Martin Bashir | June 20, 2012
>> we are moments away from a vote on whether to hold attorney general eric holder in contempt of congress . the charge would still require a vote by the full house to pass regardless, house republicans may have handed the president the very issue he needs to win the white house . congressman darrell issa assess oversight and government reform committee is expected to approve the charge on a party line vote. yet, he and his republican allies won't have much time to celebrate. they were quickly knocked back on their heels this morning with word that the president would exert executive privilege , the first time ever in his administration over the release of certain documents. this left the committee's democrats and republicans in a heated fight about what this investigation was really all about.
>> what is in those internal documents that the department of justice that is so self-incriminating that the doj will not release them?
>> i just don't get the point. it just does not make sense.
>> nobody wants to put a conclusion to this more than chairman issa .
>> it's painful to sit here and watch it turn into a partisan political theater .
>> how much did the president know about this?
>> the hearing began with a friendly but very terse back and forth between the committee's republican chairman and its ranking member congressman elijah cummings . issa claimed attorney general holder was essentially blackmail blackmailing the committee, stop the investigation, he claimed the attorney general told him, and i'll let you see the documents. but congressman cummings was having none of it.
>> didn't ask for an investigation, just ending this contempt fight. i double-checked with my staff because when you said that, i heard, i was in the meeting with him and i heard what he said. he was very clear.
>> indeed, cummings was the first in today's hearings to question issa 's true motivations. suggesting the chairman attended a last ditch meeting tuesday to avert today's vote but with no intention of ever doing that.
>> instead, you rushed to a prearranged press conference to announce the failure of the meeting. it seems clear that you had no interest in resolving this issue.
>> now, make no mistake, this was a seriously flawed operation with roots in the bush administration and resulted in the death of a border patrol agent. than agent's death demands proper scrutiny of the entire operation. but it appears that that has never ever been the mission of mr. issa and his allies. this republican congress has dumped its duty to legislate in order to focus on its core task, the defeat of the president and they're doing that fast and furiously. joining us now, democratic congressman charles rangel of new york. good afternoon, sir.
>> good to be back with you.
>> we have a transportation bill that if passed would create over a million jobs. we have student loan interest rates about to double in ten days. we have the american jobs act which economists say would create nearly 2 million jobs but virtually every republican in the house is beside himself or herself where excitement about this contempt charge against the attorney general . what on earth is going on in the house of representatives ?
>> i knew when senator mcconnell said that the sole political objective was not to pass legislation, not to improve the economy, but to get rid of president obama , what i did not know is just how far, just how far are they willing to go. and as we see what is happening here with the attorney general and the executive branch versus the legislative branch , here we have purely a part of an extension of how best can we not resolve a problem, but how the president . this is a classic case where we're prepared to take down the country in order to get the president politically.
>> squlampb vitz of utah said during this morning's hearing that no one wants to put this investigation to rest more than chairman issa , but if that was the case, why had darrell issa planned a news conference immediately afterwards? he had no intention whatsoever of reaching a conclusion today, did he?
>> they're walking in lock step. hardly there's any other issue whether it's democrat or republican. when you find no one leaving their party vote, you know there's something wrong with the direction of the legislation. no, the whole setup was how far can we go in order to hold the attorney general in contempt. or what can we do to make it appear as though the president is trying to hide something from the public. if they wanted this resolved, they could have independent scholars come and take a look at the records and reach a conclusion or not that these documents would be illegal and certainly improper tore turn them just over to the public. these are i've guards that are in our constitution. but the truth of the matter is that they made it clear no more legislation. no more arbitration. that the election is on. and will be on until november. and it's sad. it's sad.
>> one of the things i just can't understand is given the fact that the president has said he's going to exert executive privilege , what is the point of this citation apart from attempting to humiliate the attorney general .
>> these documents will never be produced if the president exerts his privilege.
>> as long as they can get this in the headlines, as long as the tv reporters are talking, once again, they have attacked the president and his administration, and i think we've about reached that point that they've gone over the edge of being political. and they're involved in something that the american people they don't want to see these confrontations. first, they want to see us talking and working together to get some jobs, get this economy back where it should be. but the whole idea that the attorney general is targeted so that the president has to come and protect not him but to protect the constitution is purely political.
>> i want to play something that congressman issa said at the beginning of today's hearing. and i'd like your response. listen to this.
>> our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt. our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work that it is not only entitled to but obligated to do.
