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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript


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BALDWIN: That was Florida Congressman John Mica speaking at today's hearing.

And he's joining me live.

Congressman, welcome.

Today, here we go. You have the president using executive privilege for the very first time during his presidency -- we should remind our viewers of that -- to block your committee from seeing these Fast and Furious documents. We just heard you say this is a very, very sad day. What is this about this, the executive privilege, that irks you so much?

MICA: Well, here you have one of the highest judicial offices of the United States, the chief prosecutorial officer, the attorney general of the United States. Now, his office and possibly the attorney general was involved in selling weapons to drug dealers in Mexico where an agent of the United States was murdered with those weapons. All we're trying to do is get information to conduct an investigation about that matter.

And here, again, the president of the United States I think has done a great disservice to this whole process by trying to again close down what we're trying to do. And this may go back to another administration. What he's doing is wrong and it subverts the congressional investigative process.

BALDWIN: And just to go back to what you said, that Eric Holder is possibly -- and that is the word -- possibly involved here in Fast and Furious.

MICA: Right.

BALDWIN: That is being investigated. That is what Chairman Issa wants to get to the bottom of, who knew what and when.

I want to play a little something. This is what President Obama actually said to CNN. This was back in 2007 when he was just a senator running for president. Here he was.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) ILLINOIS: There's been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place. And I think the administration would be best served by coming clean on this.


BALDWIN: So, Congressman, fair to say his views have changed.


MICA: Yes, by his own words.

And, again, this is a pretty serious matter. It's a pretty sad day. Again, you have the Department of Justice, our chief prosecutorial office in the land involved in an incident in which a U.S. agent was murdered with weapons that the Department of Justice provided.

Now, for almost one year, 11 months throughout most of 2011, they denied any knowledge about any of this. Then they changed their tune. This is unprecedented. There's a place for executive privilege, and it should be invoked in certain instances.

But this isn't going after political appointees. This isn't going after some secret mission that should be kept confidential and you exert executive privilege. This is a very serious matter that...

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: It's a serious matter, if I may interject, though.


BALDWIN: But he has the right to do this. I was actually glancing at my computer because I wanted to pull up this list of sort of the past six presidents or so and their examples.

MICA: Right.

BALDWIN: President Clinton, I remember off the top of my head, used it 14 times. President Bush I and II did as well.

But here is my question. And thank you, guys. Here is the map I was looking for.

Sir, if -- Congressman Mica, if this executive privilege essentially protects Eric Holder here as we go forward, now that it's been used by the president, my question then is why go ahead with a contempt vote? Why? Because for a lot of people, this is Republican vs. Democrat and they say this is just theater. It amounts to nothing.


MICA: No, it isn't.

And I'm not sure how much of the executive privilege will hold. And that will probably be contested.

But we're going to go forward. It's our responsibility to go forward. He is in contempt of subpoenas of the Congress and we want him to comply. Last night, he came in. The offer was almost ludicrous, that he would provide us with some documents if we would drop the investigation.

That's an offense to the American people, to the system of justice and to this whole process. We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong and make certain people are held accountable, one, and, two, that this doesn't happen again.

BALDWIN: Congressman, I know that the other side never likes it when a president invokes executive privilege. Former President George W. Bush, he did it six times, including blocking documents and testimony over Justice Department firings. That was back in 2006.

How is President Obama's use of executive privilege any worse than President Bush's?

MICA: Well, again, you have to look at the instances.

It's been used by both sides, and sometimes politically. But there's no case that I can think of -- I have been on the committee, and it's a good thing to be there for some time to see how these different maneuvers are used. But there's no instance in which you have had a Department of Justice or an agency like that involved in expediting the transfer of weapons into another country to drug dealers and then a U.S. agent killed. There's just nothing that compares to this.

And there's no reason this shouldn't be investigated. And now if he's invoking executive privilege and saying the White House knew something about this, this raises even more questions in my mind. I think we will continue the contempt proceedings in just a few minutes. And then we will see where we proceed from here.

BALDWIN: OK. We will be watching.


MICA: He is in contempt. He is in contempt of Congress.

BALDWIN: I hear you. Congressman Mica, thank you.

MICA: Thank you.


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