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Rep. Issa, Rep. Cummings debate Holder contempt of Congress vote
Written by Chris Wallace / Published June 24, 2012 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Rep. Darrell Issa, R – CA, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D – MD, T. Boone Pickens, Chairman and CEO of BP Capital
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," June 24, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.
A constitutional standoff pits House Republicans against the president.
WALLACE: The full House is set to vote this week whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, while the president asserts executive privilege, refusing to turn over documents.
We'll talk to the congressman leading the "Fast and Furious" probe, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. As well as Elijah Cummings, the panel's top Democrat.
Then, with the U.S. spending trillions to buy foreign oil, what can be done to boost domestic production? We'll ask legendary businessman T. Boone Pickens, who has a dramatic new plan.
And all of Washington is wondering what the Supreme Court will do this week about Obamacare.
We'll ask our Sunday panel to game out what it will mean for your health care and the November election?
All right now on "Fox News Sunday".
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The showdown over the botched gun-trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious" escalated dramatically this week, with the president asserting executive privilege over key documents, and the House committee voting Attorney General Holder is in contempt of Congress.
Joining us now to discuss the confrontation are Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And from San Antonio, the panel's top Democrat, Elijah Cummings.
Assuming there is no deal with the administration over the documents you're seeking, Congressman Issa, will the House vote Attorney General Holder in contempt this week?
REP. DARRELL ISSA, R - CA: Yes, I believe they will, both Republicans and Democrats will vote that.
WALLACE: You are saying it's going to be bipartisan.
ISSA: I believe it will be bipartisan. You'll never know how many. But there are a number of Democrats, 31, who wrote to the administration, asking them to be forthcoming. Many of them will stay with us now that the administration has not been.
WALLACE: But no doubt in your mind that the House will vote Holder in contempt?
ISSA: Well, Chris, it's regrettable we are here. And we certainly would not like to be here. And if the president and Attorney General Holder would simply start producing the documents they know they could produce to us that are not by any means are going to be covered by executive privilege, this could be delayed or even eliminated. But we have to see the documents first. We can't have a promise that we're going to be satisfied and dismiss this contempt.
WALLACE: And failing that kind of an agreement, then what?
ISSA: Well, it's the speaker's decision but he's announced that we will vote this week if there isn't a negotiated settlement.
WALLACE: Now, give us an example of the kind of document that's all that important, that you say is going to really get to the bottom of this case and clearly is not a matter of executive privilege?
ISSA: Well, a good example is, shortly after February 4th, after Congress and Senator Grassley specifically got a letter which was untrue, clearly untrue, they said they don't let guns walk, the ATF director, Kenneth Melson, sent an e-mail and he had said to us in sworn testimony that, in fact, he had concerns and we want to see that e-mail, because that's an example where he was saying, if we believe his sworn testimony, that guns walked. And he said it shortly after February 4th and July 4th. When he told us that, we began asking for that document.
WALLACE: This is an e-mail between him and who?
ISSA: His handlers at justice. You know, the ATF director effectively reports to the deputy attorney general. This e-mail would have circulated to them. We'd like to know not just where he sent it, but who talked about it, because that's the point in which shortly after February 4th, they should have known that the February 4th letter was untrue.
WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, we're going to get to this whole question of Melson, because it is important, in a little bit. But let me just ask you, in this overall question -- do you believe that the House is going to vote, failing an agreement, is going to vote Holder in contempt? And this would be the first time -- first time in history that either House ever voted the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the land in contempt, what do you think of this kind of action?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D - MD: First of all, I think it's extremely unfortunate and I absolutely don't think that we needed to be at this place.
You know, over a year ago, Chairman Issa accused Holder of authorizing these tactics and nothing accounted be further from the truth from the evidence we have already gotten. There is no evidence that he knew about it, no evidence that he authorized or condoned it.
And, you know, I'm really kind of saddened that at this point in the history of the Congress, that we would be finding this attorney general in contempt. And, you know, Chris, I think that I am calling on Speaker Boehner to come forth and show strong leadership -- and I know he will -- and sit down with the attorney general to resolve this matter.The attorney general has made it clear that he is willing to work with this Congress. He's already turned over 7,600 documents going through millions of e-mails, and has even given up what's called internal deliberative documents. These are the types of documents that attorney generals over and over, and year after year, have held close to them and themselves in their offices. But he has done that.
And so, I think he's -- all he's asked for is a good faith promise that we would bring these contempt proceedings to some kind of conclusions and he's offering to sit down with House leadership to work it out. And I hope we do. I really do.
WALLACE: All right. Let me get to you, Congressman Issa. Let's assume in fact that the House votes this week to hold Holder in contempt. Then what?
Because you can refer it to the U.S. attorney who works for Holder and in all likelihood will say he's not going to prosecute his boss. You can file a lawsuit in federal court, which will takes years, that you can impeach him. You can arrest him or try to arrest him and have a standoff between the sergeant in arms and his security people or do you just let it sit there.
