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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Congress to Investigate National Security Leaks; Philadelphia Mayor Endorses Sugary Drink Ban; Heat Force Game 7 Versus Celtics; Holder Grilled Over Fast And Furious; Scuffle With The White House; Republican Grill Holder; Top Officials Tangle In White House; I'll Have Another
Aired June 8, 2012 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday, June 8th and STARTING POINT begins right now.
Welcome, everybody. Update on the day's top stories first thing. Christine Romans has a look at that for us. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. Let's start with Bill Clinton, back on script and back in step with the White House. In a CNN exclusive the former president apologizing after praising Mitt Romney's sterling business record and backing a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, a position directly at odds with President Obama. Here is Clinton in full damage control yesterday with Wolf Blitzer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday. It was what I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year. So I think he should just stick with his position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: President Clinton claims he didn't know it expires after the election and said President Obama should stick to his position of never extending those breaks to the wealthy again.
Rick Santorum is resurfacing. The former Pennsylvania senator will lay out his plans for the future today. Sources say he wants his voice heard as leader of the conservative wing of the GOP. He's expected to announce he's forming a political committee to give him that vehicle.
New developments in the Etan Patz murder investigation. Look at this photo obtained exclusively by CNN. It shows Pedro Hernandez, the suspect in the 1978 death of the six-year-old little New York boy, in a suit and tie wearing glasses. Meantime investigators have removed a computer hard drive, two satchels and other items from his New Jersey home. Hernandez, who has confessed to strangling pats, has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric determination to determine whether he's competent to stand trial.
Congratulations, you may now run for cover. Students in New Jersey had a very special graduation. What looks like a funnel cloud appeared during their ceremony. Really amazing is you can see students still walking while the cloud looms in the background. And then, then came the rain and the hail. Most people cleared out before things got really bad, though. No one was hurt, obviously.
It could be a rough day in the markets today. Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke did not indicate more stimulus was coming during his Capitol Hill testimony yesterday, so today the markets are expected to open lower. Also some concerns about Spain and that situation. Now NASDAQ, S&P 500 futures are all down, Dow futures down by 60 points.
Video game studio founded by former major league pitcher Curt Schilling goes belly up -- 38 studios declared bankruptcy yesterday after it fired all 400 employees and defaulted on a loan payment. A new report the company is now under federal investigation. Rhode Island lured the company to the state with a $75 million taxpayer backed loan back in 2010.
O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you for that update.
A demand to end what is being called a cascade of classified information leaks. It is a bipartisan effort from four top Republican and Democrats in light of three glaring examples of leaks happening in the past months. Back in May, we found out that a U.S. double agent helped foil an airline bomb plot out of Yemen. The Obama administration is accused of leaking the secrets for political points. The White House flatly denying that after meeting with the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, the top Republican on the intelligence committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss, remained ambiguous about whether he thinks the leaks are politically motivated. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, (R) GEORGIA: We have been through this before in the Bush administration. Wherever the responsibility falls out, that's where it is going to be. If it is in the administration, fine. If it is not in the administration, fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: This morning we talked to Congressman, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, the chairman of the intelligence committee. Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is a ranking member of the intelligence committee. And both met with the direct, Clapper, yesterday. Thanks for joining me. I would love for both of you to answer this question, where do you think the leaks are coming from? Why don't we start with you first, Congressman Rogers?
REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) MICHIGAN: We don't exactly know. But we do know it is -- someone has committed a crime that is having serious consequences to our national security. What we are doing in a bipartisan way is we need to follow the leads of the investigation to the leaker and make sure that leaker goes to jail. Much like what happened with the Valerie Plame case. Someone went to jail over that. This is 100 times the magnitude of that.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Ruppersberger, do you have a sense of where the leaks are coming from?
REP. C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER, (D) MARYLAND: First thing, the leaks are very serious and affects our national security and they're wrong. We're going to follow the facts wherever they go. In a bipartisan way, the Senate and the house are coming together. We need the administration to work with us in a partnership to find out where the leaks are and how we stop the leaks. And wherever the facts take us, that's where we should go and if someone, whoever did commit these leaks, they should be held accountable.
O'BRIEN: But the question I asked was where do you think the leaks are coming from? Do you have a gut sense of who is leaking?
