Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
Calls for Special Prosecutor Intensify in IRS Scandal; More Marines Headed for Arabian Gulf; Kurdish Leader Annexes City of Kirkuk
Aired June 27, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, thanks very much.
Happening now, IRS fallout. You heard my interview with the IRS commissioner. Now Republicans are on fire. We have the reaction.
Armed drones are now patrolling over Baghdad protecting U.S. advisers on the ground. Are more American forces on the way to Iraq?
And a Tea Party leader's apparent suicide. A grim shocking aftermath to an ugly Republican primary campaign in Mississippi. We have the details.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A simmering scandal now boiling over in the fallout of my interview with the head of the IRS. Republicans are pouncing on John Koskinen's remarks right here in THE SITUATION ROOM about IRS targeting of conservative groups, and calls are now growing louder for the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.
CNN's Tom Foreman has details.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Koskinen admits a few people in his agency once held up granting tax-exempt status to some consecutive political groups. He admits e-mails possibly related to those events were lost. However, that was before he got there and he has been furiously denying talk in Congress of a further conspiracy or a cover-up.
REP. DAVE CAMP (R-MI), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN: What I didn't hear in that was an apology to this committee.
JOHN KOSKINEN, IRS COMMISSIONER: I don't think one is owed.
FOREMAN: But listen to what he is saying now to the public.
KOSKINEN: I apologize to anybody who had their applications held up needlessly. Everybody needs to be confident that the IRS is going to treat them fairly no matter who they are, Republicans, Democrats, whatever organization they belong to. FOREMAN: Conservative websites are exploding, saying Koskinen,
despite the CNN interview, is simply widening a tangled web of deceit. Republicans are calling for the attorney general's impeachment if he doesn't appoint a special prosecutor to investigate. And on FOX News.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know those emails are out there. We know they can be found. We just need the people to help find them.
FOREMAN: Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert is pushing a bill to give a million-dollar bounty to anyone who can recover the lost e- mails, a half million more if anyone is arrested for hiding them. The nation's chief archivist said the IRS broke the law. Koskinen's response?
KOSKINEN: I think it's a serious matter. I've been around Washington a long time, and when evidence is not available, it's...
BLITZER: Potentially criminal?
KOSKINEN: I don't know whether it's criminal or not. But certainly we need to get to the bottom of it.
BLITZER: Worthy of a criminal investigation?
KOSKINEN: I don't think at this time there's any evidence of that.
BLITZER: Furthermore, he says.
KOSKINEN: I should emphasize all e-mails are not official records. So if email is lost, it doesn't mean we've lost an official record.
FOREMAN: Many Democrats are calling all of this a witch hunt, but Koskinen's own politics are not helping. Over the past 30 years, he's personally donated more than $100,000 to politicians, all Democrats. Yet he insists...
KOSKINEN: I've never been a partisan operative. I was actually asked by the Bush administration to come in and work on Freddie Mac.
FOREMAN: Still, as Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's office put it in a note to CNN, "There's a credibility gap that Commissioner Koskinen is struggling to overcome."
The IRS first said it targeted no groups, then admitted it had. The IRS said that was the action of a few rogue field agents. But now a retired senior-level officer is refusing to answer questions about who else might have been involved. The IRS said it would cooperate fully with congressional investigators but did not reveal for months that those e-mails had vanished and that the hard drive that had once held them had been routinely destroyed.
FOREMAN: Now, does this mean that something nefarious happened or that someone further up in the administration was involved in an illegal use of power? We do not know one way or the other. But all of it, including can your interview with Koskinen, yesterday, Wolf, is enough to keep raising very sharp questions from this Congress.
BLITZER: Questions continue indeed. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now, some reaction to my interview yesterday with John Koskinen, the IRS commissioner. Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois is joining us. He's a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R-IL), HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Do you have any -- do you have any hard evidence there was a deliberate destruction of those e-mails on Lois Lerner's hard drive?
SCHOCK: Well, we don't have any deliberate -- any information to suggest there was a deliberate effort, but let's start what we do know.
