Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Economic Outlook. Battle Over Fast and Furious. House Panel: Attorney General in Contempt. Stocks Mixed After New Fed Action. Coast Guard Hoaxed Twice By One Person? Big Pizza Chains Fight Calorie Postings. Election 2012
Aired June 20, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: a bitter constitutional showdown between the president of the United States and Republicans in Congress. It's exploding as a House committee prepares to vote on holding President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt. This hour, there are dramatic new developments in the election-year fight over the botched operation called Fast and Furious.
Plus, the Fed chairman lowers expectations for the jobs market and the U.S. economy and takes new action to try to boost the recovery. Erin Burnett standing by. She will join us live this hour. She's got new perspective on the economic suffering that's coming up.
And big pizza chains are taking on the federal government, so they don't have to tell consumers just how many calories they will pack -- they will get on every single slice. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're expecting a vote in the House of Representatives, the House Oversight Committee at any moment now on whether to hold the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress. At issue, his refusal to turn over documents about the botched gunrunning sting operation called Fast and Furious.
The Republican-led panel going forward even after President Obama today invoked executive privilege, claiming the release of the documents would have, in his words, significant damaging consequences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The attorney general has refused to cooperate, offering to provide subpoenaed documents only if the committee agrees in advance to close the investigation. No investigator would ever agree to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's Darrell Issa, the committee chairman. He will call the roll call momentarily. Republican lawmakers want to know if senior Justice Department officials knew if the Fast and Furious program was flawed.
Federal agents lost track of more than 1,000 firearms circulated along the Southwest border in a sting targeting the Mexican drug cartels. But their investigation has become something much bigger.
Our congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan, is up on Capitol Hill. She's joining us right now.
Kate, this is emerging as a full-scale constitutional battle.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You absolutely took the words out of my mouth, Wolf.
We remind our viewers that we are watching this committee still debating, but moving closer and closer towards this anticipated vote to hold the attorney general, Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress. We are watching that as we speak. But as you said, this been a months-long showdown that has turned into a full-scale political and constitutional battle over this botched Operation Fast and Furious.
This fight has now become even more dramatic that the president, that President Obama himself has stepped into it, asserting executive privilege over at least some of the documents that the committee and the Republican chairman of this committee have been requesting as part of their own investigation.
Once the president took that step, you can be sure that Republicans pounced on that. The House a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner in a statement raising questions now that the White House itself is involved in -- quote, unquote -- "a cover-up" or even lying, according to this statement. Still, Republicans on this committee, they are moving towards this vote, this after a marathon day of hearings on the matter.
Just listen here to a little bit of the debate, Wolf, unusually caustic and bitter even for this partisan Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: It shouldn't be a political witch-hunt against the attorney general of our country and our president in an election year.
I must say, Mr. Chairman, I am offended personally by your calling the attorney general a liar.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: This is not about Eric Holder. It is about the Department of Justice and justice in the United States of America.
Have the guts -- I hope we have the guts and the perseverance to get to the bottom of this. We have nearly 2,000 weapons purposely, purposely given to drug cartels. We have hundreds of dead people in Mexico. We have a dead United States Border Patrol agent. And we have a government that's withholding information, so that we cannot only get to the bottom of it, but that we can fix it and make sure that it never, ever happens again.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: So, what this comes down to is documents. The committee has been asking for documents in a specific period of time relating to this Fast and Furious investigation.
They want to know what Department of Justice officials knew, who knew what when. The department says that they have provided a lot of information, enough information, and they now -- including now that the president has stepped in, says that some of the documents that they are looking for have executive privilege and will not be handed over, will be withheld.
As I said, this hearing, Wolf, has been going on since 10:00 this morning. Republicans are the majority on the committee. They have the votes whenever they move towards that vote, Wolf.
BLITZER: So there should be no doubt that in this committee the Republicans -- I assume all the Republicans will vote to hold the attorney general in contempt. The Democrats will vote against it.
