Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

interview with Darrell Issa; Interview with Senator Stabenow, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Aired June 02, 2013 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Benghazi, the IRS and the reach of Eric Holder's Justice Department. Feels like a long hot summer.

Today, in the face of unanswered questions and the gathering of new information on a variety of fronts, congress readies another round of hearings, as promised.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This hearing is closed, but this investigation is not over.


CROWLEY: Our Sunday exclusive with the man leading the charge, Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House oversight committee.

Then, guns and mental health, the rocky road to immigration reform and changing times. Women are the major breadwinners in 40 percent of American households with children at home. Our potpourri discussion with Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The gears are starting to turn again. And we're getting some traction.


CROWLEY: Our panel free-for-all on whether a better economy trumps political controversy, strengthening the president's hand with congress and his party's chances in next year's elections.

And 57 years, five months, 21 days and counting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did my best for the people that I served.


CROWLEY: The dean is about to bust his way into history.

I'm Candy Crowley. And this is "State of the Union."

The Republican-led House keeps heat on the IRS this week with at least three hearings scheduled. The focus was the agency's targeting of conservative groups and its own extracurricular activities.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To the right. To the left. Three, four. It's so challenging to teach them even though the lyrics are the direction to the dance. My goodness. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Those are IRS employees you're watching doing the Cupid Shuffle, an apparent team building exercise in preparation for a conference in 2010. That same IRS conference included training videos that cost an estimated $50,000 and some pretty well paid speakers.

The information is part of a report due on IRS spending throughout this week. Congressional investigators tell CNN the report finds the IRS spent over $50 million on 225 employee conferences over a two-year period.

The man at the helm of the Thursday hearing looking at excessive spending, Darrell Issa joins me now. Congressman, thanks for joining me.

One of those speakers, by the way, taught -- or gave a presentation of leadership through art. $17,000.

So, look, we know...

ISSA: One might just call it leadership through entertainment.

CROWLEY: Whatever. $17,000 -- and I'm all for speakers fees, but nonetheless these are folks spending taxpayer money which I assume is the focus of what you're doing.

But the truth is that the administration a couple of years ago when similar allegations and videos surfaced from the GSA clamped down on how money could be spent. And you heard from the acting director recently who said, look, we have fixed this. They can no longer spend money like this. So what's the hearing about? Why are you having it?

ISSA: Well first of all, we're looking at the IRS for how big the problem is. As you know, as late as last week the administration's still trying to say there's a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington.

Secondly, the culture of the federal workforce is one where I don't think you can underestimate that if you don't keep reminding the voters but also the federal workers that we're watching, this will happen again.

CROWLEY: So you don't think it's been fixed? ISSA: Well, it doesn't stay fixed. You know, understand that some of the things that they're saying, well, this wouldn't happen again, they would still happen again. One example in Anaheim when they bought their tickets they said, well, we'll pay the per diem rate for these hotel rooms. They didn't negotiate, they didn't bid it. And this was 2,700 folks. So they could have gotten a considerable reduction. Instead what they said is we'll pay full boat, but we want some perks. So they ended up with free drinks, they ended up with tickets to games, basically kickbacks.

This is hard to find. This is where inspector generals do their work both on behalf of...

CROWLEY: And it's also coming at a time, we should add, when the IRS is saying, gee, we can't get all of the people not paying their taxes because we don't have enough money, which gives it I think probably some resonances as you all keep going.

I want to move on to the other thing that you're talking about because we were provided from your committee some of the transcripts of some of the interviews that you have done with the front line agents in Cincinnati. The ones that supposedly...

ISSA: Mention this -- these were done both with the Ways and Means people in the room, Republicans and Democrats.


And one of the excerpts we were given, and I want to talk about how problematic it is to get excerpts, because we know that you interviewed these people probably for hours and you get little excerpts which it's hard for us to kind of judge what's going on, but here's one of those -- just some IRS agent, again, from the Cincinnati office.

The investigator said, "so is it your perspective that ultimately the responsible parties for the decisions that were reported by the IG," that is the decision that target tea party and Patriot applications, "are not in the Cincinnati office?"