Everything we've been told by the administration and the IRS that was supposed to be fact has been proven false about the particulars of this -- of this issue. And that is what -- that is what is driving the outrage right now, is that from the very beginning, the testimony repeatedly to Congress by the Ways and Means Committee, who two years ago asked whether this targeting was occurring, and the assurances is that it wasn't, all the way up until the point where it was rogue agents in Cincinnati and it wasn't, all the point at which we were told nobody in D.C. knew anything about it, and we now have copies of Lerner's e-mails in black and white, the ones we do have that show she gave direction in violation of what the White House and president said they thought was the case. She gave direction to people in Cincinnati to forward that information to her in Washington, D.C., because that's where the deliberations and the decisions would be made. So the question is...
BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment about Lois Lerner. She's the woman who is the head of that audit division that looked at tax- exempt status for these -- these applicants, if you will. And she's now pleaded the fifth. She's refusing to cooperate which, of course is her constitutional right.
But do you have any evidence, any e-mails? Because yesterday John Koskinen said they've looked at all of her e-mails as far as her relationship with the Treasury Department and the White House. They could find no e-mails between her and either the White House or the Treasury Department.
SCHOCK: Well, look, they've also lost two years of e-mails during the point of time that's in question. BLITZER: Them did say they recovered -- Koskinen did say
yesterday he recovered 24,000 of those e-mails, which are being made available to the Congress.
SCHOCK: Right. And those are e-mails that were able to capture from the receiving end...
SCHOCK: ... from people that she knew she was communicating with.
BLITZER: Let me just ask you, on those e-mails is there any evidence that she was getting guidance from political leaders at the White House or the Treasury Department?
SCHOCK: No, but there was -- there is in those e-mails guidance by her directives by her to subordinates for additional harassment, additional questions, because they were conservative leaning. And that is a violation of law, Wolf, which is it gets to the heart of the matter of why we believe the Department of Justice needs to prosecute this.
The information was so substantial, just by the -- by the fraction of e-mails that we got that the Ways and Means Committee and the Congress voted overwhelmingly to ask the Department of Justice to prosecute. More people voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of court in Congress-- I'm sorry, in contempt of Congress -- more members of Congress voted to held her in contempt than voted for the Obamacare legislation. It was bipartisan, overwhelmingly.
BLITZER: Let me ask you a question. You accuse her -- you're accusing her of breaking the law. Is that what you're saying?
SCHOCK: Based on the e-mails that we have, she broke the law.
And let me say this. Nobody believes that Dave Camp, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the IRS asking them to investigate the targeting of these conservative groups, and ten days later by happenstance, her hard drive crashed. And nobody believes that, during that two-year period in question, all of the e-mails were destroyed and are unrecoverable. Nobody believes that. And then when we asked...
BLITZER: Who did you suspect destroyed, if you're making that accusation that she broke the law and that she was involved in destroying e-mails, who was involved? What evidence is there, A, she was involved? What evidence is there others may have conspired to be involved?
SCHOCK: Well, Wolf, what I'm suggesting is -- I'm not suggesting I know. But what I am suggesting is it -- no American listening to your program today, Wolf, knows people whose hard drives crash and their e-mails are unrecoverable, and by the way, at the same time, OK, six of the 80 people that are under investigation at the IRS, six of those same people's hard drives crashed during the same two-year period. All of their e-mails are also unrecoverable. The probability statistically of that happening, it's just unbelievable.
BLITZER: So it's basically...
SCHOCK: And so that warrants -- that warrants, Wolf, that warrants an investigation.
SCHOCK: It may come out that nobody did anything wrong. But for those who suggest that this should not be further investigated by the Department of Justice is an abdication of responsibility.
And Wolf, the only reason CNN is covering this is because the Ways and Means Committee has not let up. The administration, the White House, treasury, IRS has not been forthcoming. We've had to press them to get the little amount of information that we have. And it warrants a special prosecutor and further investigation.
BLITZER: What we heard yesterday from the commissioner of the IRS, John Koskinen, and remember he took office only last December. So he was not involved in any of the alleged shenanigans that were going on earlier. What he says the inspector general of the IRS has engaged in an investigation right now. He's going to be issuing a report very soon. Wait for that report. What's wrong with that?
SCHOCK: Well, the inspector general is only able -- the inspector general does not have the same power as the Department of Justice. They are not able to walk into the FBI. They're not able to issue the same subpoenas and get the same documentation. They're not able to go and use their -- their I.T. forensic specialist to try and recapture these e-mails in the same way.