But the Republicans, as you point out, have the majority. So, presumably, it will move forward; is that right?
BOLDUAN: Presumably, that is how exactly things will move forward. Even if you just listen to some of the debate today, it was absolutely along partisan lines, one side saying that the Department of Justice is stonewalling, the other side saying that this is a political witch-hunt on the part of Republicans.
Going forward, though, Wolf, it becomes a little bit more unclear. That full House of Representatives would need to vote on this citation. That could happen as early as next week is what we are hearing.
After that, it's unclear where it would go. It would likely go to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, but it's unlikely the Justice Department would enforce such a citation on one of its own, especially if it's in dispute by the attorney general himself.
And the element of the president asserting this executive privilege brings a whole new element to all of this. So it doesn't seems -- it seems almost impossible for the president or the attorney general could be prosecuted for withholding documents that are protected under executive privilege, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kate, you will let us know when that roll call takes place.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan up on the Hill.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our senior analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's joining us from New York.
So, what does this mean, precisely, if in fact the committee, then the full House holds Eric Holder in contempt of Congress? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what it means in practical terms is that this will go to court.
The executive branch and the legislative branch are in conflict. And when that happens, the judicial branch, the third branch, has to settle it. And this will go probably in the next month or so to a district court, to the District Court of Columbia of Appeals, and then potentially to the United States Supreme Court.
BLITZER: And so we just heard Kate say the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who was named by the president. He would be put in charge if in fact there were to become an investigation? Is that what your understanding would be?
TOOBIN: Well, my understanding is that before that point, it will go to court.
These sorts of disputes between the executive branch and the legislative branch have happened in all recent administrations. There have been these kind of fights, in the Clinton administration, in the last George Bush administration. And they have always wound up in court.
And what usually happens is what always happens in court. Things get delayed. It takes a long time to litigate these questions. They're complicated. It's not simple to resolve them.
And based on the fact that we are now in June of an election year, based on how these usually work, I don't see any resolution before the election. So I think there will be a flurry of activity in the next couple of days, perhaps the next couple of weeks.
But then it's going to wind up in court. And it really won't be resolved, I don't think, until after the election.
BLITZER: Let's take a look.
I want to put up on the screen exactly how many times at least in recent history a president of the United States has exerted executive privilege, President Obama now one -- this is the first time -- President George W. Bush, six times, President Clinton 14 times, President George H.W. Bush one time. Ronald Reagan did it three times.
Should we conclude, as some of the president's critics, the attorney general's critics are suggesting right now, that the administration has something to hide, that's why they're not sharing all these documents with this committee?
TOOBIN: No, by no means.
These are constitutional values in conflict. Congress definitely has the right to oversight. It has the right to investigate the executive branch. But the courts have also held that the executive branch has the right to internal deliberations. That's the phrase that the courts focus on, internal deliberations that cannot be disclosed to the legislative branch when it's investigating.
And the question in these cases is, are the documents at issue, do they reflect internal deliberations that the executive needs in order to reach good decisions? Or is this simply a cover-up of information that Congress is entitled to?
And those are the kind of issues that the courts deal with. And it can often be difficult and tedious, because that means the court, the judge, has to look at each document and say, is this protected by executive privilege?
That's not always a simple determination. It can be appealed. So I think, as usual, when it comes to the legal system, this fast- moving process, at least today, will slow down considerably.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, don't go too far away, because you see Darrell Issa. We're showing live pictures. He's the chairman of the committee. He's going to be calling the roll on this contempt vote we expect fairly soon. We will update our viewers as soon as we get more on that.
Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.
In our next hour, by the way, an in-depth analysis of Fast and Furious, that botched sting operation. What exactly happened that has generated what is dramatic -- this dramatic development today? We will explain all of that. That's coming up in our next hour.
BLITZER: Older white men may be in Mitt Romney's corner, but that's not necessarily going to be enough for him to win the White House. We're taking a closer look at his dilemma.
