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Holder Faces Contempt Threat This Hour; Obama Asserts "Executive Privilege" Over Documents; Sandusky Could Testify Today; Nuns Fighting Proposed Federal Budget Cuts; Gas Prices Drop Below $3.50 A Gallon; Blistering Heat Hitting East Coast; Lebron Goes Out With Cramps; Fight Over Voters' Rights

Aired June 20, 2012 - 10:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us. Right now on Capitol Hill, an extraordinary showdown is unfolding. Attorney General Eric Holder appears before a House committee and some lawmakers are threatening him with contempt of Congress.

It stems from the botched "Fast and Furious" sting that allowed weapons to reach Mexican drug gangs. Republicans say they want answers. Democrats say it is election year game playing.

Let's get the latest from Capitol Hill and congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan. How is it looking for Eric Holder?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will tell you, we are just getting some late information, Carol, that I could say we are working out what this means for the vote.

But it is definitely a new step in this back and forth battle between the Department of Justice, the attorney general, and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.

We've just received word that the Department of Justice has sent a letter to Congressman Issa saying that the president is asserting executive privilege over certain documents.

And I believe these are the exact documents that they are really fighting over now, documents from the Department of Justice between the dates of February and December of 2011. We can get into why those dates are important in just a second.

But this is -- a very new development and obviously a very important development as we are waiting any moment now for this committee to begin its work. Big question in my mind is -- does this kind of put this contempt citation vote in question?

We can honestly say, we don't know yet, but this is a very big step that now we know that the president is asserting executive privilege over these documents, which we can say means that it -- they are at least trying to make the case why these documents are not in the purview of the committee being able to try to seek them out.

That's a very new development. We obviously need to find out more information about what this means for the vote. I can tell you probably right now the committee is just getting this document at the same time we are learning about it. But to this point, Carol, this --

COSTELLO: Wait. I'm just interested in this. So President Obama to the rescue of Eric Holder, right, the president hasn't inserted himself into this mess until now in this way.

BOLDUAN: I'm looking -- I am looking down on my Blackberry to find out more information. But this does mean in -- I believe that in the information that's provided to us, some examples of this having happened in previous administrations including in the Bush administration.

But when -- when a president excerpts executive privilege, that means that it is kind of dash it is -- out of the realm of possibility and privileged and protected. This happens on sensitive information and sensitive actions being taken by the executive branch and it seem that that is what's happened here in terms of documents.

Maybe it is a way to try to put this -- get this contempt society off the table and to move on because it really did appear that despite that last-ditch effort in the meeting that happened in Capitol Hill yesterday evening.

That the attorney general and Congressman Issa, Chairman of the committee that they had really reached an impasse and really reached -- at standoff and were in no way able to find a way to agree on what documents were going to be provided and when, what information was going to be provided.

And when and that really meant that for Chairman Issa's position, he did not think the attorney general was giving him enough information.

COSTELLO: Well, let me ask you this about the documents themselves. I mean, Issa, he wants to find out about the "Fast and Furious" program because this program led to the death of an agent, right, a border agent?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right.

COSTELLO: So what in these documents that the president has put the kibosh on is Issa interested in finding out? What specifically does he say that -- that's in these documents that will put this case to rest?

BOLDUAN: Well, from the conversations we had with Chairman Issa as well as the attorney general last night. The attorney general said it is the -- things that we have been trying to provide already, e- mails, other kind of communications, those sorts of things.

Those are the kind of documents. But why we are talking about these specific dates, Chairman Issa is very interested in. These are dates between February and December of 2011.

Those dates are important because during this time the Department of Justice sent information to Congress that it said that they -- there had been no improper actions that -- nothing improper had been done in terms of the operation.

Then 10 months later, they had to retract that denial because it came to light that this gun walking -- gun-running, gun-walking activity was used in this program.