The employee says, "I don't know how to answer that question. I mean, from an agent standpoint, we didn't do anything wrong. We followed directions based on other people telling us what to do."

Investigator, "and you ultimately followed directions from Washington, is that correct?"

The employee, "if direction had come down from Washington, yes."

The investigator, "but with respect to the particular scrutiny that was given to Tea Party applications, those directions emanated from Washington, is that right?"

The employee answers, "I believe so."

It's totally not definitive. ISSA: Well, that one isn't.


ISSA: But I will tell you, one of the agents asked for and got a transfer because that person was so uncomfortable that they wanted out of it.


ISSA: And they've said categorically they thought it was inappropriate and that's why that person requested a transfer.

CROWLEY: And you give those transcripts as well.

ISSA: Right.

And these transcripts will all be made public.

CROWLEY: Why don't you put the whole thing out? Because you know our problem really is -- and you know that your critics say that republicans and you in particular sort of cherry pick information that go to your foregone conclusion, so it worries us to put this kind of stuff out. Can you not put the whole transcript out?

ISSA: The whole transcript will be put out. We understand -- these are in real time. And the administration is still -- they're paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind, he's still making up things about what happens in calling this local rogue. There's no indication -- the reason the Lois Lerner tried to take the fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati, it's because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting to proving it.

We have 18 more transcribed interviews to do.

CROWLEY: But as yet, you don't -- you don't have that direct link. You have the front line agents going, yeah, I mean, we figured it was from Washington or I believe it was, but as of yet you don't have that definitive, yeah, this guy called me and said, people, go look for Tea Party and Patriot applications.

ISSA: The president's spokesperson is saying whatever is convenient at the time and the story changes. What we have is people coming in to transcribed interviews. They're saying under penalty of crimes that certain things are true. We have subpoenaed documents that would support that, that they say, e-mails that went back and forth.

The administration is so far not providing those documents. As we get those documents, as we will get Fast and Furious documents eventually and so on, we will learn the whole truth.

CROWLEY: And again, going to the notion out there a couple rogue agents in Cincinnati did this and it wasn't a grand scheme, the same employee we quoted earlier in the transcripts we were provided said this, "as an agent we are controlled by many, many people. We have to submit many, many reports. So the chance of two agents being rogue and doing things like that could never happen."

And then the agent you're talking about who is slightly higher in that Cincinnati office sort of made the same point. And he did say, "I tried to get out of there. I thought something inappropriate, I was looking for a different job," and he said and I quote "I mean rogue agent? Even though I was taking all my direction from EO technical, which from the flowchart we believe is in Washington, I didn't want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over." Are you finding any contrary evidence to this? Do you look at this with at least some sort of jaundiced eye saying could it have come out of that office?

ISSA: Well, of course we do. One of the challenges is these folks cannot get a pass by saying I was ordered to do it, because ethically they clearly knew this was wrong. They should have become whistleblowers. They should have done something on behalf of the American people.

The culture at the IRS when we're done, when the reorganizations and the changes are made, have to do two things. They have to have checks and balances, but they also have to have that individual responsibility.

If there's a rogue agent or if somebody orders someone to do something and it's wrong, you can't say I knew it was inappropriate and then not have told somebody like the IG. If the IG had been told I'm being ordered to do this, this investigation might have ended very differently.

CROWLEY: Do you come into this with a preconceived notion? Certainly a lot of the things we're getting at random news conferences is that Republicans, and you're leading this charge at least in your committee, really want to tie this to the White House, that you all are out to say this somehow happened at the White House, went to the IRS and the IRS did the president's bidding.

ISSA: Look, do I have a belief that this administration doesn't seem to be able to control the various branches of government and that that's been a consistent problem whether it's at the NLRB, whether it's at Labor, whether it's at Justice? Yes. I've seen that in multiple investigations.

We've never tried to tie things to the president, tie things to the cabinet officers. What we've tried to do is get the kinds of transparency we were promised, which we're not getting. And then try to get the reforms that we need so that government...

