NOW with Alex Wagner | June 27, 2012
>>> this bears a striking resemblance to something that happened when i was a very young man and you were probably a young boy , and that was when nixon pushed the emerging discussion and discovery of the plumber's activity at watergate , pushed it past the election.
>> that was congressman darrell issa comparing the fast and furious investigation to watergate . as the daily show points out, republicans have made a habit of comparing president obama 's problems to the scandal that brought down richard nixon .
>> guy's had four watergates. that is a record number of watergates. passing the previous watergate record holder, a richard nixon , with one.
>> today, republicans and democrats will gather for a picnic at the white house for a split second of unity before tomorrow's house vote to hold attorney general eric holder in contempt. luke russert , nbc's sage of capitol hill , and the man with his own capsule collection at vineyard vines, joins us now.
>> like you don't have a tote bag.
>> there, i said it.
>> good afternoon, alex wagner. wilson high school 's finest. good to see you.
>> good to see you. luke, tell us -- okay, we talked yesterday that maybe a deal would be possible. we know the white house released some papers to doj but it looks like a deal is not in the cards and the house caucus is going to go ahead with this contempt vote.
>> that's correct. yesterday, representatives from speaker boehner's office, darrell issa 's office and the white house , the lawyers, they got together. the republicans said look, we want to have access to all these documents. democrats sort of gave them a sneak preview saying look, here's 30 of the documents you want, there are hundreds, maybe thousands more that you can see. republicans said look, that's not good enough. we're going to go forward with the contempt vote. the white house said we'll give you all the documents if you don't do the contempt vote. republicans didn't believe them and allowed their rank and file members to move forward. it's going to happen tomorrow. there's going to be two votes. there's going to be an eric holder criminal contempt vote and an eric holder civil contempt vote. the difference between those, criminal contempt vote would go to the u.s. attorney , district attorney here in this area, and they would not go forward, they would be prosecuting their boss. the civil one would then have to go with referring it to another court and then ask them to make eric holder get involved with the congressional investigation. so neither one of those have a lot of teeth but they do have a lot of show. one more important point on the eric holder thing, the nra is going to score this vote, this is very significant because this means you can see upwards of 25 to 35 democrats joining with republicans because of the fear of the nra . that comes from this idea that darrell issa floated out that the reason why the white house was involved in the fast and furious was so they could perhaps bring up a larger version of gun control and assault weapons ban by saying look, there's all this illegal gun running in mexico and the u.s., we need to do something. so a lot of moving parts in that regard but the nra is very significant because it will make a lot of democrats have to join with republicans .
>> the nra piece is something i want to talk about. the fact that republicans are voting along party lines to hold eric holder in contempt is one thing but certainly the fact that 25 to 31 democrats may join the other side of the aisle largely because of pressure from the nra i think is a very, very interesting development. nra letter to lawmakers said the reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for attorney general holder's resignation more than a year ago, the department's obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda. it is worth noting, jimmy williams , the nra contributed nearly half a million dollars to federal lawmakers in 2012 , not just republicans , but democrats too. republicans got $435,000. democrats got nearly $60,000.
>> yeah. the numbers are slightly disparate. i am a pro-gun gay democrat.
>> it's what makes you, you.
>> i suppose. this is the craziest thing the nra is going to score this for several reasons. first and foremost, remember i spoke in the earlier segment about overreach? here we are. this is overreach. my friends on the republican side in the house, not the senate, the senate would never go down this path, even if they were in control, because they're far too dignified for this kind of thing. i have images of dan burton . remember the burton whitewater hearings, cost us $52 million, they found out virtually, virtually nothing about the clintons or anyone else, for that matter. here we are and we'll have them again. the fred thompson hearings in the senate. they had to shut them down. trent lott shut the thompson hearings down because they produced nothing. this produces nothing. this was a bush program, finished off by the obama white house . what's next? ken starr ? but this nra vote, that's a big, big deal . it takes jim matheson from utah, makes them walk the plank and puts them in one hell of a position on november 6. it's bad for them. but they'll be able to vote the way they want.
>> it's worth noting that jim matheson , as folks have deduced, this is a lot of pressure from the nra . these guys are feeling the heat . jim matheson says this is more about evasiveness and transparency. sadly it seems that it will take holding the attorney general in contempt to communicate that he evasiveness is unacceptable.
>> i think there's something to that. that's the issue on the overreach. in a sense the republicans did have substantive issues here and they kind of had the administration in the corner but then they went below the belt and you're like why did they do that.
>> republicans , look, fast and furious is about brian terry and these hearings are about a potential cover-up. the nra is free to speculate on the motives of eric holder and the department of justice . i think republicans would be wise to sort of leave this about the evasiveness and lack of transparency and potential cover-up, and not speculate just as i think democrats should leave race and other weird nefarious boogeymen out of these arguments. this can just be about brian terry and a potential cover-up.
>> i have to say i think the biggest issue here and the most upsetting one is you have yet another institution that's become partisan, enmeshed in this polarization debate and i think the attorney general's office in particular needs to be above that. i think that a.g.s have actually been much less partisan than critics would say under clinton, bush and obama. i think that presidents wish they were probably more compliant.
>> this is of course the president's first use of executive privilege . luke, we're talking about all the negatives but we just have word that the keystone pipeline provision is not going to be included in the hotly contested transportation bill so that would seem to point to a deal being made in the next couple of days, would it not?
>> that's true, alex . all indicators have been over the last few days that both sides are working towards a deal here. you are not going to see most likely keystone in the final deal. why? because democrats said look, we can't do keystone, the fallout from us on the left would be too much, the environmentalists, sierra club would freak out. we will water down some of the environmental regulations we had in the senate version of the bill and make it more satisfying to the house side. last but not least, alex , this will be a big defining moment because this is the last bill that congress really will do this year and it's one that gives some certainty to job creators. we hear that message all the time on capitol hill . they get this transportation bill through, it also helps student loans, specifically on the transportation bill , you'll have this through fiscal year 2013 . that means a lot of construction projects will have guaranteed money through then, put millions of americans back to work.
>> st. albans finest, offering a ray of sunshine on this gloomy day. nbc's luke russert . thanks for everything.