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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Conflicting Reports Emerge on Hosni Mubarak's Health; Egypt to Elect President; Self-Proclaimed Al Qaeda Militant Takes Hostages in France; Eurozone's Economic Troubles Continue; Hostages Held In French Bank; Iran Nuke Talks Fail; Stopping Europe's Ripple Effects; Grilled Over Risky Business; Holder In Contempt Of Congress?; Romney: "Rubio Is Being Thoroughly Vetted"; Barack Obama: The Story
Aired June 20, 2012 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning is breaking news. Police in London are seeking Julian Assange after he sought shelter from sex abuse charges.
And confusion and chaos in Cairo again. A dictator is dying, Democracy is struggling, and the people are demanding power back from the military. Former U.S. ambassador to Egypt will weigh in with us this morning.
Plus, reality check. A new memoir is raising some questions about President Obama's own version of his life. The author of the new Obama biography will join us this morning.
Plus, it's going to be a scorcher. Record heat set to blast the northeast today on the first day of summer. It's a jam packed show this morning. We're talking to the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Daniel Kurtzer, and author, David Maraniss (ph) is going to join us.
It's Wednesday, June 20th. "Starting Point" begins right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. We're going to start with breaking news out of London this morning where there is a bit of standoff between police and the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Assange, right now, is hold up inside the Ecuadorian embassy.
He's been asking for asylum as he fights extradition from England to Sweden on the allegations that he sexually assaulted some women in his office. We're going to update you on this story as we get more details, but we are watching that for you this morning.
Other breaking news to get to this morning as well. Four people taken hostage at a bank in Toulouse, France. Police say the man is claiming to be an al Qaeda militant, and he is demanding that they talk to him. We're going to update you on that story as well.
Other headlines from Christine Romans. Good morning, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Developing news out of Egypt, just one day before we learn who is actually going to be running that country. We'll have that story in just a minute.
But first, President Obama is back in the U.S. after making his case to stop the ripple effect of the economic crisis. At the G-20 summit last night he encouraged EU leaders to make short-term economic fixes. EU leaders will have their own summit next week. President Obama explained why troubles in Europe mean trouble for the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Europe as a whole is our largest trading partner. If fewer folks are buying stuff in Paris or berlin, that means that we're selling less stuff made in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. All of these issues, economic issues, will potentially have impact on the election. But that's not my biggest concern right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Democratic Senator Jack Reed will join Soledad to assess how important Europe's future is to president Obama's chances of re-election.
In three hours, a House committee could hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of congress. A last-ditch meeting between Holder and Darrel Issa failed to resolve a dispute over the botched fast and furious operation. That program allowed weapons to reach Mexican drug gangs. He has been demanding holder turn over more documents. In 30 minutes Soledad talks with Elijah Cummings who was at the meeting.
In a few hours we'll find out in Jerry Sandusky will testify at his own trial. Sandusky is prepped and ready to take the stand today. The defense is expected to rest its case this afternoon. Before that happens, lawyers for the former Penn State coach will make a final decision about whether to let him face questioning. Closing arguments in the child molestation case could take place tomorrow.
ROMANS: So close they can taste it. The Miami Heat now just one win away from an NBA title. It would be the first for LeBron James. LeBron shook off a leg injury to hit a tie breaking three-pointer in the game's final minutes as the Heat held off the Oklahoma City Thunder 104 to 98. James just missed a triple double. He 26 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds. The win gives Miami a three to one series lead that no team in finals history, Soledad, has ever blown.
O'BRIEN: I wish you hadn't said that. Let's just get through and win this game, come on. That no team has ever blown in the history of mankind.
ROMANS: Those stats are meant to be broken.
O'BRIEN: All of my fingers are crossed.
Let's get to the developing news out of Egypt this morning. Just a day before we learned who's going to be the new president of that country, we're now getting some conflicting reports about the health of the former president Hosni Mubarak. A state news agency is reporting that the 84-year-old is clinically dead. His lawyer says he's in a coma. The military says Mubarak's condition is critical but that he is still alive.
All of this confusion is coming at a critical time for Egypt. Thousands of people gathering overnight in Cairo's Tahrir Square protesting the military leaders who stripped major powers from the office of the presidency. You'll remember this was the place where the movement to overflow Mubarak was born. Thousands of protesters staring down tanks and risking their lives for something they now worry is going to be taken away.