We know that through this program, as this operation was ongoing, they lost track of hundreds of weapons and we also know one of those weapons turned up at the crime scene of the killing of the U.S. border parole agent, Brian Terry.

So it is communications between this time because Chairman Issa says he wants to know what senior DOJ officials knew and when and that's what he is trying to track down.

For the part of the attorney general, Carol, he says we already provided 7,600 documents. We are willing to provide more. He says he's testified before Congress more than a half dozen times.

He believes that this is just never going to end and so -- it appears that the attorney general wanted some kind of assurance that the contempt threat would be taken off the table.

There would be a resolution if they provided more documents. He wanted to also have a briefing before they provided documents as you can see a lot of back and forth.


BOLDUAN: Going on for months. But this is a very interesting development with text executive privilege being asserted.

COSTELLO: I would say that's an understatement, Kate Bolduan. I know you want find out more and what this means if the contempt charge will go away now. I'm going to let you get to it. Kate Bolduan is reporting live from Capitol Hill.

After days of gut-wrenching testimony, today could be the day that decides Jerry Sandusky's fate. A source telling CNN the former Penn State football coach is fully prepped.

He is ready to testify if his lawyers want him on the stand. Most legal experts think that would be a complete disaster for the defense.

CNN contributor Sara Ganim won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on the case. She has been subpoenaed by the defense. We just want to let you know that. She filed this report for us minutes ago.


SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Carol, all week this has been the question that everyone has been asking Attorney Joe Amendola, will Jerry Sandusky take the stand and defend himself to jurors in his own words?

If he wants to do that today is essentially the last chance he has because we do expect the case to wrap up this afternoon and for jurors to hear closing arguments tomorrow morning and start to deliberate.

Now if he does take the stand, I expect cross-examination would be pretty harsh. Prosecutors are going to be asking him specific details about what these eight boys, now men, and would witnesses have accused him of doing.

That would be different, though, from yesterday when his wife took the stand and defended him. The prosecutors didn't really appear to see her as much of a threat. The cross-examination, to be quite frank, was pretty polite.

She defended her husband and said she never saw anything inappropriate or heard anything inappropriate. She even questioned the credibility of one of the accusers saying, quote, "he was very demanding and he was very conniving and wanted his way and he didn't listen a whole lot."

It does appear that jurors are going to have heard all of their evidence by the end of the day today which means that -- unlike we originally thought that this case might go until the end of the month. It appears we might know the guilt or innocence of Jerry Sandusky by the end of the week. Carol, back to you.


COSTELLO: Normally, you see nuns working in their closely knit communities and religious orders. But a group of nuns in the United States, they are hitting the road. There are taking a bus on nine- state tour.

They are protesting the Ryan budget cuts they say will hurt the poor the most. The nuns are in Milwaukee today and that's where Ted Rowlands is. So the nuns are jumping into the political fray.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, they -- Carol, say, along with their bus, they want to just get their message out and what they are doing is defending the poor.

We have been hanging out with them on their bus for the past couple of days and there's no doubt that these ladies have the energy to get their message out.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): Rolling down the highways of Middle America, the nuns on the bus hard to miss. Their driver usually carts around famous musicians. Well, these nuns including 81-year-old Sister Diane Donoghue from Los Angeles say they feel like they are getting rock star treatment.

SISTER DIANE DONOGHUE, "NUNS ON THE BUS": That's the most amazing thing when you walk out of the bus and you see the excitement and the anticipation.

ROWLANDS: The nuns are attracting crowds of supporters at every stop. They plan to drive more than 2,000 miles through nine states ending up in Washington, D.C., on July 2nd.

The main purpose of the bus tour, according to the nuns, is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan's House passed budget plan, which Ryan says is in tune with his Catholic faith even though it cuts services to the poor.

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, "NUNS ON THE BUS": Congressman Ryan claiming the Catholicism mantle really set our teeth on edge. Probably we wouldn't be on the road if he hadn't have done that.