CROWLEY: What does your gut tell you? What does your gut tell you now this far into the investigation?

ISSA: My gut tells me that too many people knew that this wrongdoing was going on before the election. And at least by some sort of convenient benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election, allowed these groups, these conservative groups, these, if you will, not friends of the president, to be disenfranchised through an election.

Now, I'm not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it. But certainly people knew it was happening that could have done something and would have done something, I'm sure, if these had been progressive groups or groups that supported the president. That's what I think we know.

We're really more interested in fixing the IRS. This, we cannot quit our investigation until we're sure this couldn't happen again. And, Candy, the I.G. himself said he doesn't know that this is the only time something like this happens because he said that he doesn't believe the controls are in place for the IRS to tell us that this doesn't happen in other places.

CROWLEY: And I got to quickly turn you to one more subject, and that's Eric Holder, a man that you certainly have had some dust-ups with, particularly in the last couple of weeks. This is what he testified to at the Judiciary Oversight hearing May 15th. Take a listen.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I've ever been involved in or heard of or would think would be a wise policy.


CROWLEY: So we've since learned that the attorney general did sign off on an application for a warrant to go through e-mails and such of James Rosen, a reporter for Fox. Do you think that the attorney general lied under oath to Congress?

ISSA: Well, he certainly could have been more candid, if he remembered. And he should have remembered. This is one of those --

CROWLEY: Is that kind of a, no, you don't think he lied intentionally?

ISSA: This attorney general maliciously covered up and will not give us the facts as to when Congress was lied to in the Fast and Furious case. He got the president to claim a privilege that doesn't exist. We're in court. So now when he does something similar, tries to cover up his tracks potentially as to a warrant he signed, am I surprised? No. This is somebody who should have given us the truth in the ATF Fast and Furious situation. Instead, he's using the court to slow down that process.

CROWLEY: But in the present, in that -- in this particular case of James Rosen and the application for a warrant before a judge and what he said to Congress, do you feel that was a lie? Or just, you know --

ISSA: It would be kind to say he misled Congress. It would be--

CROWLEY: Doesn't sound like you think so.

ISSA: -- less kind and more accurate to say that would rise to be a lie by most people's standards. By the American people's standard, you don't sign a warrant and then pretend you wouldn't know about it, it wouldn't come to you.

One of the things about perjury, this is the attorney general. Don't use perjury lightly. Perjury is a criminal charge that has to be proven. But certainly it's hard to have confidence in what this attorney general says or his people say when so often it turns out not to be true.

CROWLEY: Do you think he should resign, yes or no?

ISSA: That's up to the president.

CROWLEY: Chairman Darrell Issa, thank you for coming by. You need to do it again. There's a lot to talk about.

ISSA: I certainly will.

CROWLEY: Thank you. When we return, women bringing home the bacon, what it says about the economy and our society. Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are next. Sorry, Congresswoman, be right with you.


CROWLEY: A new study from the Pew research center tells us 40 percent of American mothers are the only or primary source of income for their families. Columnist Kathleen Parker writes, "women have joined the workforce in greater numbers because they've had to, not merely to hear themselves roar. Children are expensive, and one income seldom suffices."

Joining me now, two women who know a thing or two about being a working mom, Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida. Thank you both so much.

I want to talk to you about this study first, I have some other issues too, but what the Pew found out is that 25 percent of all families are led by a single mom; 44 percent of those have never been married. They -- 60 percent black or Hispanic, 49 percent high school education or less, median income $17,400 a year. This is a group on the rise. And what I found fascinating about this is I'm not sure I think Congress is enacting laws that are in sync with what's going on in the country. Go ahead, Senator.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I agree. I don't know who you want to start. But certainly it's -- these kinds of statistics should be a wakeup call for our GOP, because we need to be talking about the issues that are more representative of America. How many of us in our party are really gearing up for single women or single mom raising their kids on their own, being the sole breadwinner, and we don't have that message. We need to tune it up and step up to the realities and the changing demographics that is America today.