Ivan Watson is live for us in Cairo. Ivan what's the latest? How crowded is the square?
IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Square has thinned out. The crowds were gone by 3:00 in the morning local time. And disbursed and the Muslim Brotherhood has indicated it did not want to participate in any kind of violent protest and wanted them to move on. That's despite the fact that some of the demonstrators were threatening to stage a sit-in until the military council that has run this country since Hosni Mubarak stepped down, until it carried out an unconditional hand over of power to a civilian elected government. That clearly isn't happening any time soon. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: Ivan Watson in Cairo. Thank you for that report.
Let's get right to Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt. When we hear reports and reporters saying that the gathering in the square is not because of Mubarak and there is still conflicting information on whether he is dead or clinically dead or not dead, but because of the movement as Ivan reported by the military to minimize the power of the office of the presidency. Are you seeing in some ways a repeat of last year?
DANIEL C. KURTZER, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO EGYPT: Well, in some ways it's a culmination or a continuation of last year. I think Mubarak's health is not a factor at all in the decision-making of the Egyptian masses. But they are concerned, number one, is the possibility that the election that they just went through may be stolen from them by fraud by either side, either the Islamists or the military. And second, that the military may not respect the outcome of the elections and hold on to a certain amount of power, even after they are supposed to be a transition.
O'BRIEN: So if Mubarak lives or dies or if he were to die imminently, will be a factor at all on any of these protests?
KURTZER: No, I think in political terms, it's not going to make much of a difference. A lot of Egyptians would have liked to see him go to jail and suffer the punishment of the years of abuse and authoritarianism. But it has to do with this tug of war between the Islamists and the military. The election is going to be very close. It looks as though Muhammad Morsi has won, no one knows for sure. Either way, it's going to be contested on the streets. That's what we're seeing now in Tahrir Square.
O'BRIEN: We're told they've been chanting, "Down with military rule, we're not finish -- we're going to finish the revolution." What would that mean? Could you still have the military doing as we've seen them do, you mention many perceiving it as fraud, and still have a revolution that's not finished?
KURTZER: Well, there's been an argument that what happened last year was simply a decapitation. Mubarak left office a couple of top officials left office, but the system remained in place with the military essentially replacing Mubarak at the top. I think the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square and Islamists would like to see a major change in the system, the military no longer having a role in formulating national decision-making as it were and having the military come under civilian control. For the Tahrir crowd, that would be the real revolution. Until now that has not happened.
O'BRIEN: You mentioned speculation that Morsi could likely win. What happens then come Thursday?
KURTZER: Well, it will be most interesting both from the perspective of Egyptians and perspective of Washington. I think at least half of the Egyptian population is concerned that Morsi will lead Egypt down a path of Islamism that Egyptians feel represents them culturally and religiously but they don't want to necessarily run under the strict tours of fundamentalist Islam. I think the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and the strategic relationship between Egypt and the United States, there's real questions that need to be answered should Morsi win the election.
O'BRIEN: I guess we'll see tomorrow. Daniel Kurtzer, thank you for being with us. We certainly appreciate it.
We have more breaking news to get to out of Toulouse, France, where four people have been taken hostage by a man claiming to be an Al Qaeda militant. Jim Bitterman is live in Paris this morning. Good morning.
JIM BITTERMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
I think police are taking this more seriously than they might in a normal armed robbery because of the few of the details that have now emerged. Basically what happened is that a gunman entered the bank a little before noon local time this morning. And one shot was fired. Then the gunman took four employees of the bank hostage and been holding the hostages ever since.
Now, he says that he's a member of Al Qaeda. That's one thing that has set the police on edge. Another thing is that this is all taking place just a few hundred yards away from the home -- what was the former home of Mohammed Marah, who, you may remember, the young man that back in march killed seven people and then later died himself in a police shootout in Toulouse, there is some indication to connect the two events and elite squad of hostage negotiators on their way to see if they can resolve the solution. O'BRIEN: What's the tone and the tenor? Are people very anxious?
BITTERMAN: I think there's a great deal of anxiety in the neighborhood. There's been eyewitness interviews conducted and people are worried about what's happening around them. They will be especially worried if there is some kind of a link to this earl year shootout that took place. The police have now sealed off the neighborhood and basically told shopkeepers to stay inside and stay out of sight while this thing is being resolved.