>> do you believe what congressman issa says?
>> it's unfortunate that.
>> is congressmanis sass telling the truth when he says he's obligated to do this?
>> listen, three and a half years ago, they filed into a political scenario that you are not to do anything to protect the country, the constitution, or the president. and so, he is really picking up his script and following suit and making certain that the president is not being treated fairly. it's got to stop. and i think the american people will make it stop. it's just truly un-american.
>> now, speaker boehner's office says and i'm quoting, the white house decision to invoke executive privilege implies that the white house officials were either involved in the "fast and furious" operation or the cover-up that followed." hasn't speaker boehner perfectly revealed there the strategy, attack the attorney general in order to attack the president?
>> and when you protect the executive branch , you're not saying you're covering up anything. every president, including recently pas past presidents, have always used that to protect the constitution and the executive from intrusion, and that's what balance of power is all about. to be able to use the tools that were given to you in the constitution and to charge that with being political avoidance of the penetration of a committee, a standing committee is just wrong. but again and again.
>> the debate between congressman cummings anise sass resolved around issa 's contention that mr. holder told them in tuesday's private meeting, basically, we'll show you the documents, but you have to stop this investigation. now, i ask you, sir, what would the nation's most senior law enforcement official attempt to the blackmail a committee chairman or is this more make believe from mr. issa ?
>> that is so sad. this is above the integrity of mr. holder and the office to give them piecemeal what they're asking for when the argument has always been the constitutionality of surrendering these documents. that is something no one should ever deviate from. we have scholars that can come in right now and take a look at these things with the approval of the executive and the legislative branch and avoid this confrontation. but no, no it, the confrontation is exactly what the republicans want. nothing else.
>> there seems to be such a convoluted strategy here because republicans are saying that given the death of a border agent, it requires and demands that they see all these documents. even though they know that some of these documents refer to confidential informants and if that information were ever to fall into the wrong hands, those self-same informants might be endangered themselves. again, it just seems completely contradictory.
>> well, there's absolutely nothing in terms of reason and common sense that would make their protection of this slain officer a priority. what they're doing. you don't have to talk about holding the attorney gualenl contempt to have an investigation to find out, was there any wrongdoing as it relates to this bungled scheme that started with president bush . we should want that investigation. but to say that the attorney general should just open up the files of confidential information to a bunch of politically motivated republicans , it just doesn't make sense. i hope that the american people just speak out, not democrats but democrats and republicans in saying, our country, our executive, our attorney general , they deserve better than this in the united states of america .
>> congressman charles rangle , i fear that you deserve better on then happy day because it's your birthday. and i wanted to extend good wishes to you.
>> you're wonderful for thinking about me. thank you so much.
>> thank you, sir.
>>> now let's bring in msnbc political analyst and former dnc communications director karen finny. you've been listening to congressman wrangle. your reaction to what he said.
>> well, i agree with him but i think i'll be more pointed. during my time in the clinton administration , i've been on the other side of this kind of game.
>> have you indeed. you have indeed.
>> i have the legal bills to prove it. let's be very clear. chairman issa knows exactly what he's doing. he knew exactly what would happen. this idea of meeting with holder , that was a game. holder i think went there, you know, with all good intentions. it issis sass and the republicans , they want to drag this out as the congressman was saying. they want to try to invoke a kind of chinese water torture of subpoenaing documents and getting this in the media because they think that that will then keep the white house and the department of justice busy dealing with this at a time when there is so much other work to do, but also create a distraction during the election.
>> but karen, there's also this is ludicrous position they've taken, which is we are going to subpoena these documents. the president is going to assert executive privilege . those documents are never going to emerge. all that they get is the theatrical appearance of the attorney general being humiliated, being cited in contempt. i mean, is that what they think the house of representatives has been elected to do?
>> well, yes, that's what the republicans think they were elected to do. the republicans obviously don't think they were elected to do any work. here's a coup of key points on this. number one, as i believe congresswoman maloney pointed out the documents they've currently subpoenaed have nothing to do with the original incident. it actually has to do with the back and forth actually as i understand it between the department of justice and congress. so this isn't about getting guns off the street. this isn't about getting closure for the family. and not to mention, why are they not bringing mukasey in? why are they making holder be the fall guy for mukasey under the previous administration under whom this many program started and holder is the one who ended this program.
>> you know very well why they're not inviting mukasey in.