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tv   Dan Abrams. Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense  CSPAN  August 30, 2019 1:00am-1:53am EDT

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>> .. good the honor of servingt the roosevelt house what we have is a special evening asas we welcome our guest dan abrams as i am sure you all know provides regular legal analysis to abc news. on the daily network
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constantly including this evening and he is a historian that has contributed already to a couple great books but lincoln's last trial. [laughter] to switch gears and written in the book my fifth cousin by blood in my uncle by law that the very trial that dan abrams has written about with this extraordinary book about a little-known episode to be in the twilight of his life and that was an extraordinary legalst episode against a charge
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of liable argues here in new york state. spin i thank you. great to be here and always greatin to have the energy by you. >> i think this would be considered new. so why this book in this case. >> inn the context of lincoln's last trial to use this transcript to argue the nine months before the republican nomination. and my co-author brought me this and said a fascinating transcript only discovered in
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1989. nobody has written about it is possible that nobody has written about it and it is true it is a footnote to history. some in the context of doing that that there was a trial out there for i wonder if there are other interesting cases out there that we could unearth and lo and behold from 1915 and in the lincoln case 100 page hand written transcript no argument arguments, here we had almost 4000 pages of the entirety of the trial. what makes this so amazing is at the time this was a huge story the new york times often
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had 12 singlespaced pages of coverage on the case of literally transcribing what wasng happening in core and publishing in the new york times. so for david and i have was exciting because getting into this we bought ourselves back to those moments and got the feeling of what a big deal it was but yet how incredibly forgotten it is today. >> and of course argue the case on the cusp of the presidency and roosevelt argues to defend after the comeback so the stakes are much higher for roosevelt then lincoln. yes. that trial was important to
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lincoln but for roosevelt, the essence of his legacy was here. he was eyeing the possibility of a 1916 or 1920 run for the presidency again but just as important theodore roosevelt cared enormously about how people viewed him and they viewed him as a man of integrity they were trying to humiliate roosevelt and stain ehis legacy to put his high up on the wall and we believe , this is our speculation that his lawyer for the plaintiff was part of the reason the lawsuit was brought that the attorney may have encouraged him to bring the lawsuit against roosevelt.
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>> so tell us the reaction and then tell us about william barness. >> take a step back. they were allies and fellow republicans. in 1912 which was a real divide between them comes out intoen the open. he felt the republican nomination was stolen from him and many moree votes if individual folders could have a direct vote in every state in the republican primary. instead they did. >> i think he did lose the new york primary. >> today they are caucuses. it's not that it was such the incredibly novel idea that roosevelt was convinced he was robbed in may have r been right.
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that this really was party boss out - - at its worst and barnes was responsible. roosevelt was supporting a gubernatorial candidate and in the context of that support he put out a letter to supply one - - explain why he was supporting him talking about a corrupt alliance and head of the democratic t party. and barnes sued saying he called m me corrupt. that is liable and defamatory so the lawsuit came as a result of that so the reason i bring up the issue of the lawyer pressuring him to bring the case you have to wonder because barnes also had his eye and a possiblesi political future so he had to know the
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difference that you are corrupt that is what i told you. but yet he brought the lawsuit and dealt with the effects. >> is it possible he needed vindication quick. >> he thought in the end he could be the slayer of roosevelt who was very divisive within the republican party to be viewed as a much more progressive bullish party that this could make him a star in the party. >> what are the liability's on dish liable laws quick so it was that tradition where he feels he has a case?
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spirit keep in mind he was politician head of the republican party, nationally known under new york times versus sullivan you would have to show there was reckless disregard and he knew or tsuspected what he was saying and was not true in today under the law it would be dismissed under pretrial now you just had to show liable was defamatory and if you could show it was defamatory of and about the particular personte then it proved it was true. and there was a great moment early in the case roosevelt was coyly referring to barnes and said you cannot prove that
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this is necessarily about barnes it is the political system and they said fine we will call him to the stand and said did you write this about mister barnes? yes. did you seek to distribute it? yes. no further questions. that was it the minute they overcome that he distributes it it was defamatory and now rosa had to prove it. >> there is an interesting story one is that barnes' grandfather was the wizard of the lobby and was the
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supporter of lincoln and wrote the most unbelievable things about him and then you would still get the gold watch so the other element is that dan's father is the most remarkable longg time defender with freedom of the speech - - freedom of the press speech. [applause] so you come of your interest naturally. >> that was a great resource to have because it was very complicated to understand the liable per se and the things pretrial.
