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JOHN KING, USA

Interview With Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns; White House Subpoena Threat

Aired October 28, 2011 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Breaking news off the top tonight, more trouble for the Obama White House over a controversial clean energy loan program that already has left taxpayers holding a more than half-billion-dollar bill. A House committee now laying the groundwork to subpoena White House documents about a loan to a California company called Solyndra.

The Republicans who run the committee say they're being stonewalled by the White House and have no choice. The White House says it is already providing enough documentation to answer the key questions and accuses the Republicans of trying to violate longstanding executive privileges safeguarding some presidential communications.

This is just one of several increasingly testy showdowns between House Republicans who say they're conducting tough, but fair oversight investigations and the Democratic White House that sees partisan witch-hunts, not legitimate inquiries.

Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is here to get us started.

And, Jess, any sign that the White House will give? You were here a couple of weeks ago when they first got this request. And they said no, we have given you enough. Any indication the threat of subpoena will say, here, more documents?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, John, no signs that it will. The White House has maintained that they have through their agencies turned over more than 70,000 pages of documents and that the White House itself has turned over 900 pages.

And as you have said, they have made it clear that there's an important precedent to be protected here, which is the president's advice from his advisers there in the White House has to be protected.

KING: Early on the White House said that the Republicans were exaggerating this, that this is one loan gone bad, that this was a pretty good program. Now the chief of staff, Bill Daley, is having an independent review inside the White House. Does that concede the point this is more serious than the White House initially said?

YELLIN: I wouldn't say it concedes the point. I do see from own vantage see this as a political move more than anything else. Heading into -- they will say there's value to it, too, it's a 60-day review, there's an important look here, but heading into a political year, they can say that they have appointed somebody, Herb Allison, who worked in a Republican administration as well as Democratic administration, to look over all of the loans and he will deliver his findings 60 days from now, which will be right around Christmastime, when you know we will all be paying close attention, or maybe not.

And then he can go -- the president can go into a political year saying we had an outside reviewer look at this and it somewhat inoculates him from any political attacks over these loans going forward.

KING: Any sense that the White House will also say we have an internal review; Congress, you need to wait?

YELLIN: I mean, maybe they will use any pushback they can. But I don't think that they foresee Congress listening to them on anything on this. It's just they expect Congress to fight them at every turn.

This just gives them their own added battle -- added fight when they're fighting back against Congress.

KING: Our chief white House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, Jess, thanks.

Let's turn now to the Republican leading the subpoena push and the stonewalling charge. Cliff Stearns of Florida is chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

A subpoena to the White House is a pretty serious thing. Your committee's going to meet Thursday. What can the White House do to stop you?

REP. CLIFF STEARNS (R), FLORIDA: The White House has not claimed executive privilege at this point.

And, John, all we're asking for is the communications of the -- shall we say the internal communications of the top advisers in the White House, which includes the chief of staff, the director of climate change and policy, as well as the senior adviser on intergovernmental affairs.

The e-mails we have, John, show that they were briefed about Solyndra and all we would like to do is see their communications.

KING: What is your question? What is your question? Did political implications, did they have all these warning signs saying don't give this loan and somebody said give it anyway? What's your question?

STEARNS: Well, it appears to us, disturbingly, that there's a close relationship between the investors, the people who are wealthy donors to the Obama campaign, and the people were involved with Solyndra. And so that disturbs us all, and we'd like see the communications to make sure that is not true.

And so all we're asking for is, you know, it's nothing to do with national security, we're just asking for information about Solyndra.

KING: You're the chairman of an important investigative subcommittee. To say it appears to us that you can -- it appears to you that you might be able to connect the dots between political contributions, influence, and a loan that went bad and left the taxpayers holding a pretty big bill, that's an important charge.

Do you have --

STEARNS: It's not a charge.

KING: -- the proof of that now?

STEARNS: It's not a charge, but it's something that we are concerned about, and we want to make sure it's not true. And I think the president should also feel like we do, to show that it's not true. So just turn over all of the documents so we can see them and let the American people understand there's no connection. If there is a connection, obviously, that's a -- that's a very disturbing thing.

KING: Do you want conversations and communications to the president, or do you concede that when it comes to discussing a program, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I know if they were -- if the situation were flipped would say go away, that's our privilege?

STEARNS: Well, that's not the same thing as this. This is an investment of taxpayers' money that's gone bad. In fact, there's 28 programs, some of them are $1. 2 billion of taxpayers' money that are questionable at this point.

So I think, at this point, after eight months of investigation, we have a right, and I think the taxpayers have a right after losing half a billion dollars, to say what about the internal communications inside the top advisers to the White House, let's see them.

