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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

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COOPER: Here to talk about where all this might lead, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, whom you heard from just a moment ago.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. You said today President Obama that he is -- quote -- "either part of it or he's not." If he's part of it, then we've had a series of witnesses that have misled the committee. And if he's not part of it, then he has no business asserting executive privilege.

What do you exactly mean by that statement? Are you implying that the president is involved in covering something up?

GOWDY: No, quite the opposite. We've had no one that has testified before either judiciary or oversight if the president had any role in Fast and Furious at all. He said he didn't know about it. And I take him at his word.

My point was to more illustrate the absurdity of asserting executive privilege for something you had no role in. Executive privileges for conversations that are -- had with the chief executive so he can rely on people's counsel, and he doesn't have to worry about them being subpoenaed before a committee of Congress. He had no conversation --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But that's not -- that's not actually true, though. I mean, Vice President Cheney talked -- used the executive privilege for discussions about energy policy. It was even used with Hillary Clinton in her role in the health care debate under the Clinton administration. So it doesn't necessarily mean the president was sitting in meetings.

GOWDY: Well, what does it mean then? I mean, it's executive privilege. It's not -- it has to mean something. It can't cover your entire administration or no one would have to turn over documents.

COOPER: One of your Democratic colleagues, Congressman Elijah Cummings, said today that Attorney General Holder is simply protecting documents that he's prohibited by law from producing and is in compliance with federal statute passed by both Houses of Congress, signed by the president of the United States. Clearly you voted to hold him in contempt of Congress. You disagree with that?

GOWDY: No, he's partially correct.

I think the initial request was for wiretap applications, which rule 6-C of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure does not allow anyone to give to anyone who's not part of the investigation or the trial. So to the extent that the original request for documents was overly broad and included protected material, then Mr. Cummings is correct.

Where he's not correct is after Chairman Issa narrowed the scope of documents to not include anything that was legally prohibited from being discovered, he's still not complied. What could possibly be protected about the drafting of a false letter to a committee of Congress?

COOPER: But back in the Bush administration when Cheney was talking about executive privilege because of discussions on energy policy and discussions with people from outside the White House even, Republicans rallied around him and said it's legitimate. Democrats -- I mean, it was very much a partisan issue, just as this is now.

If it was OK, though, under the Bush administration, why isn't it OK now? What's the difference?

GOWDY: I -- I have never -- Anderson, I have never subscribed to that theory in life, which is why I may not be long for this town. I was a prosecutor back when that was going on. The notion that -- that it's OK for me to do it only because you did it has never been appealing to me. If it's wrong to do it now, it was wrong to do it then, and I would hope that a court or someone else would have intervened and said that you're wrong to assert executive privilege.

The fact that a Republican does something doesn't mean I automatically agree with it. And in fact, I would be happy to have everyone who's had their fingerprints on wide receiver, Fast and Furious, any gun walking investigation comment. I don't think you would be able to tell much of a difference in the tone of my questions irrespective of their political persuasion.

COOPER: What happens next? I mean, this is going to go to a vote in the full House. How do you see this being brought to a resolution? Do you think it's going to wind up in the courts?

GOWDY: I hope not. I hope he gives us the documents. It's not a political exercise to me. I want to know how Fast and Furious happened. I want to know how a false letter was delivered to a committee of Congress. So I hope we don't get to that point because I hope the attorney general gives us the documents.

If he doesn't, then yes, we'll vote on it on the floor of the House. And there are three different forms of contempt. There's the plenary powers of Congress, there's criminal contempt, there's civil contempt. If it's criminal, then it will be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ray (sic) Machen. If it's civil, it will go to a -- to a federal judge here in the District of Columbia.

COOPER: Congressman Gowdy, appreciate your time today. Thank you very much, sir.

GOWDY: Thank you.

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