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we had an advisor who gave us numerous notes about the book before it was published. >> we found another link in connection but lincoln did that at one ofis his cases. and inadvertently to book that inrt their. so barnes is in albany. he is still the publisher why wasn't it in albany quick. >> it was supposed to be that eventually roosevelt asked for a change of venue. the former president of the united states one of the most famous people in the world certainly in america at the time is seeking a change of
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venue because he doesn't think he can get a fair trial in albany new york that's how powerful barnes was. and eventually the appellate court agreed and the trial was moved to syracuse because there was a concern that theodore roosevelt could not get a fair trial in albany new york because barnes was that powerful. >> and the syracuse papers politically aligned? >> we quote the standard a lot. >> i think they were separate in those days. >> but when it came to this trial it didn't cut across party lines they were both republican it was just a question of did you despise roosevelt enough to see him
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fail. >> what was the monetary charge. >> $250,000 which is just over 1 million in today's money and sometimes people mistakenly believe roosevelt was rich. he inherited quite a bit of money that he blew in the 18 eighties on cattle and ranching in the dakotas. he was well-off but one of the reasons theodore roosevelt wrote so many books in part was to make money. not just because there were all thesese topics he cared about, he actually needed the money. so this lawsuit certainly would not have impoverished him, it mattered. >> and i'm sure they both had the most expensive attorneys. >> and they had two of the
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best and that's it makes the book so fun is you really do have two really good lawyers and they are sharp and witty. and barnes really wanted to embarrass roosevelt. >> political animus are just doing his best for his client? >> political personal and also yes. we believe he became, this trial took it out of him. it was six weeks. from roosevelt's perspective the former president of the united states moves to syracuse new york for six weeks to defend himself and lives at a friends house. now his friend had a very nice house but he is literally up
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ending his life to go to syracuse and there were a couple of weekends he did not returnwh home because he was concerned about legal rulings and wanted to stay there to confer with his lawyers. that is how big of a a deal this trial was to him at the time. >> isn't there a higher connection that the judge of barnes andev roosevelt had all gone to harvard. >> i think the judge was the same year? >> maybe they knew each other. >> again but it was like the lincoln jury do you know the defendant? back then no bigt deal. a little different by 1950 so in the lincoln days there was still lacking that finality
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but by 1915 almost like today they're using precedent and formality in the courtroom. so it is a different time. >> the judge was tough on him. some of the dialogue in the transcript material was tough and did not fit well. >> part of the fascinating thing about this case is he was treated like any other defendant would be. but i think he enjoyed that one of the great moments of his own attorney he is objecting to every question breaking the rhythm and once
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cross-examination starts he instructs the attorney not to object to anything and says i will handle him. roosevelt did just that and he was ready and did become frustrated, but not in the way they were talking about. the plaintiffs were hoping roosevelt would lose his cool and get really angry. and as a result look bad in front of a jury but he did not do that. >> but there were moments so there are moments comparing to the rooseveltro gestures. >> he actually asked the judge to stop roosevelt from speculating because they get
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in the back and forth about what is the objection exactly? and roosevelt was amused anytime you get him upset he was amused and viewed that as a success. >> and says i need to back up he is constantly hammering away with his hands. i will say this the most interesting thing for us to review the transcript to see what happened with the verdict without giving it away they think there is a verdict and then there is not. it is an unbelievable moment
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that has been written about nowhere did you see? we were looking at the transcript at about the same time did you see what happened? this is crazy that doesn't happen in the courtroom it's in the transcript. >> how long was he on the stand. >> eight days. direct and cross-examination and actually he was called back that he had to be the bride at every wedding. >> and we talked about this before he is a great biographer and to write a chapter about this in his third trilogy in roosevelt he
