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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: Joe Johns, thanks very much.

Joining us now is the chair of the Democratic National Committee, the Florida congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

The argument is, congresswoman, as you well know, there must be something embarrassing, there must be something that the Obama administration wants to hide from this Congressional committee that does have legitimate oversight concerns. What's going on?

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, CHAIRWOMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, let's look at some basic facts here. This is a field program in the Department of Justice begun in the Bush administration that was ended by the Obama administration. So, that's something that's an important to note. On top of that, we are ten days away from a million construction workers losing their jobs because the Republicans in Congress won't pass a transportation bill. We're 11 days away from seven million students having their student loan interest rates double. And yet, in spite of the fact that legal experts, independent legal experts like Jeffrey Toobin, have said there is no smoking gun here. There is clearly not anything that the Obama administration is hiding.

The Republicans in Congress pursue essentially a political witch hunt because they know that they don't want to focus on creating jobs and getting this economy turned around.

BLITZER: But isn't that the responsibility of the chair of the House Oversight Committee to investigate these kinds of things, especially when a U.S. border patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed in an operation that apparently was linked to those guns gone missing?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'm a member of Congress. It certainly is the responsibility of a committee chairman to do that. However -- and it's also the responsibility of an administration to respond, as the Obama administration has, with 7,600 documents. And the Department of Justice testifying at least 11 times on this very subject.

The documents that were -- that executive privilege was asserted over today were not related to "Fast and Furious." They were related to the investigation that Mr. Issa has conducted.

And all of the documents that have been asked for related to "Fast and Furious" have been produced, which is why it's clear that this is nothing more than a political witch hunt to distract from the fact that the Republicans in Congress have no interest in focusing on what we need to focus on, which is jobs and the economy.

BLITZER: In fairness, the Republicans led by Darrell Issa on this House Oversight Committee feel that there may have been a cover- up of this operation. What's wrong with seeking those extra documents? Why can't the administration share them?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's absolutely ludicrous to suggest, and independently (INAUDIBLE) have suggested that it's ludicrous to suggest that there is any kind of a cover-up.

President Obama has asserted -- the administration has asserted executive privilege in the same way that the Bush administration has, that George W. Bush's administration has when I was on the judiciary committee and he was president. President Clinton asserted the same kind of executive privilege dozens of time as did George Herbert Walker Bush.

BLITZER: You've been in Congress long enough to remember when the Republican president exerted executive privilege. You're unhappy about that. And then, Senator Barack Obama from Illinois, he wasn't happy about that when the -- when President Bush exerted executive privilege. I'll play a little clip. Here's then Senator Barack Obama expressing his frustration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, 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, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean on this.


BLITZER: It sort of sounds in that bite, in that sound bite like Darrell Issa.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, no, actually, I think then-Senator Obama was correct. And I think it's ironic that you have the same Republican members who defended then-President Bush's right to exert executive privilege over those same types of issues are now suggesting that President Obama doesn't have that same right.

And, we are three and a half years into President Obama's term, and this is the first time he has asserted executive privilege. The Bush Administration, at the same point in time, has asserted executive privilege, I think if you check, many times by then.

BLITZER: The Bush -- I think we have the number. I think maybe was three or four times that former President Bush exerted executive -- I'll double check that.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We're at once versus several times.

BLITZER: All right. But, you know, when there's a Democratic president does it, the Republicans hate it. When there's a Republican president, the Democrats like you hate it. That's the nature of these executive privileges.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Which is why it's clear --

BLITZER: -- executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Wolf, which is why it's clear this is nothing more than a witch hunt. The Obama administration has produced 7,600 documents in response to the committee's request on the "Fast and Furious" program.

And now, Mr. Issa is continuing to drag this out in spite of the fact that we have millions of people in the next 10 or 11 days that are going to be left twisting in the wind, unless, the Republicans in Congress decide to act to protect them.

BLITZER: Here's the actual number of times. You can see President George W. Bush, he did do it six times. President Obama, this is the first time. President Clinton 14. The first President Bush, once. Ronald Reagan did it three times.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Pretty significant difference.

BLITZER: Don't go away because we got a lot more to discuss -- WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: OK. I'll be here.

BLITZER: -- including political stuff as well. I have a lot more to talk about with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic Party, including what the Democrats will do if, if the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming days were to strike down the president's healthcare law.

Plus, a new report that the United States and Israel joined forces on a covert cyber attack. We're learning details of a highly sophisticated computer virus aimed at crippling Iran's nuclear program, a second cyber warfare attack.

Should Israel be concerned that Iran will retaliate? My interview with Israel's deputy prime minister about that, plus what he calls a, quote, "genocide unfolding in Syria right now" and the Muslim Brotherhood potentially taking over the presidency in Egypt.


