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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript


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But here's the thing. Seventeen Democrats voted in favor of contempt. Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania was one of them. He is OUTFRONT tonight.

Congressman, good to see you.

REP. JASON ALTMIRE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Erin. Glad to be here.

BURNETT: All right. So let's get straight to this. Why did you go against your party? The White House called this vote a political stunt. You went ahead and voted in favor of contempt. Why?

ALTMIRE: There were two issues. One is I couldn't get around the fact I'm a member of the House. The House has asked for documents related to the investigation. I understand that Attorney General Holder doesn't want to give them. He has reasons why he doesn't feel he's obligated to provide them. But the fact is he didn't provide them. And when there's a vote on contempt, that's something you have to consider.

We asked for the documents. They were not provided. I hope that the documents will show nothing was inappropriate or wrong regarding the operation or the attorney general's involvement in that. I have no reason to believe that in any way they're going to show anything that we wouldn't want it to show. But he was asked for the documents and he didn't provide them.

The second reason is I was here in the Congress in 2008 when we had a very similar vote during the Bush administration. And the Democratic controlled Congress had two members, high ranking officials in the Bush administration, that we held in contempt under very similar circumstances relating to an issue. And as a result, I had the vote in contempt for that.

So I just couldn't reconcile the issue being different just because the political party in power is different.

BURNETT: Well, all right, so fair point. You made the bipartisan point. But let me ask you about this conspiracy theory. NRA has a theory -- the National Rifle association about "Fast and Furious." And they say the Obama administration allowed these guns to be sold knowing they'd go into Mexico. Knowing they'd be used in violent crimes. That would cause bad headlines and allow the government to go ahead and impose more strict gun regulations here in the United States.

Do you believe that theory?

ALTMIRE: I don't. And that has nothing to do -- I've heard it. That has nothing to do with the reason why I voted the way I did. Again, I cast a similar vote in 2008. It's consistent with the vote I cast today. And as a member of the House, I believe we do have the power of the investigation and oversight over the executive branch. We asked for documents that were not provided.

And because the vote was held on the floor, I voted to hold the attorney general in contempt because he did not comply with our request.

BURNETT: OK. So the National Rifle Association. They said today's vote, they're going to look at it when giving letter grades. I know those letter grades are very important, I know you got an A on the last scorecard. And I know they've given you about $19,350 over the past four years.

I also know you're not running for election. But the NRA's support, letter grade, had to matter to you.

ALTMIRE: Well, as you said, I'm not on the ballot in the fall election. So I don't know how anyone can make the claim that that had anything to do with the vote that I cast today. You have every right to bring that up. It's an appropriate point of discussion but it wasn't part of the reason I voted the way I did.

BURNETT: You might run again one day, right?

ALTMIRE: I have no plans to run again. That had nothing to do with the vote that I cast. I cast again because I want to be consistent with the vote that I cast four years ago when President Bush was in power.

BURNETT: All right. Well, look, I mean I -- we applaud the saying, you know, I'm not going to just go with my party, I want to be bipartisan. So I want to make that clear. But I wanted to ask you sort of a personal question. Because, you know, when I was looking at your vote, I know a lot people would say, how can you be a Democrat and care so much about the NRA?

How could you be a Democrat and want to have a gun? It's the same thing a lot of people say, how could you be gay and be a Republican. You know, the people just don't understand how those things could go together. Does that frustrate you?

ALTMIRE: The way you articulated it, if that is a criticism that's being levied, yes, that would concern me. But I haven't heard that in response to the vote. The district that I represent is overwhelmingly in support of the Second Amendment. I believe there are more NRA members per capita in the 100 mile radius surrounding the district that I represent than anywhere else in the country.

So I'm just representing my district when I -- my district when I cast votes that the NRA would support. But again, in this case, I voted that way for consistency and because I believe that it was the right thing to do based on the vote we cast and the issue that's at hand.

BURNETT: Right, yes, no, no, I understand that. I mean I'm just wondering, you know, it was presumably near your district when the president when he was running last time around, made the comment about guns and bibles.

ALTMIRE: Well, I represent western Pennsylvania. And I believe that that was one of the regions that was part of that articulation.

BURNETT: Yes, but it must have -- I guess what I'm getting at, does it upset you people want to say negative things about people who have guns? To say that if you're a Democrat you can't be for guns. And clearly in your district, you're a Democrat and they're for guns.

ALTMIRE: Yes, again, I was elected as a Democrat three times. I have the support of the NRA two of those times. And then I'm not running for re-election. So that wasn't part of my consideration this time when I cast the vote today.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate your taking the time, sir.


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