ROWLANDS: The nuns stopped at Ryan's Wisconsin office Tuesday delivering to one of his staffers what they call a faithful budget proposal that protects the poor.

The idea for the bus tour came after the Vatican's recent public criticism of socially active nuns in the U.S., which the nuns created an outpouring of sympathy and a lot of attention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we said how can we use this opportunity with focus on us to show people what really is -- we are about and who we care for?

ROWLANDS: So far the nuns who now have their own song, thanks to fans in Iowa, say they are overwhelmed by the receptions they are getting. They are using their time on the bus to check e-mail and twitter accounts as driver, Bill, gets them to their next stop.


ROWLANDS: Carol, they are in Milwaukee today. They are going to be going through Illinois and into Chicago this evening. And then they are on the road until July 2nd. They are having a rotation of nuns.

There is only one nun, the one that we met, the 81-year- old Sister Diane from Los Angeles. She is the only one that will be on the entire trip. They will be jumping on and off the bus as they move towards Washington.

COSTELLO: OK, so a question. The last time the nuns inserted themselves into our political culture, they came out in support of President Obama's health care law. That did not thrill the bishops.

In fact, that was part of the reason that the bishops and Vatican later came out with this idea that the nuns are radical feminists. What did the bishop say about the nuns on the bus?

ROWLANDS: Well, we don't know. They haven't said anything yet. Of course, it takes usually the church a long time to make proclamations about things. They move a little slow.

But the nuns say the fact that they got that smack down, if you will, from the Vatican really enabled them to get this bus because they said the outpouring of not only support.

But also attention in and of itself for the nuns for the first time they say they were able to exploit that. They got the money for the bus and that's the reason they are on this tour, they say.

COSTELLO: You go, girls. Ted Rowlands, many thanks.

Lebron James goes down. The Miami Heat star hits the court in the fourth quarter of last night's NBA finals games. He had to leave. We will tell you how he came back.


COSTELLO: It's 15 minutes past the hour. Welcome back. Checking our top stories now.

Defense attorneys for Jerry Sandusky expected to rest their case today. Not clear if the former Penn State football coach will take stand. Sources telling us Sandusky fully prepped. He is ready to testify. His attorneys reportedly will reportedly make the final decision after the final witness finishes today.

Also today, this man, Reverend Fred Luther Jr., will are officially become president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the first African-American to lead the group in its 167-year history. Luther was unopposed in an election to pick the denomination's next leader.

In money news, gas at the pump dropped. The price I'm talking about. Nationwide the average has fallen below $3.50 for the first time in months. It is even cheaper than that in Columbia, South Carolina. Customers there are paying less than $3 a gallon. I can't even imagine less than $3 a gallon. They're lucky in South Carolina.

That cooler weather -- the east has been experiencing, well, forget about it. A heat wave is moving in today. Some places it will feel like 100 degrees. Some places, I should say many places -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Lot of places. With that cheap gas in South Carolina, you can sit in your car and turn the air conditioner on. No joke for folks in the northeast. This is going to be warmest stuff that we have seen.

Not only this year, but since July of last year, some folks may very well touch the 100-degree mark. We have seen that if places to the west and this -- surge of heat is heading east.

McCook, Nebraska, 109 yesterday and then over to the east of Detroit, 95 degrees. Record high temperatures yesterday, heat pump is on. It is all circulating around the big blue waves, which will keep things rather comfortable across the southeast.

But pump up the heat and humidity all way around to the mid Atlantic and the northeast. Over a dozen states are under a heat advisory and heat warnings right now with the actual air temperatures measure medical the shade in the 90s.

But with the humidity and certainly in the sunshine will feel well up and over 100 degrees. So dangerous heat, cooling centers are set up for the bigger cities. Here they are lined up for daytime highs expected today and tomorrow.

No -- from really mid to upper 90s, D.C. and even Boston may touch 100 degrees today or tomorrow. Again, these are actual temperatures with the humidity will feel like more than that.