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viewed that as an embarrassing moment in roosevelt's career and we view that differently. for roosevelt he is on the front pages again every day to say the things what he thinks is important about the political system and everyone is listening. so how does this become a footnote to history? because there was no groundbreaking moment that defines roosevelt but i would argue the reason is it is an overview of his legacy to come up in this trial where he is forced to defend it but actual
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cross-examination back and forth is such a unique opportunity to see and hear roosevelt in his own words. >> and i did read the chapter that i have asked him if he wanted to be the b interlocutor tonight obviously before he passed away suddenly a couple of weeks ago but he wrote a book a couple weeks ago wanted me to focus on that. [laughter] but he looks it on - - looks as alo historian that was humiliating for a former president to be on trial as a generalist and as a the attorne. he probably did relish. >> i will give away the ending
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because it is somewhat evident. when he ultimately prevailed and it was not expected that he would he did not think he would win. he had a who's who where you write your own summary and he puts his trial this and one other and had more space than the panama canal and other major achievements for roosevelt as president. this trial was a big deal to roosevelt. >> so he was no stranger to libel but these were other involvements he had as a protagonist these were other involvements he had as a protagonist. he was the plaintiff in a case
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where he was accused of being a drunk but there were rumors that roosevelt was a drinker but he wanted to wait for the right paper to make a comment to take them to court to make the statement he wanted to make and they wrote an article saying he was a drinker and he wears a drunk and roosevelt testified he had never been drunk in his life they said they had only ever see him drink milk and every once in a while he would drink wine but he never had any o k of alcohol so the publisher got
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up and said i cannot defend it. we don't have proof and the verdict was directed and roosevelt agreed to take a verdict that is just enough to buy a good paper. [laughter] but from the big picture perspective he had a love-hate relationship with mimi he was the first president f to have invited the press into the white house to basically create the white house press room with regular conversations and literally went back and forth and then also was very critical that times when he called them
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muckrakers it was not a compliment it was an insult and in 19 oh eight with the department of justice those i had written there negative articles about him where certain money had gone relative to the panama canal then continuing its way through the courts but the point being there was an aspect. >>. >> i will take issue with one thing that you said now because i'm writing a book about presidents of the press i don't think any reporter will say he had a conversation with roosevelt maybe he got one question then it was off to the races.
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>> i learned about lincoln's purchase of the german newspaper from reading your book otherwise i had noa. idea. >> so one of the moments in the case that i am interested in one of the witnesses was a dashing young democrat. so tell us about that. >> thatt is amazing. he had just gotten the position with secretary of the navy for ago he had long been a new york democrat and was called to testify not as a character witness but because he was in the legislature at the time and heard about a conversation between barnes
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and head of the democratic party basically agreeing not to resolve an issue about a us senator of new york so the bosses could retain power. but that was a key question in the k case the 1911 senate election and whether barnes or the head of the democratic party were iny cahoots together and roosevelt said he heard about this and confronted barnes about it. barnes did not really respond but eventually they did reach an agreement on who should be the senator but franklin roosevel roosevelt, like theodore was a big advocate of the direct election of senators by voters as opposed to the state legislature which
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was the case back then where it was appointing by vote the us senators. franklin was a progressive democrat the way roosevelt was a progressive republican so in certain issues they agreed. 's of franklin roosevelt had abeen advocating within the state senate to try to get more representation to get someone who would support direct election of senators in the hopes of getting aet progressive. he testified briefly that the division of franklin roosevelt walking into court to defend his distant cousin who had great admiration for. >> but he always admired teddy.