BLITZER: Much more with Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a moment. Let's go to Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There are growing signs, Wolf, that the troubled economy keeps taking its toll on Americans in ways both big and small. Nearly seven million homes gave up cable or satellite TV last year mostly due to the lingering recession.

A survey by GFK Media shows that younger Americans, minorities and poor people, dropped cable TV in the highest numbers opting for broadcast or free TV only. Industry insiders worried people would dump cable in favor of online TV options, but according to this survey, most people are cutting the cord or the cable, if you will, because they need to cut costs.

Of course, millions of Americans have been forced to cut much more than that, including homes, cars, vacations, grocery bills, medical care. It's no surprise when you consider the drastic collapse in Americans' net worth. A CNN money analysis of census bureau data shows that without including home equity, median household net worth fell 25 percent between 2005 and 2010.

And if you include housing, the loss was 35 percent. The great recession is wiped out nearly 30 years of net worth gains for the typical American household, 30 years. Once again, some groups hit harder than others. Asian, Black, Hispanic households lost about 60 percent of their net worth compared to 30 percent for Whites.

Young Americans also lost a bigger share of their wealth than their parents did. And lastly, more bad news about the struggling job market. Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, said today he expects the unemployment rate to remain above eight percent through the end of the year. That's not good news for President Obama.

And a labor department report shows the number of job openings fell in April. The drop means there are 3.7 unemployed people now looking for each and every job opening.

Here's the question, what has the economy forced you to give up? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. I don't think any modern president's been re-elected, Wolf, with an unemployment rate above eight percent.

BLITZER: Yes. Reagan did it with about 7.2 percent or 7.3 percent, but you're absolutely right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now on the economy and the race for the White House with Florida congresswoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, is still with us. You heard Jack. Those numbers are pretty set.

Ben Bernanke today, the Federal Reserve chairman, says he doesn't expect much economic growth over the next six months, the rest of this year. How worried are you that that bodes potentially very badly for the president's re-election?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, as a member of the budget committee, I had an opportunity to question Chairman Bernanke about the Republican proposals, particularly, the Ryan budget that Mitt Romney has embraced and asked him if we go with the Ryan plan and you cut as much as the Republicans want to cut too quickly, you're going to strangle what is already a fragile recovery.

And so, the last thing we need to do is embrace Romney economics and go in the direction that takes us back to the failed policies of the past that crashed the economy and got us into this mess, in the first place.

President Obama's taken us and the American people can see that that he's taken us from where we were bleeding 750,000 jobs a month, and now, three and a half years later, we've made slow but steady progress.

And we need to continue to make more progress. It would be helpful if the Republicans were focused on jobs and the economy instead of trying to make sure that they do everything they can to make it less likely that President Obama can succeed.

BLITZER: But assuming there's no legislative action between now and November, most people don't think there's going to be anything really significant in this --

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Certainly not under Republican-controlled.

BLITZER: -- in political environment, highly charged political environment. And there's let's say, two percent if that economic growth. That's not going to be translated into a whole lot of jobs. That will basically keep the jobs market steady but no real economic growth.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, I think you'll continue to see the president through his policies adding jobs each month. We've had 27 months straight of private sector job growth. We've had more jobs created in manufacturing than any time since the 1990s.

And as a result, I think you'll see voters get behind President Obama because in addition to being committed to moving the economy forward, he's also made sure that we can have an immigration policy that's fair and allows young people like the dreamers to be able to remain in the country and not face deportation.

Made sure that we have young Americans be able to attend college in greater numbers and make it more affordable.

BLITZER: Are you ready if the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow or Monday or next week, they have to do it by the end of next week, rules on the healthcare law and rules that it's unconstitutional? Are you ready to deal with that?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I'm confident as is President Obama that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the constitutionality.

BLITZER: What if they don't? Have you thought about that?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You know, we can't really deal in what-ifs. I am confident that they're going to uphold it. If for some reason they don't, we are committed and we need to make sure that we can continue to cover the Americans that would be left twisting in the wind.

It would be interesting to see what the Republicans will do, because they have shown zero interest in ensuring that all Americans are covered, zero interest in ensuring that insurance companies can't drop you or deny you coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Wolf, there are 149 million Americans like me, as a breast cancer survivor, who live in this country with a pre-existing condition. The Republicans have essentially said to them, we don't care about you. You're on your own. And so, I'd like to know what are the Republicans going to do if that happens?

BLITZER: Well, Romney says, if he were elected president, let's say the Supreme Court doesn't reject it, he says he would -- on day one, he would repeal what he calls Obamacare and then come up with new legislation to deal with --

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's a lot of baloney. They say they repeal and replace. They have not proposed a single bill or try to even move in the direction of replacing -- what is their version of healthcare reform? What do they think should happen? Everything that they've proposed in the past has been tried and clearly not been successful at covering the 47 million Americans that would continue without health insurance in this country.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: The chair of the DNC. Congresswoman, appreciate it. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.


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