Plus, the Fed chairman offers a bleak new assessment of American economic future in the months to come. So, what does it mean for your finances? What does it mean for the race for the White House?
And did someone who pulled off a dangerous hoax on the U.S. Coast Guard do it again?
BLITZER: Go right to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, if Mitt Romney wants to be president, he's going to need help from bolder -- voters, that is, he tried to say, who are not old, white men like me. He's got his work cut out for him.
A "Politico" piece called Barack Obama's group therapy talks about how the re-election campaign, Obama's, has been reaching out to key voting groups focusing on issues like contraception fight, equal pay for women, gay marriage, student loans and immigration policy.
Many Republicans find the president's strategy, quote, "very crass." Hey, politics is a crass business. One GOP pollster told "Politico", Mitt Romney can win if, quote, "Republicans decide to it's OK to look outside the country club for votes," unquote. I love that.
For his part, Romney is sticking on his message for the economy, he hopes it will appeal to all voters.
The traditional Republican base of white voters is shrinking. And if Romney wants to win, he's going to need minorities and women. Republicans traditionally get 87 percent of their votes from whites -- stunning number. The problem is the number of white voters in the electorate has dropped from 88 percent in 1976, to 74 percent in 2008. Do the math.
At the same time, minority groups have grown from 12 percent to 26 percent. More than doubling. That explains the Obama camp's targeted voter outreach to groups like women, Hispanics, blacks, gays and students.
To be fair, Mitt Romney is also doing some outreach. He's scheduled to speak tomorrow in Florida to NALEAO. That's an acronym for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Later this summer, he's going to address the national convention of the NAACP.
The question is how much credibility he has with those groups.
Marco Rubio and Condoleezza Rice could help.
Here's the question, how can Republicans attract voters other than old white men? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog. Or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
Eighty-seven percent of their votes come from whites, the Republicans. I didn't realize it was that high.
BLITZER: I didn't either. Good point there, Jack. Thanks for sharing.
Meanwhile a new presidential poll out today may have sent chills down the spines of Romney campaign officials. "The Bloomberg" poll shows President Obama opening up -- get this -- a 13-point lead over his Republican rival nationwide. But every other recent national poll shows a much tighter race between President Obama and Mitt Romney. And to put it all in perspective, we averaged "The Bloomberg" poll that was out today with two other surveys taken over the past two weeks. Our so-called "poll of polls" shows President Obama leading Romney by five points.
As the candidates jockey in the polls, the campaign ad war is certainly heating up.
Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's taking a look at all these ads.
And, Jessica, what are you seeing?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
First of all, a senior campaign aide says they don't buy -- senior Obama campaign ad said they don't buy the 13-point lead. They don't believe that poll. They think the race is actually much tighter than that and will continue to be right up until Election Day.
In fact, a number of senior Obama campaign aides say -- told reporters today that they believe that in this close race that the president is going to win because he's ahead. Of course, they think he's going to win, but it's because he's ahead with a number of key voting groups for them. We've talked about this. These are the groups among women, they say, they continue to lead in the key battleground states, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia. They also say they're ahead with Latino voters and they expect a bigger Latino turnout or hoping for one this time. And still with the African- American bloc.
The one big concern and they flagged this, is that Mitt Romney, they expect that he will raise $100 million this month in the next reporting month, and the president not going to match that. And they also think that taken together, the Republicans with Mitt Romney will raise all told more than $1 billion. And they're warning that on the Democratic side they are not going to match that figure.
Now, remember, that's a turnaround because months ago, last year, we were saying we heard the Obama campaign was going to raise a billion. Now, they're calling the Romney side the billion-dollar campaign.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a minute, Jessica, because Darrell, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is now actually conducting the role call. I want to see what's going on.
Let's go to the committee. They're counting the votes right now.
CLERK: Mr. Amash?
REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R), MICHIGAN: Yes.
CLERK: Mr. Amash votes aye.
Ms. Buerkle votes aye.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: Aye.
CLERK: Dr. Gosar votes aye.
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: Aye.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Mr. Labrador votes aye.