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>> so the striving healthy roosevelt six years away from the polio striking him but to harvard graduates in state legislators secretaries of the navy ultimately presidents and a remarkable path they followed one was a longtime democratic family one was republican. >> yes. theodore gave away eleanor at the wedding. >> actually they looked at the venue which was father and son double townhouse and said that is for me. r][laughter] but then as we know that most
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of the floors had retractable walls or open w doors so she could see each of the other side of the house. >> i think he was definitely a relevant witness to show the very issue at the heart of the case with aa corrupt alliance with the head of the democratic party or republican asparty and then as they try to dismiss witnesses testimony roosevelt was one of them trying to get stricken from the record because he was concerned about the impactast. >> you say discussing the jury reaction that it comes down to credibility. do you think he is going out of style as the 19th century
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character with the gestures and maybe barnes is a little more dignified. >> where is the demeanor contest quick. >> basing it all on newspaper reports from the time so when it isme tricky to make that assessment but i think part of what worked with the jury was roosevelt's passion for what he was saying. keep in mind they were going after roosevelt from everything if he was eligible to be governor of new york based on where he lived with the roughriders to whether he paid his taxes properly to what he expected from campaign donation donations. >> why would old allegations quick. >> i was surprised the judge let in a lot of this but
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basically the argument went you say barnes is corrupt but yet you did exactly the same things you are accusing barnes of doing. he would have been an excellent advocate for the other side and this is their reasoning. i am with you on this because it does seem tenuous to me that the judge allowed it and allowed this marking up of roosevelt to show he was part of those backdoor deals and also you could make an argument that roosevelt engaged none of it stuck in it was a great moment whenas he was challenging paying the taxes properly he said you don't recall you had such a great memory but then roosevelt comes back with a stack of his taxes he has reviewed them at
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this point and conferred what he said was accurate hands them and says they arere here in front of the jury. so of course they stunned him. >> he did not say he was being audited. [laughter] >> no. >> so the near verdict. >> you want me to give it away quick. >> i feel that you should read the book to get that moment. >> i thank you should you brought itp. up. >> they informed the judge they have a verdict which made the roosevelt team very nervous they were hoping to get for jurors to be hung they thought if they got a verdict he would lose all newspaper coverage indicated that as
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well. they announce have a verdict and they start to pull the jury is the shore verdict? they get to the 11th jurors who says it is as long as they split the cost off the trial. he says what do you mean? it is my verdict that i have to know they will split the cost and the judge says you cannot put a caveat on your verdict. then he says that i don't have a verdict that i'm not ready to roll for roosevelt. the jury has to go back to liberate and stay another night and by the way they were sequestered in a jail. so the news papers were described it as a jurors were locked up again for the night in the jail and that is where
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they were sequestered. [laughter] so then finally this would never happen today but they are all sequestered and i guess the next morning after the full day of deliberations wakes up the four-person to emy okay and the foreman calls the other jurors and they decide okay we have a verdict these days any conversation without the entire jury there would create a mistrial by then they were sleeping somebody wake somebody else up and says i think i'm ready to side with you and then they have the verdict and roosevelt was so happy. he actually said if any of you are in oyster bay you have the key to my house.