It's really apples and oranges in terms of the type of investigation and prosecution that needs to happen to those that we know based on the little info that we already have broke the law and potentially more information we might gather with a full-blown investigation.
BLITZER: He also says that the computers over at the IRS -- this was sort of shocking to me -- are antiquated; the whole system is antiquated. Here's the question: Is it possible that this is just big government bureaucracy screwing up, if you will, that they couldn't handle what was going on and as a result, those hard drives were destroyed?
SCHOCK: It doesn't take new computers to tell the truth. It doesn't take new computers to be forthcoming with Congress.
And Wolf, in February, this IRS commissioner, this IRS commissioner was verified that there were missing e-mails. In February, he was notified the e-mails were unrecoverable, and in May, he gave testimony to our committee that all of the e-mails would be disclosed with no limitations.
And it wasn't until June that we found out that there were two years' worth of e-mails missing. That is not being honest. That is not being forthright. And that has nothing to do with the age of the computer system.
Second, I guess I would go back to my original point, which is the idea that this hard drive crashed during the two-year period in question ten days after the letter was sent is unbelievable. The fact that five others and six total of the eight employees under question had the same malfunction during the same period of time, all of which their e-mails are unrecoverable, is again unbelievable.
BLITZER: Well, there are certainly a ton of questions that have to be answered. And you may be right. And I pressed the commissioner yesterday on potentially the need for a special prosecutor outside independent counsel to investigate. His only point was wait till the inspector general's report comes out, and then there will be time to make that decision.
One final question. Do you believe he lied before your committee or in any other official capacity, John Koskinen?
SCHOCK: I don't -- I don't -- I'm not going to going that far. I would just simply say, you know, he's making declarative statements without the information to back it up. For him to say people didn't break the law, he doesn't have the information.
I wouldn't dare say that somebody didn't break the law when you're missing two years' worth of e-mails. How can you make that declarative statement?
So for him to say to our committee that we were going to get all of the e-mails in question in May and he was notified in March that they were unrecoverable, I don't know what that is. Maybe he was confused.
But he told us one thing, and he was briefed, basically being told another several months before. So he was told in February and March the e-mails were unrecoverable. He told Congress in May we were going to get all the e-mails in June. We were then notified we wouldn't. So your listeners are smart enough to figure out what that is.
BLITZER: Aaron Schock, Republican representative from Illinois, thanks, Congressman, for joining us.
SCHOCK: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: We will certainly stay on top of this important story.
Up next, armed drones ready for trouble are patrolling the skies over Baghdad right now, but they're there only for one reason. Stand by.
And a Tea Party leader is found dead after an exceptionally nasty Republican campaign in Mississippi. We're peeling back the layer of an ugly scandal.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A sharp escalation today in the Iraq crisis. A U.S.
official says armed drones are now flying over Baghdad to protect U.S. military advisors who are on the ground.
At the same time, Iraq's government says it's buying fighter jets from Russia and Belarus and hopes to put them into action soon.
Meantime, human rights groups say they have evidence of mass killings by ISIS and its Sunni allies and by Iraqi troops and their Shiite allies, and the leader of the Kurdish region in the north has now announced the virtual annexation of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas in the north.
Let's get the latest from our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. I take it more U.S. forces military advisors heading to the region and elsewhere?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More U.S. troops, U.S. Marines on the way to the Arabian Gulf, Wolf. The USS Baton, with 1,000 Marines on board, is now moving, we have learned, from its position in the Mediterranean back down south. It will go into the Persian Gulf with those 1,000 Marines, joining another thousand Marines already in the Gulf region. Seven warships are already there.
They are upping the firepower, they say, not because they expect President Obama to order air strikes but to be ready just in case. And the "just in case" comes along with those armed drones now flying over Baghdad. They've been conducting reconnaissance missions, but by putting missiles on them, they will be ready if those 180 military advisors from the United States run into trouble on the ground. If they come under attack, the armed drones will be on station, ready to render help to them.
More military advisors could be on the way next week. You know, the president said up to 300. Right now it's at 180 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, thank you. Let's discuss, let's bring in Douglas Ollivant. He's with the New America Foundation. He's a retired U.S. Army officer who had a key planning role in Iraq, later was director for Iraq at the National Security Council in both the Bush and Obama administrations. He's a managing partner with Mantid International, which has clients in security, aerospace and defense.