ISSA: Chris, I'm going to continue my investigation. I left a message with Brian Terry's mother, Josie, last night.
WALLACE: Brian Terry, of course, is the border patrol agent who was killed in December of 2010. And two of the weapons from "Fast and Fast" were found at the site of his murder. Go ahead, sir.
ISSA: I told her that, in fact, we're going to continue regardless of what the vote is this week. We have an obligation to get to the truth about "Fast and Furious" and about those responsible, specifically related to both his death and cover up.
But having said that, mine is not automatically to look at post- contempt. Mine is to continue investigating and doing my job, along with Mr. Cummings, of a host of other abuses and failures, GSA and other scandals, because we need corrective action.
I would take exemption with my colleague in that I did not say that Eric Holder always knew. I knew that Lanny Breuer knew well before the retraction because the Lanny Breuer --
WALLACE: The head of the criminal division.
ISSA: Right. Because Lanny Breuer said that to me, that he thought that this was a good idea but badly executed. Having said that, we in fact are simply trying to get to the truth when we were told a lie and that's what contempt is about. It's about the cover up.
WALLACE: OK. And we're going to get back to that in a moment.
Congressman Cummings, if I may and you can answer -- you can respond to him as well if you want in your answer.
CUMMINGS: I certainly -- I plan to.
WALLACE: OK, good. "Fast and Furious" as Congressman Issa points out is not just another Washington scandal. Someone was killed here. Brian Terry, a border patrol agent, with some of the guns used here and this week, here's what Terry's parents had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPHINE TERRY, BRIAN TERRY'S MOTHER: There's something that they don't want us to know and there's something to hide.
KENT TERRY, BRIAN TERRY'S FATHER: I think they are hiding something. I think they are lying and they're hiding it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: A year ago, Congressman Cummings, you told the Terrys, the parents this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUMMINGS: We will not rest until every single person responsible for all of this no matter where they are, are brought to justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, can you honestly say that you kept that promise?
CUMMINGS: I have kept that promise and I will keep that promise.
You got to understand. A year ago, I had a nephew who was slaughtered and shot with a gun. I see it in my district and I see it in my city. I see what guns can do. And I am determined to do that.
But you've got to understand something, Chris. This contempt proceeding has nothing to do with the murder of Brian Terry. What we are dealing with -- and Chairman Issa has made it clear -- we are dealing with now some documents where there is an effort to, number one, figure out how this false document was submitted to the Senator Grassley.
And keep in mind that there was false information, Chris, that was sent to the legislative department of the Department of Justice from the folks down in Phoenix. That is the ATF. These are the same people, by the way, many of them, who were carrying on operations like "Fast and Furious" since 2006. In other words, they were operating in the Bush administration. They sent these false documents up there.
And Mr. Issa knows that. He knows that.
And, again, let me finish.
CUMMINGS: And 1,300 pages of documents delivered, internal -- delivered documents had already been presented to us by Mr. Holder. Those -- and those -- we have gotten those.
All of the attorney general asked for and I sat in a meeting, and he simply -- with Mr. Issa -- and he simply said, look, I am willing to turn over documents, but just give me some, you know, assurances that you will make a good faith effort for us to bring the contempt to an end.
WALLACE: Let me --
CUMMINGS: I'm almost finished.
WALLACE: This is a key point and I want to ask Congressman Issa about it.
WALLACE: Let me explain to folks who have not followed this closely. In February 2011, a little over a year ago, the Justice Department sent a letter to Senator Grassley said no gun walking operation where they had let the guns go over the border. In December 2011, they had to send another Congress saying that wasn't true, retracting the letters. So, that's why February 2011 is such a big day.
Congressman Issa, you talk about finding the truth about Brian Terry. But you have refused to hold a public hearing with the people at Phoenix ATF who actually ran the operation. You have refused to hold a public hearing with the former head of ATF, Ken Melson, this person whose email you're so interested. You refused a public hearing with him and he has testified that he never told the higher ups at Justice Department about "Fast and Furious".
ISSA: No, Chris. He testified that he did tell them.
WALLACE: No, he says -- well, we'll get to that in a second.
And you also in the case of these letters, you're seeking documents after February of last year which may be politically embarrassing. They show that they were scrambling to come up for an explanation for their false denial, but how does that tell you what happened two months earlier to Brian Terry?
ISSA: What's important is that this period, February 4th to December -- first of all, Kenneth Melson told us in July 4th that he had sent shortly after February 4th, he had sent an e-mail. We want a copy of that. We'd like to have Kenneth Melson and, by the way, a gentleman named Cunningham who threatened to take the Fifth and a number of all of these individuals before us.
