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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Interview With Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers; Interview With California Congressman Darrell Issa
Aired June 29, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: The missing IRS e-mails, for the first time on TV, meet the man who says he knows exactly what happened. Former IRS official Lois Lerner won't talk to Congress, but today her attorney is talking to us about the scandal gripping Washington.
Plus, an exclusive with the Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm sick and tired of your game-playing. We have a problem with you. Did you hope you could run out the clock on this scandal?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Then: The man the U.S. says is behind the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans has arrived on U.S. soil. But should Ahmed Abu Khattala be locked up at Guantanamo Bay? House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers joins us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't hold it against me that I don't own -- that I don't own a single stock or bond. I have no savings account. This is the poorest man in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Rich man, poor man, the Democrats' race to the bottom, and children in politics on the Rio Grande.
This is STATE OF THE UNION.
Good morning from Washington. I'm Candy Crowley.
Remember Lois Lerner? She's the IRS director whose unit is accused of unfairly targeting conservative groups. Today, the man representing Lerner in his first ever television interview on the scandal brings us her side of the story. But, first, we want to talk to the dogged chairman of the House
Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa.
Thank you for being here. I know it was a long flight from the West Coast, but we appreciate it.
ISSA: Well, I guess I'm a dogged flyer, too.
CROWLEY: That's right. Exactly. Let's first go to the e- mails, two years' worth. You have been given some -- over 20,000 of them have been retrieved through other ways, the people she sent them to, et cetera. Did Lois Lerner crash her own computer?
ISSA: Well, we will probably never know that. The drive is physically gone.
What we do know from the discovery we have gotten, from e-mails that we have gotten from multiple sources is, she broke some regulations. She broke some laws. She sent -- trying to get prosecution apparently, she sent 1.1 million tax records over to the Department of Justice, including inappropriate or actually illegal 6103 disclosures on behalf of conservative groups.
CROWLEY: But, in the end, I thought you had said, listen, she clearly did this so that we couldn't have these records. So you can see that this could have been a computer crash and it lost her stuff?
ISSA: We never -- I don't think anyone has -- on my committee has ever said she deliberately crashed her computer.
Obviously, she had a -- 30 years of experience. She knew under the Federal Records Act that she had an obligation for these documents to be preserved, these e-mails. And to not have print to paper, which is the policy that she had to know, is pretty hard to believe that there aren't paper copies.
So do I believe that she printed to paper? Yes. She's an attorney of long standing. And it's kind of hard to believe that you wouldn't cover with your own paper copies.
CROWLEY: So you do believe that she printed the paper and has those documents? I think her attorney has already said she didn't.
ISSA: Well, her attorney has said things and been not correct, or disingenuous, or outright lied a number of times, and it's been shown by e-mails.
Look, an attorney trying to get his client off the hook after flubbing the taking of the Fifth certainly will say and do a lot of things, but they're not held accountable. Ultimately, what we know is, the archivist said that the IRS failed to do what they were supposed to do in informing, failed to properly keep documents.
And that has very little to do with the fundamental problem, which is Lois Lerner's unit headed by Lois Lerner and directed by Lois Lerner unfairly targeted and abused conservative groups for what they believed.
CROWLEY: So let me just stay -- OK, so right now, you are saying this is -- she violated the Paperwork Act. She should have had these things. If she didn't back up these things, she should have backed up these things.
So, we're kind of a long way from the original investigation, which is, did this unit unfairly target conservative groups? Do you have proof-positive of that? And what is it?
ISSA: We published a 375-page report that details how her unit, headed by her, e-mails from her, show that, in fact, they were targeting conservative groups only for their beliefs.
Now, there were other groups that were caught up by name.
CROWLEY: Some progressive groups.
ISSA: But, of course, ACORN had already been a criminal organization that was trying to reconstitute.
So, did we publish a report? Are we continuing to go after the truth, which is, who all else besides Lois Lerner was involved in leading the charge to unfairly treat groups? And, of course, just the other day, we got into the Grassley situation, where a rather obscure invitation arrives, and instead of forwarding it on to the senator, what does she do?
She tries to turn it into a possible criminal prosecution, based on an invitation from a group.
CROWLEY: Well, I want folks -- since you brought this up, this is Senator Grassley, who had -- for some time was ranking Republican or chair of the committee on the Senate side that oversees the IRS. The two knew each other. They both got invited apparently to the same thing.