Also with us, CNN counter-terrorism analyst Philip Mudd, a former CIA official now with the New America Foundation. Our foreign affairs reporter Elise Labott. And Andrew Tabler, Syria expert at the Washington Institute here.
Even as we're speaking, the Kurds, they're making it clear their so-called autonomous region in the north is expanding. They've taken over Kirkuk, Andrea, as you know. And Mahmoud Barzani, the head of Kurdistan, says they're not leaving. That's part of Kurdistan right now. It looks like they're trying to create, if they haven't already, an independent state out of Iraq.
ANDREW TABLER, SYRIA EXPERT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: There's a lot of concern among the Kurdish community. I think that they're trying to secure as much territory as possible and laying down claims as ISIS is laying down counter claims to other territory. It shows how this can sort of spin out of control a little bit faster than we thought.
BLITZER: Philip, does it make much of a difference to the U.S. if Iraq is Iraq as we've known it these past 100 years or so, or if it becomes three independent countries, Kurdistan, a Shia country, a Sunni country?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTER-TERRORISM ANALYST: I think if it you look at how we -- look at these situations around the world where we're looking: the Horn of Africa looking at, for example, Somalia, the breakup of Somalia, our position all along has been the breakup of these countries leads to tremendous instability.
In this case, you're looking at Kurdish populations in Iran, Kurdish population in Turkey. If you get the breakaway of those Kurds in the north, are you going to lead to calls for independence elsewhere? So yes, I think we've got a lot of interest there.
BLITZER: Syria seems to be splitting up right now in a similar fashion.
MUDD: I think it is. The question, though, when we're dealing with Syria and Iraq, is not necessarily just the breakup. It's in my experience when dealing with insurgents is, is that if you get safe haven held by insurgent leaders, coupled with visionary leadership, there would be a sliver of this insurgency where foreign fighters start to train to go to places like Europe and North America. That's what we've got to worry about in the short-term but also long-term.
BLITZER: What do you make of Nuri al-Maliki, Douglas? His decision now, he says, "Well, the U.S. is not providing fighter jets to Iraq. I'm going to go to Russia. I'm going to go to Belarus and do what I can to get some fighter jets"?
DOUGLAS OLLIVANT, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR IRAQ, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This is pretty normal behavior for him. He gets very, very frustrated with the speed with which the United States delivers weapons. Half the fault in Iraq's case is generally the Iraqis about half is the fact that it is a slow system. And every time something doesn't come fast enough, he talks about going to usually the former Soviet republics to go get some more weapons.
BLITZER: And he seems to at least to be blaming the United States for the current problems. His military collapses in the face of a few thousand ISIS militants, who come in from Syria into Iraq, take over Mosul. They run away.
But he says if the U.S. had done what he wanted, provide these planes earlier, it would have been a different situation right now. He's not showing a whole lot of gratitude to the United States for the commitment the U.S. made over the years, training and equipping the Iraqi military.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Or that they're about to make and are making right now. That's what's annoying U.S. officials, not that they're getting weapons from Russia, although they're not thrilled really with what Russia is doing with Ukraine or Syria or anywhere else.
But that they don't see this primarily as a problem that the Iraqi problem doesn't have enough weapons or isn't trained. They think it's a lack of loyalty to Maliki, a political vacuum that ISIS has been able to exploit. And that's really what they see as the problem.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Philip, he's saying these things only a few days after he met with the secretary of state, John Kerry, who went to Baghdad and tried to encourage him to do the right thing.
MUDD: Let's have a reality check here. We've got a Shia-led government. We've got a 900-mile border with Iran, which is supplying a lot of assistance to the Iraqis behind the scenes and in front of the scenes. We've got an ally to the west that is Syria that has started bombing militant locations across the border. What's Maliki to do? He's going to sit there and say, "I've got an ally to the west, ally to the east. The Americans are saying do something differently that's going to affect my security; that is give up more power?" I can tell you what he's going to tell Secretary Kerry. "Thanks a lot for visiting. but I've got more immediate concerns I've got to address."
BLITZER: And he's also welcoming Bashar al-Assad. You're an expert on Syria. And Bashar al-Assad coming in with airplanes to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq. Even though yesterday the Syrian air force, what, they killed about 50 Iraqi civilians and injured a lot more.