But before you bring them before us, we need to see the documents that were produce perhaps as Mr. Cummings said it very well, perhaps these people were lying to their bosses, but we're not going to bring them in unless we have the kinds of questions we need to ask. I want every one of those people here. I expected to have a panel.
But part of what you do is you get testimony --
WALLACE: You, so far, refused to have Kenneth Melson.
ISSA: Not at all. We have not refused. We want --
WALLACE: But has he testified before your committee?
ISSA: He testified for two days before --
WALLACE: In a private hearing.
ISSA: No, a private gathering with Republicans and Democrats, under oath. Our lawyers were asking those questions. From that, we asked for documents. Our intention is to have him on a panel, along with --
WALLACE: All right. I hate to interrupt, but we are going to -- we have limited time.
Congressman Cummings, does that satisfy you?
CUMMINGS: No, I have asked the chairman to bring ATF Director Melson before us. He has refused to. We've asked for witnesses to come before a public hearing, he's refused to do that.
All I'm saying is I -- the chairman and me has a willing partner if we are really going to be about the business of keeping our promise to Terry family. I want to do that. That is so very, very important.
But I can tell you that, again, and I think -- I've said it before, Chris. I think with regard to getting these documents, we are on the one foot line of the field.
And I have absolutely no doubt that if Speaker Boehner showed the strong leadership, that I know he will, we can sit it down, work this thing out with the attorney general and move on --
WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, I hate to interrupt, but we have limited time. And I want to ask each one more question.
The president, of course, asserted executive privilege this week. And, Congressman Issa, here is what House Democratic Leaders Pelosi had to say after that about the "Fast and Furious" investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D - CA, MINORITY LEADER: They are going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states. This is no accident. It is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of the Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, Congress started the investigation of "Fast and Furious" in January 2011, just one month after Brian Terry was killed, and almost a year before Holder got into this voter suppression cases.
Question: What is Nancy Pelosi talking about?
CUMMINGS: I think there are a number of people, they look at Attorney General Holder and they themselves ask why is he become the punching bag for so many Republicans? Why is he the subject of all of the conspiracy theories?
But you know what, Chris? The fact is, I'm a lawyer. I'm used to getting to the bottom of things and resolving them and moving forward.
And again, no matter what other people think, I think they have a duty -- a duty -- to the American public, a duty to the Congress of the United States in this critical moment to get the documents. I know we can get them. It's just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder. We can get those documents and get this matter resolved.
CUMMINGS: You asked question a moment ago --
WALLACE: I am sorry. We are almost out of time.
I do want to ask Congressman Issa, one final question. After the president invoked executive privilege, House Speaker Boehner said that changes everything. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R - OH, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that the White House officials were involved in decisions that mislead the Congress and covered up the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Question: do you have any evidence that White House officials knowingly were involved in these decisions, that they knowingly misled Congress and are involved in the cover-up?
ISSA: No, we don't. And what we are seeking are documents we know to exist, February 4th to December, that are, in fact, about Brian Terry's murder, who knew, and why people were lying about it, and get to the truth. That's all we want.
Eric Holder ends up being the custodian of the documents. We would go to the deputy attorney general just as easily if he would give us the documents. That's all we are looking for is documents, which are internal to the false statement and not part of the deliberative process, you know --
WALLACE: I just want to be clear. We've got to get out. No evidence at this point that the White House is involved in the cover up?
ISSA: And I hope they don't get involved. I hope this stays at Justice. And I hope that Justice cooperates, because ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on February 4th and didn't make it right for 10 months.
WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Cummings, Congressman Issa, thank you both so much. We'll follow what happens in the House this week.
Up next, we'll hear from T. Boone Pickens who has a new idea about how to cut our dependence on foreign oil.
WALLACE: With summer driving in full swing and all of us watching the price in the gas pump, we want to talk about what can be done to reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil.
WALLACE: Joining us now is the man with the plan, legendary energy executive, T. Boone Pickens.
And, Mr. Pickens, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
T. BOONE PICKENS, CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF BP CAPITAL: Thanks, Chris.
WALLACE: The last time that many of us heard from you about energy was four years ago when you were pushing a major national investment in wind power. Here's what you said then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PICKENS: America is blessed with one of the best wind corridors in the world. Using private investment in technology that already exists, we can supply 20 percent of our electricity needs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, you are off wind power, what happened?
PICKENS: Price. Wind is priced off of the margin. The margin is natural gas.
When I made that ad, natural gas was $7. Today natural gas is $2.50. You can't finance a wind deal unless you have $6 natural gas.
WALLACE: All right. I just want to point out, before we get to natural gas, which is the reason you're here, true that you lost $150 million promoting and investing in wind power?
WALLACE: Does that hurt?
PICKENS: How could you ask a question like that?
WALLACE: Well, it gets --
PICKENS: Sure, it was painful.
WALLACE: So, now you are pushing natural gas why?