REP. PAT MEEHAN (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Meehan votes aye.
REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS (R), TENNESSEE: Yes.
CLERK: Dr. DesJarlais votes aye.
REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: Yes.
CLERK: Mr. Walsh votes aye.
Mr. Gowdy votes aye.
REP. DENNIS ROSS (R), FLORIDA: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Ross votes aye.
REP. FRANK GUINTA (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Guinta votes aye.
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Farenthold votes aye.
REP. MIKE KELLY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Aye.
CLERK: Mr. Kelly votes aye.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: No.
CLERK: Mr. Cummings votes no.
REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS (D), NEW YORK: No.
CLERK: Mr. Towns votes no.
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: No.
CLERK: Mrs. Maloney votes no.
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: No.
CLERK: Ms. Norton votes no.
Mr. Kucinich votes no.
REP. JOHN TIERNEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No.
CLERK: Mr. Tierney votes no.
REP. WM. LACY CLAY (D), MISSOURI: No.
CLERK: Mr. Clay votes no.
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No.
CLERK: Mr. Lynch votes no.
REP. JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: No.
CLERK: Mr. Cooper votes no.
REP. GERALD CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: No.
CLERK: Mr. Connolly votes no.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: No.
CLERK: Mr. Quigley votes no.
REP. DANNY DAVIS (D), ILLINOIS: No.
CLERK: Mr. Davis votes no.
REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA: No.
CLERK: Mr. Braley votes no.
Mr. Welch votes no.
REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D), KENTUCKY: No.
CLERK: Mr. Yarmuth votes no.
REP. CHRISTOPHER MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: No.
CLERK: Mr. Murphy votes no.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: No.
CLERK: Ms. Speier votes no.
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: The clerk will report.
CLERK: Twenty-three ayes, 17 nos.
ISSA: The ayes have it. And a contempt report is ordered to -- ordered reported to the house. Without objection the staff shall be authorized to make necessary and technical corrections and conforming changes to the report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I ask for the record of days --
ISSA: To file your --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ISSA: Without objection.
BLITZER: All right. So there you have it. A strict party line vote, 23 yeas, 17 nos. The attorney general according to this House Oversight Committee roll call should be held in contempt of the U.S. Congress.
Kate Bolduan is watching it up on Capitol Hill. Jessica Yellin's watching it from the White House.
First to you, Kate, I take it this is no great surprise, strictly along party lines because of the Fast and Furious documents that the Obama administration is refusing to share with this committee, they are holding the attorney general in contempt even though the president of the United States today in his first time since taking office has cited -- has exerted his executive privilege opportunity to explain why he's not sharing those documents.
Go ahead and give our viewers your analysis.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the chairman of the committee when he began the hearing and having just gotten the letter from the Department of Justice moments before regarding the assertion of executive privilege, the chairman of the committee, Chairman Issa, made very clear that regardless of that assertion they were moving forward with this contempt vote. That began at 10:00 -- just after 10:00 this morning, Wolf.
And they have been debating almost every member of the committee having their say today. They went through amendments, none of them -- nothing significant has changed on this contempt. And 23 yeas, 17 nos, that's strictly along party lines in this committee, Republicans to Democrats. This is not surprising with Republicans having majority on this committee and House of Representatives they are moving forward, but a very significant step.
This now moves to a full House vote we are told we can expect as early as next week. If this would be approved by the full House and the attorney general of the United States will be held in contempt of Congress, that would be unprecedented, it would be historic to have the whole house vote to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt. And that is something we'll be looking towards next week.
BLITZER: Yes, if it's a strict party line. It's no contest, obviously.
BLITZER: The Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives.
Jessica Yellin has been watching this over at the White House.
Jessica, I assume between now and the full floor vote in the House of Representatives, administration officials, Justice Department officials, maybe the president, the vice president, the attorney general, try to work out some sort of deal with Darrell Issa, and the House Speaker John Boehner. I don't know if that's going to happen. But I assume they're going to try to prevent the attorney general of the United States formerly voted held in contempt of the Congress by the full House.