CROWLEY: And just policywise, Senator, just seems to me that this is -- this talks about another sea change in American life. Now, you can talk about policies that might reverse that if you want to argue that this is not, you know, obviously that young women who are undereducated, if you will, that are single and have a child have a very rough road ahead trying to make money.

CROWLEY: So you might want to go at it from that angle.

But however you want to go at it, it just seems to be to me an ignored segment.

STABENOW: Well, Candy, first of all, good morning to you and Ileana. It's good to be on this show.

I think this, first of all, represents a discussion about family income. This is about whether or not families are going to make it in the middle class, whether it's one family member working, a mom, or whether it's two family members. And I think it's complicated.

First of all, the good news is, is women have more choices. And in my own family, I see moms working, dad's staying at home by choice to take care of the kids.

But on the other hand, this is very, very clear that it's an economic issue. And still today, 77 cents on every dollar is what on average women are making. And when you look at the women that are primary caregiver because they have to be, or are working because they have to, this is an economic issue for the country.

And Ileana's right. We are not focused on -- certainly the Republican Party is not. I'm pleased that the first thing our president did was sign back in 2009 the Lily Ledbetter Act that deals with equal pay. but as we both know, we've got to go farther than that to guarantee that women are getting the value of their work in their paycheck.

Because somehow when you buy the loaf of bread or go to the gas station, you're not getting a discount on what you buy. And so it is an economic issue. And across the board where there's equal pay, whether it's making sure the child care tax credit equals what is needed for a family who is providing child care services, and we all know how incredibly expensive that is, this is really an economic issue for families.

CROWLEY: Congresswoman...

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Debbie, I would say that the GOP is very good on messaging about small businesses. And if you look at that same study, it shows that the number of women-owned small businesses has just demographically out of the chart. There are so many more upstarts of new starts of women-owned business in this past decade than ever before. And the GOP has a very good message that can be tailored to women-owned businesses because we're for lower taxes, less regulation. And I think that's the kind of demographic that we can seize on.

CROWLEY: OK senator, let me switch this up on you because there are a couple other subjects I want to try to cover.

When -- right after Newtown and the massacres of all those children in Connecticut, the president gave a speech that really one sentence sort of struck me when he said access to mental health should be as easy as access to guns is right now. Congress as we know has been unable to pass a gun ban, but I want to move this along and ask you whether you think congress can pass anything that expands access to mental health care, because we are very far from that promise.

STABENOW: Well, Candy, shame on us if we don't. In the Senate we have a bipartisan bill with Roy Blunt, Republican colleague from Missouri and I is called the Excellence in Mental Health Act. It's also being introduced in the House on a bipartisan basis that will provide the same type of funding for community health that we do for physical health.

Tomorrow, at the White House, the president is following through on a commitment he made to raise a focus and awareness. I'm pleased he's doing that. I'll be there tomorrow to focus on how we need to reduce the stigma, increase education and in the end provide services to the community.

Too many folks the sheriff will tell you are ending up in the jail when what they need is community mental health services and they aren't available.

So, let's focus on that. We ought to have as much attention on providing health care above the neck as below the neck. And right now we treat that very, very differently.

CROWLEY: Certainly, we do.

ROS-LEHTINEN: But Debbie, if I can say that the president, as in most things, is AWOL on this issue of guns and mental health, because in their own publication advertising this forum nowhere is the issue of guns advertised. So I think that the president is very good about making speeches, but when it comes to follow through, he's not there. He's just not in the arena.

So this is a great mental health forum to take away the stigma, to raise public awareness.

But Candy, you tied it to the massacre in Sandy Hook, but the president laying out this forum did not tie it to that at all.

So once again, he puts a message out there but he doesn't have the staying power to stick to it and try to win the battle as he should. CROWLEY: Let me get you both quickly on...

STABENOW: Well, problem is, Candy, let me just say, the ball's in our court. We're the ones that have to pass background checks. We're the ones that have to pass critical legislation for funding for community mental health. The ball's in our court and we need to get it done.