PICKENS: Well, it's up every street and down every alley in the United States. It is the largest natural resource that we have and if we are now talking about exporting it out of the country. Use it here. Increase the demand for natural gas and use it here. Don't send our cheap, clean -- it's 30 percent cleaner than diesel. So, don't ship it out to China or wherever else and import dirty OPEC crude.
I mean, we are going to go down as the dumbest generation in the world if we do that. I mean, we are fools if we do it, because we have so much natural gas, it's unbelievable.
But we also have a lot of oil, too. We have -- we are increasing our oil in the United States and that's all because the industry has done a fabulous job of developing techniques to recover both oil and gas.
WALLACE: All right. Let's focus on the natural gas, though, which you're saying cheaper. It's cleaner. And we don't have to ship trillions of dollars over to OPEC, to our enemies.
Your idea is to convert this nation's 8 million heavy duty trucks, the 18-wheelers, to natural gas.
What does that mean for pollution? And what does that mean in terms of our dependence on foreign oil?
PICKENS: The independence on foreign oil first. There are 250 million vehicles in America. I just want 8 million. Give me the 8 million.
What can I do for us? If I had 8 million, that would be 3 million barrels of oil a day. We import 4.4 million barrels a day from OPEC. So, we would cut OPEC by 20 -- by, we could cut them about --
WALLACE: Sixty percent.
PICKENS: More than 60 percent, close to 70 percent we could cut. With just 8 million, that's it. I mean, it's like a freebie. And it truly is.
And the reason why it's moving in that direction and that's what my opponents say. Well, you just let the free market take over and let it happen because natural gas is $1.50 or $2 cheaper than diesel. And I say, OK, if you want to do that, it's going to take you eight to 10 years. If you want to go ahead and something as far as legislation is concerned, you can do it half that time.
WALLACE: OK. Well, let's get into that, because the biggest problem with natural gas is that we don't have the infrastructure for natural gas. We're going to have to convert all those heavy duty trucks to be natural gas consumers. You got to put natural gas, filling stations, along the interstates all over the country that don't exist.
Your answer that you are pushing in Congress and one the reasons you're here, is what you call the Natural Gas Act, which would give $3.8 billion in tax credits -- I have done my research -- to companies to build the infrastructure. You lost in the Senate.
PICKENS: I lost because the 18-wheelers were not germane to a highway bill. A transportation bill, 18-wheelers were not germane. So, they were deemed non-germane. So, I have to have 60 votes instead of 51.
Any place but Washington, 51-47 wins. OK? But not here. But when you say $3.8 billion, it had a pay-for in it. It does not cost the taxpayers one penny.
So, who does it pay-for? The people that are buying the fuel. It's like a toll road. If you use it, you pay for it. If you don't, you don't pay for it.
WALLACE: All right. Let's go through some of the objections to your plan. You already brought up one House majority leader, Republican. Eric Cantor says this would be another example of Washington picking winners and losers, giving this money to the natural gas industry. If it's so good, the private sector will find a way to pay for it.
PICKENS: Exactly, and that's going to happen. You can have it twice as fast and not have to pay anything. Now, Eric knows that and we've discussed it, and -- but here, the people who are opposed to me are the Koch Industries.
WALLACE: Now, we should say -- Koch Industries. It has nothing to do with Coca-Cola. That's the Koch brothers. And they are opposed to you're using natural gas for transportation because --
PICKENS: They do not want to see the price of natural gas go up because they are in the fertilizer and chemical business. They also import 61,000 barrels OPEC crude every day. And they are also the third largest on subsidy for ethanol.
So, everything that I'm talking about is the Kochs do not like it.
WALLACE: And they would likely use the natural gas for their fertilizers and other things and if you are spending it for trucks, for heavy duty trucks, then it's going to raise the price for that.
PICKENS: Yes, exactly.
WALLACE: Another objection is that you've got this huge surge of natural gas that we have gotten through -- we've got a little diagram here, an animation -- fracking. Where drillers use high pressure mix of fluids to fracture energy rich rocks, which lets the natural gas contained in those rocks escape.
The concern is, the criticism is, that you also release toxic materials like benzene and you endanger our water supply?
PICKENS: Give me some example of that happening.
The largest aquifer in North America is the Ogallala. It extends from Midland, Texas, to the South Dakota border, across eight states. There have been over 800,000 wells fractured in that area. Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, all of them. They manage the aquifer no problem.
There's -- I don't know of any case. I fracked over 3,000 wells myself. And we've never damaged any aquifer or any water.
See, aquifer occur almost always above 1,000 feet. Fresh water is above 1,000 feet down in the earth, and you are down 5,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 feet fracturing here.
WALLACE: So you are saying one thing doesn't get into the other.
Let me bring up the last objection.
PICKENS: I want to talk about infrastructure to you.
WALLACE: OK. The recent drop in oil prices with the economic slow down. Let's take a look this. In April, gas was $3.88 a gallon. Now, it's $3.48 and there are projections by the end of the year, we could be under $3.
