Martin Bashir | June 27, 2012
>> we begin today as a house rules committee continues to argue thursday's scheduled vote to hold attorney general eric holder in contempt. but as that continues, a report this afternoon could throw the very facts of the fast and furious case upside down. and explosive investigation by "fortune" magazine that took six months to research, reports much of what republicans have been telling us about fast and furious may be entirely wrong. two weapons found at that point scene of agent brian terry's tragic death were allegedly bought by a manuel known to agents. trance subsequent and drug user who purchased them with cash. the report states that the man was a fast and furious suspect. but that the guns in question were not allowed to, quote, walk over the border into the hands of drug gangs. in fact, "fortune" reports atf agents were aware of at least 20 suspects who paid cash for 650 guns. the problem, the story says is with prosecutors who wouldn't charge suspects because of terribly weak gun laws . the magazine says of atf agents they seized weapons whenever they could but were ham strung by prosecutors and weak laws which stymied them at every turn. in conclusion, the report says one irs special agent attached to fast and furious provides this withering assessment about the political sound and furry that now surrounds fast and furious . republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false. but still today less than an hour ago, congressman darrell issa was asserting the attorney general and white house have been involved in a conspiracy to cover up an operation that went badly wrong. something the ranking member of the oversight committee strongly objected to.
>> why are we steamrolling on matter of such gravity? in my opinion, the answer is plain and simple. politics. i believe that when history looks back at this moment, this will not be a pretty moment for this country.
>> that in today's political fever, the nra has written a letter saying it will issue a black mark against any member of congress who won't find the attorney general in contempt. handful of democrats fearing the wrath of the nra have indicated that they may join speaker boehner's ranks. but why is the nra involved in the first place? because this case was never about a dead agent but a conspiracy theory promoted by conservatives that claim the obama white house wanted to take away americans' gun.
>> very clearly, they made a crisis and they are using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people's second amendment rights.
>> sadly for mr. issa the only thing that's fast and furious would appear to be his own sense of paranoia. let's get right to our panel now. " washington post " columnist dana joins us live from washington. here in new york, jonathon altar, columnist for bloomberg view and msnbc political analyst . dana , have you just come from this hearing. it has been testy, vociferous.
>> it is a small room. it can overheat quite quickly. they started out were w the pleasantries but quickly turned into really a food fight . unfortunately i left as they were taking out the mashed potatoes. it is -- very tense. unlimited debate in that room. it will go on for a while. it has been all laid out. they are going to proceed with this regardless of what the facts are as presented in the report. whether or not they were fair with the investigation. they will have the contempt vote and then nothing will happen. just another day of theater.
>> did anybody mention this bombshell report in "fortune" magazine?
>> no but they mentioned the democratic committee report that said there are 100 errors of fact in the majority report . the democrats accept that something was wrong with this gun walking program. there was a problem that issue whether they had to do with how the gun laws were in the first place we can accept there was a problem without saying that this should be a problem for which eric holder who didn't know anything about this is held in contempt.
>> you read the article in "fortune" magazine. what's it -- how does it strike you?
>> first of all, a triumph of journalism reporting facts amid a sea of politics, speculation.
>> we --
>> haven't been able to verify the story. you are saying -- as you read it, it is impressive.
>> you can tell when you read -- when somebody has taken six months, team has taken six months, my belief is that nobody should utter the words fast and furious or comment in any way on the story until they have read the facts as laid out in this article. because they will change their minds, including democrats and liberals, on almost everything they think they know about this story. so on -- on the democratic side, this didn't start in the bush administration . there was nothing to start. there was no gun walking program. even that is a lie. they say establish it with e-mails and government reports and investigations and all the rest. there was no such program. there was one rogue atf agent named dodson who on his own started a little -- you know what he did? he went on cbs news and accused atf of something that was patently false which is having such a program and to cover up the fact that he had gone rogue. and cbs news bought this without checking out the story. that then kicked off the whole thing. darrell issa completely ignored all of the facts. was just interested in the politics. if you want to know what happened in arizona, you want facts as opposed to just spin and politics, read this "fortune" article.
>> dane a we heard congressman issa repeatedly say openly that there was some kind of conspiracy on the part of the white house , the obama administration to deal perhaps with assault weapons or to cutback on -- americans owning guns. is there any evidence for that notion?
>> what's the white house done in your recollection to suggest that that would be true?
>> well, he was pressed on this in the hearing today. and he sort of backed away from that saying he had no evidence of this. he was -- suppose merely asking questions. now, the -- obvious thing they came coming back to is if there was something wrong here, why didn't you bring the head of the atf to testify publicly? why didn't you bring the -- the -- people from the atf phoenix office where this operation was going on to testify publicly before rushing this into a contempt vote before the whole congress?
>> we know the reason for why he didn't. between want to play you something elijah cummings said on issa 's investigation specifically. listen to this.
>> i think basically the attorney general had come to a point where -- you know, he is saying where does this end? exactly. not asking for an end to the investigation. he is trying to get -- okay, what -- am i going to -- going --
>> yeah, right. not keep moving the goalpost the stadium.
>> mr. cullings, congressman cummings, saying they are not just moving the goalpost. they are moving the whole stadium.
>> issa investigation is a joke. i mean, a complete farce.
>> that's not what congressman issa says. he is grand instant standing that committee.
>> all you have to do is read the -- some of the fool facts and you will recognize this is a presents toterrous -- hung it all on the -- their main witness is the only person in this whole thing who is truly at fault. if you get -- tray to get to the bottom of it as "fortune" did. what this does show is there was bad management and at the justice department and at the atf . unwielding bureaucracy is at the route of a lot of this and shoddy journalism on the part of cbs news. so there's plenty of blame to go around. as for the -- administration's reaction, it makes it seem that by claiming executive privilege they have somehow done something out of watergate. this has been claimed many times by many presidents, including ronald reagan .
>> this is -- first time the president --
>> this is not such a dramatic thing for them to do. these administrations, right or wrong, do not want to set a precedent of sending over all of their internal communications because once they do it one time, the next congressional committee will say you sent it over in the naurs investigation. give us all of your e-mails. they turned over thousands of documents but knew nothing would satisfy issa . it is not a fair-minded investigation. it is not investigation at all.
>> okay. dana , it is not an investigation. is it a witch-hunt, as congressman cummings says it is?
>> right. a couple of the democrats on it is rules committee made that allegation today. and -- issa spat back that those are the democratic talking points. one mistake the -- justice department made was in sending a letter on early on to chuck grassley . that was false. apparently not knowingly false. that gave him, you know, a foot in the door to press ahead with this. but what it turned out in the end is what the -- committee is demanding, whole issue for this contempt of congress citation has nothing to do with the program itself. what led to this agent's death. it is all about what happened afterwards. it is this coverup that issa is allege which by definition is not about the program itself.