But their invitations got switched. And she saw that this unnamed group was offering to also pay for his wife. So, she sends a message to another IRS official that says, well, it looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to exam, people that look at audits or look at information.
And the reply was: "I'm not sure we should send an exam. I think the offer to pay for Grassley's wife is income to Grassley, and not prohibited on its face."
She asked a question. It's answered. End of story. Why is that so crazy?
ISSA: Well, I think it's -- in a vacuum, one item wouldn't be.
But this is a woman who, from '86 on, headed the Federal Election Commission's enforcement. She knew the law probably better than anyone on Earth. This is somebody who should have been able to answer a question, not ask a question.
But, more importantly, if you take all of this, what you see is a pattern of behavior that goes back to the original problem, which is, she leaks in an ABA conference, I.G. investigation, tries to push blame on to Cincinnati. Eventually, we're -- in spite of the White House, we're able to show that in fact it isn't Cincinnati, but it's her and her unit in Washington.
CROWLEY: So, your one piece of proof -- let me first ask you, has any of this been connected directly to the White House?
ISSA: We have never looked for the White House, other than the White House is not cooperating and continues to not cooperate. But that's a given.
CROWLEY: But no evidence linking any of this to the White House? So...
ISSA: Well, I don't -- but, Candy, I don't play the game of no evidence.
That's what the commissioner played. I know of no violation. What we do is, we follow the facts. As we get to the facts, we then follow additional facts. The facts show that William Taylor's client, Lois Lerner, is, in fact, pivotal to this unfairly treating conservative groups.
We want to get that done and close it up. All this other information is part of what in Washington becomes interesting cover-up and diversion. The fact is, the IRS -- we should all be scared, Candy, that the IRS can do this kind of unfair targeting to anybody.
CROWLEY: So -- but can you give me just the one fact that you go, here it is, here's our smoking gun, this proves Lerner targeted only conservative groups, singled them out, asked them inappropriate questions?
Is there a single piece of evidence that you can show me right now?
ISSA: We sent your people almost 400 pages of a report.
ISSA: And that details, item by item, e-mail by e-mail statements that she made vs. other people.
The nature of the beast, just like a -- just like a criminal prosecution, is that you build a case. The fact is, our investigators have done all they can do so far. We're -- you know, it was only a couple of days ago that we learned that, in fact, 1.1 million documents were unlawfully disclosed to the Department of Justice, and begs the question of the purpose.
Why send all that documents? Some of it was publicly available. The rest of it was never to be sent. CROWLEY: It's not that there aren't questions. I mean,
questions -- because there are, and there's suspicious timing and there's all kinds of things you could point to.
But is there a fact that you can point to that says right here in this e-mail, she says, go after these groups; I want you to particularly go after conservative groups, you know, harass them, whatever?
Is there a direct piece of information you can point to?
ISSA: It's a case file that's built, including her wanting to -- musing about working for the president's 501(c)(4), Organize for America.
The reality is, the Ways and Means Committee has prepared criminal charges and referred them. We have built a fairly extensive, if you will, dossier of wrongdoing that, individually and cumulatively, adds up to wrongdoing.
Ultimately, what we're trying to, remember...
ISSA: ... is get the IRS to have safeguards, so this doesn't happen again.
And now what we know is, get the IRS and the rest of the government to keep records at least as long as they would have you keep them when they ask you questions.
CROWLEY: Would you -- a year ago, when we talked, you said, we're going to release the testimony, more than 40 witnesses, on this specific issue of whether there was a conspiracy to go after these conservative groups.
We haven't seen them yet. Will you release those interviews?
ISSA: You know, that was an interesting back-and-forth you and I had, where you objected to us releasing part.
That nearly 400-page report, it cites specific examples. The investigation is ongoing. No investigator releases all of their stuff, if you will, all their questioning.
And I will just give you an example. One witness under oath told us that he was told to read another person's transcript which had been released in preparation for our interview. That should scare you when people are being coached using other interviews.
So do we want to keep this until we're done? Of course. Now, Mr. Cummings has the ability to release anything he wants from there. It's not a question of secret. It's a question of process. If you will find a defense prosecutor, a U.S. attorney who will tell you he will just release all the transcripts while he's still getting ready to go to trial, then I will do it, too. CROWLEY: And you're getting ready to go to trial, as you see it?