RUPPERSBERGER: We don't know. That's what investigations are for. These leaks are occurring more and more as we moved on. This is wrong for America.
O'BRIEN: Do you think it requires an outside investigator? A moment ago we played a little bit of what Senator Chambliss was saying. What do you think?
ROGERS: Well, you know, we have to ask some hard questions here and I know I've had discussions with Senator Dianne Feinstein about maybe the possibility of a special council, something I think --
O'BRIEN: She thinks no. As I'm sure you're well aware. She says no.
ROGERS: I don't think it is as definitive of that. Part of the reason is you can't have somebody who may have leaked it in the chain of command investigating themselves. That's the one thing we have to come to a conclusion, and it should be a bipartisan conclusion if we get there.
But the part of the national security team at the Department of Justice had to recuse itself on one portion of the investigation, not because they were guilty of anything, but because they had access to information. The FBI had some access at very senior levels. The NSC had access at very senior levels of very compartmented programs. It starts to get murky quickly. We need to make sure it is a fair investigation. It is complete, meaning it can go wherever it takes it. It can ask any question to anyone who had access to the information and it has to be bipartisan. That's what we're wrestling with now.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Ruppersberg, let me ask you a question. Is it possible the leaks are coming from Congress? The other night Anderson was talking to Congressman Peter King and they were speaking specifically about the airline bomb plot. And here what he is he had to say. Let's play that first.
RUPPERSBERGER: OK, sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: It is probably -- it is one of the most tightly held operations I've seen. I can tell you myself and in other member of Congress knew anything about this, including me, until this afternoon and that's unusual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: How likely do you think, sir, it is a member of Congress potentially who is leaking?
RUPPERSBERGER: Right now we don't have the facts where it is coming from. We're going to find out. But if it is a member of congress, whoever it is, that person will be held accountable. There are two major issues here. The issue of how we're going to stop the leaks, the culture of leaks and the other issue is find out who did leak it with respect to these investigations. And if, in fact, the facts show that we're getting close and there is an individual that purposefully leaked that information, I think we should move forward with the special prosecutor.
It is too soon to make that determination because, remember, a special prosecutor can take years and costs a lot of money and it is going and targeting on an individual to get evidence and elements of a crime. We have a problem here and the most important thing is for our committees to come together, working with the administration and putting together a team that is going to stop the leaks and that everyone who works in the area of intelligence has the clearances to deal with that needs to know these leaks cannot happen and you're going to be held accountable and go to jail if you do leak.
O'BRIEN: How confident are you you'll be able to not only track down the person who is leaking as you point out, but also, I guess, end this culture of leaking as well?
ROGERS: Well, I will tell you this is the first time we have seen such bipartisan effort because of the severity of the pattern of leaks. There wasn't one particular incident. There was a whole slew of incidents. So I do feel confident we will be able to find and prosecute the individual who did it. The trick is how exactly we get there in a way that makes people believe it is fair and bipartisan. And we're working through those issues now.
O'BRIEN: And I would guess how do you get there in a way that is not only fair and bipartisan, but that you don't reveal more information in a hearing that is supposed to, in fact, be protecting classified information. Isn't that one of the worries?
ROGERS: Well, anything we do in the intelligence committee is classified and can be classified. So anything we would do through an investigation on the committee itself would be classified. Anything that special council would do --
O'BRIEN: Or the FBI. ROGERS: And for the FBI as well, because, again, the level of information that, when you look at the whole pattern, tells you it is someone very senior in the executive branch or could possibly be a member of Congress in either committee. But the indicators show that there is a pattern of this activity and it would take -- this will take a pretty fulsome effort to get at it.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Rogers, the testimony from yesterday, you had said there was a "segment of the media," that is a quote from you, present in a classified setting. What were you talking about specifically?
ROGERS: Media or medium. I can't get into too many details, but we had in the preliminary review, we had certain things that indicated to us that there was something to this notion that there is a pattern of problem here and a culture of trying to feed the media things that were classified. That was one example where there was a situation that was classified, that had an individual from the media or medium, different type of medium, in an event that was inappropriate at best and may have violated other rules or laws as well.
O'BRIEN: Are you talking specifically about documentary producers who are sitting in classified meetings?