O'BRIEN: Jim Bitterman reporting from Paris. Thank you, Jim, appreciate the update.
Let's take you to London where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy. CNN's Nima Elbagir is live for us outside the embassy this morning. Can you update us on what's happening there?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Soledad. It really is a watch-and-wait at the moment. We understand that the Ecuadorian ambassador is heading to formally inform the authorities of what's going on since Assange turned up and claimed asylum. It sounds like it was as much of a surprise to people inside the embassy. One of the more high profile supporters put up his bail, responded on twitter that she felt they was on the hook for the 240,000 pounds, a little under a million dollar bail, really trying to figure out what's happening next. Assange had been told that he was able to go to the highest European court, the European court for human rights in Strasburg as a final ditch attempt to avoid that extradition to Sweden. But he didn't fancy his chances.
O'BRIEN: We'll continue to follow that story. Thank you.
We're going to stay on top of all of the breaking news we brought to you in France where the Al Qaeda militant has taken four people hostage.
Also this morning, President Obama is trying to accent wait the positive but will the ripple effects of Europe's economic crisis hurt his chances for reelection. We'll talk this morning with Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed straight ahead.
And Jerry Sandusky's lawyer comparing the rape trial to the TV soap opera -- you won't believe which soap he named. It's our "Get Real" this morning. All of that head. Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: So next week could be one of the most important weeks in the presidential race, but it's not because of anything that President Obama or even Mitt Romney will do. Next week in fact the European Union is expected to announce major changes to its financial system. It's all in an effort to stave off the region's economic crisis. At the summit in Mexico the president announced he supports the formation of a European banking union that would help the unstable financial systems. There's one major problem, and that's Germany. Angela Merkel is not on board with an integrated banking system and against a big stimulus for struggling countries.
What the EU decides could have an effect on this nation's economy stability and the outcome, of course, of the November election. Jack Reed is a Democratic senator from Rhode Island. Nice to see you, sir, thank you for being with us.
Let me read for everybody exactly what Angela Merkel said at the press conference, that a stimulus program could not be repeated and that President Obama agreed with her. And then she said this, "The American president said and we on the European said, that doesn't work," talking about the stimulus, "the debts are too high for that." Do you think that that's true, that President Obama agreed with her a stimulus would not work?
SEN. JACK REED, (D) RHODE ISLAND: The situation is Europe is they adopted a strategy of austerity and it's not working. She does recognize there has to be growth as well as responsible fiscal controls. I think the chancellor is trying to understand that there has to be growth in Europe, worldwide growth. She has particular issues in Germany, so she's not as outspoken in terms of growth. The progress they made in trying to unify their institutions, banking institutions, a single hopefully regulator, discussions of ways they can moderate in some respects the conditions with regard to Greece with regard to other countries, those are positive signs. And I don't think she's quite ready as she's indicated statements to clear a huge fiscal stimulus. But her reluctance I think is eroding. It has to. The austerity is not working in Europe.
O'BRIEN: I think some people would be surprised by the fact she said the president agrees with her on that part though.
REED: I think that it's a matter ever interpretation, perhaps. I think the president has made it very clear, unless there's the growth short-term growth along with long-term imposition of fiscal discipline that the Europe is not going to be able to sort of work itself out of the problem.
And that's not a feeling shared uniquely by President Obama. The new president of France and other leaders are talking about the need to not only have common institutions but emphasize growth. The irony here and policies Europeans ensued have not only caused significant unemployment but also widened the deficit and made their financial situations more precarious and weakened their banking institutions. It hasn't led to success. I think that is evidence is on the table. I think Merkel, Chancellor Merkel understands it. Politically, they have to find an indirect way to provide support for the European economy.
O'BRIEN: Looking forward to next week, meetings in Brussels, how critical is what is happening in the Eurozone to what is potentially going to happen in this country as far as the election? REED: It's absolutely critical and it's not simply the Eurozone, it's also China. We're in a global economy. The president has emphasized significant exports as a way to grow our economy. We've seen many, many months of private job growth but not sufficient to carry us forward and to reduce overall unemployment. So we have to have worldwide growth. And that is the new phenomenon in the world, that 30 or 40 years ago we could do some things in the United States and get our economy back on track. Now it's a global economy.