ISSA: No, actually, what we're doing is, we're continuing to refer to the attorney general. The attorney general so far has shown no interest in real prosecution.
As a matter of fact, as you know, he still has a person who is a very generous donor to President Obama and doesn't see a conflict, as nothing comes out of this case, even though we see a lot coming out of this case.
CROWLEY: I have got to run.
Thank you so much for coming by.
ISSA: Thank you.
CROWLEY: We appreciate it, Mr. Chairman.
Coming up next: She won't talk to Congress, but Lois Lerner's attorney is here talking to us. We will ask him, just what did happen to all those e-mails?
CROWLEY: Lois Lerner is still silent, but, today, her attorney steps into the limelight, for the first time on TV, to tell us what happened to those e-mails.
William Taylor, you are here with us exclusively. And I thank you so much for being here.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ATTORNEY FOR LOIS LERNER: Nice to be here. CROWLEY: So, what is her story? I know you're in frequent contact with her. What did she say happened to those e-mails?
TAYLOR: Well, it's not just what she said. The record that was created at the time in terms of e-mails is undisputed.
She walked into the office one day, and her screen went blue. She asked for help in restoring it. And the I.T. people came and attempted to restore it. They even went so far as to send it to another expert to try to restore the e-mails.
There's 2,000 e-mail crashes -- there's 2,000 computer crashes in the IRS since January 1 of this year. It's no -- it's not...
CROWLEY: Are all of them irretrievable?
TAYLOR: I don't know, but I...
CROWLEY: I think that's what is sort of blowing people's minds, is, we get it that computers crash. But to then say, you know what, we couldn't get it, and so then we shredded the hard drive, you know, as an attorney, that that's one of the things you would pounce on and go whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. TAYLOR: Sure.
TAYLOR: But, you know, you do the best you can under the circumstances. Nobody was thinking about trying to keep anything from being discovered. She was as upset as anybody else was about the loss of the e- mails and the other documents which were on there, which were quite important to her. But the truth is, this -- this was one of those things that happened. At the time, she did everything she could to retrieve it. She reported it right away, and that's the story. That's all there is to it.
CROWLEY: And you -- but you understand why it seems suspicious, because this covers a period of time when the activity that was the original point of this investigation was going on.
That is, were these conservative groups being targeted by her unit at the IRS? You say you think it's a little brazen to suggest that she did this on purpose, but you do get the suspicion?
TAYLOR: Well, I get that it's convenient to create suspicion.
Actually, the e-mails that are missing are way before the time in which Congressman Issa and his colleagues are suggesting that there was -- there was unfairness or anything like it at the IRS. The truth is, these e-mails predate most anything that's of any relevance to anybody.
But you can see why it's convenient to say, there's a computer crash and therefore there must be something nefarious going on. Lois Lerner is a lifetime federal employee. She's not a political employee. She's done...
CROWLEY: I believe Chairman Issa called her a liar, and maybe you as well.
TAYLOR: He called me -- he called me one, too. And I won't respond to that, except that -- except to say he's wrong.
It's convenient. This is an election-year politics. It's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to. Let me tell you something basic about this. People who want to give money to elections and do so in a tax-free way have to submit themselves to the scrutiny of the IRS to be sure that they're complying with the rules that limit political activity.
If the IRS is not looking at political activity in the (c)(4) applications, which is what this is, they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing. So, it's like saying they're examining us for political activity, when that's exactly the criteria that they're submitting for their applications.
CROWLEY: Did your client violate the paperwork -- federal paperwork law?
TAYLOR: No. She did exactly what the IRS required that she do.
CROWLEY: But she didn't back up her e-mails, which was IRS -- you're supposed to print out things.
TAYLOR: She printed out some things, not others. You can't print out hundreds of thousands of e-mails. We will be back -- we will be back to the days...
CROWLEY: Did she print out everything that had to do with IRS business, with policy, with questions? Did she print all those out?
TAYLOR: You know, what is a federal record is a subjective question. Not -- I'm sure not everything, but she printed out a lot of things. But the...
CROWLEY: Has it been turned over?
TAYLOR: Sure. Everything has been turned over, and over and over.
CROWLEY: And let me ask you just a really basic question that I think -- I know that invoking your Fifth Amendment rights not to incriminate yourself and not to testify is a basic American right. And I understand that.
You also know that people look at someone who says, I didn't do a anything, I'm totally innocent, and say, then why don't you get on up there and talk to these guys and end this thing?