I don't have to tell you, when the price of gas falls, so does the sense of crisis?
PICKENS: Sure. I mean, no question. That's good for our economy. That's great.
But if you look back historically, for 40 years, always when gasoline prices went up, the American people got upset and politicians started to talk about doing something. We never had an energy plan in this country in 40 years. And only time we talk about it is when gasoline prices are up. So, it comes down.
We're talking about it. Why are we in the fix today where we import over 60 percent of our oil? Why are we in that spot today? Because of cheap gasoline. That's exactly why we are there.
If we had expensive gasoline, we would have figured this out and got our own resources.
But let me tell you, I'm in touch with a lot of people and when I started that plan four years ago, it will be four years July the 8th. And when I started that, I have 1,700,000 people signed up with it. I've made hundreds of speeches across the United States. And I have done 50 town halls in the United States and I am in touch with the grassroots on energy.
WALLACE: Let me, because now we are getting to politics. I've got a couple of minutes left. You supported John McCain four years ago. You say that you have never voted for a Democrat for president in your life.Are you impressed with either President Obama or Governor Romney when it comes to their plans for energy?
PICKENS: Well, if you look at Obama, when he received the nomination in 08 in Denver, he said in 10 years, we will not import any oil from the Mideast. Never again has he mentioned that. I don't know whether he had a plan, or he doesn't have plan. But now is the time to show up with the plan.
Now, if you look at Romney -- Romney has the kind of skeleton of a plan. But I haven't heard his plan yet either. But this is an opportunity for us to rebuild our economy off the back of cheap energy.
We have the cheapest energy in the world in the United States. We are 15 percent less on oil cost, we are a fraction on natural gas, and we're half of gasoline.
WALLACE: Finally, do you intend to get involved in the presidential race this year?
PICKENS: You mean run?
WALLACE: Well, you know, I am sure there are a lot of people listening to you right here who would say that is what we need. But are you going to support one of these two guys?
PICKENS: I will. I will support the one that has the energy plan for America.
WALLACE: Are you saying then that you are not going to be a sure Republican vote?
PICKENS: Well, I think, I think that Romney will show up with the plan, is what I think. Because I've seen Obama, I've heard what he says, but he never has a plan. He's never come forth with a plan for energy for America.
WALLACE: Mr. Pickens, we're going to have to leave it there. I want to thank you for coming in today. Always a pleasure to talk with you, sir.
PICKENS: Thank you.
WALLACE: And if you decide to run, you are welcome here any time.
PICKENS: I'm going to come to you first.
WALLACE: Thank you, sir.Up next. Supreme Court gets set to announce one of its biggest rulings in decades. The Sunday panel weighs in on what the court will do about Obamacare and what it will mean for all of us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We finally passed reform that will make health care affordable and available for every American. That was the right thing to do.
BOEHNER: Unless the court throws out the entire law, the House will vote to repeal whatever is left of Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
C. WALLACE: President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner setting the stage for this week's big news, the Supreme Court's ruling on ObamaCare.
And it's time now for our Sunday group: Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst; Kirsten Powers of the Daily Beast website; Nicolle Wallace, communications director in the Bush White House and author of the novel, "It's Classified"; and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times.
So, Brit, how big a deal is this ruling (inaudible) what are the stakes for President Obama and what will it end up saying about the role of government in our lives?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a very big deal. The stakes are very high for the president. They're high, indeed, for everybody who is involved in the issue, which includes all of Congress and both presidential candidates and I think it is huge.
And what I say about it is that we don't know what the court will do. There has been some speculation that if the court blows it up by declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional and thereby pulling out from under the law the funding mechanism that basically supports it, that that will be better for the president because it will take the monkey off of his back and the unpopular law will be gone.
I dispute that. I think that if the law is struck down it will be a declaration in his single achievement on which he devoted so much of his first term to the exclusion, really, of efforts to improve the economy, is illegitimate. I don't think there's any way that helped.
And if it is not struck down, it remains, I think, an unpopular law . The court's judgment on it might help a little, add a little sense of legitimacy to it. But I don't think very much. The law has been constitutionally unpopular. And I think that it will remain a burden for him.
So I don't see for any way for him really to win on this. But the reaction will be whatever it's going to be. And we don't know, you know, the court may come down in any number of different directions; maybe it'll go off in a whole bunch of different directions and have a hard time reaching majority. We'll see.
WALLACE: Kirsten -- and obviously we are all in speculation . Don't -- none of us know or has the slightest idea. What are you hearing from your Democratic contacts? What do most of them anticipate is going to happen? And what do they do if -- what is the reaction going to be from the White House, particularly if the court strikes down all or part of Obamacare?
KIRSTEN POWERS, DAILY BEAST: Well, I think there's going to be a lot of fear. You know, originally people thought for sure this is definitely constitutional; this is not going to be an issue. And they realize what they got before the court that there was a problem.