ROGERS: Yes, unfortunately I can't give all the details, but it was significant enough that it raised some concerns.
O'BRIEN: Gentlemen, Mike Rogers is a Republican from Michigan. Dutch Ruppersberger is a Democrat from the state of Maryland. Nice to have you. I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks.
Attorney General Eric Holder in testimony got pummeled on Capitol Hill, frustration over the fast and furious gun running program boiling over. We'll talk this morning to the congressman who was grilling the attorney general.
And this man's horse is trying to make history. The owner of "I'll Have Another" is going to join us this morning, just one day before the crucial Belmont stakes.
Plus a big "Get Real" to the mayor who backed a ban on giant sodas after he made a trip to shake shack. You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got that story is ahead. Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. You're listening to America, of course, with no name, that's on Richard Roth's playlist. He's live for us this morning at Belmont Stakes as I'll have another prepares to make history going for the Triple Crown. Richard I'm sure you're betting on this.
RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I haven't decided who I like. I'm doing some handicapping this early. Good way to start the day, starting point at the finish line. Certainly I'll have another is going to be favored. For the first time in his life as he goes for the Triple Crown. He's won the Kentucky derby, the Preakness, now the Belmont Stakes. It is a race run at a mile and a half distance, very long. Most races are not contested at that length. And he's going to be challenged, but the roar that will come up from around Belmont Park when his name is introduced, I've been here when other triple crown potentials came out of the track, it can send goose-bumps through you.
O'BRIEN: So, Richard, who else is running that is worth hearing about and that could pose a problem? You talk to the owner, we'll chat with him later this morning, it seems like anything can happen at the Belmont, anything. So who realistically could be a contestant?
ROTH: There will be betting on Dullahan. There will be betting on union rags, who was a top two-year-old, then ran into traffic problems in a lot of races. If he shows his best stuff from last year, he will be a formidable. And then there is Bob Baffert trained horse called Painter. There are other horses. I was here about ten, 11 years ago when Serabo won 70 to one knocking off another potential Triple Crown nominee. So you've got, as one trainer said about this race, anything can happen. The unexpected also, sometimes jockeys, they say, lose this race by when they make their move. Some peak too early. Some say it happened with real quiet versus victory gallop. I'm sure you remember that in 1999.
O'BRIEN: I do remember that. Everybody watches so closely. When there is a chance there will be a triple crown d to say take me to Belmont all the time. As we mentioned, we'll have a chance to talk to the man who owns "I'll Have Another," Paul Reddam will stop by and chat with us.
Coming up next, the mayor who went from shake shack right to the national soda summit. It is our get real this morning. The team is heading in to talk about that. Here is Margaret hoover, a vision in red, Ron Brownstein with us and will cane with us. Here is Ron's playlist, Black Tees, "Gold on the Ceiling."
O'BRIEN: I haven't heard this song in so long.
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We did the '90s yesterday.
O'BRIEN: What song is that?
HOOVER: The '80s play list today.
O'BRIEN: It is off Margaret's play list. Naked eyes. I have this album. It was an album. You can see our entire play list everything morning on our Web site, CNN.com/startingpoint.
The STARTING POINT team this morning, Margaret Hoover, who worked in the Bush White House, is the author of "American Individualism." Ron Brownstein is with us, political director of the "National Journal," and Will Cain is a columnist with TheBlaze.com.
Our "Get Real" this morning, a little nod of the head, shall we say. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, keynote speaker yesterday on Capitol Hill. His message in line with the message of the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, that basically obesity is linked to those oversized drinks that are loaded with sugar and portion sizes that are completely out of control.
Unfortunately for him, he posed for this photo just a day before. That would be Mayor Nutter in the middle cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of the newest shake shack location in Philly. It is a restaurant that offers this, the 870 calorie peanut butter shake, 52 grams of fat, and 69 grams of sugar, which is roughly 17 teaspoons of sugar.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Shake shack is good.
HOOVER: It is. What do you think is contributing to our obesity problem more, shake shack or sugary drinks? Just a question.
O'BRIEN: Moderation. It is all about moderation, isn't it? It is absolutely fine to have the whatever that was peanut butter something, just not every day.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don't eat the rest of the week.