TAYLOR: Because there was no pretense that this would be a fair process.
From the beginning, the Republican majority has screamed, without any evidence, about things that she did, and made it clear that...
CROWLEY: Yes, but if it's not fair...
TAYLOR: ... the only purpose of having her there would be to vilify her.
CROWLEY: But, even if it's not fair, if she's done nothing wrong, why would she incriminate herself? Go up there, do it, and have it done.
TAYLOR: If she's done nothing wrong, she doesn't need to be subjected to the kind of bullying that goes on in that committee.
CROWLEY: And, finally, I want to ask you, have there, in fact, been death threats against your client? Are they recent?
TAYLOR: Not so -- not so recent, but there certainly have been death threats against her and her family, which have required an FBI ongoing investigation.
CROWLEY: Is she being protected?
CROWLEY: You feel reasonably secure of her safety?
TAYLOR: I don't think you can ever feel secure about anybody's safety these days.
But she has to go on living her life, notwithstanding what's happened to her. She's been made to be a villain in a way that's very, very unfair. She's -- she's a person who did everything she thought was right, and now she's being blamed for -- for things which aren't really even scandalous.
CROWLEY: Bill Taylor, attorney for Lois Lerner, I hope you will come back and talk to us as this goes on, as I'm sure it will. I appreciate your time.
TAYLOR: Thank you.
CROWLEY: One of the world's most wanted arraigned in an American court, but where is Ahmed Abu Khattala being held? And should the Benghazi ringleader even be on U.S. soil? House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers weighs in next.
CROWLEY: Joining me now is House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers.
Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Great to see you, Candy.
CROWLEY: The man that the U.S. suspects was the ringleader in the Benghazi attacks, which killed four Americans, has been arraigned in a U.S. court. Saturday, he was there. He heard the charge. He pled not guilty.
ROGERS: Well, I mean, thank goodness we have got him. It sends the first clear message that we will not walk away from a terrorist act on U.S. persons anywhere in the world.
It creates a whole new host of questions for us. I mean, think about the sheer expense, the manpower, the planning to, A, remove him from the battlefield, put him on a U.S. ship, steam him across the ocean to the United States to be presented to a U.S. federal judge.
And we had to ask ourselves, is this -- are we looking at what's happening in Iraq and Syria? Is this a legal matter? Is this a criminal engagement, or is this enemy combatants that we need to strike in a different way and hold in a different way? And I -- if we're going to do this for everybody engaged in
terrorism around the world, we better start building prisons by the dozens.
CROWLEY: Well, as opposed to what? I mean, what else would they do with him? As opposed to, you want him to go -- you want him to go to the Gitmo. You want him to go there. ROGERS: Well, think about what the president said.
He said, I'm going to spend a lot of money refurbishing a prison in the United States. Then we have to specially train people not just to keep people in the prison, but how you keep people out...
ROGERS: We have done that. It's called Gitmo.
CROWLEY: Where is he? Where is Abu Khattala now?
ROGERS: Well, he's obviously in the Washington region.
ROGERS: He's within the Article III criminal court system at this point.
CROWLEY: And the conditions under which he is held, what can you tell us about that?
ROGERS: He's being held in a, I would argue, appropriately secure environment, given the nature of his crimes against the United States.
CROWLEY: By himself. In contact with anyone?
ROGERS: Well, he's obviously gone through the court system. He has pled not guilty. He was given his Miranda rights.
He will have the opportunity to have a U.S. taxpayer attorney paid for his defense. And he will be going through that process now. And I don't -- I hesitate to give you more details, and not only for his security, but the security of the men and women who will protect him.
CROWLEY: But you -- but you did say a little bit earlier, if I caught this right, that you believe he is appropriately held and appropriately guarded at this point?
ROGERS: I do.
It seems to me that, in some ways, you have -- despite the fact that many Republicans say, put this man in Guantanamo Bay, and a lot of people would rather see him tried in the military system, that really it was kind of the best of both worlds, because you had about two weeks during that long boat ride, because, after all, they could have put him on a plane, but they didn't.
So, before he was Mirandized, he apparently talked. After he was Mirandized, he apparently kept talking. Was there anything useful? And what is wrong with kind of meshing those two worlds?
ROGERS: Well, first of all, that's different from what certainly I was told as chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
CROWLEY: Well, tell me -- then tell me what you...