And I actually think that they can work some of it to their advantage if they handle it correctly. And I think they probably think that as well. Ultimately, the view of Democrats is the best case scenario is it is upheld in its entirety, even though there are some political downsides with that. This is his central landmark deal.
And to say that he did something unconstitutional would be very bad. That said, if it is struck down in its entirety, they could try and use it to their advantage in the sense that it is overreach and if you look at the Pew poll, only 18 percent of people actually know what the health care law says.
And so we'll have a spate of stories from the media, saying, oh, this person is going to die because now their preexisting condition -- they can't get coverage and this person is going to be taken off of their parent's coverage and so on and so on. And they can sort of turn this into, well, you didn't really realize what you had.
C. WALLACE: Nicolle, the overall law, according to the polls, is unpopular. There are certainly aspects that are quite popular. Here are a couple of them: allowing your kids to stay on your coverage until they are 26.
N. WALLACE: Depends on who you ask, right?
C. WALLACE: Pardon?
N. WALLACE: Depends who you ask.
C. WALLACE: OK. But ensuring coverage, generally speaking, people like that idea. Certainly the kids do. Ensuring coverage even if you have a preexisting condition, those are things people like.
If the court strikes down all or part of Obamacare, what is the challenge for Republicans? How do they show that they are part of the solution to the issues that Kirsten raises and not part of the problem.
N. WALLACE: Well, the cost of health care has always been a dangerous topic for Republicans. I remember in 2004, that we were always prepared to have something constructive to say, because that the is piece of this debate that everybody cares about. That doesn't break down in partisan lines. Doing something about the cost of the health care is something that Democrats and Republicans have to have an answer to.
But what's interesting and the opportunity for the Romney campaign, if you look back to the primary, where his position in Massachusetts was a big burden he had to carry. I think he's largely freed himself from that. And he is having this debate that you talked about, Brit, this philosophical debate about the role of government in American life is the one that Republicans have been able to lead on.
And I think the other opportunity for the Romney campaign is the vital importance of victory in November when it comes down to court and that power to appoint justices is something that Romney can certainly thrust into the limelight in a presidential contest that is largely revolved around the economy thus far.
C. WALLACE: All right. Jeff, let's run through various scenarios and you give me your take on what if this, then that. How does it play if the court strikes down the whole law?
JEFF ZELENY, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If the court strikes down the whole law, there is no question that this is an immediate -- at least a short-term hit for President Obama and probably a pretty serious one. He had a Democratic House and Senate and he -- it was a -- supposed to be a central achievement and it failed.
C. WALLACE: But it's been more than a year.
ZELENY: More than a year.
C. WALLACE: ...time on this.
ZELENY: More than a year. And the White House is sort of loathe to talk about this, but of course they're working behind the scenes to plan these scenarios. And it's kind of under the making lemonade out of lemons scenario. If they don't prefer this, but they think -- look it might give a chance to sort of reargue some of the things that we tried a couple of years ago and failed by sort of branding this health care law as something other than a mandate.
So no one inside the White House wants the court to do this, of course, but if that happens, they see a potential silver lining, but only because they are forced into this situation.
C. WALLACE: If the justices strike down just the individual mandate, how does that fly?
ZELENY: I think if they strike down just the individual mandate, that is probably the best case scenario that some people inside the White House think that they can get at this point. But again who knows? What if all this sort of weekend coverage about, you know, there's already Democratic finger pointing about did the White House argue this in the right way? Should they have been planning for this scenario?
So I think if they only do that, you will see the White House initially from the very beginning try to point out these things that people generally like about the bill -- the preexisting conditions, et cetera.
But I think what is most interesting to watch what is what does Mitt Romney do? He's planning to come to Washington next week, Wednesday or Thursday. I don't know if he'll stand on the steps of the Supreme Court or what he'll do. But this is an interesting moment for him. It's going to shine the spotlight on him a little bit on his own health care plan, how he handles this, I think, is the biggest unknown and I think it will be fascinating to watch.
C. WALLACE: Now if they uphold it, on the one hand you could say that is good for the White House, on the other hand it does mean that the legal remedy is out and it would mean if you oppose a Obamacare, the only way is to elect a Republican president to repeal it.
ZELENY: It is good for the White House, but it again, it just re-energizes the repeal and replace. And that probably helps Mitt Romney more than anything else at all.
And we also have the possibility, what if there is a retirement on the Supreme Court this week. I don't know that there will be. I mean, I sort of doubt there will be, but that would sort of amplify this president's ability. He's trying to run against the Supreme Court in some respect. I'm not sure how much that'll work. This election is about the economy. But we have to leave ourselves open to the possibility of that.
