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Special Report

Politics of Federal Raid on Gibson

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 7, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCE MITCHELL, GIBSON GUITARS ATTORNEY: We are being singled out, very much so. Every music instrument company in the United States uses rosewood fingerboards, period. And they are in the same state, they're buying from the same suppliers, they're using the same shippers.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The actions that we take in all matters, are based on the facts, the law, and the enforcement responsibilities that we have. We have no politics involved. That's not how we make decisions in this department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Talking about Gibson Guitars, iconic guitars, a piece of Americana. Federal agents seized $1 million worth of exotic woods from -- wood from India, claiming that wood is illegal to import, in a couple of raids.

This has caused a big stir politically. And now the CEO of Gibson Guitars Henry Juszkiewicz -- say that fast -- is going to be invited to the House speaker's box for the big speech tomorrow night. And he is a guest of Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. This has caused a stir.

We're back with the panel. Mary Katharine, start with the pronunciation of that name and then move on to the importance of this story.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Henry Juszkiewicz. It's an American company, it's an American iconic, and it's a company that has created jobs over the past couple of years, over 500 manufacturing jobs in musical instruments in Tennessee. So I think it's sort of a losing PR battle to get into this to some extent. And I've talked to people on the Hill. He is creating quite a stir. The story is creating quite a stir, because on the Hill it's always fun to have a brush with coolness. And this is a musical instrument, it's kind of cool, rock 'n' roll.

And it's a violation of the Lacey Act, which was amended in 2008 to prevent any plant material from coming in that was illegally in any way along the line harvested, from harvest all the way here. But it's unclear to many how this is regulated, how the declarations are supposed to work. And they get this raid that takes much of their raw materials from them for what it looks like amounts to like a good faith paperwork mistake. And I just think that the priorities here look very mixed up.

BAIER: Chuck, you hear the attorney general saying the decision was not a political one yet you hear the company saying that their competitors are using the exact same kind of wood. They haven't been raided. And they haven't been charged. They haven't gone after those other competitors. And there is an element of politics here. The CEO of Gibson Guitars is a Republican who has donated to Republican campaigns. And the others are Democrats.

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, that is surely what I would say if I were in the crosshairs of this investigation. But, let's face it, sometimes when the feds do this, they do it based on a source they have, a snitch, somewhere within whatever place seems opportune.

I think Mary Katharine is to the point here, ya know this narrative does not help the president in terms of this whole job creation debate. Here it looks like a company that was going along, creating jobs, is getting bugged by the federal government, bothered by the federal government because of a technical violation of a law no one has ever heard of. And I think that question about the prosecutorial resources of the Justice Department and the federal government more generally and the priorities it's setting -- I mean imported rosewood is a big problem facing this country right now? That is the issue.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, first, full disclosure, my first electric guitar was a Gibson, although the company is exonerated from the music that actually emerged from my guitar, which was quite awful, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, this strikes every wrong note. It's as uncool as having a raid on Apple. And it doesn't appear as if there was some secret source here. As we heard in the earlier report from John Roberts, the guitar sellers tell you that all the companies use the same stuff from the same place. So, you have obvious case of selective persecution or at least investigation if you like with no obvious reason why. And the differences that we heard in the report were A, I mean, that you could attribute this to, are the fact that it's nonunion, whereas a lot of the other competitors are union. And second, that the CEO is a Republican who supports Republicans openly and a lot of the others are Democrats. So at least that is out there. There is no evidence of a bias here, but when you hear the attorney general tell you that we only respond to the law and the interpretation of the law and justice, I'm a little bit skeptical here. I mean, I'll believe a lot of stuff but I'm not sure I'll believe all of that.

BAIER: To Chuck's point, Mary Katharine, about the image on the jobs front ahead of this speech tomorrow, there are some who are looking at this and comparing it to the National Labor Relations Board action, with South Carolina and Boeing, and saying this doesn't paint a good picture for the administration.

HAM: No, it doesn't at all. And I would add that it goes beyond guitars and Gibson. I was reading a trade mag, Furniture Today, as I'm wont to do, it's about the furniture industry. And they import a lot of this hard wood and fine wood to finish furniture, in North Carolina, it's a big industry. And they are fretting very openly about how is the government going to regulate this? Are they going to come and raid us? So it goes beyond creating jobs just at this one place, and scares the rest of the industry, which is the point that many Republicans have been trying to make on the Hill.

KRAUTHAMMER: And the law itself is ambiguous and easily abused because it defines illegality in America on the basis of what's illegal in the other country. So if you do "x" in country "a" it could be illegal -- if you do the same "x" in country "b" it could not. And that's why a selective raid raises a lot of questions.

BAIER: We have invited Henry Juszkiewicz on to the program tomorrow. We'll see if he appears. That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for political messages delivered with a real punch.

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