We'll get somewhat cooler as we get towards Saturday and Sunday. So cooling centers obviously, drink lots of water and take care of the elderly neighbors and pets and that sort of thing as well.

It is just a shock to your system when it is the first real heat wave of the year. And -- you know, I don't -- I don't mean to end on the down note, but heat is the number one heat related killer out there, floods, tornadoes, all that stuff, this is a dangerous thing especially those that may not be in the best of health.

COSTELLO: So look out for the little kids and elderly neighbors and family members.

MARCIANO: Don't be locking your pooch in the car. That's for sure and if you have a fountain, go ahead and splash around.

COSTELLO: Nice. Cutie. We have to talk about the NBA finals and stick around here. Lebron James -- he played one great game.

MARCIANO: But he had a little slip.

COSTELLO: He had a little slip. He was driving on the Thunder. They defended him very well. You will see it here in a second. He's driving there and he falls to the floor. Actually he was suffering from leg cramps.

They were so bad he had to be carted out of the game. You see the stretcher coming in shortly. Amazing thing is -- he had the leg cramps, makes a shot, then the stretcher comes out and carries him from the court.

MARCIANO: He made the shot. He got back up, as a lesson to all the kids there. He's playing -- 60 minutes and is playing like 70 minutes a game. He's carrying the team out there and so to get a cramp for a world class athlete every once in a while, it's one more reason to drink a lot of water during the heat.

COSTELLO: That's true. Maybe just a little dehydrated.

MARCIANO: Game five coming up. We will see if they can close it out yeah. I'm rooting for the Thunder. Amazing story, too. Not like the Thunder is playing badly. They are just not playing as good as the Heat. Yes. Thank you, Rob.

Florida, it is in the center of a political firestorm. The reason, Governor Rick Scott's plan to remove ineligible voters from state roles. Supporters say the purge will stop election fraud, but critics say the plan violates voting rights.

Joining me now is Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, which filed a lawsuit against -- lawsuit against Florida yesterday. Welcome.


COSTELLO: There are lots of entities that have filed lawsuits, including the Justice Department. What makes yours different?

HAIR: Our suit is under the voting rights act and we are saying that Florida committed race discrimination and language discrimination in doing this purge.

Florida is saying that -- made a list of voters who are citizens and it is saying that -- they are noncitizens using bogus evidence. And 82 percent of the people on this list are people of color.

Over 60 percent are Latino and that is just not allowed. If you want to make your voter rolls accurate then you have to do it in a non-discriminatory way.

COSTELLO: But just because there are many people of color on the purge list doesn't mean they were directly targeted. How do you prove that?

HAIR: Well, we -- don't have to prove the intent of the governor because Florida -- because Congress has knows it is very difficult to prove somebody's internal motive. So what we have to show is that the list has discriminatory results and that it is done for no good justification.

COSTELLO: You also say the purge violates federal law because it is within 90 days of an election. But the governor came up with the idea like last year. So the timing is important here, too. How can you prove the exact timing of when Governor Scott decided to take this action?

HAIR: Well, it doesn't matter when he started the action. In fact, you know, we think that he had this action in mind the day that he became -- came into office.

Because we know there are partisan motivations behind the scheme. But the point is that it has to be finished within 90 days of a federal election.

And in this case, people are still being purged and there is an election on August 14 so they have not finished this plan at all.

COSTELLO: I'm -- I have -- sadly, I have to interrupt you. Congressman Issa is speaking in Congress about the contempt charge, possible contempt charge, against the Attorney General, Eric Holder. Let's listen.

REPRESENTATIVE DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Department of Justice called "Fast and Furious." Sixteen months ago, this committee, along with Senator Chuck Grassley, launched an investigation into whistle blowers allegations regarding "Fast and Furious."

We became involved only after Senator Grassley was told he would not receive answers from the Justice Department, because in fact, he did not have subpoena power and was not the chairman.