KING: So you have no doubt these subpoenas will be going, you just need to get this committee --

STEARNS: The subpoenas will be going, and I hope the Democrats who voted against the first subpoena for OMB and DOE did not vote for it, I hope they vote for this, because this is really transparency and this is what the president talked about in his campaign in 2008.

KING: Well, the White House says they have looks at what you're asking for.

STEARNS: Right.

KING: They think it's overly broad, and they have said here are the documents we think answer your questions. Why don't you believe them?

STEARNS: Well, the e-mails we've gotten so far from them indicate there's much more. And if there is much more, then can we see it. And we've got authenticated proof from some of his inside, top advisers they were involved with Solyndra from other e-mails, so we'd like to see them all.

KING: Their argument, Mr. Chairman, is that this was a bad call. That there was a debate about whether this company was solvent or not, and you're absolutely right that there are some documents saying people saying, whoa, we've got warning signs about the finances of this company, other people say this loan is not ready for prime time, slow down, somebody said no, let's go forward and do it. But they say it's a bad call, not corrupt call.

Why do you think otherwise?

STEARNS: Well, I think, first of all, they broke the law when they subordinated taxpayers' money to these two hedge funds. I would like to understand how that works out because I don't think taxpayers should be supporting --

KING: Who broke the law? Again, that's a pretty --

(CROSSTALK)

STEARNS: Department of Energy, by subordinating taxpayers' loan to these two hedge funds, I think they broke the Energy Policy Act of 2005. And it's not just my words, John. The chief financial adviser, Mr. Berner, of the Department of Treasury said in 28 years he has never seen taxpayers subordinated to outside private investor.

So we have here something that's serious. We have lost a lot of money. Perhaps the administration thinks it's just an anomaly in terms of their investment, but I think taxpayers want to know exactly how this happened from stem to stern.

KING: And you have the secretary, Mr. Chu, coming up before your committee, I believe, on November 17.

STEARNS: Right.

KING: We invited him on the program many times as we've discussed this issue to try to get some of the answers.

You just said you think the Energy Department broke the law.

STEARNS: I do.

KING: Do you think the secretary broke the law?

STEARNS: I think the secretary has to give an adequate explanation why his council went ahead and, shall we say, rewrote their interpretation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

And in all fairness, I'm glad he's coming up to the committee. He has a chance to explain to the American people and our committee what happened. So I welcome him.

But also, he's got to explain, based upon what Mr. Berner, whose the chief financial officer at the Department of Treasury, who actually cuts the check that gives to DOE to give the money out, why, after his experience, why does he think it's OK to do this.

KING: There are a lot of Democrats in town say where was this tough oversight when Republicans ran the town, George W. Bush was president. Why didn't the Republicans have as much oversight in those days? So they see some partisanship behind that. And I think you would concede the point, even a lot of Republicans say there was not enough over sight of the Republican president.

So, when you are saying these things, and you have a legitimate inquiry without a doubt, but when you're saying we might be able to connect the dots to some sort of a political corruption --

STEARNS: What I'm saying is --

KING: -- we think they broke the law --

STEARNS: -- there's a disturbing trend here.

KING: Chairman Issa of the other committee says the attorney general has lied. Others on the committee have said people in the Justice Department in the Fast and Furious program.

Do you worry at all -- do you worry at all as you -- as you go about what I hope is legitimate and tough but fair oversight, that there is an impression being laid that you have -- you're putting the judgment before the evidence when you collect statement by the Republicans involved?

STEARNS: John, I have not called for the resignation of Secretary Chu. Mr. Silver, who is a top loan officer, I called for his resignation at DOE, Department of Energy, and he did resign. And I think, also, the CEO of Solyndra resigned after taking the Fifth in front of me. So let's see what Secretary Chu has to say. Let's give him a fair opportunity to talk.

But also, John, we have been very systemic here. This is an it's eight-month investigation. We are not jumping off the cliff here. And we have continually sought these documents and tried to be reasonable, and sometimes they didn't even show up for a -- as a witness. They'd say they were going to be there and didn't even show up.

KING: What happens now if they get your subpoenas, which is a pretty grave step, and they say no, or they give you some documents but not what you're looking for?

STEARNS: Well, obviously, they could claim executive privilege, and I respect that, that's part of the Constitution. We will the next step after that if we thought it was that serious.

But I don't think the president wants to go there because this is something very simple to answer. Did his top as advises get involved, get briefed on Solyndra, and what was their response? And why didn't they step out and say, hold it, hold it, we're not going to make this investment and lose all of this money? And is this happening on other 28 loan guarantees? I mean, that's a legitimate question. If it happened in Solyndra, it might happen in other ones.

