This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Jan. 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Some of Martha Stewart's supporters think prosecutors are making an example of the domestic diva in order to scare others. Former Congressman Bob Barr (search) says Martha's getting a bum wrap.
That's today's big question. Are prosecutors in the Martha Stewart (search) case, Mr. Barr, going overboard?
BOB BARR (R) FORMER GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN: I think they are. As part of the bargain, not only do I think Martha will walk, but they will endanger some of their other cases waiting in the wings.
GIBSON: You were a former U.S. attorney, a prosecutor.
GIBSON: Would you have taken this case while, let's say, Ken Lay (search) is still at large?
BARR: I think part of this is prioritization. And I think that's the major problem that the Department of Justice has right now. You have a number of major figures out there that have been floating around under the threat of indictment, under investigation but the government hasn't moved against them. And here they go after Martha Stewart not on the major charges that they really wanted, but relatively speaking a minor charge.
GIBSON: Now some of this, of course, has a political component. I'm not saying the prosecutions are occurring because of politics, but the president has to worry about being attacked over his corporate connections. He was close to Ken Lay, for instance, over corporate governance issues, over the whole idea, the whole charge the Democrats are going to make that this administration is in bed with corporate special interests. If that's the case, doesn't this administration have an interest in telling somebody, “Set that one aside, go after these big ones that count?”
BARR: First of all, I haven't seen anything that would indicate on the president's part or the White House's part a linkage between them. Certainly, there are political ramifications to it. What the president ought to be telling the Department of Justice is not for political reasons, but in order to maintain the credibility of the federal justice system, go after the big cases and don't bring cases like this, one that you're likely to lose, and secondly, that will cause us great credibility in the bargain.
GIBSON: OK, then why do you think it is that the big cases, the big fish, that so outraged the public when they emerged a year, a year-and-a-half ago, why aren't they being pressed?
BARR: Well, for one thing, they're much harder. And secondly, I think the Department of Justice, to be honest with you, is spending an awful lot, an inordinate amount of its time worrying about a lot of other things than it should be worrying about putting together very good, solid cases against these corporate scoundrels.
GIBSON: Do you mean terrorism or worried about other kind of corporate cases?
BARR: They're mismanaging the war on terrorism. And that means that what they're doing is they're spending all of this time gathering dossiers and putting together programs to survey law-abiding citizens. And that's what's taking up a great deal of their time, and it's not going to catch terrorists, nor is it going to catch the corporate raiders, apparently.
GIBSON: What is it that they should be doing right now? If these cases are hard, if the Enron cases and the big ones like that are hard, what can they do to speed them up and make people more confident in the administration of justice?
BARR: Well, first of all, they shouldn't take on more than they can handle at any particular time. What you need to do as a prosecutor is prioritize your resources. Secondly, what you should not do is you shouldn't go out there and make a big deal of talking about these cases before you're ready to actually prosecute them.
GIBSON: You saw the way they leveraged the Fastow couple, Andrew and Lea Fastow. They got guilty pleas out of both of them. They're both going to go to jail. They're going to stagger them so the kids aren't without a parent. Isn't that good prosecution?
BARR: That case apparently turned out well because the government had its act together and it put together cases in a methodical way. It didn't move too quickly. If they were doing that in the Martha Stewart case, one, they probably wouldn't have brought the prosecution, or they would have worked out something, perhaps a misdemeanor a long time ago.
GIBSON: Congressman Bob Barr, former Congressman Bob Barr and former U.S. attorney in Georgia, Mr. Barr, thank you as always.
BARR: Always a pleasure.
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2004 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.