In the course of our investigation, the committee uncovered serious wrongdoing by the Justice Department. That wrongdoing led to 2,000 weapons crossing the Mexican border that cost lives on both sides of the border including Brian Terry's.

A year and a half later, the Terry family is still searching for answers. The operation contributed to the deaths of countless Mexican citizens. It soured our relationship with our neighbor to the south. It created an ongoing safety problem here in the United States in which even the attorney general has admitted more lives would be lost.

The Department of Justice has fought this committee's investigation every step of the way. Starting with an unequivocal denial it used the reckless tactics we know was used in "Fast and Furious."

The denial proved to be false and ultimately the Justice Department withdrew it. They withdrew it in December and having given it to us in February.

Today's contempt is in no small part because the materials between the time a false statement was given to us in writing and later affirmed in sworn testimony by the Justice Department's representative, an officer of the court a lawyer, now the dean of law school, was ultimately false.

That intervening period remains one of the areas of investigation. It is clear that Congress relies on its ability to get truthful testimony when investigating wrongdoing in and around the executive branch.

In spite of this lack of transparency the committee has managed to piece together much of what happened and we believe that we can help participate in making sure it never happens again.

But our work is not complete and we immediate the Department of Justice to cooperate. Thus far, the cooperation has not been forthcoming. Over and over again, the department has sought to protect its political appointees.

It used this investigation by -- its investigation by the department's inspector general, which has been pending a very long time as a reason not to cooperate.

We are now on the second inspector general and there has been no interim report and although they say it will be forthcoming within a month, we and the American people need answers sooner, not later.

The attorney general has in fact, said he's gone to extraordinary measures to participate and to help. We have received to date approximately 7,600 documents.

A great many of those documents are, in fact, responsive to other operations conducted before he was attorney general. And those documents pale in comparison to the 80,000 documents or more that the inspector general has received.

Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt. Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work. That it is not only entitled to but obligated to do.

We offered the department an accommodation to address its concerns about information related to ongoing prosecutions. If the Justice Department had delivered the documents they freely admitted -- admitted they could deliver we wouldn't be here today.

As late as last night, in discussions with the attorney general, our offer -- his offer was only to give us a briefing and such documents that supported the briefing and then only if we ended the investigation.

Contempt today is not about whether we end the investigation or not. It is about a narrow subset of the documents that the committee must ultimately receive. The subpoenas are eight months old.

We have not received a credible reason for them not being supplied and, in fact, no constitutional assertion has occurred. Rather it is the duty of the executive branch and its agencies to represent itself on a -- honestly before Congress and to make available such transparencies as necessary for us to fund and authorize it now and in the future the request of this and future presidents.

COSTELLO: OK, you're listening to Congressman Issa. He is talking about Attorney General Eric Holder and how Holder is allegedly thwarting a congressional committee's attempt to investigate the "Fast and Furious" program.

Earlier our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan told us President Obama has entered the fray and asserted executive privilege over the documents that have been requested by Congressman Issa.

Don't know how this will affect the contempt charge. We are still looking into that. We will take you back to Capitol Hill. We are monitoring this and Kate Bolduan is still searching for the answer to the executive privilege question. We're going to take a break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Congressman Issa and his committee deciding whether to file a contempt of Congress charge against Attorney General Eric Holder over the "Fast and Furious" program. We're going to put that picture in the corner of your screen. As news develops we'll get back to that hearing and we'll keep you posted on all that's happening.

"Political Buzz" is your rapid fire look at the best political topics of the day. Three questions, smart answers. Playing today Katon Dawson, a former Rick Perry consultant and former South Carolina GOP Party chairman, that means he's today's conservative; and on the left CNN contributor Maria Cardona, a former -- you're a current Democratic strategist, are you not Maria?


COSTELLO: That's ok.

CARDONA: And former.