YELLIN: I imagine that they will try to see if they can avoid that kind of vote. But at the same time, you know, the president's action by invoking executive privilege here does immunize the attorney general from prosecution. It doesn't end the political implications of what that House vote would mean for the administration. But it does protect the attorney general from any actual prosecution.
And then we would just have a political clash between the House of Representatives and the executive branch. And then you have this political standoff between these two branches. And then the question becomes, is that something that these two bodies want in the middle of an election year that's focused on the economy and focused on these larger issues?
Another sign of Washington focusing in on itself and the sort of partisan squabbling, if you will, and the gridlock between these two bodies rather than on the larger issues that are affecting regular Americans. A lot of people would say it goes to transparency. It goes to other issues that this White House committed itself to. At the same time, it's also not getting to issues that everyday Americans care most about, which is jobs and the economy, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Well, dramatic development happening on the -- in this House Oversight Committee. The vote once again 23 yeas to hold Eric holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide some documents over that botched Fast and Furious sting operation.
There you see Darrell Issa, the committee chairman, he's walking out of the committee room up on Capitol Hill. Seventeen Democrats voted to block that contempt of Congress citation. But the Republicans have the majority and along strict party lines, the Republicans got that passed.
That's Representative Elijah Cummings. He's the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. All right. We're going to assess what's going on. Our strategy session is coming up next. We're following the breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get some analysis right now on the breaking news in our strategy session. Joining us our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and David Frum, a contributing editor at "The Daily Beast" and "Newsweek."
David, you saw the breaking news, strict along party lines, 23 Republicans say Eric Holder, the attorney general should be held in contempt for refusing to provide documents about "Fast and Furious," the botched sting operation.
Seventeen Democrats say no, no way, the president invoking executive privilege. Why have we been through this fight so many times in recent years?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Your last question in the last segment I think really nailed it, which is this is a process of negotiation. Congress wants more.
The president has a right to have confidential advice. He has the right to have confidential bad advice, which is what seems to have gotten in this case.
But Congress wants to exercise oversight. It's always wiser for the executive branch to cooperate and not to use every last right that it has.
BLITZER: You know, when there was a Republican president who exerted executive privilege, a lot of Democrats including a senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, he was pretty critical of a Republican president exerting executive privilege.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, but I think we have to keep in mind and you mentioned this, this is the first time that the Obama administration has exerted executive privilege.
The Bush administration did it six times. The Clinton administration did it 14 times. So I think to call this political is beyond the realm of credibility and I wish that you were right.
In fact that there should have been a negotiation and the administration is still willing to negotiate, but the fact of the matter is this has been a witch hunt from the very beginning.
Fourteen months where the Justice Department has collaborated with investigators, almost 8,000 pages have been turned over to them. Even some deliberative documents, which as you know are covered under executive privilege all in good faith.
And the Republicans just want to prove something that they suspect is there, but clearly is not there.
BLITZER: John Boehner, the House Speaker, has just told reporters there will be a vote on the full House floor next week. He didn't say which day, but there would be a vote next week.
Here's the question I have, you worked in the White House in the Bush administration. Some of the most sensitive national security intelligence information is shared by the executive branch with the House and the Senate intelligence.
It's very confidentially. They go into secret rooms. Why is it this time they can't share some of that sensitive information with members of Darrell Issa's Oversight Committee because they do have a constitutional responsibility for overseeing, for oversight?
FRUM: Look, the intelligence committees as you know have special rules governing them and make it difficult for members of those committees to share what they know with their parties in Congress, with the rest of their parties.
So that is also -- sorry, the oversight it applies to very particular kinds of documents that administrations generate. In this case, what is suspected and what the Republicans are hunting for is the idea the administration was trying to in some way tamper with people's gun rights, Americans gun rights. That's the thing they're looking to try to prove. BLITZER: The argument is they must be hiding something embarrassing. Otherwise, we know the end result. We know one U.S. border patrol guard was killed by these guns that were provided in a sting operation to the Mexican drug cartels. They must have something embarrassing, politically embarrassing or whatever that they're concerned about releasing.