O'BRIEN: As long as you're doing it while on the treadmill, running a marathon.
CAIN: Great for Mayor Nutter here. Hypocrisy is one of my least favorite sins, the silliness of the law that offends me, not his hypocrisy.
BROWNSTEIN: There are a lot of shake shacks and McDonald's and so forth out in the world now.
HOOVER: Doesn't the hypocrisy -- sorry.
O'BRIEN: Economic revitalization in his city.
BROWNSTEIN: One Shake Shack at a time.
O'BRIEN: One Shake Shack -- one 870 calorie peanut butter shake at a time.
HOOVER: This is the hypocrisy that points out the silliness of the law. The hypocrisy here is the unforgivable sin because --
O'BRIEN: I'm not sure the law is silly. I'm not sure we're doing anything about obesity by pointing out the hypocrisy because obesity is a big problem and linking back to another cost center, health care.
HOOVER: Should the government be mandating how people eat? O'BRIEN: The government is involved in health care and paying for it. So we ought to figure that out, don't we? Always comes down to the bottom line. Stop shaking your head at me, will cane. It is Friday.
CAIN: So much to say.
O'BRIEN: We have lots on this program. You're going to be heard. Some Republicans are angry over a same sex ceremony that took place on a U.S. army base, one saying not on my home turf.
And fast and really furious -- Attorney General Eric Holder on Capitol Hill in the hot seat over that gun running program that went very wrong. We're going to talk to a congressman who grilled the attorney general straight ahead. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: And welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. Let's get right to Christine Romans with a look at the day's headlines.
ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. New this morning, high school shooting suspect T.J. Lane will appear in court today for an arraignment hearing. Lane is charged with killing three students, injuring three others in a shooting spree in Ohio. A judge ruled 17- year-old lane can be tried as an adult. Convicted he faces life in prison without parole.
A white powder scare at a high profile Baptist church. Crews and hazmat suits called to Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina. The church recently has come under fire after its pastor called for gays to be locked behind electric fences. The FBI is now working to identify the powder.
Angry protests over a same sex ceremony at a U.S. army base. An army chaplain at Fort Polk had a ceremony for a female soldier and her partner. Louisiana Congressman John Fleming says that ceremony is too much like same sex marriage, which the state outlaws. He's calling for new legislation to ban same sex ceremonies on military facilities.
In today's A.M. House Call, an emergency race is on to solve a mysterious. A deadly e. Coli outbreak slamming four U.S. states. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Ten people have been sickened with the disease and an infant died from it last week in New Orleans. Health officials don't know what sparked this outbreak. The USDA is testing meat.
For the first time ever, more U.S. teens are choosing marijuana over cigarettes. The CDC says 23 percent of high school students admit to smoking pot in the past month. Meanwhile, only 18 percent say they smoked a cigarette. Experts say teens today see marijuana as less dangerous than tobacco.
And LeBron setting a personal record in saving the season for the Miami Heat. The King scoring 45 points, pulling down 15 rebounds last night to lead the Miami heat to a game six over the Boston Celtics, 98-79. Lebron had 30 points in first half. That is an all-time playoff high for him.
Game seven tomorrow night in South Beach for the race to face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA finals. I know you can't wait, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: I know. I know. Go Heat. I want to see that. That was great. What a great game? Go Lebron, 45 points. That's amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Always want a game seven.
CAIN: Anything is great when Lebron can point you in the finals instead of the semifinals.
O'BRIEN: First of all, so cold and such fighting words. We'll talk about that later. A little money on that game? Come on.
CAIN: Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant versus Lebron James and the Miami Heat, yes, I do want to put money on that.
O'BRIEN: OK, when Lebron comes on to sit on the show to talk about the victory, you'll eat that up.
All right, let's turn to talk a little bit about the fight over the botched government gun trafficking program. You remember it is called the "Fast and the Furious."
It is heating up. The Attorney General Eric Holder faced pointed and sometimes personal attacks by Congressman Darrell Issa who has been pushing Holder to hand over more documents related to that program. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Attorney General, you're not a good witness. A good witness answers the question asked. So let's go back again.
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We've looked at 240 custodians. We have processed millions of electronic records and viewed over 140,000 documents and produced to you about 7,600.