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he provided a signed copy of the transcript trial for each nsof the jurors. at that that would be fun to buy one if i could find one that i could fun not find it. it was a big win for roosevelt. he updated his who's who profil profile. >> that's a great story. but this is like the oj trial in terms of the irony at the very end the lusitania is sunk. >> it's actually during the trial that is a very important point the lusitania is sunk during the trial but as you all know there were 128 americans killed when the
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german sub shot the missiles. and 1100 people were killed. roosevelt had to decide if you would makeec a statement because three of the jurors were german-americans and back then the german-american really meant you are closely affiliated with germany. the german-american groups had espoken out against roosevelt previously with comments getting into world war i so the last thing they wanted was tehim commenting again about going after the germans in the course roosevelt did not listen and made a public statement about how serious this was in again shows the need to get involved in the war. his lawyers were very concerned that the three dgerman-americans would take
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great offense. >> so was there the same jury examination? like i object. >> jury selection was the big question was party affiliation mostly but each side was using their peremptory challenges and there wasar a mix of different parties on the jury withth three democrats defined as progressives and republicans et cetera. so it was a political mix but definitely the backgrounds play.hat came into >> so roosevelt emerges to say
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he is changing his who's who so how did the outcome affect the future? >> so for both s of them the loser had much more to lose. so if roosevelt had lost it would not have been a footnote to history but because barnes lost his political career was effectively over. that's like the plaintiff suing going to the court with the effort and the money then losing straight out no hung jury, nothing. that was a big setback for barnes. but for roosevelt, it allowed
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him to move on and move forward and when theodore roosevelt died 1918 i think there was serious thought running in 1920 i was right about the germans forgot was right about world war i. >> and he was right about the bosses. >> yes. i think he viewed the space as lookingki back but also looking forward. >> i think we have time for questions. >> tell us about the lawyers and was there any attempted
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jury tampering on either side? >> no allegationue of jury tampering that we know of. butid the judge did ask them every day did you read anything about the case and instructed them not to read newspaper coverage he would ask the same question each day to make sure they had not been reading. and the judge was one of the most respected atpe the time. actually the plaintiff's lawyer worked on the case of 1875 that was the highest profile civil lawsuit and of course that was involving
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henry ward beecher with an affair but it was a very salacious and tawdry case. and it was a big time that they both had described as corporate attorneys and the kinds of attorneys and they fared well with the judge but there were a number of legal questions coming up during the trial so who the judge was mattered and they were critical questions the single most important legal question to be resolved was the defense wanted to introduce evidence barnes was making money off
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the side printing business that his newspaper had and getting special deals from new york state so the question became is that the corruption roosevelt was talking about? he said corrupt he wasn't to rot - - talking about stealing money but the alliance between the democrats and republicans so why is that admissible? the judge allowed evidence to come in throughout the case while serving judgment on the ultimate issue and when roosevelt's team lost and said i will not allow any of that it felt like a huge loss but in thege end it was a victory because it meant the plaintiff could not prevent evidence to read butte that so the judge allowed evidence to determine
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even if the jury would hear it and then said disregard it. not only disregard it and now you cannot respond. >> that is interesting but they were printing documents and has been going on. >> was there ever an appeal? >> both barnes and his attorney claimed there was an appeal as soon as the verdict came in but ivins became very ill at the end of the trial and many believe the trial and the hours of living away from home was the final straw that broke the camels back. t he died shortly after i think
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if he had lived that there might have been an appeal maybe he would have insisted to barnes but there w never was. >> because as not helpful to his reputation either. >> i'm glad you discovered this case it has always been said that with his safari adventures really affected his health and took a major toll do you think this also added tto the toll of her premature death? >> it is a good question i think probably it was the malaria and the bullet that was lodged in his chest from the 1911 shooting that
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probably were the bigger issues because you mentioned when he took the trip in additiono to the safari the amazon is where he almost died and that stuck with him foror lif life. i think roosevelt kind of enjoyed the trial for go did he like being sued? know. did he want the lawsuit to go away? yes. but once it happened, it gave him a platform. he is out there able to speak about not just whether barnes is corrupt with the head of the democratic party but about his legacy. i don't think this was that painful going horseback riding on weekends, staying at a wealthy friends house, again i
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don't want to say he was loving every minute of it but this was not the trauma for him throughout the trial. >> franklin was often quoted to say he admired theodore above all of their men are there any other anecdotes that come out of this trial? did they spend dayspe to gather because franklin had to come to syracuse and had just recently gotten thisnt new position as secretary of the navy and had to go back to work. he literally came up to testify in the trial. he knew many of the reporters
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they are as a legislator because a lot were new york-based. but we do describe the warm embrace and one of the interesting things not just franklin roosevelt but almost all of the witnesses who testified even if not for roosevelt would come up and shake his hand or give him a back slap because he was theodore roosevelt. actually we were hoping for more from franklin but we took it as far as it went and the testimony was pretty brief our speaker has a live television
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commitment we will toast him. >> i will apologize because i really wanted to be here but this came up late last week i have to a host a show tonight in half an hour so i am running out so thank you for being here. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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