CROWLEY: Congressman Ros-Lehtinen, let me just turn you to one last subject, and that is immigration reform. We had some polling out from Quinnipiac University, question to them was will Democrats and Republicans in congress work together to pass immigration reform? 71 percent said no.

So, not a lot of faith that something everybody said they wanted, immigration reform, is actually going to pass. The House is going to hear from three senators who take varying views of the legislation going through the U.S. Senate.

From your perspective on the House side, what do you see as the big problem in getting what the senate is doing through your colleagues in the house?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, that Senate bill is not going to move in the House. I think the speaker has made it clear that we will have our own work product. He favors a piecemeal approach, maybe have the dreamers bill which affects young people, maybe have an e-verify system which impacts employers making sure they don't hire folks that are undocumented.

I don't know if we'll have comprehensive reform or we will have it piece by piece, but that Senate bill may not even pass the Senate itself. Debbie might know.

But in the House we have made it clear that we will produce a work product. I'm optimistic, more optimistic than the American people are, that we will have a bill. And maybe it will be in as soon as two weeks from now.

CROWLEY: Senator, I've got to take it off air. I'm sorry, if you can give me a yes or no, is immigration reform going to pass in the Senate?

STABENOW: Yes, it is. And it needs to. The system is terribly broken.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much. Senator, Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. Come back.

The White House focuses on the economy while Republicans focus on everything else.


CROWLEY: Political controversies? What controversies?


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The good news is today our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 38 months, the housing market is coming back, the stock market has rebounded, our deficits are shrinking at the fastest pace in 50 years, people's retirement savings are growing again, the rise of health care costs are slowing, the American auto industry is back.

CROWLEY: And while a 7.5 percent unemployment rate is still way too high, it is down from 10 percent in October 2009. And things will look different through the prism of an improving economy. Rising consumer confidence could buy the president ever closer to lame duck status a little more time and greater sway on Capitol Hill, shrinking deficits could make big budget cuts a hard sell while increasing federal revenue could make entitlement reform look less urgent.


Certainly, Democrats would love to run for election next year with the economic winds at their back, still mid-term's generally favor the party not in the White House and Republicans have a variety of alternative subject matter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: National defense.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Same-sex marriage.





CROWLEY: And before you start messaging us that it's too early to talk about this, we bring you the president this week at his third fundraiser of the year. I'm going to do everything I can, he said, to make sure we've got Nancy Pelosi back in the speakership because that's where she belongs. Our panel, Kevin Madden, Paul Begala, Jackie Calmes, and Corey Dade. Next up.


CROWLEY: Joining me now, Kevin Madden, Republican strategist and CNN political contributor debut appearance with that title. Jackie Calmes of "The New York Times," Corey Dade, he's a contributing editor for "The Root," and Paul Begala, also a CNN political contributor but a Democratic strategist as well. Thank you all for being here.

I want to talk about the kind of clash of, you know, elections are always won by whoever controls the conversation. So how do Republicans control the conversation in what seems like the negative, Kevin? In other words, do they just keep going on the scandals, or have they got to address the economy, yes, it's better but not great.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You always have to talk about the economy. That's still the main driver of a lot of voters' anxiety. I think with the scandals, the one that's probably most potent politically is the IRS one because it is a line with a lot of the anxieties that the American public has or the anger that they have against Washington and why it's not working. In many ways you see Republicans start to align themselves with what the voters don't like about the IRS scandal and Washington, that it's unaccountable, that it's inefficient, that it's big government run amuck. So I think -- as you see Chairman Issa he does this pretty methodically. He does align it with the idea that voters want answers, they want heads to roll and then they want the problem fixed. So I think if Republicans can focus on through that lens, there is an opportunity there.

CROWLEY: It's interesting to me because these controversies do tend to rev up the folks that tend to come out in midterms. On the other hand, they tend to kind of turn off independents who generally sway almost any election. So how did Democrats, do they just beat that economic drum? Jump in any time.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They absolutely should. The debt -- deficit rather is down, the stock market, bad day Friday but all-time high or near to it, houses prices are up, health care costs are down, the economic case for the first time in years is great. It's good. It's not great at all. It's good and the president can go out and...