ROGERS: Well, he's been compliant, but not cooperative.
And so I doubt that changed once he was read his rights and he understood that he has the right not to talk at all. And this is the struggle that we have been facing in this war on terrorism. Is it a criminal matter? Are these folks just ordinary criminals to be brought back to the United States, at huge expense? And this -- we became captive to this 10 days or 14 days that he was on a ship.
FBI rapport-building is some of the best ways to get folks to cooperate.
CROWLEY: There were FBI folks on the ship.
ROGERS: Absolutely, but you can't say you are going to do it in 10 days or three days or seven days.
You need the opportunity to gather the intelligence that he has. Remember, he's affiliated with al-Sharia in Libya...
CROWLEY: Right. Right.
ROGERS: ... which is certainly affiliated with al Qaeda.
These are dangerous folks. If he doesn't give us anything, and we get him to put in jail, what have we accomplished? I argue we have spent a lot of money, and we have not gained anything valuable for pushing back on terrorists around the world.
CROWLEY: So, to your knowledge, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he did not offer any useful information in the course of that two weeks he was on the ship?
ROGERS: It was described to me as compliant, but not cooperative.
CROWLEY: Which means he didn't get up and belt them in the face, but he didn't tell them anything? Is that...
ROGERS: You can imagine that he was not -- he was not obstinate. He was not pushing back.
But he was likely not providing information. He could give even some details of some things, but not to the point where an FBI agent would say, hey, bingo, here we go. We have got something that would turn into actionable intelligence.
And, remember, this is the hard part of this. That first part of it, we want intelligence gathering to happen, and so again our -
CROWLEY: You're arguing 10 days isn't enough? ROGERS: It's not enough. Ten days is not enough and you'll find no investigator, interrogator that would say, I know I can do it in 10 days. Everybody's different. You can get that rapport building and that cooperative spirit but sometimes it takes a month or two months. We -
CROWLEY: I want to ask you, just one last question about this. So, if I'm hearing you correctly, you'd much rather have the information from him than try him. You don't care if they find him guilty or put him in gitmo or whatever. It's the information he has that you care about. What about justice for the four Americans?
ROGERS: Well, we have a military tribunal process and I do believe in it. We've used it in the past. We've used it in World War II. We've used it as subsequent to that. We have a process where they get a trial, and their guilt or innocence is determined.
To me, these are enemy combatants. If we start saying they're criminals, I don't know how you fight back in a place like the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant. And by the way, they want all of the Levant, which is what Islamists and al Qaeda affiliated folks in Libya want, which is exactly what Al-Shabaab in Africa, down the peninsula or the coast in Africa wants (ph).
CROWLEY: Along those same lines there have been westerners, among them Americans who have been trained and fought alongside some of these very Islamist militants marching through Iraq. How good of a handle do you think U.S. intelligence service has on who these people are, how many they are, and where they are?
ROGERS: It's not great and that's what's concerning. Now, we have seen a rise in Europe within the last months, arrests of individuals who have trained in Syria, who have come back to their host countries who have talked about conducting events. And then you go back and lay this template over and some suspicious things start to appear.
The British soldier that was killed in 2011, there was some connection now that appears to the Syrian training camps, then you look at even May of this year in Brussels, the attack on the Jewish museum, there seems to be a relationship in Frankfurt, Germany, where they killed two U.S. soldiers.
CROWLEY: Perpetrated by people who were trained in Syria -
ROGERS: Clearly, yes. There's clearly some tie and now we've seen other arrests, significant arrests around Europe in a tempo that is very concerning.
CROWLEY: We have heard that this is of grave danger, that both the ISIS group now in Iraq and then these American jihadists or western jihadists, whatever you want to call them are a big concern. If we know they went to Libya, why don't we know if they're in the U.S., and do we know their names, and how great a danger is this?
ROGERS: Well, there's lots of ways to get into Syria that wouldn't necessarily in and of itself raise the red flag of concern.
You could, the easiest route today is to fly into Turkey and disappear for a while, come off the grid, spend as much time as you want in both Syria and/or Iraq or both and then come back and fly out of Turkey that wouldn't necessarily rise to the standard. Remember, these are U.S. persons. These are U.S. citizens. That's what the challenge is, or they're British citizens or they're German citizens or they're Spanish citizens.