O'BRIEN: Senator Jack Reed, Democrat from Rhode Island. Nice to see you, sir. We appreciate it.
Still ahead, we're talking about terror in France, an Al Qaeda militant taking four people hostage. We'll take you live to this breaking story straight ahead.
Plus, Jerry Sandusky's defense attorney said what? While joking with reporters he likened the trial to the soap opera "All my Children." Is it an innocent mistake, a poor choice of words, maybe both? We'll listen to it and let you decide.
ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans with some quick headlines. In a newly released 911 call, Rodney King's fiancee sounds distraught and desperate. She made the call Sunday for help when she discovered King's body at the bottom of his pool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old is he?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rodney King, the guy that got beat by the police.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, how old is he?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's 47 years old. He's not moving. He's at the bottom of the swimming pool. I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he out now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I was sleeping for an hour or something then I look over and went to find him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: During the five-and-a-half minute call Kelly told the dispatcher she tried to revive King by throwing a shovel in the water. She also said she couldn't pull him out herself because she didn't know how to swim.
A pat-down at southwest airport turned to allegations of battery. That's former TSA worker Carol Price being patted down for two minutes last April by a co-worker. She was upset how it was done she went to a supervisor to complain and appears to grope her to show her displeasure. Price is also facing resisting arrest.
Secretariat, a winner again. His winning time in the 1973 Preakness has been changed to a stakes record 1:53. His 90-year-old winner owner always contended the time is wrong and new technology has proved that true. Secretariat now owns a record winning time in all three legs of the Triple Crown 39 years after he won it.
ROMANS: Isn't that cool?
O'BRIEN: That is really cool.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pitted against this year's champion, he comes out on top. I didn't know that.
O'BRIEN: Let's introduce today's team since they already started talking. Will Cain, Margaret Hoover, author of "American Individualism," Richard Takaridi (ph) is a former senior adviser to President Clinton and writer at the NewYorker.com. Our "Get Real" this morning is odd and this trial has been so crazy, the Sandusky trial. Yesterday Joe Amendola, Sandusky's lawyer was joking with reporters and his answer is raising eyebrows. A little context here -- Sandusky faces 51 counts of sexual abuse against ten young boys. When asked whether or not Sandusky would take the stand in his own defense. He called the drama a soap opera, but not just any soap opera. Here's how it went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE AMENDOLA, JERRY SANDUSKY'S ATTORNEY: Stay tuned. It's like a soap. You have to wait and see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you know the answers it takes the excitement out of it. "Days of our Lives"?
AMENDOLA: I think it's "General Hospital," or actually it could be "All my Children."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It was ha last one, it went back and forth and they are joking and he says "all my children".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so great. I kind of feel for this guy too --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very tough situation and he's a good lawyer obviously, but the pressure outside that courtroom. I've been in similar situations as a trial lawyer, you weigh everything you say inside the courtroom. You're outside and someone shout are questions, obviously did not mean to say that and I'm sure he regret it's.
O'BRIEN: David Letterman or Jay Leno wouldn't even write a joke in such poor taste.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was something he said --
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Inadvertently.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very unfortunate.
HOOVER: In the court of public opinion this is not going to help their case at all.
O'BRIEN: No, it's really, I completely agree. It's interesting what you say about the pressure, you finally get outside and throwing stuff in the back of the car and finally don't have to be in the courtroom and --
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know, as it's coming out of your mouth, a switch would have been flipped and that's not what I want to be saying.
HOOVER: Stick with general hospital.
O'BRIEN: It's still unclear, by the way, if Sandusky is going to testify at all in his defense. We're going to take you live this morning ahead on STARTING POINT to France on the hostage situation we've been telling you about all morning. Four people are being held by a man claiming to be an Al Qaeda operative.
Political battle about to reach crescendo on Capitol Hill, Congress could find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. We'll talk to a man who has been inside those meetings. Representative Elijah Cummings will join us live. That's all ahead this morning. We're back after this break.
O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. A gunman is holding four people hostage inside a bank. It's happening in Toulouse, France. Police say the man is claiming to be a member of al Qaeda.
CNN's Jim Bitterman is live for us in Paris this morning. Jim, what's the latest there?
JIM BITTERMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, they've evacuated at a nearby school now basically telling parents to come get their children and the entire neighborhood has been locked down as they wait for the elite police force that's arriving there to start negotiating with the gunman.