KING: You're the chairman of the subcommittee, you have attorneys working for you. Have there been any private conversations to try to settle this, to figure out what they -- what both sides could agree was an acceptable compromise?

STEARNS: Sure. We have tried. We've called. I think, at this point, the president feels, you know, concern that he just doesn't want to do it because he's opening up Pandora's box and he doesn't know what's in the box. And I understand that. I understand how he's being cautious here.

But on the other hand, this is a loss of half a billion dollars of taxpayers' money, and we have seen from e-mails that a lot of wealthy bundlers and wealthy donors have been involved. In fact, they're investors in Solyndra and they're investor in all of the other 28.

So I think it's good to take Solyndra, which was a poster child that the vice president and the president just touted, why don't we look at this carefully, slowly, methodically -- it's what we're doing -- and try and to get these answers.

KING: And so subpoenas in the coming days.

Chairman Stearns, appreciate your time, and we'll stay on top of the story. We'll see how they react.

STEARNS: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you for your time.

Still to come here, tonight's "Truth" tests the president's promise to put the little guy ahead of the deep-pocketed lobbyists.

And next, Herman Cain explains his bizarre campaign schedule and gives a not-so-subtle take on team Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Stupid people are running America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CAIN: And we have got to outvote them. They are. I was criticized -- you shouldn't call people stupid. Why. They're stupid.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Texas Governor Rick Perry filed his paperwork for New Hampshire's leadoff presidential primary today and says he's not scared off by rival Mitt Romney's giant lead in the state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not here just because I like to hang around with you all.

(LAUGHTER)

PERRY: I'm here to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: His low-tax message is well-suited for the state. But we wonder if New Hampshire voters will take offense at this slight from Rick Perry circa 1992.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: Now, I haven't figured out New Hampshire yet. New Hampshire is so small up there. There were 55,000 people voted in New Hampshire in one side of this -- as a matter of fact, whoever that guy was who was running as president got 55,000 votes. But Denton County has got more votes than that that will vote in a primary there. So I haven't figured out why that's so important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And, well, here he goes again, Mitt Romney on climate change then:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a scientist, but I think the Earth is getting warmer. I think we probably contribute to it, but I don't know by how much, a lot or a little.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And now:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emission is not the right course for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Up first, though, in our focus on politics tonight, this campaign's biggest surprise also its biggest mystery.

Herman Cain, the businessman-turned politician is charismatic, confident, sometimes even a little cocky.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: I'm not supposed to be running. I'm not supposed to win. And I'm not supposed to be standing up here with this hat on, but I'm doing it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CAIN: Because this is who I am. We have a saying in the Cain campaign. Let Herman be Herman.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This was a textbook day of Herman being Herman. He spent the day in Alabama, tomorrow, too. The Alabama Republican presidential primary will be held in March 137 days from now. Iowa matters, and it votes in 67 days. Not only is Cain not there. He told the state Republican Party today he won't be at a giant Iowa GOP dinner next Friday.

Well, New Hampshire matters too, and it votes 74 days from now, then South Carolina 85 days away. So why, oh, why, Alabama now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Even though a lot of people think that you're supposed to give all of the attention to the early states, yes, the early states are important, but Alabama matters because of the compression of the primary schedule.

KING: Maybe Mr. Cain will be proven right, but that schedule hasn't changed all that much. And the Alabama primary has never mattered in my lifetime.

Plus, take a look just at the past month. Yes, Cain has spent one day in New Hampshire, and one in South Carolina, and two in Florida, all important early states, but many of those other visits you see on the map there for book signings, or other events that have some veteran strategists questioning whether Cain has a viable strategy.

Well, the candidate promises to prove all of the skeptics wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Two messages that are resonating across this country -- number one, the voice of the people is stronger than the voice of the media.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CAIN: You are going to select the next president.

And then, number two, message is more important than money. Money's not going to buy a second term, Mr. President. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN contributors Paul Begala and Erick Erickson are with us tonight.

Erick, to our conservative in the group first.

Aren't a lot of conservatives scratching their head when they see Mr. Cain in places like Alabama? There's a rule book. He clearly thinks he can throw it out the window. Can he throw it out that much?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I wish I could show you my e- mail in just the past 12 hours, people just scratching their heads, is he running for vice president, commerce secretary? Is he running for secretary of federal relations, a department that hasn't gotten created yet?

I honestly -- I don't know. Herman really believes -- his campaign believes, if you talk to them, that through sheer force of personality, so many people like him, that he can go to these other states and build up his national name I.D., the media's going to keep talking about him, so he's still going to be seen on TV in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, and somehow or another they will win.

You know, John, I'm with you. I'm only 36, but I have never known the Alabama primary to matter in the last 150, 200 years.