TABLER: That's right. Bashar al-Assad hasn't bombed ISIS in nearly a year. He actually prefers -- sorry, in Syria. He prefers to hit moderates instead. It's about time that he owns up a little bit to this problem. He's -- and I think at this point, though, simply bombing your way out of this is very difficult.
BLITZER: Does it make sense for the U.S. now to provide $500 million to moderate Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, for that matter, in Syria $500 million to train and equip those rebels?
TABLER: It does, because I think this is a very long-term problem we have to deal with. And the only way, I think, to fully deal with it is get to the Sunni population onside. And in Syria, you have a much larger percent of the population, about 65 percent.
BLITZER: Do you think it makes sense?
OLLIVANT: I think it's something we should explore. But you're playing with fire. Giving weapons to anyone in this region, you just never know where those weapons are going to end up. It doesn't feel like everybody has weapons anyway.
BLITZER: That's the sense I get from officials. That they're going to give these rebels weapons, at least. Let me let you answer. But you know what? Just like a lot of American weapons in Mosul wound up in the hands of ISIS: tanks, armored personnel carriers, mortars, whatever. The U.S. provides these rebels in Syria stuff it could wind up in the hands of the bad guys.
LABOTT: Well, it has before, and it could again. And there's also a question of whether it's a little bit too little too late. There doesn't really seem to be a strategic vision right now. The U.S. clearly is trying to fight ISIL. And now when Secretary Kerry just met with the head of the Syrian opposition, he said that the opposition could be strong in fighting ISIS. But there's -- is there really to fight ISIS? Is it to get rid of Assad? It seems a little bit like a whack-a-mole situation.
OLLIVANT: Listen, we have these multiple problems are all intertwined. We have a problem with ISIL. And even if this occurred somewhere else, we would still care about that. And then we want Iraq to stay together, try to fix its dysfunction politics. And then, oh, by the way, we would really like Assad to go still.
BLITZER: ISIL, ISIS, the same thing, same -- same bunch of operations, slightly different name. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Want to thank Douglas Ollivant, Philip Mudd, Andrew Tabler, and Elise Labott.
Coming up, a Tea Party leader is found dead in a somber aftermath of a very ugly political campaign.
And pictures from space show dramatic change in air quality right here in the eastern part of the United States. Why is it getting better? You're going to see what millions of Americans are breathing.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In Mississippi, a Tea Party leader is dead in a grim aftermath to a very ugly GOP primary campaign.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns has been looking into this awful development.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tributes and condolences are pouring in tonight for Mark Mayfield but it might be awhile before we know whatever caused the nastiest fight in primary fight in recent history to take a deadly turn for the worse.
JOHNS (voice-over): Mark Mayfield was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday morning inside his home in Jackson, Mississippi. A suicide note was found. Mayfield, a Tea Party leader, was one of three men charged with conspiracy after photographs of Senator Thad Cochran's wife were taken in a nursing home.
Conservative blogger Clayton Kelly was supposedly behind the plot to take the pictures of Cochran's wife Rose who suffers from dementia. All the men faced felony conspiracy charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison. McDaniel's campaign denied any involvement in the plot.
It's another strange turn in the nation's ugliest primary fight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meet Chris McDaniel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so interesting to see this woman basically using her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) using her breast to run for office.
JOHNS: A fight that hasn't ended even after Cochran narrowly beat McDaniel by fewer than 7,000 votes in the Republican primary runoff.
SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R), MISSISSIPPI: We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight.
JOHNS: The Tea Party backed McDaniel is refusing to concede saying Cochran's strategy of courting African-American Democrats wasn't fair.
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), MISSISSIPPI STATE SENATOR: 35,000 to 40,000 Democrats jumped in this race and apparently tried to decide it. They have their own primary. We have ours. What we're looking for right now is irregularities. We've already found hundreds. We're going to keep looking.
JOHNS: The Cochran camp says there's clearly no evidence of widespread voter irregularities but McDaniel isn't backing down.
MCDANIEL: They ridiculed me, they mocked me, they called me a racist. They used race-baiting tactics, they scared people to the polls. That's no way to behave.