This apparently started as a bank robbery and went wrong. However, police are taking it a little more seriously than the average bank robbery because of the claim you mentioned, the gunman says he's a member of al Qaeda.
And because it's taking place just a few hundred yards away from the former home of Mohammed Mara. Now Mara, you may recall, Soledad was a gunman that was in action around the Toulouse area back in March killed seven people, including four school children.
And then was killed himself in a shootout with police. He's become something of a folk hero in that neighborhood as grisly as that may seem. As a consequence, there's an inclination at least to link this event today with that event back in March.
O'BRIEN: Outside of the gunman saying that he is with al Qaeda, any other information about the gunman?
BITTERMAN: No, in fact, one of the things that the police source that we talked to said that it's not clear whether he really is a member of al Qaeda or whether this is some kind of a fantasy that he might have just adopted when things start the going wrong in the bank robbery.
But it's just unclear. There's not a lot of information at this point. It's been going on now for a couple of hours and the police, of course, are worried most about getting this hostage situation resolved.
O'BRIEN: Jim Bitterman for us updating us on what's happening in Toulouse, France this morning. Thanks, Jim. Let's get right to Christine Romans. She's got an update on the day's headlines. Hi, Christine.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. No deal after two days of high level talks on Iran's nuclear program. Officials say a large gap remains between nuclear negotiators from Iran and six world powers.
They say the talks could resume if a technical level meeting next month in Turkey finds enough common ground. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and not to weaponize.
President Obama is back in the U.S. after making his case to stop the ripple effects of Europe's debt crisis. At the G-20 Summit last night, he encouraged EU leaders to focus on a long-term vision for the euro while making short-term economic fixes.
President Obama brought it back to basics of the G-20 explaining why troubles for Europe mean trouble for the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Europe as a whole is our largest trading partner. If fewer folks are buying stuff in Paris or Berlin, that means that we're selling less stuff made in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. All of these issues, economic issues will potentially have some impact on the election. But that's not my biggest concern right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: EU leaders will have their own summit next week. Grilled over risky business, JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon defending how his bank publicly disclosed $2 billion in losses suffered earlier this year on bad bets.
Saying we disclosed what we know when we knew it. It's the second congressional grilling that Dimon has faced in the past couple of weeks.
Coming up at 8:15 Eastern, Congressman Barney Frank, the ranking member of the committee that Dimon faced and one of the authors of Dodd-Frank financial regulatory legislation. I can't wait for that -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Christine. Thank you.
The Attorney General Eric Holder could be held in contempt of Congress in just a few hours from now. The House Oversight Committee is scheduled at 10:00 a.m. Eastern vote on that issue.
Now Holder and the Committee Chairman Darrell Issa met yesterday for about 20 minutes over the documents that were connected to the botched "Fast and Furious" program.
Issa wants Holder to turn over more files connected to the program that led guns end up in the hands of Mexican drug gangs. But Holder hasn't done so and the two men have failed to reach an agreement.
Issa says that he's going to move forward with the contempt citation unless the attorney general gives his committee all of the documents.
Congressman Elijah Cummings is on the Oversight Committee and he was present during that meeting, a 20-minute meeting. He is going to take part as well in any contempt hearing that could take place today.
It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us.
REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: It's good to be with you.
O'BRIEN: It's 20 minutes long, you and Senator Leahy, I believe, were there. Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley there, describe that meeting for me. Was it contentious? Was it nasty?
CUMMINGS: No, it was not nasty and the attorney general made it clear that he has produced over 7,600 documents that he has appeared before the Congress nine times in the last 16 months.
And that this incident that started with regard to the local ATF office in Phoenix allowing guns to go over the border without them tracing them properly and then one of those guns eventually ending up at the scene of the unfortunate murder of Agent Terry.
You know, he explained that, you know, that as a matter of fact, he applauded Mr. Issa for bringing this to the attention of the public and to the attention of the higher ups and DOJ. He basically said, look, I'm willing to work with you.
I've already provided all of these documents. I'll continue to do so, but you've got to give me some kind of assurances that this contempt situation will be taken off the table and basically what Issa said was that, no, absolutely not, would not do this. So we're at a stalemate.