That raises a level of difficulty for U.S. intelligence services in a way we haven't seen in the numbers that they're trying to figure out who these people are and what their intentions are. That's what's so dangerous about this and why allowing them to pool up in Syria, allowing them to have safe haven the size of Indiana, between Syria and Iraq, I say they, I mean, al Qaeda-minded individuals that now have an army. That is as dangerous a time for an al Qaeda threat to the United States as I've ever seen.
CROWLEY: Congressman Mike Rogers, it's always nice to hear from you. Thanks for coming by.
ROGERS: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
Coming up now, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton take out the tape measure to see whose wallet is smaller. But is either potential 2016 contender winning the race to be more relatable to average Americans?
CROWLEY: Joining me around the table, CNN "CROSSFIRE" host, Stephanie Cutter, Mattie Duppler from Americans for Tax Reform, and Neera Tanden, president and CEO at the Center for American Progress, and Liz Mayer, Republican communications strategist. Thank you all for being here.
I want to just do a quick blast from the recent past, and put Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight Committee up against the lawyer for Lois Lerner, the IRS official, we just talked to them earlier in the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: She broke some regulations. She broke some laws. WILLIAM TAYLOR, LOIS LERNER'S ATTORNEY: This is election year
politics. It's convenient to have a demon that they can create and point to.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: Add to that we have the president now in (INAUDIBLE) this week talking about phony scandals. Let's just pretend it is a phony scandal, just for a moment. Is it an effective political scandal? Does this have resonance?
MATTIE DUPPLER, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Well, I will argue that it's hard to say this is a phony scandal. Because just looking at the IRS you have both ways and means and oversight looking at what is effectively what they're trying to do is score a political point. But expanding that out a little bit broader look at what is happening with the V.A., look at what's happening when you have the president on the spot trying to defend his massive bureaucracy and he can't do it. So, the onus is really not on the congressman (INAUDIBLE) Chairman Camp to say that there is a specific point that we're trying to make. It's more of the government and executive branch to saying, why can't we provide you with the evidence and the proof that we aren't in violation of the laws that we're supposed to be abiding by.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I'm sorry. You're innocent until proven guilty in the United States, you know? I mean, if the congress -- if the congressman is going to say she broke a law or regulation, say what it is and he couldn't do it. I mean, that's not really -- I think the idea that people have to prove they're innocent or the onus isn't on Congress when it's making an accusation is ridiculous.
LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: That's --
TANDEN: To actually say they need to prove their case and he couldn't and the truth of this issue really is that you have out of control spending by lots of groups in a c4 context where they're trying to get money, they're trying to basically skirt what the rules are and we should have a full debate about that because I think people would think that's a problem as well.
MAIR: I actually think that is a very clever diversion and shying (ph) object away from what's really going on but I think --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That -
MAIR: But I think -- but I think -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But what is actually going on here -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is exactly is going on here? But I think even Darrell Issa couldn't (ph) say (ph) -- (CROSSTALK)
MAIR: I think what you're saying is correct as a matter of criminal law. But I think that the point to put this into a straight political context, I think two things. First of all does this feed into an overall perception the voters are going to have about competence in the administration? Are you capable of actually keeping stuff on your hard drive? Are you capable of keeping stuff on a server? Are you capable of running the veteran's administration? I don't know if people can answer that question.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, CNN CROSSFIRE HOST: I'm not an expert on voters by any means, however, I wonder -- I think voters care more about whether Congress is working to make sure that they have fair wages or that women are being paid the same as men, or that we're reforming some of our bigger systems like immigration reform, rather than having Darrell Issa badger witnesses about a phony scandal.
MAIR: But this is an important point because if you're saying that you believe in a system where the government provides more and more things to people, if the government is incompetent to do that, that's a serious question.
CUTTER: I believe if Congress does its job and gets things done rather than wasting taxpayer money over and over.
CUTTER: Well, the president is doing his job.
TANDEN: They're having the hearing and then you're acting as if like they don't have a role here. They are calling these witnesses and I thought it was fascinating about the debate this morning was you asked Darrell Issa exactly what is a smoking gun and he couldn't tell you.
And the truth of the matter is that they've spent millions of dollars on these investigations, taxpayer dollars on the investigations and you know, that's an issue of competence as well.