C. WALLACE: I want to just bring that up in the time we have left with you, Brit, Assuming that the court were to strike down all or part of Obamacare, do you see the Obama White House campaigning against the court saying this is a political decision by a Republican court? And if you elect a Republican president he'll have -- the court will become even more conservative?
HUME: The administration of the president might do that. I think it would be a mistake to do that. Because this a president who has become known, I think, to the public as a blamer. And here again he would be blaming somebody else for something of his that failed. And my sense is, it wouldn't work.
What he, it seems to me, would be wise to do is the same thing Romney would be wise to do and that is to have some plan ready to go. And say OK, that has failed, let's move forward and try this, this, and this. Republicans would be in that situation as well. They'd been saying this wasn't any good. OK, what is your plan Mr. Romney.
Obviously, Governor Romney can come out and say, you know, we want to have tort reform. We want to do some of the ideas the Republicans tried to advance during the health care reform debate, didn't go anywhere with it. So they would have the outlines of something to say.
But it seems to me, that both sides need something constructive to say. I don't think blame casting is going to work.
C. WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here, but up next the showdown over Operation Fast and Furious, executive privilege, contempt of Congress and accusations of a White House cover up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY; Congressional Republicans are focused on this politically motivated taxpayer funded election year fishing expedition.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R - UTAH: This is not about Eric Holder, it is about the Department of Justice and justice in the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
C. WALLACE: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz trading charges over the investigation into what went wrong with Operation Fast and Furious.
We are back now with that panel.
Brit, what is your sense of where things stand now? Are House Republicans overreaching? Is the Obama White House involved in a cover up?
HUME: Well, I think the scent of a cover up is pretty strong now. The documents that are being withheld here, I don't think there is any evidence, by the way, that this is not executive privilege claim that is being made because of presidential communications, which is where the strongest privilege lies are involved here. This is about internal Justice Department deliberations that so far as we know don't involve the president or the White House. And what the Justice Department is saying is, hey look, we've got to have confidentiality here. We can't have Congress snooping in our internal deliberations.
Well, the courts recognized some privilege in that area but not much. And I think it is basically a frivolous claim. There was a false letter sent here, there's evidence of cover up. The committee is trying to get to the bottom of it to see who said what to whom and when and what the process was. This is the kind of things that investigating committees in Congress are entitled to where executive agencies, which are creatures of Congress by the way, they're part of the executive, but created by Congress, funded by Congress, are supposed to investigate.
But the effective it will be to delay matters until probably after the election. That I think satisfies the Obama White House and the Holder Justice Department purposes here, which is to put this off.
C. WALLACE: Let me -- just again for people who haven't been following. The key here is that in February 2011 the Justice Department sent a letter to Congress denying that there'd even a gun walking operation to and allow guns to be bought in this country and sent over the border to Mexican drug cartels, denied that it had ever happened.
By December of 2011, they had to retract and say, no in fact there had been. It was Operation Fast and Furious. What Darrell Issa, the chairman is seeking, are those documents which at the very least, Kirsten, would say, obviously as they are scrambling around and realized at some point that the denial is false, they are trying to sort this thing out and figure out how to handle it and conceivably covering up who knew what when. Why not, as just a matter of fairness in a congressional investigation, why not turn that over to Congress?
POWERS: Well, I think the White House would say -- or the administration would say or the Justice Department would say, anyone in any administration would say frankly, but when you hand over that wide array of documents to the other party, they are going to go through and start looking to...HUME: It's the other party -- it's to both parties of Congress.
POWERS: This is a totally partisan investigation.
C. WALLACE: OK. Let her finish.
POWERS: It is a totally partisan investigation. They keep saying that if you -- we want to get to the bottom of what happened to this agent. That investigation has already taken place. And we know that tragically with this program, which administration disavowed, shut down, had an investigation into. The additional information they're asking for actually doesn't really relate to any of that, it relates to the fact that this is what's difficult for Holder to recover from, that initial letter, which they say...
C. WALLACE: But don't you think, in the scrambling around in the months after, that there might be some interesting information that comes out -- "Well, wait a minute; I told you about that; I told Lanny Breuer, head of the Criminal Division," or, you know, "Holder got that memo on that day."
POWERS: It's interesting, but is it -- how is going to change anything regarding the ATF agent, I guess, is the question.
HUME: But, Kirsten, the Congress is manifestly entitled to investigate these internal processes that led to a false letter and the aftermath of it. They're investigating two things. They're investigating what happened that led to the agent's death and they're investing what happened in the aftermath. Both are legitimate subjects.
POWERS: We already know what happened that led to the agent's death. What led to the agent's death was the program.
HUME: ... investigate the aftermath...
POWERS: What they're trying to do is they're trying to pin it on Eric Holder. That's all they're trying to do. It is not about whether or not this program was good or bad. The program was bad. It was stupid. That's been said. It's been shut down; it's been investigated.
POWERS: This is all about going after Holder.
HUME: But the false letter was written. How did that come about?