KING: We didn't think South Dakota mattered last time and Obama used that early on, Paul Begala. So could Herman Cain be on to something that maybe the rest of us are blind to?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, he could be.

I saw a report that -- I think it was yesterday, maybe the day before, he was at a dog track in La Marque, Texas, right by where I grew up. It's a great little town. Frankly, I'm not a gambler, so I haven't been to the track, but I'm sure it's a fun place to hang out. But it's got nothing to do with electing the next president or selecting the Republican nominee.

But in that clip he said he didn't like the media. Well, guess what? The media likes him. He's authentic. He's funny, he's irreverent. He doesn't seem so sort of -- he doesn't look like a classic CEO, not kind of pompous and full of himself.

So maybe there's a method there. I'm kind of with Erick. I'm sort of kind of doubtful. I saw one report said he's not supposed to be in Iowa until November 19 again. I do know Iowa. I have been there, and they want to see you in person. It's a classic joke, but it's true. I have been to all 99 counties. And they want to see you in their living room two or three times, and they would like you to come and mow the grass, too.

KING: Or shovel the snow, more importantly, when you get to Iowa.

He's irreverent. And we have all talked about that he's the most likable candidate when you looked at polls. I wonder, Erick, to you first, if he says things like this, I know conservatives don't like the Obama administration, but they're picking a president here. When he says things like this, stupid, let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAIN: Stupid people are running America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CAIN: And we have got to outvote them. They are. I was criticized -- you shouldn't call people stupid. Why. They're stupid.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is that presidential, Erick?

ERICKSON: Not in the conventional template of what is and is not presidential.

But then the Cain campaign has not really run anything within the traditional template of what is and is not presidential. It rallies the base. It throws out -- it throws out red meat with extra blood injected into the meat to make it even redder. And it really -- it rallies the faithful.

I don't know that if he were to be the nominee and to get out of the general election if he could keep that up. But, you know, this is -- this is the most unconventional presidential campaign that's actually working that I have ever seen.

KING: Are you secretly writing for them, Paul?

BEGALA: I'm kind of -- I agree with Erick on that. But there's a strategy to that comment. OK?

And that is this. He really stepped in it when -- Herman Cain did, when he gave the interview to Piers Morgan and he made the classic statement of pro-choice person on abortion, where he said it's not the role of a president or a politician or the government to tell a woman whether to make the choice. That's the iconic statement of the pro-choice position.

I do read RedState.com every day, Erick's Web site. And the explosion among his readers and among party loyalists when he said that was really extraordinary. It could have sunk the whole campaign.

Well, what reunites people? Attacking Barack Obama reunites people in his party. So I think that's -- I think he did that to try to draw attention away from that massive gaffe that he had on abortion. KING: Well, let's focus on Rick Perry.

Rick Perry files his papers today in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is the runaway leader there. Governor Perry is trying to get back on track. He, number one, promoted his low tax message. That will sell in New Hampshire. That will help get him some traction. There's been an interesting dust-up in recent days, though, about whether he's going to skip some debates.

I want you to listen to Governor Perry here. Tell me if this is a nonanswer or a bit of a retreat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY: I don't know whether or not we are going to forgo any debates or not. There's going to be a lot of debates. Shoot, I may get to be a good debater before this is all over with.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A., the self-deprecation, Erick, will help him a little bit because some people wondering about his personality and his character. So making fun of yourself always helps in politics.

But did you get the sense there that maybe all this talk of pulling out of debates, maybe they're rethinking it because they're getting a lot of criticism?

ERICKSON: Yes, I hear that they are getting a little bit of criticism, that they're realizing they need to get on better message. I think this is of the beginning of the walk-back.

They were exploring it. They floated it. It fell flat. I think we're going to see Rick Perry in the debates.

KING: Texan Paul Begala, what do you make of that?

BEGALA: Yes, I think Erick's right. The governor doesn't like to debate because he's not good at debating. But I have never seen the debates be this important before in a primary.

We remember in 2008, Joe Biden won I thought a lot of debates. Chris Dodd won a lot of the debates. It had no real effect on the primary. It came down to Barack and Hillary. And this time, though, when Michele Bachmann started out at the beginning she had some terrific debates and she soared. Herman Cain, I think, is where he is because he's a very good debater, and he has a sense of humor.

So Perry can't ignore those debates. He cannot, because since someone else -- his job to be the conservative alternative to Romney. And if he doesn't show up at the those debates and show that he is the most principled and authentic conservative, as opposed to say Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich or the rest, then he has no chance, I think, of being the alternative to Mitt. KING: Hey, Erick, did you hear Paul at the beginning of this talk about that dog track in Texas and say he's not a gambler?