ISSA: So 140,000 documents, how many documents are responsive, but you're withholding at this time?
HOLDER: But we produced 7,600.
ISSA: Look, I don't want to hear about the 7,600.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, I would beg to allow --
ISSA: The lady is out of order. Would the lady please --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So that was just a little tiny portion of how angry and nasty it got, a number of the guns from that program, you'll remember, ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels and then were used in murders on both sides of the border.
We'll get right to Republican Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia. He is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He was at yesterday's hearing. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.
Issa, as we all know, has been a very fierce critic and sometimes personal attacker of the Attorney General Holder. Were you satisfied with what the attorney general had to say in that testimony yesterday?
REPRESENTATIVE RANDY FORBES (R), VIRGINIA: You know, I think there are a lot of things that came out yesterday that shocked many of us. One of the things is there I was revelation that many of the cabinet secretaries had been summoned, not to the White House, but to the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.
Where they were counselled by Mr. Axelrod as the chief strategist for the Obama administration by their campaign manager and also by the executive director of the DNC about what actions they should do, what things they should be saying between now and the election.
But what shocked us, we thought the attorney general was above that and he acknowledged that he had had meetings with Mr. Axelrod as well. I think that concerns us because, you know, if anything, the attorney general's office ought to be above politics. And we found out yesterday that apparently is not true.
O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk a little bit about that meeting and sometimes just interactions with Axelrod between the Attorney General Axelrod.
It is described in a book that we were talking to the author the other day and this was a chunk from the book. Don't ever accuse me of trying to interfere with the operations of the Justice Department, Axelrod warned Holder, after confronting him in the hallway, he writes.
I'm not Karl Rove. The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a schoolyard fight. White House staffers caught in the cross fire averted their eyes.
At issue there is allegedly in that scuffle that Axelrod was said to have tried to influence hiring at the DOJ. What did you think of the testimony on that front involving that particular interaction?
FORBES: Well, the attorney general said that Mr. Axelrod had not tried to influence hiring and so we have to take him at his word on that.
I think what concerned most of us is when the attorney general acknowledged that he was having these meetings with the chief strategist for the Obama campaign.
And when you start talking about that, we think there ought to be a little bit of a wall of protection there so that the appearance of impropriety is also given to people across the country. O'BRIEN: Here is what he said about some of those meetings. This is the Attorney General Eric Holder. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: The political dimension to the job that I have as attorney general, I mean, the reality is that I don't sit up in an ivory tower and just do law enforcement.
I am the subject of attacks. I'm a person who was seen by some as pretty controversial. And there are times or there was that time when I was looking for some help in that regard.
O'BRIEN: We know that David Axelrod, who was on TV over the weekend, last weekend, certainly didn't deny it. Here is what he said. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: Eric Holder is a great friend of mine. We actually went to the same high school. We may have gone chest to chest back in the day. But, you know, we have a strong relationship.
And I'm not going to get into the details of that other than to say I respect him. I obviously never tried to interfere in anything that he did. Never talked to him about a governmental matter or Justice Department matter in all the years I was in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: I always worry when somebody says I respect him tremendously and he's a great friend of mind and then usually a big but follows.
But both of them are consistent in saying, listen, what we were discussing was not interfering in any way with the Justice Department. Do you think there is a version of that that is not true?
FORBES: Well, no, I'm not disputing their honesty. But what I'm saying is that the attorney general did not say that. What the attorney general said when he started his remarks is, that he said that the attorney general's office ought to base all their decisions on facts and the law and nothing else.
They were his words. But later on, when we were talking to him, he acknowledged that was not the case. He was actually meeting with the top campaign strategist for President Obama.
And he talked about the fact that he was being counselled about what to say and things to do and how to handle attacks on him as the attorney general.
And, you know, there are a lot of people he could consult with. But I think as to try and get even an appearance of impropriety he ought not to be counselling with the top strategist for the campaign. I think that sends a bad image especially given all the other things that we see layering on from this administration in terms of the partisanship they have been displaying.
O'BRIEN: We know that the committee is prepared contempt citation against Eric Holder. And Congressman Issa has said that they could move on that. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: I believe that the speaker is close to the end of his road. I don't expect to go home the Fourth of July without having a date for contempt and knowing it is time to wrap up this investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Would you support that, a date for contempt?