POWERS: It came from the ATF.
C. WALLACE: Let me bring in Nicolle, because this is not the first time this has happened. You worked in the Bush White House. They got into a battle with a Democratic House who were seeking documents about the firing of U.S. attorneys, and the Bush White House asserted executive privilege over those documents. How is it different?
N. WALLACE: Well, three thoughts.
One, I've been to that movie and I know how it ends, and all the documents will be turned over. So the...
C. WALLACE: Yeah, but they got turned over after the election.
N. WALLACE: Well, look, three things happened when the White House asserted executive privilege. One, they guaranteed that a story that unfortunately, with very few exceptions, was being followed carefully and closely by -- on the right. It wasn't being followed as closely as it probably should have been by all media outlets. And now it will. The White House has itself to blame for that because, by asserting executive privilege, they made a lot of the very voters that they're going to be trying to appeal to November deeply suspicious of the White House and the Justice Department.
Second thought, there is no one in Obama's cabinet with a worse relationship with Congress on both sides than Holder. So they've really exacerbated those existing tensions.
And third, when the White House was called to turn over documents in the U.S. attorney case, there was not the life of an American federal agent that had been lost. So this is so much more serious and the stakes are so much more, I think, dire and grave in this situation.
C. WALLACE: Jeff, how does the Romney campaign feel about this confrontation?Because, you know, there is talk that, whether they're entitled legitimately to these documents or not, that this plays into the narrative that Republicans are obstructionist and they're involved in inside-Washington "gotcha" games and that they're not trying to fix the economy or put people back to work.
I have to say, I haven't heard much from the Romney campaign or Boston headquarters in the last week.
ZELENY: That's right. I mean, this is one of those things that Governor Romney and his campaign is fine with letting play out, I think, for now. If this became a dominating issue between Republicans on the Hill and Democrats in the White House and overtook the economy, I think that would be a problem. But that's not likely to happen.
I mean, this election is about the economy. It's going to be about the economy. I think how House Republicans and how Speaker Boehner decides to handle this in this coming week will be interesting. If they have a vote for contempt by the whole House, when do they schedule that vote?
If they schedule that vote on Thursday, for example, if there's a big health care decision by the Supreme Court, I think we see that they don't want a lot of attention on it. But, at this point, I think the Romney campaign is fine with just letting it play out on its own. There isn't any real urgency for him to weigh in on it at this moment.
C. WALLACE: Bret, in the time we have left, I mean, it seems to me there are considerable political risks for both sides. On the one hand, you have the Obama transparency, you know, "change Washington" presidency involved in what could be seen as covering up, certainly refusing to turn over documents. On the other hand, House Republicans run the risk of appearing to overreach.
HUME: The Republican brand name is in terrible shape. And people are not naturally sympathetic to the Republicans in Congress. They're really not naturally sympathetic to Congress as an institution, but certainly not to the Republicans. So any time the Republicans do anything big or bold, they run the risk of people not liking it just because it's them doing it.
I mean, but they fought like cornered rats to try to get some spending restraint attached to an increase in the debt ceiling and came out looking terrible for trying to do what I think, if you step back and look at it, they've -- it's, kind of, the thing that they promised to do. But even among the people who support them, they didn't come out looking good. So sure, there are risks. You bet there are risks.
C. WALLACE: Kirsten?
POWERS: Yeah, well, any time they're not talking about the economy, the Romney campaign is going to be unhappy. And I think that there's a risk of overreach and that they're already unpopular and it already feeds into a storyline that exists, which is Congress is just partisan finger-pointing and trying, you know, to get the other party.
C. WALLACE: Put yourself in the hands -- and we have only 20 seconds left, Nicolle -- of the Obama White House. Are they happy to have this happening because they're not focusing on the economy and there's a lot of focus on the House Republicans?
N. WALLACE: Yes. I think they're always happy to change the subject off their dismal jobs record.
C. WALLACE: Thank you, panel. See you next week. And you've answered that very quickly.
C. WALLACE: Don't forget to check out "Panel Plus," where our group picks right up with the discussion. We'll let her say another word on our website, foxnewssunday.com. We'll post the video before noon Eastern Time. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @FoxNewsSunday.
Up next, we hear from you.
C. WALLACE: Time now for some comments you posted to our blog "Wallace Watch." After our interview last week with the president's senior adviser, David Plouffe, many of you shared your thoughts about Mr. Obama's three and a half years in office. Jeff from Buffalo sent this, "I wish people would stop blaming this country's problems on President Obama's policies. Congress hasn't even allowed his policies to be put in place, so why so much outrage with the president?"
But James Dahmer countered, "Obama had a shot and he has failed. He can't blame the Republicans because the Democrats controlled both houses for his first two years in office."
Please keep your comments coming. You can find us at FoxNewsSunday.com.
And that's it for today. Have a great week, and we'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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