COSTELLO: Ok. First question -- MSNBC is reporting Republicans are skittish about nominating a woman as vice president in 2012 because their 2008 candidate, Sarah Palin, quote, "Poisoned the well". And that as a result, any female candidate would be subject to greater scrutiny. So what do you think? Did Sarah Palin "poison the well" -- Maria?

CARDONA: That reasoning is just so offensive, Carol. I don't even know where to start. Did she poison the well for women candidates? No. She poisoned the well for VP candidates who are woefully unprepared to take the national stage, who are newbie's and who are dreadfully unvetted whether they're male or female.

You can't tell me that anybody would be skittish about nominating somebody like Condoleezza Rice or Olympia Snowe. And so I think that if Republicans are using that as an excuse it begs the question -- are they using it as an excuse to expose their sexism. I'm sorry that's all I can call it because it's offensive.


KATON DAWSON, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOP PARTY CHAIRMAN: Well, let me -- let me get a little historical context here. Certainly it is -- it is rather sexist but let's go back to Geraldine Ferraro who play -- who plowed that ground first and the attacks that were on her husband everything that it took there. And you know I -- right now I find that in historical terms when you take a look at what's gone on in the past, Sarah Palin created energy that John McCain need.

Everybody forgets that in a historical context. John McCain had a relatively flat campaign. She provided the energy and excitement and then certainly the rest is history.

But -- I don't -- I don't think that's fair to say that the Republicans would say she poisoned the well any more than Democrats would say that Geraldine Ferraro poisoned the well for them.


COSTELLO: Ok on --


CARDONA: Democrats would never say that.

COSTELLO: On to question number two, Vice President Joe Biden fired up, accusing Republicans of vilifying labor the way Republicans accuse Democrats of vilifying rich people. This is Joe in Los Angeles speaking to the union representing nurses, prison guards and sanitation workers.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We owe you. You shouldn't be vilified. You provide the safe neighborhoods. You provide the good schools. You provide the school lunch program. You provide the day care centers. You provide the hospitals. You provide the (inaudible), you provide the ability of people to live a decent middle class life. We owe you.


COSTELLO: I'm exhausted after that. But class -- class warfare?

CARDONA: I'm fired up.

COSTELLO: Class warfare anyone polls shows supports for unions waning. So is class warfare still a good strategy -- Katon?

DAWSON: Well, Carol, let me tell you, Joe Biden for once says something right. He said we owe you. The difference is what he was speaking to were the union bosses, not the workers. The people who were at home, whose -- whose aunts and uncles and sons and daughters are looking for jobs.

And again, Joe got it right. No question the Democrats owe the union bosses for the last election. But the circumstances are different now. Things have changed and right now the economy is the topic and everything else is camouflage. So kudos to Joe for not putting his foot in his mouth and saying we owe you and defining exactly who they do owe.


CARDONA: Class warfare is one of those -- one of those phrases that has just completely lost all meaning. First of all Democrats have never vilified rich people. We all want to be rich. What we vilify are the Republican policies that help rich people who don't need it and aren't asking for it at the expense of the middle class.

Labor unions let's not forget you can correlate the rise of a robust and strong middle class with the rise of labor unions. So they have done a lot to spur this economy. Their -- their popularity is waning but if you look at communities and -- and ask them if they love their policemen, their firefighters, their emergency workers, their first responders, their health care workers, they are all heroes in these communities. And when you go after labor unions, that's who you're attacking and that's who you're vilifying. And that's not a good strategy for the GOP.

COSTELLO: All right on to question number three, off the bus and into the birth control debate. That's the situation facing Mitt Romney today at a stop in Michigan. What will be waiting for him? A person dressed up as a life-sized package of birth control named Pillomina (ph). It's all courtesy of the Michigan Chapter of Planned Parenthood which says it's protesting Romney's promise that he would, quote, "Get rid of the group", Planned Parenthood that is, "if elected". So in honor of Pillomina, one final question, "What costume characters would you like to see out on the campaign trail?" Maria?