FORBES: If we can't get the answers that we need and it is important to recognize, it is not just Republicans that want those answers.
We've heard from the ambassador of Mexico that this "Fast and Furious" operation has done more to poison the relationship between the United States and Mexican people than anything we have seen in two administrations.
And they're concerned they haven't received this investigation. We want to make sure that we just get the facts so that we can reach a conclusion and find out what actually happened.
As we mentioned yesterday, it doesn't matter if the attorney general appears seven times before the committee, if every time he appears he just says he doesn't know on key questions.
And it doesn't matter how many documents he gives us if he doesn't give us the ones we asked for. I think what you see with Chairman Issa is he's just getting frustrated that he feels like he's getting stone walled by the attorney general and not giving this information.
O'BRIEN: Congressman Randy Forbes is a Republican from Virginia, nice to have you with us, sir. Thank you.
I want to bring in Dan Klaidman. He is the author of the book that we're just talking about and talking little chunks specifically about it. It's called "kill or capture."
Earlier in the week, we discussed it and detailed that scuffle between the attorney general and David Axelrod and that was what he was talking about yesterday.
So you heard from Congressman Forbes just a moment ago saying that what disturbs him the most is this meeting between the attorney general and campaign strategists because it gives us appearance of impropriety. What do you think when you hear what he was saying?
DANIEL KLAIDMAN, AUTHOR, "KILL OR CAPTURE": Well, first of all, he talked about meetings. I'm aware of only one meeting. David Axelrod, at that time, was the campaign strategist. He was a senior adviser in the White House.
It is not shocking that the attorney general meets with people in the White House. His job is to some extent a political job. Any cabinet secretary has a political dimension to his job.
In this particular case, the White House was very focused on the economy and getting health care passed. And they had concerns that Holder and other cabinet secretaries occasionally would step on the message.
Holder got into a little bit of trouble early on in his tenure, gave a speech about race that was controversial. One or two other things and so the White House brought him in because they wanted to make sure that there was coordination on what they called messaging.
And as part of that, they also wanted to put someone on his staff who would help, who would be kind of an early warning system as Axelrod put it, and that was part of what actually inspired the confrontation because Holder was a little bit resentful that the White House was trying to put someone on his staff.
Now I have to say, I reported exhaustively at this particular episode and one thing that did not come up was any real suggestion that the White House was trying to influence, you know, policy or cases. It was much more to do with communications and messaging and PR.
BROWNSTEIN: It is a pretty common accusation that the attorney general is being politicized by the white house. And there is the flip side question here.
I mean, Darrell Issa has faced a lot of grumbling and in Republican circles in Washington that his oversight efforts have not produced the kind of political pay dirt or the kind of revelations against the administration that many had hoped in the beginning.
If you're asking whether, for example, David Axelrod is talking to Eric Holder, it would seem equally reasonable to ask, what are the conversations with the leadership about this investigation?
I mean, politics is part of the life in Washington. None of these people are kind of cloistered away from it. Whether the subject of the investigation or the investigators.
There is an equally legitimate question about the extent to which these investigations are being coordinated by -- or being at least discussed with leadership to advance their own goals.
CAIN: That's the question, right? I don't think the issue is whether or not Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, when they were of message together, but rather the question is when they were on the same message together.
You wrote in your book about how close the two individuals are. What the Republicans want to know right now specifically in regard to "Fast and Furious," is who knew what when. That's the question they want to know.
Who knew about this program that was certainly a program nobody looks at in retrospect and goes, wow, that was a good program. Everyone says it was an awful idea so who knew about it and when. They want answers and they're just not getting them.
O'BRIEN: So let me ask you another question about the kill list, which you also write about in your book. And it was reported to by the "New York Times" as well and now this FBI investigation.
And earlier this morning we were talking about a special investigator could be appointed as well. Does that mean you're going to be investigated for who your sources were?
KLAIDMAN: You know, I don't know. I've seen some reports that my book is part of this larger investigation. I don't know if that's true.
O'BRIEN: The FBI hasn't contacted you.