... campaign on that.

CROWLEY: There is that stubborn unemployment rate that's pretty bad.

BEGALA: But it's coming down. It's moving in the right direction. There is an opportunity, Kevin's right, for the Republicans on these, but there's an opportunity cost. If I were them, I'd have maybe Chairman Issa continue to talk about his investigations, but front and center I'd have people talking about the economy. I haven't heard any Republican talk about the economy in weeks.

JACKIE CALMES, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, you've got in this Congress, I mean, the megaphone for the Republicans is through the House that they control. They -- which they will be able to keep using throughout the -- until 2014. And the IRS is the perfect issue for them because, you know, you see Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader going -- ingratiating himself with the tea party by going after the IRS but they have to have some accomplishments too. Because the House Republicans and this Congress in general which Democrats control the Senate, were rated one of the worst in history in terms of productiveness for the Congress that ended in last year. They need to produce something this year.

CROWLEY: So what can -- I mean Corey, realistically, what can the Republican House produce that the Democratic Senate will approve and vice versa?

COREY DADE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "THE ROOT": Immigration is about the only thing out there that will help the Republicans. Now, the question is whether or not immigration will actually be sort of an omnibus legislation coming out of the House or a series of piecemeal legislation. The piecemeal won't get it for the broader public. They want something, polls show they want something that's omnibus. But the bigger issue also is the economy. The Republicans until now have been a one-trick pony hammering the Obama administration and the Democrats on the economy. Can they pivot to if the economy continues to improve, can they pivot to a point where they have issues that are more resonant with the voters come election year?

CROWLEY: How about something say, stop talking about the economy improving and start talking about people's lives improving...

DADE: Yes.

CROWLEY: ... right? I mean, something that kind of -- because the numbers really don't mean anything when it gets right down to it. If you're working three jobs, great, you're not part of the unemployed, but you might not have the lifestyle you want.

DADE: The party of ideas has to become that between now and next year, again, they have to do that again.

MADDEN: All good points. Real quick, I think the big challenge too is sort of to Paul's point is whether or not the Democrats will offer too much happy talk because 7.5 percent unemployment is still a big problem. The economic --

CROWLEY: He was pretty good. He went from great to OK, not great.


MADDEN: This is about a two-beer bus buzz, not a six-pack. Then there's also the issue of Obama care and Obama care is still an economic argument because the implementation that has taken place this year there are so many taxes in there, there are so many regulations that can hurt a lot of economic growth. We're seeing it out in states. I talked to one chief of staff on Capitol Hill telling me stories going (ph) back from the district about people having to cut their hours from full-time to part-time just to comply with the implementation of Obama care, that's a big wet blanket on the economy.

CROWLEY: And the president, one of the things we have seen is the president's job approval rating has taken a nick. I mean, it's not horrible. And you'd think given what's been kind of thrown into the mix you'd think it would be a little bit more. Is this going to be one of those elections where we'll see some Democrats kind of running away from the president and others embracing him? I mean, how does the president play into the midterms?

CALMES: Well, I've never seen a midterm election where the president -- members from the president's party didn't run away. I mean, there's a reason. With the exception of 1998 and another election, in midterms the president's party tends to lose seats.

CROWLEY: By the way in 1998 they lost because they overplayed their impeachment hand.

CALMES: Right. Exactly.

CROWLEY: So that's kind of a warning to how Republicans play this.

CALMES: And there are Democrats who are hoping that history repeats itself that way with the way they're going into these investigations of the White House but not concentrating on producing legislation that like you say might help.

MADDEN: In many of these competitive areas too in the House and the Senate, these are seats that Romney won where Democrats are now holding seats. So it's difficult for them to not align themselves with the president.


DADE: I think also though where you will see Democrats running potentially away from the president is in statewide elections, Senate races. There are so many Senate races vulnerable right now. When you are running statewide, you cannot be as aligned with the president especially in some of these key states. So I think that's where you will see some of that separation away from the president.