JOHNS: There is no provision in Mississippi for a ballot recount. McDaniel would have to challenge the election in court. An aide says he hasn't made a decision whether to do that but they are expressing frustration because they say some county clerks in the state are not cooperating with them.
BLITZER: All right, Joe Johns, stay with us. I want to bring in Jacqui Kucinich, she's the host of the "Washington Post in Play." Also joining us our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
BLITZER: What a shocking development today, Gloria. What do you make of what's going on in Mississippi?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, as Joe was saying, it's just tragic. This is -- was such a bitter divisive ugly race in every way and this development is just one more kind of twist in, you know, a race that was ugly from the start. And you know, where pictures were taken of Thad Cochran's wife who suffers in a nursing home and then were posted. So I think it's just a sad story -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, what are you thinking?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, how about how revolting what Chris McDaniel is doing. I mean, here's -- his whole argument at this point is, I can't -- I lost because black people voted. Isn't that awful?
BORGER: I was robbed.
TOOBIN: You know, what kind of message is that if you are trying to appeal to a broad group of people? And by the way --
BORGER: It's not.
TOOBIN: He lost by 7,000 votes. I mean, it wasn't even that close. I mean, the guy is just obviously a sore loser looking to damage the Republican Party.
BLITZER: Do you think, you know, Jackie, he's got a shot of overturning this election because that's what he's trying to do?
JACKIE KUCINICH, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, I don't think so. And when you talk with some of his supporters they say that they're not -- this is not going to be overturned. It seems like he really thought he had this. And he didn't.
BLITZER: And he's frustrated?
KUCINICH: And he's frustrated.
BORGER: Well, and also the Republican Party, by the way, does not want this overturned.
BORGER: The Republican Party is opposed to him on this and they think he ought to leave it alone.
BLITZER: But a lot of Tea Party activists would like to see it --
BORGER: Right. But the Club for Growth which supported him financially congratulated Thad Cochran when Thad Cochran won so they kind of want this to be over.
KUCINICH: And let's be honest, he could have won this race had it not been for that break-in at Rose Cochran's --
JOHNS: Nursing home.
KUCINICH: Nursing home. Yes. Thank you.
KUCINICH: So I mean, he was definitely in good position before that happened.
TOOBIN: But you know what happens when you get the second most number of votes? You lose. And this it is what happened.
BORGER: Is that what happened?
BORGER: Oh, OK.
TOOBIN: And I just think -- it's ridiculous.
BLITZER: Here is a statement that the McDaniel camp put out today, Joe, I'll read it to our viewers. "Regardless of recent allegations made against his character, Mark Mayfield was a fine Christian man who was always respectful and kind. He was one of the most polite and humble men I have ever met in the politics. He was a loving husband, father, a pillar of his community and he will be missed. We are saddened by his loss and we send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, his family and his friends."
JOHNS: He's certainly a very highly respected lawyer there in the state, did a lot of real estate work, which makes this all the more inexplicable at how he'd find himself in the middle of this. And I think there is a question, of course, about where that legal case is going because when you look at this, one of the statutes that they're talking about bringing on the underlying case, there's a lot of questions as to whether this thing will stand up in court.
And some of the lawyers have already asked whether a misdemeanor ought to have been charged and not a felony.
BLITZER: Legally speaking, it's an open primary, Jeffrey. So anyone can vote but he's arguing that if you intend on voting for a Democrat, you really shouldn't vote in the Republican primary.
TOOBIN: But that's not the law. The law is if you voted in the Democratic primary, you can't vote in the Republican primary.
BORGER: You can't vote twice.
TOOBIN: You can't vote twice.
TOOBIN: Which is sort of the basic tenet of democracy.
BORGER: Right. TOOBIN: So it just seems like this is sour grapes, like, it's we
don't want black people voting in our primaries and it is just repulsive.
BORGER: You know, look, what bothers him and the reason he feels that he was robbed obviously, is that this was a primary that as he put it on election night was decided -- a Republican primary was decided by liberal Democrats. You can understand why he would say oh, it shouldn't be this way. But the truth of the matter is, this is the way it works. And Thad Cochran organized, and he organized on the ground with a powerful group to help him. Haley Barbour's political machine. And he won fair and square.
BLITZER: He's the former governor.
BORGER: You don't like the rules, change them.