CARDONA: I would love to see the Milwaukee Brewers sausages go to every Mitt Romney rally and for people who don't know, these are sausages who are German sausage, Polish sausage, Italian sausage and a chorizo. They should show up with suit cases to underscore that they are ready to self-deport which is what Mitt Romney's permanent solution to the immigration problem is.

COSTELLO: Oh Katon top that.

DAWSON: Well Maria, I think -- very cute. I think it's two -- one is Pinocchio as the nose continues to grow and Democrats and Joe Biden and them keep telling everybody the economy is getting better and gas prices are going to get below $2 a gallon. So and so, such and such.

But I think Mitt Romney ought to get off the bus with the Los Angeles Dodgers mascot because certainly this administration is dodging the question and every time they can change the conversation away from the economy, away from the economic heat and the poor leadership this administration has provided, I think is something will be fun and notable. But I would stay with Pinocchio and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

COSTELLO: Ok. We have to end it there. Thanks to both of you for playing today.

CARDONA: Thanks Carol.

COSTELLO: We want to go back to Congress because, as you know, this contempt of Congress hearing is going on concerning the Attorney General Eric Holder and the "Fast and Furious" program. Let's listen to Congressman Cummings.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: And earlier this month we went on national television and called the Attorney General, the nation's highest ranking chief law enforcement officer, a liar.

At the same time, you refused request to hold a public hearing with Ken Melson the former head of ATF the agency responsible for conducting these operations. This refusal came after Mr. Melson told the committee investigators privately that he never informed senior officials and the Justice Department about gun walking during operation "Fast and Furious" because he was unaware himself.

Last night you flatly rejected the Attorney General's offer. You refused even to commit to working towards a mutually agreeable resolution. Instead you rushed to a pre-arranged press conference to announce the failure of the meeting.

It seems clear that you had no interest in resolving this issue. And that the committee planned to go forward with contempt before we walked into the meeting with the Attorney General. It pains me to say this but this but this is what I believe.

This is especially disappointing since the department has already turned over more than a thousand pages of documents that answer your question. You wanted to know why the department sent a letter to Senator Grassley initially denying allegations of gun walking. The documents show that when they were drafting this letter to the Department's Legislative Affairs Office relied on the categorical and emphatic denials from the leaders of ATF. These are the same ATF officials you now refuse to call for public hearing.

This morning, we were informed that the administration is now asserting executive privilege over, and your right, a narrow subset. It is indeed narrow. Of documents that remain at issue. As I understand it the assertion does not cover everything in this category such as whistle blower documents.

And the administration has indicated that it remains -- I emphasize remains willing to try to come to a mutual resolution despite its formal legal assertion.

As a member of Congress, I treat assertions of executive privilege very seriously and I believe they should be used only sparingly. In this case it seems to me that the administration was forced into a position by the committee's unreasonable insistence on pressing forward with contempt despite the attorney general's good faith offer.

Mr. Chairman, it did not have to be this way. It really didn't. We could have postponed today's vote, accepted attorney general's offer, and worked with the department to obtain additional documents and information.

Instead by not honoring the constitution's charge to seek accommodation when possible to position the prestige of this committee has been diminished and as a result should concern us all. With that I yield back.

COSTELLO: Ok. We are going to jump away for just a bit. Congressman Cummings accusing his Republican counterparts of political gamesmanship in wanting to file this contempt of congress charge against the Attorney General Eric Holder. We are going to take a quick break. We will be back with Congressman Issa's response after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Right now a congressional committee is meeting to consider a contempt of Congress charge against the Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious program because they claim that the Attorney General isn't turning over required documents or wanted documents.