But basically, you've got to understand, this thing has boiled down to initially the Chairman Issa was asking for documents that would have been unlawful for the attorney general to even produce.
And like wiretap applications and documents that would threaten trials and prosecutions that are going on. So last Friday, Chairman Issa took those off the table and now this simply boils down to a letter that was written in February of 19 -- of 2011, where the department said that there was no gun walking when in fact there was. We're basically boiled down to that.
O'BRIEN: We're at the stalemate right now is what you're saying.
CUMMINGS: Yes --
O'BRIEN: He has said, Issa as you know has said, listen, no documents, at 10:00, which is roughly two and a half hours from now, we will go into a contempt hearing. How likely is that?
CUMMINGS: That's quite likely and I expect it will come to a vote. I expect that it will be a vote on party lines. And I think that it will be -- I still believe this is an effort to try to embarrass the president.
CAIN: Congressman, this is Will Cain. I'm curious then. You talked about the attorney general producing some 7,000 odd documents.
I know that Congressman Issa points out there were something like 80,000 that he's asking and talking about, of course, the one from 2011 seems to be the point of focus. But is your contention right now that the attorney general has complied with the subpoena?
CUMMINGS: I think the attorney general has complied and continues to want to comply. This is an ongoing thing. They have had to review some 2 millions of e-mails, this is ongoing.
And the attorney general says I'm happy to cooperate. I'm happy to give you what you want. I'm continuing to do so. As a matter of fact, Senator Leahy made it clear that every time he's been ever asked to appear before the Congress, he's done so.
But and he's basically saying, you know, give us some type of assurances that we are not going to have to be coming up here every week and taking the time of all of my employees to try to go through these documents. We're happy to give them to you. He made that very clear.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question that you were saying a moment ago. I just want you to expand on that. You said you believe this is an effort to embarrass the president. What do you mean by that, sir?
CUMMINGS: I believe that -- and the attorney general said this himself, I think that anything that can be done to I think bring a negative light on the president, that's what -- I think that has a large part to do with it.
This -- the issue we boil down to is one that could have easily been resolved yesterday. We were on the one foot line and fumbled the ball. And I'm telling you, as a lawyer, I just think contempt is going far too far and very unreasonable. We've never heard an attorney general that is the Congress of United States never held an attorney general in contempt.
CAIN: Congressman, am I correct that the situation here now has nothing to do with the original investigation? This is just about whether or not documents relating to the original investigation should be disclosed or not and how she should be disclosed? The issues related to the original investigation are not on the table?
CUMMINGS: That's right. As a matter of fact, they were taken off the table on Friday after the Democrats presented dissenting views to the original contempt citation.
Understand there was a contempt citation that was asking for documents that he could not legally produce. And so then last Friday, Mr. Issa then took those off the table.
Because he knew there was a flawed document and created another document, citation for contempt on Friday and then says to the attorney general, you've got to produce.
The attorney general says, look, I've already produced some of the documents that you're asking for and I produced others voluntarily.
O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting you there. Senator Grassley said, I'm not going to buy a pig in a poke which is a quote my mother used to actually say all the time about different things.
But his point was like I'm not going to make a deal about whether or not we're going to take this hearing off the table until we get the documents. That's what it seems like this over right now.
CUMMINGS: That's basically -- that's exactly where we are. And but, keep in mind, again, the attorney general has said, I have shown good faith and I produced a thousand pages of documents that you wanted, that is the -- basically what the Mr. Issa is trying to show is two things.
One, he's looking for information to show that there was some kind of cover-up with regard to this letter of February 11th with wrongfully stated that there had been no gun walking. And two, he wants post February 4th letter documents to show that there was some type of effort to do harm to whistle blowers.
O'BRIEN: So maybe we can continue this conversation because it sounds like you're telling me that in two hours and 20 minutes this will go into a contempt hearing.
Congressman Elijah Cummings, a ranking member of the Oversight Committee. What do you think? We'll chat with you about this tomorrow? See what happens then?
CUMMINGS: Would be happy to.
O'BRIEN: All right, sir, thank you. I'm going to hold you to your word on that.
We got to take a short break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a new biography is shedding some light on President Obama's early life. We're talking about this earlier in the week, raises some questions about the president's own memoir. We're going to talk to the author, David Mariniss, straight ahead.