MAIR: The V.A, the IRS --
MAIR: And frankly as a taxpayer and somebody who (INAUDIBLE) over a lot of proprietary information to the IRS I'm more concerned personally as somebody who hands over private information to the IRS about their ability to retain things and handle that appropriately than I am about whether Darrell Issa is spending a couple million dollars investigating blah, blah, blah. I mean -
MAIR: And I say that as a fiscal conservative to you. CROWLEY: I want to have you also chime in on what's turning into
what's been called the poor-off between Hillary Clinton who, you know, said that she was just dead broke when she left the White House. And Joe Biden saying this week, well I, you know, I don't have a savings account, I don't have -- now, he went on to say, but I'm a very lucky guy. I get a good salary and I've got a pension.
So, it seems to me that perhaps Democrats having made Mitt Romney's money and success sort of an evil thing, are now going, listen, I don't have money. I understand what's going on. Are they now (INAUDIBLE) on that (INAUDIBLE)?
TANDEN: What I would say there's actually a poll out this morning showing the a strong majority of Americans think that Hillary is, you know, in touch with their experiences, understands what it's like to be middle class. And I think Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have lived life where they're fighting for people who are trying to get into the middle class and struggling to stay there.
CROWLEY: To the question whether wealth has now become a kind of --
MAIR: But I think -- I think a lot of -- I think a lot of the troubles people are experiencing with their personal economies and literally doing their budgets and managing their expense and managing their income and ingoings and outgoings, at the kitchen table at the moment I do think that regardless of what figure we're talking about and which political party we're talking about, there are a lot of people that look at these guys when they say, I'm normal, and go, eh, you're not really normal.
Now, I do think -- I do think obviously Mitt Romney having grown up -
MAIR: Right, well, and Mitt Romney having grown up with the money that he did, I do think that's a bit distinct from Hillary Clinton but I also think that Hillary Clinton is a bit distinct from Joe Biden candidly. I think Joe -- I think Joe Biden looks like a much more average Joe.
CUTTER: Voters look at the thing and the thing that was so damaging to Romney it wasn't that he was wealthy. It was about what he did on a day-to-day basis to allow other people to be just as wealthy as he was.
And he always -- you know, I was involved in that election and this came down to a simple choice, was he going to fight for you or was he going to fight for the guy that's already at the top. And time and time again it was easy to point to him fighting for the guy at the top which was -
(CROSSTALK) DUPPLER: Well, (INAUDIBLE) thousands of dollars talking to the
same bankers and Wall Street advocates...
DUPPLER: ...a problem.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, making them want (INAUDIBLE) middle class.
MAIR (ph): Well, actually I really --
DUPPLER: I'd like to state the fact we're all talking about Mitt Romney and this is the problem for Hillary and this is the problem for Democrats in 2016. You don't get to run an effective campaign against the ghost of Mitt Romney.
MAIR: Also if you're being compared to, if you're a Democratic candidate who is being compared to Mitt Romney, that automatically right there is terrible, as a huge Mitt Romney --
CROWLEY: Stephanie, if you had been running Hillary Clinton's non-campaign, her book tour, and you heard her go, we were dead broke when we left the White House. You'd be back on the phone going, oh my god, you'd never believe what she just said. Correct?
CUTTER: Well, it is a fact that they were dead broke leaving the White House. However --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You needed clarification.
CUTTER: However -
MAIR: However is coming
CUTTER: I would say spend more time talking about everything that you have fought for in your entire life including your first job out of school working at the children's center.
TANDEN: That's exactly what -- that's exactly what she said. And this is what I think important. I mean, this is a great opportunity for her as she did this week to talk about not only her life experience, she left law school and went to the children's defense fund and went door to door working on issues of ensuring every poor child in Connecticut was actually going to school. Those are the issues of her life and I think this is a great opportunity for her to talk about not only what she's, where she's been but what she will do. And I think the ideas that the Republican Party in 2016 is going to be competitive on who fights for the middle class, I hope that exists but -
(CROSSTALK) MAIR: Let me just interject here and say if you go back and you look at what she was being attacked for by Democratic candidates during the 2008 debate I think that's all well and good to say you should talk about her other experience. But one of the things that's going to come up I'm sure and it's going to be interesting to the Democratic base is her work for companies like Walmart. Is that fighting for the middle class? I mean, I don't -- yes, I don't personally -- I don't personally care but --
TANDEN: Perhaps you have a good sense of where the Republican -- where the Democratic Party (INAUDIBLE). But I think like when you look at the party today, 90 percent of the party progressives, mainstream, even conservatives have strong support for Hillary Clinton. So -
MAIR: I'm talking about -- I'm talking about this in the context of a Democratic primary. I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton versus Republicans. She's got to get out of that primary first. And everybody thought she'd win in 2008 and she has not.
