'It's Plain, Old-Fashioned Forgery'

J$P Instant Transcript! Judge Andrew Napolitano on the legal ramifications of Rathergate.

From The Big Story with John Gibson, September 16, 2004:

JOHN GIBSON [FOX NEWS]: CBS facing mounting criticism on Capitol Hill: House Republicans demanding a retraction of Dan Rather's story on the President's National Guard service. And California Congressman Chris Cox is calling for an investigation. But the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee says he's not getting involved. Is this really in any way Congressional business? The Judge rules: Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano. So, let's just say, Dan Rather said, look, he makes this I think kind of a preposterous claim--


GIBSON: --we produced a document that may be fake, but the story's real.


GIBSON: But is this a Congressional matter that an investigation is warranted?

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Well, here is Congressman Cox's argument. CBS receives a license from the federal government. The license is based in large measure on the promises made by CBS that it will fairly and accurately report what it believes to be the truth. And if they can't do that, maybe we should reconsider whether or not they have a license. Now the other side--

GIBSON: But, I'm not defending CBS here but news organizations get taken all the time. It's a big so what.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Absolutely, absolutely. So then one might say, well is Congressman Cox's argument political? Does he want to use the Republican majorities in the House to keep this story in a few more news cycles so as to blacken CBS's eye? The bottom line is: the Congress can really investigate anything it wants. Remember, Congress doesn't prosecute. This may be investigation of whether there was a forgery, whether there was a document misused, whether CBS should have investigated it.

GIBSON: But, come on, at the heart of this is Chris Cox's belief that CBS is a partisan organization, that it didn't even look at this document very hard to discover if it were a fake--


GIBSON: --and it was just out there to bash Bush, as Dan Rather said: the heart of our story is still the truth.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Not a bad imitation. The Congress usually doesn't do that to newspapers and broadcast entities, investigate them like that. So I think that the request for an investigation, which was quickly denied by the Chair of the committee that would conduct the investigation, was intended to focus just exactly as you did, so that people will think why should we believe anything that CBS says.

GIBSON: OK, now, if these documents could be proven to be false, or that is, not true, that they were fake documents, if that were the case--


GIBSON: --is that a crime?

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: The crime would be for the person who manufactured and produced the false documents and handed them to CBS. The crime would not be Dan Rather's or CBS's.

GIBSON: But is the crime the signature at the bottom, faking somebody's name?

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: That is a crime under Texas law, if this happened in Texas. It is a federal crime to manufacture or alter any military records. Each of those crimes is punishable by five years in jail, absolutely. It's plain, old-fashioned forgery.

GIBSON: So, if somebody really thought that there was a crime going on here, wouldn't there be a prosecutor getting involved, not a Congressman?

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: That's where the investigation should take place.

GIBSON: And we don't see any prosecutors stepping forward.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: We don't see, we haven't heard a federal prosecutor--

GIBSON: So nobody's very interested in this.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: We haven't heard a federal prosecutor convene a grand jury, or a state prosecutor convene a grand jury. And they could do that with the stroke of a pen.

GIBSON: Right, but they evidently said, it's CBS's problem. If they got taken with a fake document, tough luck, I'm not going to get involved in this.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: The government usually only prosecutes forgery when somebody makes money as a result of it, not when somebody else is embarrassed.

GIBSON: The Judge rules; there you go, Judge Andrew Napolitano. Thanks a lot; appreciate it.

posted: Fri - September 17, 2004 at 12:49 PM       j$p  send