CARDONA: Well, that's what they say. But, again, if a piece of paper does not show up that actually prove that, they're going to keep with this witch hunt.
What really strikes me, Wolf, and you just mentioned what should be our top priority, if they're really concerned about finding out what happened and getting to the bottom of this, why don't they bring in the chief of the ATF who actually was involved in the operation?
They have decided to not bring him in. They have decided to not have any public hearings with any agents of the ATF. That is where we need to go. That's where the American people can actually find out what happened.
FRUM: Let's say one thing. Honoring the memory of the American border patrolman who was killed, we also think these guns maybe killed maybe 200 people in Mexico.
And that is, again, we honor the American, but let us not forget the Mexicans. This is a major disaster, major mistake.
CARDONA: And I completely agree with that. We also should keep in mind this was a tactic started under the Bush administration and ended under this one.
FRUM: Ended badly.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more is coming up in our next hour including a complete review of what exactly "Fast and Furious," that operation, was all about. Guys, thanks very much.
CARDONA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: The Federal Reserve is lowering expectations for the jobs market and the U.S. economy. Is the Fed Chief Ben Bernanke doing enough to bolster the recover? Erin Burnett is standing by live.
BLITZER: A new move by the Federal Reserve to pump more life into the economy. Erin Burnett is standing by live to tell us what it could mean for all of us. Standby.
BLITZER: On Wall Street today, stock prices were mixed at the closing bell just a little while ago, after the Federal Reserve extended one of its stimulus programs. The fed stopped short of taking more aggressive action even after lowering expectations for economic growth this year.
CNN's Erin Burnett is joining us. She's going out front on this story. Erin, you're going to have to translate what Ben Bernanke said today to our viewers in plain English because she was speaking in a certain, shall we say, Federal Reserve language.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Yes, he was. Look, bottom line in terms of where the economy is, is the fed does not think the U.S. economy can grow as quickly as it thought just a few months ago and doesn't think the U.S. economy can create as many jobs.
So it's really a downgrade in the outlook for growth in the economy. But not enough of a downgrade for the fed and Ben Bernanke to say, look, we're so afraid that we're going to do some sort of another massive quantitative easing program.
What they did, Wolf, was extend the program already in place, which has the same goal Ben Bernanke's been trying to push through all of these creative programs over the past few years, which are lower long-term interest rates.
You know, Wolf, the problem with this is he's already succeeded. I am just looking over here 30-year fixed rate mortgage in this country 3.63 percent.
I mean, it's pretty hard to get rates any lower than they are right now. But that's the tool the fed has to try to get the economy growing. They've really used it to the most of their ability.
BLITZER: So what does this say about the state of our economy?
BURNETT: Well, I mean, Wolf, it's not in a good place. I mean, part of this in a sense is, look, we were in a debt-driven crisis. Throughout history those crises have taken a very, very long time to recover from, years and years.
You know, when you amass a lot of debt, you can't just suddenly because interest rates are cheap, pay it down and go borrow again. It takes time. So in a sense, it means that.
But it also means the U.S. economy is fragile and really taking a hit already from Europe. So if Europe doesn't deal with its problem, we could really see blowback in the United States. That's the real risk for another recession.
And by the way, wolf, if Ben Bernanke's already got the spigots of the fed open. All sorts of complicated swaps and lending programs going onto Europe to try to help them too, but there really is only so much he can do. Really it's got to be Congress.
BLITZER: Good point. I know you're going to have a lot more 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." We will be watching. Thank you.
The pleas for help are fake, but the costs are very, very real. Why the U.S. Coast Guard thinks two hoax distress calls may be linked.
And your pizza may be piling on the pounds. You want to stick around for bad news? Maybe. Stay with us.