BLITZER: Former chairman of the Republican Party.
KUCINICH: He knows how to win.
BLITZER: And he knows Mississippi.
All right, guys. Stand by. We have more to discuss. We're going to continue this conversation.
When we come back we'll also talk about President Obama's dismissal of the House Speaker John Boehner's plans to file a lawsuit over the president's use of executive action. The president calling it a stunt.
And a massive change impacting millions of people. Many of them don't even know about it. We have details of what this map reveals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the suit is a stunt. But what I've told Speaker Boehner directly is if you're really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don't you try getting something done through Congress?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama responding to statements from the House Speaker John Boehner that he's going to go ahead and file a lawsuit against him because of all of the executive orders issued by the president.
Gloria, is this a serious lawsuit, the president saying it's simply a stunt? I suspect that the speaker of the House is going to go ahead do something.
BORGER: It's a political play that the speaker is making. They've got polls, Republicans look at their polls, and what polls number one for them above Obamacare? The so-called imperial presidency. This notion of presidential overreach. It's a very convenient rubric for them to use into which they can put Obamacare rules, immigration rules, energy rules, executive orders, all these kinds of things and it appeals not only to their base they're finding out but it appeals to independent voters, as well. So it's going to be used in the 2014 midterms.
BLITZER: But you know that the speaker is probably encouraged by the unanimous Supreme Court decision yesterday saying the president acted unconstitutionally with these recess appointments. All nine.
Jeffrey, you're an expert on the Supreme Court. All nine including the two justices appointed, named by the president, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, they said the president went too far, went beyond his constitutional power. And he was slapped down on that.
TOOBIN: The United States Supreme Court said unanimously exactly what John Boehner has been saying, that the president has acted unconstitutionally. So there's no question that is a good argument.
BLITZER: That will encourage him to go forward.
TOOBIN: That will encourage him. Now it is true that the law does not really allow Congress to file these kinds of lawsuits. This lawsuit was filed in the appropriate way by the people who were affected by the National Labor Relations Board actions. That's how the court system work. The courts don't like to get involved between the in fights between the legislature and the president.
But no question, this was a very important decision that went against the administration on precisely the grounds the Republicans have been saying.
BLITZER: He has another option, the speaker, if he doesn't want to file a lawsuit. He could try to impeach him in the House of Representatives.
KUCINICH: You know, he said he's not going to do that. But I think we'd have to tack on it yet. He said on, what was that, Wednesday that he was not going to do that. But one of the interesting things about this lawsuit is it wouldn't even really affect President Obama by the time it worked its way through the courts.
Another interesting thing that's happened is that it's not only helping out Republicans, it's helping out Democrats. The DCCC had one of their best days ever fundraising wise as a result of this lawsuit. So both sides are going to benefit from this one way or another.
TOOBIN: Well, by the way, it's not a lawsuit yet.
BLITZER: Right. TOOBIN: He's talked about filing a lawsuit.
BLITZER: I haven't seen any papers.
TOOBIN: Exactly. And I think, you know, the good lawyers, the Republican lawyers like Paul Clemente, the former solicitor general, they're going to be the voices saying, you know what, this is a good, you know, political argument. But let's be sure there's really a legal case to be made.
BORGER: But I think, you know, the president made a political case saying you guys are all obstructionist and this is why you forced me to do. But the court said is you may have a political argument, fine, argue it in politics. You don't -- just because you have a good political argument doesn't necessarily mean you have a constitutional case to make.
JOHNS: And there's a reality -- there's a reality check here, too. There's some studies out there, one from Brookings, I think, that suggest this president has signed fewer executive orders than any other president since someone like Grover Cleveland. So he really hasn't done it as much as another president.
TOOBIN: And made fewer --
KUCINICH: -- aren't created equal.
TOOBIN: And made fewer recess appointments.
TOOBIN: The problem is he made them in an unconstitutional way.
BLITZER: What irritates the Republicans, Jackie, the most is that some of the executive orders were designed to change the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act Law, and the president decided to unilaterally make those changes. They say you can't do that.
KUCINICH: Absolutely. There's a lot of frustration about that. But as the Gloria said, frustration doesn't necessarily mean they have a constitutional case.