Right now the Republican from Indiana, Congressman Burton, is speaking. He's speaking after Congressman Issa asked for comments -- oh, it just wrapped up. Congresswoman Maloney is now speaking. She is a Democrat. She is now commenting on Issa -- Congressman Issa asked for comments on this contempt of Congress citation. Let's listen to what she has to say.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: In our country in contempt of Congress. The House of Representatives has never in our long history held an attorney general in contempt. And I am horrified that you are going forward with this contempt charge when the President of the United States and the administration have invoked executive privilege for the documents sought by the chairman. And the Attorney General is being attacked for protecting documents that he's prohibited by law from producing.

And I just speak strongly in opposition to this action and in opposition to this report. I would like to point out that our committee, committee on oversight, and government reform, is supposed to root out problems and find ways to reform how government works. It shouldn't be a political witch-hunt against the attorney general of our country and our president in an election year. And what we should be doing is looks at ways we can stop problems from happening again.

So my basic question, Mr. Chairman, is where is the reform? Our committee is supposed to be working on government reform. And any legitimate investigation must be rooted in finding solutions to problems. Once they are identified. Not just character assassination and overruling presidents and attacking the chief law enforcement officer in our land.

So, again, I ask where are the reforms? During this investigation, we have learned a great deal about what went wrong --

COSTELLO: Congresswoman Maloney, a Democrat from New York. She is talking about this executive privilege just issued by President Obama on these documents that were requested by this House -- by Congressman Issa, he's the chairman of this committee. He wants those documents.

President Obama by executive privilege says he can't release those documents because there are things in there that the country should not hear. And as you saw, as you heard Congressman Maloney saying she can't believe that Congressman Issa is even continuing on with this hearing.

We have to take a break. We will be back with more after this.


COSTELLO: We are continuing to monitor a hearing on Capitol Hill. You can see the picture at the bottom right of your screen.

But first, we want to get a quick market check. Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange. Good morning Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Taking a look at the board. I know what you are thinking. Not much action happening here on Wall Street. You are seeing the markets pretty much flat. The Dow down only about 11 points.

You are seeing investors pretty much in a wait and see mode because what's happening in about an hour and a half is the Federal Reserve is going to be coming out with its policy decision and investors not necessarily looking for exactly what they are going to do about interest rates. It is pretty much a certainty what they are going to do there.

The focus is really on whether or not the fed's going to be introducing any more stimulus into the economy. We are keeping an eye on the markets for you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange. Quick break, we'll be back.


COSTELLO: Quick check of the top stories now.

Just minutes ago, with Attorney General Eric Holder facing a showdown with the house committee, President Obama stepped in and granted executive privilege. The move means the Department of Justice can withhold documents on the government's botched Fast and Furious drug -- gun sting, rather.

But it apparently does not protect Holder from a possible contempt of Congress charge. Right now Republican lawmakers appear to be moving ahead with that vote.

Defense attorneys for Jerry Sandusky expected to rest their case today. Not clear if the former Penn State football coach will take the stand. A source telling CNN Sandusky is fully prepared. He's ready to testify if called. His attorneys will reportedly make that decision after the final witness testifies.

We have new word out of Egypt on the health of toppled president, Hosni Mubarak. Minutes ago, Mubarak's attorney announced that his has health improved in recent hours and he's been taken off life support. This comes after rumors his death added to the troubles that already hang over that country. And that will be the topic in the noon hour when former President Jimmy Carter joins us to discuss Egypt's uncertain future.

Today is the first day of summer but it feels hotter than July. At the Indianapolis Fire Department day camp they turned on the hoses to beat the heat and they're making sure kids are drinking plenty of water.

Parts of the East Coast will feel more like 100 degrees. Rob says relief will come, though, by Friday.

In today's "Daily Dose", French researchers say women that work at night have a 30 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer. More than one million women around the world are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Scientists say more research is need to determine why women on overnight shifts are at greater risk.

I'm Carol Costello. Thank you for joining us today. I sure appreciate it. "CNN NEWSROOM" continues after a short break with Kyra Phillips.