either overweight or obese. Normal body fat is under 25.
DRAYER: Obesity impacts other diseases. It increases the risk for diabetes and heart disease, gall stones, cancer.
KAYE: In the article Oprah comes clean about her addiction to food. She writes, "In order not to abuse food, I have to stay fully conscious and aware."
(on camera) But for Oprah, like so many others, it's not all about will power. Oprah says she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism last year. She says it caused her to develop a fear of working out.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Your metabolism slows down. As a result, you just don't burn calories at rest. And you tend to pack on pounds much more easily. But you're also -- people complain of being listless and also just being tired all the time.
KAYE (voice-over): Oprah doesn't blame her thyroid for the weight gain. She says it's about finding balance, more time for herself.
As for her food addiction, Oprah says she now eats less sugar and more fish and fruit. And forget about being thin. She sails she's focused on being strong and healthy.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Let's hope she gets strong and healthy.
Oprah is expected to talk candidly with her trainer and others about her weight on her show, starting January 5, as part of what she is calling "Best Life Week."
Ahead for us tonight, a desperate fight to save the largest land animals on the planet, under attack for their ivory. Lisa Ling on the front lines of the battle, part of our "Planet in Peril" investigation.
And every family has its quirks, and we all have holiday memories that maybe fall short of Hallmark moments. I talked about one with David Letterman last night. It's our "Shot," coming up.
COOPER: African elephants are magnificent creatures that have walked the planet for thousands of years. The largest land animals on earth. No match for humans and their guns, though. Elephants are disappearing at an alarming rate, killed not for their meat but for their ivory. It's one of the most disturbing stories we've investigated for our new "Planet in Peril" documentary, which airs Thursday night at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Lisa Ling went to southeastern Chad to see what is being done to stop the poachers and, well, she'll never forget what she saw. Here's a preview. And keep in mind, some of it is hard to watch.
LISA LING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yakima's (ph) rangers are a small but active force. In 12 months they've found 180 carcasses within the park's boundaries. And in a year and a half, they've confiscated nearly 300 elephant tusks. Things here are getting worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're talking a quarter of a million dollars, probably, worth of ivory here.
LING (on camera): Just in this room we're looking at a gold mine on the global market, huh?
(voice-over) So where's it all going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
LING: A recent study by Care for the Wild International says the top two markets for ivory are China and the United States.
(on camera) so by consuming ivory, are people indirectly fueling these militias?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. If you look at these guys' ability to do what they do with the proceeds from those activities, then if you're consuming it, obviously, you're -- you're the provider for those people.
LING (voice-over): Nothing can prepare you to see what the demand for ivory does to a single elephant. On the same day we'd seen the elephant herd from the air, we had just returned to camp when the rangers radioed in the worst kind of news.
(on camera) Mick Lie (ph) is an advisor to the anti-poaching patrol, and he says they just found a fresh elephant carcass about two miles from here. And he's going to take us over to see it.
(voice-over) There are a few signs when you know you're near a fresh elephant carcass. First, you'll see the vultures hovering in the sky. Second, a smell consumes the entire area. Then you see it.
(on camera) Oh, my God.
COOPER: "Planet in Peril: Battle Lines," airing this Thursday night, 9 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to check out our Web exclusive report on the documentary at CNN.com/PlanetInPeril. You'll find interactive maps. There are photo galleries, exclusive video blogs and a lot more: CNN.com/Planet in Peril.
All right. Up next I sit down with a late-night host who isn't gunning for our 10 p.m. viewers, David Letterman. It's our "Shot of the Day."
And at the top of the hour, breaking news that reads like something out of a movie script. The governor of Illinois busted for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Obama's Senate seat. Stay with us.
KAYE: All right, Anderson. I'm going to handle tonight's "Shot."
Forget about those late-night comics. You can hold your own against the best of them. You were pretty funny last night on "David Letterman." We loved your flashback, especially, to that family Thanksgiving. We loved it so much we want to watch it again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You know, the truth is she doesn't really like holidays that much, my mom, and a couple years ago for Thanksgiving I made a big deal about making a Thanksgiving dinner and she -- and inviting her out to my house on Long Island. And she said, "All right. I'm coming." And she insisted on bringing the turkey.
And, you know, she like, hired a car for the day to drive her out and everything. And on the morning of Thanksgiving, the car pulled into my driveway, and she wasn't in it. And I opened up the door, and there's a box with a turkey inside it.
And my mom had decided just to blow me off for Thanksgiving. But she sent a turkey.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Oh, that's -- really?
LETTERMAN: You know, it's kind of the best of everything. You get the turkey.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KAYE: She blew you off, but she didn't want you to starve out there.
COOPER: Exactly. It was very kind.
Yes, David Letterman. Anyway, you can see all of the most recent "Shots" on our Web site at AC360.com.
KAYE: Did she have a better offer?
COOPER: No, I don't know. Just really didn't want to do it.
Coming up at the top of the hour -- Randi, thanks for being on the program tonight. More on our breaking news: the arrest of Illinois's governor, accused of selling favors, extorting hospitals, even putting Barack Obama's old Senate up for sale. What a guy. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Breaking news and broken trust. Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, seen here returning home late today, out on bail, under growing pressure to resign, facing federal corruption charges.
He's accused of a staggering array of sleaze, much of it caught on tape, according to the feds, including a scheme to sell Barack Obama's old Senate seat and another to extort money from a children's hospital.
Early this morning federal agents frog-marched him into custody, not letting him turn himself in, like they do with white-collar criminals, busting him like a thug.