CROWLEY: Hillary has two more years to discuss -
MAIR: We don't even know if she's running yet. That was a separate -
CROWLEY: I've got to take a quick break and afterwards we'll talk about the most awkward moment of the week, courtesy of congress.
CROWLEY: Back now with Stephanie Cutter, Liz Mair, Mattie Duppler and Neera Tanden.
We have watched for several weeks the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come long distances, long, scary distances to get to the U.S. Now, we're seeing politicians down at the border. How does this parse politically do you think?
DUPPLER: I think it's difficult to say that there's a political play here simply because we have seen what Congress has already done with this, right? The Senate has passed their own bill. Doesn't look like the House is going to move. And now we have politicians who are going to the border to say, we need to do something.
We know nothing is going to happen in Washington. Congress is practically gone for the summer. The problem that we have and the crisis that is happening now at the border is a consequence of a broken system for many, many years. So, to say that there's a quick political fix as the president said last night that he'll probably be asking Congress for more money to go down to defend the border for more authority to try and deport people back, this is -- this is -- the only thing this is going to do is embarrass the United States on the world stage. Because what we're saying is that we can throw more money at the border and we can try to discourage people from coming here and that will fix what has been an endemic issue for us, it's not going to happen.
TANDEN: Well, this is actually a particularly new crisis. The facts are that there's criminal gangs in Honduras, Guatemala that are actually threatening kids and that's why these families are sending them. It's a horrendous situation.
In this issue, I agree with John McCain that this is actually an argument for immigration reform. Because immigration reform had stronger, you know, a lot more funding at the border to strengthen the border and also had a pathway to citizenship, that it was a good balance. I think the voices in the Republican Party who argued for that (INAUDIBLE) are actually right. I think it's ridiculous that we say Congress can't act. They should act and can act now.
MAIR: We do still have a little bit of an opening here. I mean, yes, it's a closing window. Every day it closes a bit. But to suggest that there isn't time to do something on comprehensive immigration reform --
CROWLEY (ph): This year (ph) -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MAIR: I think it's inaccurate. There is -
CROWLEY: (INAUDIBLE) optimistic take.
MAIR: I'm not saying -- I'm not saying that they'll do it, I'm just saying that if you look at the calendar, they could find a way if they are committed to doing it.
CUTTER: They've been working on it now for well over a year.
CUTTER: I do think that this crisis puts tremendous pressure on John Boehner to actually finally move something. He's going to have to bring something to a vote. He hadn't -- wanted to do that before the elections. And I think -- I think the more we see this on the news, the more kids that are coming across the border, he's going to have to do that.
CROWLEY: I have to get to my favorite picture of the week. I think everybody's favorite picture of the week. There's civil rights (INAUDIBLE) I believe of LBJ signing the civil rights legislation on Capitol Hill. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: OK. Awkward, I believe. Caption contest. Stephanie.
CUTTER: Well, first, I'm glad that they were all there doing that. Seriously -- but I was thinking about the Republican audit from a couple of years ago. Is this chapter two of that Republican audit?
MAIR: I, too, am glad they're doing this. It's the thought that counts. However, my thought is bring on my K Street retirement.
TANDEN: When is this over? That's what I thought. It was like -- and you know, that's what each of them were thinking. When is this over?
MAIR: Watching these guys, all I can think is Harry Reid is the most miserable man in the world.
CROWLEY: None of them look particularly happy. I mean --
MAIR: Levin's face is my favorite. So -- I mean, he is so uncomfortable.
CROWLEY: I mean, all I can think of was -
CROWLEY: Is it "Sesame Street" that has the, one of these things -- want to say, some of these things are not like the other. You want to just sort of sing along but an entirely different song.
MAIR: You know what, at least the news is it wasn't so bad that John Boehner started crying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -
CROWLEY: It's a moving moment.
Liz Mair, Mattie Duppler, Neera Tanden, Stephanie Cutter. Thank you all very much. We'll be right back.
MAIR: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Thank you for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. Be sure to watch us each week at this time or you can set your DVRs so you don't miss a moment. Fareed Zakaria, "GPS," is next after a check of the headlines.