ERICKSON: Yes. I just realized where he is.

KING: You see where he is?

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: Why aren't we there?

KING: There is a fact check to be done here somewhere. That would be Vegas, I think, Begala.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I am in Vegas. And I love it out here. I highly encourage people to come here, and to go gaming, I guess, as they call it. But I gamble enough, I guess, in my career.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: He's really in the woods and he's trying to make it look like he's in the city.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Yes, I got it. I got it.

Paul, Erick, thanks for coming in on a Friday night. You guys have a great weekend. We will see you next week.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Still to come here, you know John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. How about these guys? They gave Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs fits as co-creators of what is known in Iran as "The Daily Show."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Hope and change were the signature slogans of the 2008 Obama campaign and the inspirational candidate was adamant about ending the old Washington ways.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. We're going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: After hearing that, this headline in today's "New York Times" sure seems at odds with that promise to put Washington on the side of the little guy and not the lobbyist.

And truth be told, the story of the Obama White House and lobbyists is a tale of trickle-down disappointment. In June 2010, "The New York Times" chronicled hundreds of meetings between Obama administration officials and lobbyists at a coffee shop a few steps from the White House complex, health care reform, energy policy and stimulus spending among the many topics.

And no official record of who met with whom because meeting at the coffee shop gets around the president's promise to list each and every lobbyist who visits the White House.

Then early this year, a new twist, the White House conceded and defended meetings with lobbyists at Jackson Place. That's a government-owned townhouse just across the street from the White House, again outside the official complex, so, again, like the coffee shop, outside the requirement to keep lobbyist-by-lobbyist visitor logs.

The new fund-raising revelations, well, unfortunately, they follow this same pattern. The president's promise was to not accept contributions from lobbyists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That's why I don't take money from these folks, because my attitude is they will not fund my campaigns.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But today's "New York Times" account details at least 15 examples of Obama bundlers, supporters who promise to raise giant amounts for the campaign, who are involved in or who oversee major lobbying efforts, but who are not themselves registered with Congress as lobbyists.

Now, these bundlers with clear lobbying ties, if not the official label, have raised at least $5 million for the president's 2012 campaign so far.

Let's be clear. There is nothing illegal or unethical about meeting a lobbyist, whether it is inside the White House gates or a short walk outside the security perimeter. And there is nothing to suggest any of the 15 bundlers with ties to lobbying have done anything that runs afoul of campaign finance laws. Nothing.

The White House, though, gets a bit indignant when it is suggested things might not be exactly as the president promised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What's interesting is that you're citing that story and not the story that demonstrated that lobbyists were lining up to -- in record numbers to contribute to Republican campaigns, campaigns that openly and willingly accept money from lobbyists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yes, they do. And yes, we have an obligation in the days and weeks ahead to hold the Republicans accountable, too. But saying the other guys are worse, even if it's true, doesn't answer whether President Obama is keeping both the letter and the spirit of his promises. Is he?

By the letter test, yes. By the spirit test, well, that's more than debatable. Meeting lobbyists across the street so you don't have to keep a public record speaks for itself. So does raising millions from people who are clearly involved in lobbying. Again, nothing wrong. What it is, though, is business as usual, Washington style: a loophole to every rule. "Truth" is, while it was perhaps a naive promise to make, we were promised it would be different.

Next, a special anniversary for the Statue of Liberty and a view from part of the statue that's been off-limits since 1916.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators marched on the offices of five major banks and financial services firms in Manhattan this afternoon. Earlier, New York police confiscated portable generators and fuel tanks at the park that serves as the protestors' main base. Now, authorities say they were fire hazards. The protesters call it harassment, especially with this weekend's weather forecast, which calls for snow.

In California, Oakland's mayor has apologized for the violence when police broke up a demonstration earlier this week. An Iraqi war veteran suffered a skull fracture during that incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR JEAN QUAN, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: I am very deeply saddened about what happened last Tuesday. It clearly didn't turn out the way we wanted it to. People were hurt and I -- I am the mayor, so I take responsibility, and I apologize to those who were hurt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And on this 125th anniversary of the dedication of Lady Liberty, here's the view of the New York skyline from the statue's torch, courtesy of EarthCam.com. Members of the public haven't been allowed onto the balcony around the torch to see this view in person since 1916. Isn't it beautiful, even at nighttime? That is beautiful. There's Lady Liberty, sitting out in the harbor.

Not terribly far from there, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" coming up at the top of the hour. Erin, you're talking Tea Party tonight.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we are. And I was just looking at that picture and remembering going up as a kid, not able to go all the way to the top, but the experience of touching the inside of Lady Liberty. So you just brought back some memories there.