BEGALA: Democrats and red states. He has given his party an agenda they can run on though. Even in Alaska (ph) and Louisiana and Arkansas. He wants to raise minimum wage, very popular. Democrats for it, Republicans against it. He's got his pre-k, going around talking about manufacturing jobs, the president is selling an agenda even in the reddest states Democrats can run in Republicans do not have that agenda.


CROWLEY: I don't take any direction from Washington, right?


CROWLEY: We'll show that. We're going to take a quick break. Stay where you are. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Some breaking news we are following. Three storm chasers were killed by a tornado. Tim Samaras his son Paul Samaras and their (INAUDIBLE) team member Carl Young all died while chasing a twister in Oklahoma Friday. They were among the nine people killed by the storm. We're going to have more on this story on reliable sources at 11:00 a.m. eastern.

Tomorrow is Monday and that means we'll be watching for the Supreme Court to hand down some major legal rulings. The justices have until June 24th to release opinions on about 30 cases, the most anticipated decisions are expected to involve same-sex marriage, affirmative action and the future of the voting rights act.

Mitt Romney jumping back into politics. He is not running for office but plans to help shape national priorities. The former Republican presidential nominee will start by hosting a three-day summit with about 200 supporters in Utah later this week. Romney also says he'll campaign for Republican candidates in 2014. Back with our panel when we return.


CROWLEY: We are back with Kevin Madden, Jackie Calmes, Corey Dade and Paul Begala. Corey, to you, because I know you're going to be attending one of these sessions. Mitt Romney having these get- togethers, looking towards 2016 and even 2014, where can he be useful?

DADE: Good question.



DADE: Well, I mean, it's been born out already, you know, Romney's political coattails are questionable. So the idea that he's going to throw his political support behind anyone and maybe even campaign for them, you know, some of those campaigns -- some of those candidates -- would-be candidates might be the same a couple of years from now. Thanks but no thanks.

CROWLEY: Kevin, you worked for Mitt Romney.

MADDEN: I will respectfully disagree.

CROWLEY: Please do so.

MADDEN: Look, Mitt Romney in 2012, a lot of people don't know this, but when you look at the data he actually ran ahead of the Republican brand in many of these districts where people are going to be running for either reelection or running in open seats that are contested. The same with the Senate seats. We won a lot of states where Senate candidates lost. So I think he could be very helpful there. The other thing is when a presidential candidate comes in -- former presidential candidate comes in as a congressional candidate, that may be the only news you can make in within that month or last few (ph) months and it does have a strong impact. So I think he can be very helpful. It's going to be part of what Mitt Romney does. It's not going to be his entire focus. There are going to be a lot of other people out there particularly 2016 candidates that are going to be even more helpful than Mitt Romney. And I think he understands that.

BEGALA: I want (INAUDIBLE). I want the whole zombie army. I want George W. Bush and Dick Cheney --



CROWLEY: We have a year and a half for this because I want to move you on -- actually the Eric Holder, the attorney general.

CROWLEY: We were struck this week by the headline on "Huffington Post" conservative site to go to which basically said, time to go. Holder OK'd the press probe in this case of James Rosen. Is he a short timer? Can he get out of this? The White House doesn't show any signs that they're backing away from him, but they never show any signs until they boot them out. I mean that's, you know, it's like I'm with him, I'm with him, I'm with him.


CALMES: Well the interesting thing is all this scandal may, in fact, you know, lengthen his stay because every -- watching when is Holder going to resign was, you know, one of the big questions in Washington. The thought was that he might not come back for the second term. And then when he did, you know, the conventional wisdom is that he wants to actually accomplish something and have some of these scandals behind him. Well, you know that didn't work out so well. And now, if he goes, it looks as if he is being pushed and he and his friend the president don't want that.

CROWLEY: Well and if -- and this president isn't exactly the person that yields to that kind of pressure. He has not, you know, the more people call for Eric Holder, I think the safer to go. I think the safer he may be.

DADE: Right. I think part of this is the fact that now he's a second-term president. For him, there's no election backlash to Holder staying on.