KLAIDMAN: I have to say, sometimes I'm surprised at how naive people are about what actually goes into reporting. The old days of, you know, Dean Archison calling up Scottie Reston at the "New York Times," and saying this is what the story is, just doesn't happen anymore.
I had to fight and scratch and scrape for the reporting that I got. These aren't handouts. This is serious journalism, serious reporting and it's accountability reporting and --
O'BRIEN: So dig into that for me a little bit more. When you say that, because it is being framed as if there is an individual who is calling up and leaking the stories, are you're saying that's not how it works?
KLAIDMAN: It is not how it works, that's what I'm saying.
BROWNSTEIN: It would be nice.
KLAIDMAN: Yes. The number of handouts that I've gotten in my career for this kind of journalism, I could count on --
CAIN: The question really about handouts or somebody at some level of authority giving you information that they shouldn't be. That seems to be the question. That seems to be what the definition of a leakage. Somebody telling you something --
KLAIDMAN: It depends on how you define what they shouldn't be telling you. Let me say, let me say that in the case of -- in my case, in the case of the "New York Times," in the case of all of the respectable journalists I know. When there is some suggestion that reporting, national security information, that could do serious damage to the national security, we go to the relevant agencies and we ask is this going to be a problem?
If they say yes, we'll debate it. We'll have a serious discussion about it, but, look, we're responsible. We care about the national security of the United States.
BROWNSTEIN: Most recently with the warrantless wiretapping revelations in the "New York Times" under George W. Bush where they delayed a full year I think before they actually put it forward.
But in the end -- in the end, through American history there have been many cases where the government did not want things released that ultimately were revealed and the public interest was in the end served by it.
So if we have a blanket rule that says the government alone gets to decide what in the end is released to the public, and there is no accountability through an independent press, that's a different lane to go down.
KLAIDMAN: There is a healthy tension there. We ought to be having the arguments. It is legitimate for people to raise questions about leaks. You know, I'm a little concerned about when these issues come up in an election year and these issues get politicized. But it is legitimate to ask the questions. I think it is incumbent upon us to be --
O'BRIEN: If you believe -- Senator McCain is saying they're leaking because they're trying to frame President Obama as a hero. He's always playing the role of heroic role in these.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not just Senator McCain. It is Senator Feinstein, a bipartisan coalition.
O'BRIEN: No, she did not do that. Senator Feinstein absolutely did not say that President Obama is being framed in a heroic capacity where Senator McCain definitely said that this is coming from White House that is trying to frame the president in a certain way. There is almost like a PR machine that is orchestrating these leaks.
KLAIDMAN: The premise is that these leaks are all coming from sources who have a motive --
KLAIDMAN: A motive to make the president look good on these issues. Well, Senator McCain with all due respect doesn't know where this information is coming from.
O'BRIEN: Is he wrong?
KLAIDMAN: You know, I'm not going to talk about my sources, I'm saying he's making certain assumptions he can't -- BROWNSTEIN: Do you remember that, you know, Bob Woodward, three books about the George W. Bush decision making in the White House, you know, the first one of which made him look like Churchill at the standing in the breach.
So, I mean, it is not -- White Houses exist -- much of the White House exists to put the president in a positive light. The question of what the line is between doing that and endangering national security, that is a legitimate question.
The idea that there is something unique about putting the president in a positive light and releasing unreleased information to do that, I don't know. Special investigation the House Republicans undertook about the Bob Woodward books.
O'BRIEN: Nice to have you as a guest. We love your book. It's great to have you twice in one week. Appreciate it.
KLAIDMAN: Thanks very much.
O'BRIEN: We're also this morning going to talk about a cult that is on the verge of horse racing history. We're going to talk to the owner of "I'll Have Another" who could become the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. You're watching STARTING POINT. Back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It is going to be very exciting. Because history could be made at the Belmont Stakes come tomorrow. "I'll Have Another" is going to attempt to become the first Triple Crown champion since 1978 when "Affirmed" achieved that feat.
So far only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. The race is expected to be watched by 100,000 fans at the track and then millions, of course, are watching on television.
Paul Reddam owns "I'll Have Another" and he joins us this morning. It's nice to have you.
PAUL REDDAM, OWNER, "I'LL HAVE ANOTHER": Thank you.
O'BRIEN: I'm nervous.