But we are going to be talking about the Tea Party tonight, John. You know, last night we were talking about how half of the Republican Party identifies itself as active -- active Tea Party members or supports the Tea Party. But within that half of the Republican Party, there are 5,000 separate groups.

The two of them are going to come on tonight, including Ned Ryan, the chief of the group that called for Michele Bachmann to quit the presidential race today. And then we're going to follow up with the head of the Republican National Committee. Reince Priebus is going to join us to talk about the Tea Party phenomenon and whether they can get beyond it and fight for the White House. So we've got all that tonight.

Plus, John, you know it's -- well, you know the night before Halloween is called mischief night, right?

KING: Amen.

BURNETT: So this is sort of our night before Halloween, right, because Halloween's on Monday. It's our last show. So just a little hint of what we've got going on, all right? And you know what I've got to say? The show after us, that show by, you know, Anderson Cooper better watch out.

KING: It's going to have a little mess on its hands there, huh?

BURNETT: He just better watch out.

KING: We'll just leave it at that. We'll find out what comes -- we'll see what happens in the mischief. We'll see you.

BURNETT: See you, John.

KING: In just a few minutes.

When we come back, the White House chief of staff making some mischief. Some very, very blunt talk from the president's right-hand man.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ungodly, brutal, that's how the chief of staff, Bill Daley, describes the Obama White House and during a conversation about his predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, Daley makes what he says is an important distinction. Quote, "I'm not going to become the leaker in chief." These remarkably blunt comments just part of a fascinating conversation Daley had with veteran political reporter Roger Simon, now a columnist at Politico.

Roger is with us now, along with someone else who knows Daley well, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You did this in his office, not over drinks, right?

ROGER SIMON, COLUMNIST, POLITICO: I did this in his office, not over drinks. I'm not saying what happened afterwards. No, we were both sober.

KING: So he says a number of things that are fascinating and interesting that give you a sense, A, he is a straight shooter and he's a blunt talker. And he doesn't mince his words. But let's just start on Rahm for a minute there. Rahm Emanuel is his predecessor. Bill Daley and Rahm are old friends. Rahm has Bill Daley's brother's old job as mayor of Chicago right now. "I'm not going to be leaker in chief." Pretty much exposing Rahm as the leaker in chief.

SIMON: Yes. I don't think it's a surprise to any in the press corps, but it's probably a surprise to the public.

The relationship between the two is a little different than it is now. Rahm is a dozen years younger than Daley. Daley preceded him in politics, preceded him into government, preceded him into banking. And now all of a sudden, Rahm has jumped in to his father's and brother's job, and people are saying Rahm was a better chief of staff. A little friction there.

KING: A little friction there. A little friction there. And if you listen to this, remember, the president was on record as once saying if he's a one-term president, so be it, as long as he can get about the important business. And if that's the price he pays, then he gets his important business done, good.

So Roger, asked Bill Daley, is he OK with that?

"'No, absolutely not,' Daley begins, shaking his head and then growing more outraged at the thought of a single term entering the president's mind. 'I think he'd be angry, pissed, unhappy, frustrated. No, if somebody said yes to that, they would be crazy." Excuse my language, families at home, that's the White House chief of staff, not the anchor of this program.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Has a Daley ever been a one-term anything? There is no member of the Daley family that ever wanted to do a job and not finished the job they came to do. And Bill Daley, he's obviously quite loyal to Barack Obama, but he's also somebody who's quite political. And he's already told the White House he's going to leave at the end of this term, but he intends to stay to help get Barack Obama re-elected.

KING: There are many, Roger, who interpret such blunt talk as evidence that maybe Daley's a little frustrated. Maybe he's not -- he did not get all of the free rein, the power that he thought we was going to get when he got the job. Any truth to that?

SIMON: I don't think so. I think his frustration is with the U.S. Congress, both Republicans and, strangely enough, Democrats.

KING: Fascinating point, because in the interview he hits the Democrats just as hard as he hits the Republicans.

SIMON: And I can tell you today, from my e-mails, the Democrats do not like it. And I think the frustration is that, in what he calls three ungodly years. And it's hard to contradict him on that. I'm not sure any president has ever come into three years like this.

BORGER: You know, the liberals in Congress criticized him during the debt ceiling, because they thought that he was cutting too much of a deal with the Republicans. And the truth of the matter is that Bill Daley in theory would rather be cutting deals with Republicans than attacking Republicans. Because that's who he is politically.

KING: Like the NAFTA deal back in the Clinton days.

BORGER: He did. But remember, he also ran Al Gore's campaign, which was a class warfare argument, which I think we're seeing being rerun right now.