BLITZER: So that's -- all right, guys. We're going to continue this conversation on another occasion. I'm sure it's not going to go away. We'll see if the speaker does in fact file a lawsuit.
Stand by for that. All right, guys. Thank you.
Straight ahead, so what's this map revealing about the air we breathe? At least many of us? We have some new details of huge surprise changes impacting millions of Americans. This is information you need to know.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Something major has changed for millions of Americans
over the last decade and many of us don't even know it. The quality of air we breathe has improved dramatically.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.
So, Brian, so what are you finding out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, take a look behind me. This is rush hour in D.C. in the summertime. You've got tailpipe emissions for as far as the eye can see, the air is heavy. Uncomfortable, not untypical this time of year. Now with all this and all the scientific evidence that air pollution like this causes global warming you would think that the air quality in the United States would be going downhill fast. But new satellite pictures show it is just the opposite.
TODD (voice-over): Dramatic new satellite pictures from NASA that dial back doom and gloom predictions about our air quality. This progression map shows by at least one measure, the air in the United States has improved. Over the last decade nitrogen dioxide has decreased in cities across the U.S. Red and orange are the worst areas, green and blue are better. Especially along the densely populated I-95 corridor in the northeast, the difference is striking.
BRYAN DUNCAN, NASA ATMOSPHERIC SCIENTIST: This represents a map in 2005 of nitrogen dioxide. And you can tell by the red levels, the pollutant levels are really high all along the eastern seaboard, the Ohio River Valley, the major cities of the U.S. like Atlanta and Chicago.
TODD (on camera): And then what do we have now?
DUNCAN: Well, now we have much lower levels. And this one pollutant, levels have gone down by about 40 percent since 2005.
TODD (voice-over): Nitrogen dioxide is a yellow brown smog that comes mostly from vehicles and coal burning power plants. It forms ozone, the gas in the atmosphere that burn our lungs.
So why is the air getting better even though the number of cars on the roads has increased?
DUNCAN: Our pollutant levels are still going down and that's because the cars are becoming more fuel efficient.
TODD: And new coal-burning power plants now scrub much of the pollution out before it can get to our lungs. The World Health Organization says in 2012 about 3.7 million people around the world have died from effects of outdoor air pollution. Most of them in Asia.
Experts say the people whose smog has hit the hardest are the ones who can really feel this improvement in our air. JANICE K. NOLEN, AMERICAN LUNCH ASSOCIATION: People who has
asthma, they definitely can tell that they're breathing easier. And it's easier when we're looking at it on a long term basis or looking at hospital records or other medical records.
TODD: Nitrogen dioxide levels are also a good indication of how other pollution is trending. But experts say it's not all good news. There are other pollutants out there causing harm.
NOLEN: We have about half the nation who lives in counties that have unhealthy levels of air pollution.
TODD: That's about 140 or more million Americans who still live in areas with unhealthy air. The worst city in the United States for ozone pollution, Los Angeles. Even though that city has made big improvements in recent years, the American Lung Association, Wolf, says L.A. has cut its air pollution by about a third over the past 15 years.
BLITZER: And Brian, a lot of America's air pollution is also a problem for Europe, isn't that right?
TODD: That's right. The scientists we talked to today, Wolf, said we still have a big problem with particulates in the air. That means smoke from emissions, from smoke stacks, from wildfires in the United States. And with the jet stream, that carries it all east up around Canada, across the Atlantic into Europe. It goes directly into Europe. That's the problem for them, too, and they say the American have to cut down on that.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, watching this important story for us.
Brian, thanks very much for that.
Coming up, human rights groups now reporting atrocities on both sides in Iraq. CNN's Arwa Damon, she's a very, very courageous journalist as all of you know. She's investigating a mass slaughter.
Also, as President Obama makes a personal plea about the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, I'll get the personal story behind the CNN film "DOCUMENTED."
BLITZER: Happening now, armed and dangerous. U.S. Drones carrying hell fire missiles. They are flying over Baghdad. Russian fighter jets also are in the mix in the battle for Iraq.
Plus, rebel targets. Can the Syrian opposition fight Bashar al- Assad and push back ISIS terrorists with millions of dollars coming in right now from the United States?
And the president's great escape. Why he's trying to get out of the so-called White House bubble and get a taste of everyday America? We want welcome our viewers in the United States and around the
world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.