REDDAM: Are you nervous?
O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, I saw the race for with "Affirmed." I mean, that was -- on TV. I didn't go to the track. That was amazing. And now you have an opportunity to repeat the same thing. You got to be nervous because I'm anxious.
REDDAM: I'm probably more nervous here than I will be there.
O'BRIEN: I don't know if I believe you. How are they preparing? How are warmups going between now and tomorrow? What happens exactly? REDDAM: Well, every morning the horse goes out and about mile and a half worth of exercise, but not at the pace he's going to run the race at. So far he has good energy. Today, he had an easier morning to try and have a little extra for tomorrow. Preparations have gone as well as we could hope.
O'BRIEN: For you, situps, running the track?
REDDAM: For me it's been answering a lot of questions, some which I can answer and some which I can't because I really can't speak for the horse.
CAIN: Let me ask you this. Soledad mentioned 1978 "Affirmed" last one to win the Triple Crown. But 11 horses since then have gone into Belmont having won first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Do you see any common mistake among horses or riders talking to your guys about saying let's not do that. That's one thing people make a mistake on that we're not going to make.
REDDAM: Well, I think from all of the commentary, people are overcomplicating this.
CAIN: Really, it's horse run.
REDDAM: Well, kind of. There's a lot of talk because the jockey hasn't ever ridden a race at Belmont actually. His first ride is today and they say he'll get lost today. I think it's pretty simple. You let the horse take you to the head of the stretch and then ask him to go. That's what he's done.
BROWNSTEIN: You mentioned your training at this length. Has the horse ever won a worse race at this length?
REDDAM: No. But none of the horses have run a mile and a half. It's a unique distance in American racing for the Belmont. The most any of them have run is a mile and quarter in the derby. That went OK.
BROWNSTEIN: That went pretty good.
O'BRIEN: Very nicely. How many horses do you own? You bought this horse for $35,000, is that right? And now you stand to multiply the value if he wins.
REDDAM: I own race horses about 30. I would like to say I bought them all for $35,000. That would be a fib. You really just can't tell beforehand how things are going to turn out with a horse.
In this case we were very lucky. But there have been other cases where we have spent a multiple of that and the horse is probably going around Central Park right now.
BROWNSTEIN: How early do you know?
REDDAM: Well, all of the scouts and so-called blood suck agents who are the ones who scout young horses will tell you they know when they are watching them for the first time or when they sell them as yearlings they say he has an a athletic walk.
You get a hint in their 2-year-old year. But some horses are like people and don't blossom until they are a little older so three or four years old.
O'BRIEN: I want to ask a question about milk shaking. I wonder if it taints the feel of the race of the environment and the conversation frankly.
REDDAM: Well, there's been a lot of conversation about it. What isn't clearly understood is that Doug O'Neil was found innocent of the so-called milk shaking.
And he's getting a suspension for strict trainer insurer rule, which means the horse had a high level of TC02 gas in his system so the trainer is deemed responsible, but people specifically examining it say he didn't milk shake the horse.
That's been underplayed in the media because they need something to talk about and he'll deal with that after the race. It's enough pressure going into Triple Crown without having to defend yourself all of the time for something you have been found innocent of.
O'BRIEN: How does it feel as you're 24 hours away?
REDDAM: I just as soon that we run the race right after the show actually. It will go when it goes. It's exciting. I'm not guaranteeing a win as you said the last 11 have failed.
Even though it might look like the house has an outstanding chance, from the inside there are so much different things that can go wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lowering the bar.
O'BRIEN: We are really excited for you. We'll be rooting of course for that. Paul Reddam, nice to have you with us this morning and good luck. We'd love to have you back when you are celebrating. You can bring the champagne. Have to take a break. We'll be back after this.
O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, the feds warning Florida about purging voters off the polls. Critics say it could be racist, but the Florida secretary of state insists it's fair. He's going to join us at the top of the hour.
Plus a school district bans this award winning children's book because of one line, a reference to same-sex parents. We're going to talk to the superintendent who banned it and the author straight ahead.
Plus a brand new fancy menu for Taco Bell. The celebrity chef who is creating the new gourmet Mexican line will join us as well. You're watching STARTING POINT. That's all ahead in our 8:00 hour.