KING: So you're saying he'll stay for the recount, is what you're saying.

BORGER: I was going to say some would say he won that.

KING: But it's funny, because he's -- for all of the blunt talk he seems pretty dead on about the 2012 race coming up. "Look at '08. The president got 53 percent of the vote against a relatively older candidate who had Sarah Palin as a running mate." In other words, he doesn't think much of the Republican ticket last time. "And he gets only 53 percent of the vote. So why would this not be a close election?" That's dead on.

SIMON: That's right. We, some of us, look at the Republican field and, as someone unkindly said, it resembles the bar scene of "Star Wars." As you've shown on the clips just on this show, all the front runners have these minuses: they're not serious; they flip- flop, whatever. So that's the big thing Barack Obama has going for him. The bad thing is a terrible economy. Which is going to win?

BORGER: And that was Daley's point, when he said that it's been brutal. Look at what we were handed. You can't win a campaign by saying things would have been worse if we hadn't won this election.

KING: Part of the calculation for bringing him in was that he had pretty good relations with Republicans, that he was a grown up who had good relations with the business community, both entities -- Republicans and the business community -- not getting along well and not happy with the Obama White House. In that sense, does he feel he's making a contribution or is he frustrated?

SIMON: No. I don't think he's frustrated at all with the access he has to the president. And don't forget: he worked for Joe Biden in Biden's first presidential campaign. And their offices are now next to each other. I think Joe -- you know, it's been said, well, a deal was cut. Mayor Daley said, you know, "I'll support Rahm" to Barack Obama "if, you know, you take my brother." That's nonsensical. Rahm would have won anyway, and Daley was a popular choice for the job. BORGER: But you know, remember that before Bill Daley came into this administration he wrote an op-ed piece saying that the president's health-care reform bill was too liberal, too left. And I wonder if Republicans will take advantage of that and quote him.

KING: I remember when he took the job. I talked to him a lot during the Clinton administration. We talked about that. And at the end of it, he said, "By your tone, you think I'm crazy, right?"

And I said, "Have a good time, Bill, good luck."

Roger, fascinating piece. Thanks for coming in.

Gloria, thanks for being here on a Friday night.

Let's close this block with tonight's "Number," because it tells you a bit about what's coming up next. Tonight's "Number" is 80. And we give it to you with a question mark. Why the question mark? Well, let's explain.

Eighty percent of the people of Iran have access to satellite TV services. The big question mark, was access does not mean they have control over what they watch on the television. Often the government scrambles it.

And it is not just satellite television. Iranians have a total population of 78 million. About 23 million, 30 percent, have access to the Internet. That means they have a hookup in their house. That doesn't mean they can see whatever they want, because Iran is ranked fourth worst in the world of messing with the Internet. China, Tunisia, and Cuba block access more than Iran. Iran not good, not open for access.

Those restrictions both frustrate and inspire our next guests, the men behind what is known as Iran's "Daily Show."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Parody newscasts are a staple of our pop culture. See how many of these guys you recognize.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE COLBERT REPORT": Wow, I don't know what it is, but something about that guy just seems cool.

JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": Did you spot the trend amongst the Republicans nominees? It's a trained eye. I'll give you a hint: they're all saying crazy things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Wait a minute. So who's that last guy? Well, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KAMBIZ HOSSEINI, HOST, "PARAZIT": We wanted to do a show that would propose...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He likes dark comedy and dark humor. I'm the same way. I have dark humor in my style.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Together, Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arrabi created a parody newscast beamed into Iran by the Voice of America. It's been dubbed the Persian "Daily Show." Kambiz and Saman join me now.

Let me just start with the title of the show, the name of the show. Explain it and explain the significance, because just the name itself is pretty important.

HOSSEINI: Well, when you turn on your TV in Iran, sitting in your living room and you would like to see international channels like our popular VOA channel, what you see is they jam the satellite. What you see is the static.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SAMAN ARRABI, "PARAZIT": That's called static or parazit. So we kind of stashed our name underneath.

HOSSEINI: If you want to jam satellites and people, they're forced to see static, why don't you -- why don't you make a show that's called "Static."

KING: The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, on the program and you start off in a funny way. But look how quickly it turns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOSSEINI: We were supposed to do this way earlier. We assumed you were too busy taking down dictators. Since -- since you were gone, you know, I think four or five dictators are gone, too. And then we go to our audience question. Do you believe the Islamic republic of Iran is a dictatorship?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I do. I believe the regime is a dictatorship. And I think it's becoming even more of one. In fact, I think it is moving toward being a military dictatorship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Explain how you think parody and satire help.