CROWLEY: Well, except that there's a couple things he'd like to do, right? And that could get in the way.

MADDEN: It does. It really weighs down his agenda becomes a tremendous distraction. There's very little good will up on Capitol Hill, whether it's on the right or on the left. And there's not a whole lot of good will for Holder in the public. Usually you have to have one of those to sort of hang on and he doesn't have any of it. So I think that is a big problem.

CROWLEY: So there's really (ph) a (ph) little good will for the Holder or for the president?

MADDEN: For Holder. And I mean right or left, too. You have the "Huffington Post" and at the same time you have folks from, you know, the conservative side of things also.


DADE: (INAUDIBLE) for an attorney general. From Janet Reno, Ashcroft.

MADDEN: But it has become a distraction for the president's agenda.


BEGALA: Not as a confirmation fight for the next attorney general would be.


BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) working in the White House, if and when he has to replace an attorney general, that's going to be Armageddon and an enormous distraction, frankly bigger than this one. I don't think the attorney general has particularly handled the press aspect of his job well at all. But I don't think it's in the president's interest to lose him.

CROWLEY: Jackie, I'm going to give you the last word here.

CALMES: Well I think that, you know, even I agree with Paul completely. If you get rid of the attorney general, you have to replace him and we've seen how difficult confirmation battles are. So, you know, and the public, the greater public is not really paying attention to this. It does, it does rev up the base, especially on the right.

CROWLEY: That's a good thing. I have to go, Kevin, I'm sorry but come back. Which I know you will. Kevin Madden, Jackie Calmes, Corey Dade, Paul Begala. Thank you, all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be with you.

CROWLEY: When we return John Dingell once said the people who serve in Congress need to be able to understand history. Now, he's about to make it, next.


CROWLEY: Finally, you know how time passes every day and you don't really notice. And then an event pulls history into the prism in a way that makes you stop and think, wow.


That's how it felt this week when we got to talking about Michigan congressman John Dingell. He was first elected to the House in 1955, winning the seat his late father had held since 1933.

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: My four typewriters and four (ph) staff (ph) members (ph) issued a note that is quite different.

CROWLEY: In 1955 the annual average income was just over $4,100, a loaf of bread cost 18 cents and gas 23 cents per gallon. Dingell was there for the signing of the 1964 civil rights act. That's him towering over President Lyndon Johnson as he signed it into law. Dingell considers the civil rights act one of the highlights of his time on Capitol Hill. His (INAUDIBLE) support nearly cost him his election that year during a primary contest with a Democrat who opposed the bill. Dingell also championed Medicare and was there for the signing of that landmark bill.

When Congress passed health care reform three years ago...

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: The bill is passed.

CROWLEY: ... then House speaker Nancy Pelosi used the same gavel that Dingell used when he presided over the House when it passed Medicare in 1965.

DINGELL: The subcommittee will come to order.

CROWLEY: Chairman of the House energy and commerce committee for 28 years, his overall record is that of a liberal Democrat willing to wield his considerable power to bring government officials to heel and a partisan happy to take a swing.

DINGELL: I don't want to leave this around here too long because my Republican colleagues when they see money that belong to ordinary people want to take it away from them and give it to the oil companies.

CROWLEY: Dean of the House since 1995, Dingell swears in the speaker at the beginning of every new Congress.


CROWLEY: Four so far. While on Capitol Hill, he has seen 11 presidents, a moon landing, four wars and so much more. At 86, he has no plans to walk away.

DINGELL: The gentleman from Texas is out of order.

CROWLEY: Now in his 30th term, John Dingell lives and writes history this Friday when he becomes the longest serving member in the history of the United States Congress. Surpassing the record of the late senator Robert Byrd.


CROWLEY: On that day, June 7th, Dingell will have served in Congress for 57 years, 177 days. He has been a congressman longer than any member of my staff at STATE OF THE UNION has been alive. Like I said, wow. Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. You stay tuned for Fareed Zakaria. He is celebrating his fifth anniversary, up next.