BLITZER: U.S. Coast Guard officials still are fuming about a phony distress call off the coast of New Jersey. And now they're investigating a similar call in Texas and whether they've been hoaxed twice by one person.
Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what's going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Coast Guard officials burned a lot of time and money in that search off New Jersey last week. Now it appears there may indeed be a pattern.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We've had an explosion on board --
TODD (voice-over): The distress call had the Coast Guard spring into action.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water.
TODD: Last week's mayday launched a $300,000 search for a yacht sinking off the coast of New Jersey, but it wasn't true. It turns out the Coast Guard now thinks the same person may be responsible for a similar hoax in May, more than 1,400 miles away in Texas.
GREGORY HITCHEN, COAST GUARD DEPUTY COMMANDER: It is very curious that we have such a geographic separation between the two cases.
TODD: The 36-hour search for six people in the case near Galveston didn't turn up anything either. The similarities, both male voices used unusual terms saying taking on water instead of sinking, souls onboard instead of people, the specific colors of the life rafts, orange, and the location down to a 10th of a mile.
And both distress calls came into a unit of the coast guard which normally doesn't get them. Take a listen. This was the call from last week.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Our last known position was 17.5 miles due east of Gateway National Recreation Area.
TODD: And this was in May.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: It's a fishing vessel (inaudible). We are approximately 2.2 miles off of -- entrance.
TODD: Again, last week.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We're taking on water. TODD: Now in May.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: We have an onboard emergency. We are taking on water, sir.
TODD: And a tip from a TV reporter helped the Coast Guard connect the incidents.
HITCHEN: It was not something we were aware of up here because the case wasn't declared a hoax down there as it was up here.
TODD: The Coast Guard is doing a voice comparison right now as part of its investigation to figure out if both of the hoaxes were in fact the same person.
If convicted, the suspect could face up to six years in prison, $250,000 in fines and they would have to pay the government back for those searches, Wolf, that cost obviously a lot of money and really a waste of resources.
BLITZER: Are you getting indication from officials why someone would do this?
TODD: Well, they don't really know. They say terrorism is very unlikely. There could be many reasons. It could be someone wanted to see the Coast Guard deploy all those resources just for a gag. They just don't know right now. They want to get that person into custody.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure they do. Brian, thank you.
Can Republicans attract a more diverse voting base? Jack Cafferty is taking a closer look.
It's a popular dinner staple to be sure, but will the popularity fade with a calorie count?
BLITZER: Attorney General Eric Holder has just issued a statement reacting to the vote in the U.S. House Of Representatives in the House Oversight Committee, a vote along party lines to hold him in contempt for not releasing enough documents to the committee on the failed "Fast and Furious" sting operation.
Among other things the attorney general says, unfortunately, Chairman Darrell Issa has rejected all of the efforts to reach reasonable accommodation. Instead he's chosen to use his authority to an extraordinary unprecedented entirely unnecessary action intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the executive branch.
This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer. It's an election year tactic intended to distract attention.
And as a result has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority, the Department of Justice, protecting the American people.
It's tough statement reacting to Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Much more coming up on this at the top of the hour.
Meanwhile, let's go to jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: I wonder what's in those documents they're refusing to release they don't want us to know about.
BLITZER: They say it's sensitive, classified information that could undermine ongoing operations if made public.
CAFFERTY: Right. Why don't I believe that? It doesn't matter. The question is this, how can Republicans attract voters other than old white men? We got some pretty e-mail.
Pete writes, "Simple. Stop trying to divide us. Start working with the Democrats in Congress, create jobs and fix the economy. Get rid of Grover Norquist, nobody elected him. Except the fact it's going to take both spending cuts and revenue increases to reign in our deficit and debt, tell Limbaugh to shut up and Beck and Palin and Coulter and Trump and every other divisive clown like them, and stop lying."
Tom in Michigan, "Get an electable candidate, stop being racist and elitist. Do something, anything for the working class, stop preaching politics and leave religion out of the election."