HOSSEINI: I believe when you use parody, you can deliver any message that you want in today's media, because all the guidelines that the media have, you know, these days, journalists are really having a tough time to tell the truth.

KING: Now, both born in Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both born in Iran.

KING: And yet, as the Irish guy at the table, you must have a little Irish in your blood, because you actually conceived the idea for the show over Guinness?

ARRABI: Guinness, yes. We're still waiting for that sponsorship, if anyone's watching.

HOSSEINI: We mention Guinness a lot, and nobody's contacted us saying, Thank you very much."

KING: I have a closer family tie. Maybe we can work that out. Or we can have one.

I want you to listen here. I want you to listen. Fareed Zakaria just went to Iran, and he sat down with the person who is often at the end of your jokes and your not so jokes. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yes, he's the chief writer for the program. Listen to this piece of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): In Iran, we don't have political prisoners. The government has never arrested and imprisoned people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, on the one hand, that has to infuriate you. Just infuriate you to listen to him lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's great.

KING: Yet, on the other hand, if you're running a show that's parody and satire, that's like thank you, God.

ARRABI: This is a follow-up joke to what Ahmadinejad said in Colombia. There are no gays in Iran. Once a joke, would, you just keep translating it into a different thing.

HOSSEINI: This guy is amazing. It's like I'm here at "JOHN KING USA," and everybody sees that. You're John King. There's a sign back here. And I am this Persian dude, and he's that guy. And I'm like, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on Larry King." The lies are that obvious.

KING: You're having fun, but what is the goal? What do you hope your fun and the parody and the pointed political message within it, what do you want -- what do you want the effect to be?

ARRABI: You know, going back to what Kambiz said earlier, when -- when you use parody, you're disarming yourself and the person you're trying to reach out to. So then people become more receptive to your message and what you have to say.

We use -- our motto is to use common sense, because the government is an insult to our common sense. The lies and the ridiculous stuff that you hear out of the government is completely just outrageous.

HOSSEINI: That's a great line, by the way.

ARRABI: Thank you, I love you. So we use common sense to fight them back, and parody is just a tool that allows even the people who don't agree with us to sit down and try to listen to us. We're not trying to change any governments. We're not trying to lead any movements. We're just trying to put some common sense into a government that has no respect for it for the last 32 years.

HOSSEINI: And here's the thing. People in Iran have only one channel of communication. That's state media. What we do, we give them another angle. Another perspective on whatever story that they hear every week, so they have options to choose from so they can have a broader perspective to the whole thing.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KING: If you said these things about Ahmadinejad, about the ayatollahs, about the regime in Iran, you would end up in one of those prisons that he says doesn't exist.

ARRABI: Right. We wouldn't exist either.

KING: Do you worry at all that those who watch you on the receiving end, since that is a message the government does not want them to hear -- obviously you believe in the power of communication, of freedom of speech and you wish your audience there had it fully. Do you ever worry?

ARRABI: Of course. The kids in Iran are by far more brave than we can imagine. Like, we -- the view outside of my living room is the Capitol building. So for us, it's easier to sit here and you know, live our lives. It's far more difficult to actually be controlled by an oppressive regime like that.

We want to bring up the electronic curtain. You know, the Islamic Republic of Iran right now is more afraid of the connection that the Iranians have made to the outside world, using the Internet and social media, than they are of, like, let's say USS Nimitz, because it empowers the people inside of Iran to send and receive information to the outside world. So for them to block the -- any kind of Internet access, which we've been very successful in spreading our show, is their biggest priority.

KING: So you've seen the power of it, the potential power of it. We've seen it in Tunisia; we've seen it in Egypt. Differently in Libya. Obviously, less productively so far, but God bless the resolve in Syria.

When you look at Iran, have they been able to adjust to the Arab Spring, push back? Is it receding?

ARRABI: It started in Iran in 2009. That was the first time that you saw the revolution of social media, because they...

KING: It was crushed.

ARRABI: It was crushed. They kicked the foreign journalists out. But that was the time that they picked up their phones, and they started using it to -- to reach out to the outside world. It was crushed, and there are many, many reasons for it. We can talk about it later.

But the Internet and social media is an extremely powerful tool, because it empowers the people to make their own decisions and to organize and do what they need to do.

HOSSEINI: And the other thing that we have to realize that, after 2009, protests, today, you don't see those people on the street. But they're online, active, and the protests are going on online, and we see it every day.

KING: Gentlemen, thanks for coming in. What you're doing is a lot of fun, but it's also incredibly important.

ARRABI: Thanks for having us.

HOSSEINI: Thank you.

KING: We'll see you back here on Monday. Have a safe and happy weekend. If you're celebrating Halloween, don't have too much candy. That's all for us. We'll see you Monday.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.