Is he or is he not on the short list for Mitt Romney's running mate. The candidate tries to set the record straight about Marco Rubio. You're watching STARTING POINT. Got to take a break.
O'BRIEN: I like breaks where we're having good arguments. That is Nirvana, "All Apologies." Despite a report to the contrary that Romney isn't --
CAIN: Like Mitt Romney's book, no apologies.
HOOVER: The book is no apology.
CAIN: It's a loose connection, go with it here.
O'BRIEN: Give the man a break. No apology, Mitt Romney saying that the Florida Senator Marco Rubio is in fact being vetted as a possible running mate come November.
There's lots of contradictory information coming out yesterday after ABC News reported that Rubio was not being vetted. Rubio looked kind of uncomfortable when he was discussing it last night after Romney moved pretty quickly to shoot the story down. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The story was entirely false. Marco Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Yes, you know, look, I don't want to talk about the process. I have enough to this point. It's Governor Romney's process and I want to be respectful of that. I think all of us involved in politics should be respectful of this process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: It's been an interesting day, hasn't it? CAIN: We laughed because that was an authentic moment for Marco Rubio. He was authentically laughing right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for Governor Romney and you know, with all of the focus on the Latino vote, they assume --
O'BRIEN: That's what this is about.
HOOVER: Not even the Latino vote, Florida --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they weren't thinking about him yesterday, they are thinking about him today.
O'BRIEN: People are saying it two huge mistakes not to have him on the short list, but number two, to have that information leaked would be a slap in the face in some ways. I think some are calling it because Latino vote is so critical.
HOOVER: Governor Romney's shop has not been a one with a propensity for leaks. It's one adviser who is vetting this entire process. It would be silly not to have Marco Rubio on the list.
O'BRIEN: Clearly it's not --
CAIN: I would add this. Mitt Romney was vetted by John McCain back in 2008 and Mitt Romney said he doesn't want to vet anyone he is not seriously considering to be a vice presidential candidate.
And he said, his number one issue on the vice presidential resume is, are you ready to be president? There are sources that suggest inside of Mitt Romney's camp that Marco Rubio is young.
O'BRIEN: Yes, no one is arguing that. The point is the leaking of his name is bad for the campaign, one, because it's a campaign that doesn't leak and number two, because you don't want a high profile Latino not even on the list. Put him on the list otherwise there's some backlash for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would be so good as a VP.
HOOVER: You say that now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's such an appealing figure.
O'BRIEN: What? All right, we take a short break. We'll come back in --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like him.
O'BRIEN: You do? All right, we'll see what happens. He's on list.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like any of them but --
O'BRIEN: Up next, a new memoir is raising some questions about President Obama's own version of his own life. The author of this new Obama biography is David Mariniss, and there he is, Bob Marley, three little birds. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: A new biography about President Obama sheds a unique light on the president's past. It's generating lots of buzz because it questions President Obama's history and his memoir, which is called "Dreams Of My Father."
The author of the new book is David Maraniss. He traces several generations of the president's lineage from Kenya to Kansas and gives an unprecedented look at young Barack Obama's life before his career in politics ever began.
Here is a passage. Barack Obama was 27 when he reached Harvard Law School, an unpredictable jumble of happenstance, skill, propitious timing, uncommon will and sheer luck would carry him forward from there. But the basic design had been set for his future. He knew at last who he was and had a sense of what he wanted to be.
That really is where the book starts leaving off, because we don't necessarily go into President Obama at Harvard in this particular book.
David Maraniss, the author, joins us now. It's so nice to see you.
DAVID MARANISS, AUTHOR, "BARACK OBAMA, THE STORY: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Was it interesting and fun to research? Did people want to talk to you? You talked to about 350 people.
MARANISS: The least fun for me was trying to talk to politicians or people in the White House. I did not have to do that for this book. This book is about the world that created Barack Obama and how he refashioned himself out of the jumble of his life.
And so it really sets him up to the point where you see how he found himself, and how he figured out his background, and was ready for his political life. And that's the part that interested me. So it was great fun to travel around the world to trace his roots and to figure him out.
O'BRIEN: He wrote a memoir, "Dreams of my Father."
MARANISS: He did. And I'm glad that he sort of mentioned in the beginning, the buzz about the book challenging his memoir. That's not the point of my book.