Bennie in Connecticut, "Are you serious, Jack? All white men? Was it just all white men who gave majority of the House to the Republicans in 2010? Was it just old white men who elected Scott Brown to the Senate seat held for years by Ted Kennedy? Is it just old white men polled showing Romney's ahead of Obama nationally and ahead, tied or only one or two points behind Obama in traditionally safe Democratic states. What a really dumb and loaded question."
Curtis in Philadelphia says, "They can start by being a bit more inclusive in what they stand for. Believe it or not, Jack, not everybody's a millionaire, not everyone's pro-gun, pro-war while insisting they are also pro-life. For the record I'm a middle-aged almost 50 white guy and they've got nothing for me."
Alan in Texas writes, "Maybe a pair of MC Hammer pants would be a good start, but please don't ask "who let the dogs out." And Larry in Texas writes, "I don't know, Jack, you tell us. Aren't you an old white man?"
God, am I ever. If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll do, Jack. Thank you.
Big pizza chains doing battle so they don't have to tell you how many calories per slice.
BLITZER: A question for all the pizza lovers out there. Would you rather know how many calories are in the next slice you eat or would you rather stay in the dark?
There's a new lobbying campaign going on right here in Washington that could affect your pizza appetite. Brian Todd is taking a closer look. What are you seeing?
TODD: Well, the lobbying, Wolf, is from pizza company executives who are actually banning together to fight a new law on labelling. The legislation would make Domino's, Pizza Hut, other big chains show you on their menu boards in the stores just how many calories you'd be ordering.
They say that's a big waste of time and money for them, but nutritionists say it's going to help fight obesity.
TODD (voice-over): Lunchtime and I'm ordering pizza for my colleagues and me. Let's see, it's 100 degrees outside and I don't want nap- inducing caloric intake.
Luckily, here at Dominos in Montgomery County, Maryland, I can get a sense of how many calories I'll be slamming. It's on the menu board.
(on camera): Take a medium pepperoni please.
(voice-over): That's about 215 calories for a slice. If one part of the health care law goes through, I'll be able to see that on the menu at every Domino's in America.
The legislation would force restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to clearly post on menus or menu boards the calorie count for each item.
(on camera): You're telling me how many different ways can you order a pizza?
LYNN LIDDLE, DOMINO'S PIZZA: We've calculated that you can do 34 million different iterations of a pizza.
TODD (voice-over): Lynn Liddle of Domino's is working the halls of Capitol Hill trying to fight off the proposed rule. Pizza execs say with all those ways to order a pizza, a menu board calculation of calories is useless. Liddle and execs from chains like Pizza Hut and Papa John's usually oven hut rivals are joining forces against it.
LIDDLE: Most of our customers and pizza stores order online or over the phone. They don't look at a menu board and make their decision that way. So we're not only doing it in a way that's expensive for the small business person, we're doing it in a way that would be too confusing --
TODD: Liddle says they don't want to spend money on menu boards that most customers won't see when ordering. She says it's enough that customers can go online for the information.
I chose a hand tossed crust medium size and add pepperoni. On Domino's calometer online I get the readout, 215 calories, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 3.5 grams of saturated fat for a slice.
(on camera): I'm ready to chow down on my medium pepperoni pizza. But before I do I want to get the guilt trip from Margo Wootan, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. She's a nutrition expert.
Margo, why is it so important for me to get the bad news about calories on this from a menu in there rather than some other way or ignoring it?
MARGO WOOTAN, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Well, people are eating out a lot more than in the past. Now we're now getting a third of our calories from eating at restaurants and other kinds of retail food establishments. It's a big part of our diet, and it's a problematic part of our diet. Studies show that eating out is linked to obesity.
TODD: Wootan says there are mixed results from studies in places where there are already calorie labels on menus. She says in those places like New York City, it's been found that people have used the information to make informed choices to cut calories when they order. So in some places, that actually does work, Wolf - people look at the menu, they look at the calorie labels, they make an informed choice.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.