I'm not writing it as a fact checker. I'm writing it as an historian. So, you know, other people for ideological reasons are pouncing on that part of what my book is, but in fact I'm trying to tell the truth.
I mean, a memoir is far different from rigorous factual biography. So it's not as though I'm trying to say, aha, I got you, at each point, I'm just trying to present the way I really found it, which in many cases was different from what he presented.
He was writing a memoir that was shaped through the lens of race, almost entirely. So that led to certain distortions, composite characters, which he acknowledges.
And compression of things, which I think we are more -- more had to do with substance than just trying to tell the story. And that's why I point it out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I think it's so interesting that you say, you know, you don't fault him for the distortions. But I think that, you know, in this political context, some of this will come up in the campaign, right?
MARANISS: Well, absolutely. You know, it's been fascinating for me. The right wing sort of is at once dismissing the book, but cherry-picking every single negative thing in it to use against Obama. It's almost why I didn't want to write this book.
CAIN: Well, as a member of the right wing, let me challenge one of those assertions, and that is that any kind of criticism --
MARANISS: I didn't know you were a member of the right wing.
CAIN: Well, I'm holding down the right side of the table.
O'BRIEN: Literally the right wing.
CAIN: But that could be an ideological question or criticism because I think it raises some serious questions about what the role of a memoir is.
Is it truth telling or is it as you said some kind of ability to massage and to composite characters? I do think through your rigorous research it questions what the purpose of a memoir is and if it's fiction or nonfiction.
MARANISS: Well, he wrote it when he was in his 30s before he was running for president. He had no clue that people like me would come along later and try to tell the real story.
But you're absolutely right. It is a legitimate question about where the line is in memoir. My major point is, yes, there are discrepancies between what really happened and the way he presented it.
I don't think they are venal. I think he did it for reasons of trying to tell a story about his search for -- to find himself. I don't think he was trying to create a mythological character. Many of the mythologies in the book were just passed along to him by his own family.
CAIN: And that's fair. HOOVER: But in terms of the disparities that continue, can you characterize them? He is telling this narrative. There's a trend in the disparities as he uses his literary flourishes to tell a certain story. Can you sort of amplify or augment the theme behind his -- the disparities?
O'BRIEN: He seems to make up stuff about race a lot, right? I think the characters that are composites. Regina is a black character, but actually in real life a white woman. That's interesting to me.
MARANISS: I mean, part of it is taken from one of his white classmates, but mostly Regina represents Michelle, who was in his life when he wrote the memoir, but not during the period that he is writing about in the memoir. So that's the type of composite he is using.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's so interesting about your book is not so much what was different than what was in his book, but what your book shows us and tells us about who he is today.
MARANISS: That's what I hope the book is about. I'm not trying to whine about the way people are interpreting it because I understand that. But I want to get --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are the major insights? What are your major insights?
MARANISS: Well, I think that the central fact about Obama is that his life is essentially an effort to avoid traps. You know, he had the trap of being born on an island further than any land mass in the world.
He had the trap of being biracial, trying to figure himself out, the trap of a dysfunctional family and when people look at him today, you know, he is often seen as too cautious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very cautious.
MARANISS: And I think there's a reason for that. And I think that when you understand his life from reading this book, you'll see how he acts the way he does.
CAIN: Your book concentrates not so much on Barack Obama, but the people that came before him, his father, grandfather, grandparents. How much do you think who your grandparents were informs who you are?
MARANISS: Well, you know, in a political year, that question is totally valid and raised, but I think if you examine any human being, you'll see that the forces that shape them come early.
And, you know, I'm not trying to say that this is a book that should decide how you vote for president or what his issues are. But if you want to understand him, and why he does what he does, I think that's vital. O'BRIEN: David Maraniss, nice to have you. The book again is called "The Story" by David Maraniss, and it's really only the first part of the story. The book ends with him going off to Harvard. Lots more to see maybe in another few years --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe a part two.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, David.
We got to take a short break. We're going to update you on breaking news this morning, obviously out of Toulouse, France, where we know that a gunman is holding four people hostage. He is claiming to be a member of al Qaeda. We'll update you on what's happening there.
Also Julian Assange, we know that he is the founder of Wikileaks is facing arrest. He is London, but he is hold up in the Ecuadorian embassy. We'll update you on that story as well. Got to take a short break. We're back in a moment.