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June 20th, 2012
11:49 AM ET

Rep. Elijah Cummings: Holder contempt hearing 'quite likely,' says it's an effort to embarrass President Obama

EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to President Barack Obama asserting executive privilege over documents sought by the panel investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting. Read more here.

The Attorney General Eric Holder could be held in contempt of Congress today, after he and Committee Chairman Darrell Issa met yesterday for about 20 minutes over the documents that were connected to the botched "Fast and Furious" program. Issa wants Holder to turn over more files connected to the program that led guns end up in the hands of Mexican drug gangs. But Holder hasn't done so and the two men have failed to reach an agreement.

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), member of the Oversight Committee who was present during that meeting, explains to Soledad that he does believe a contempt hearing is 'quite likely' and says he believes this is all in an effort to try to embarrass President Obama.

See more from the video below. Transcript from the interview after the jump.

O'BRIEN: It's 20 minutes long, you and Senator Leahy, I believe, were there. Congressman Issa and Senator Grassley there, describe that meeting for me. Was it contentious? Was it nasty?

CUMMINGS: No, it was not nasty and the attorney general made it clear that he has produced over 7,600 documents that he has appeared before the Congress nine times in the last 16 months.

And that this incident that started with regard to the local ATF office in Phoenix allowing guns to go over the border without them tracing them properly and then one of those guns eventually ending up at the scene of the unfortunate murder of Agent Terry.

You know, he explained that, you know, that as a matter of fact, he applauded Mr. Issa for bringing this to the attention of the public and to the attention of the higher ups and DOJ. He basically said, look, I'm willing to work with you.

I've already provided all of these documents. I'll continue to do so, but you've got to give me some kind of assurances that this contempt situation will be taken off the table and basically what Issa said was that, no, absolutely not, would not do this. So we're at a stalemate.

But basically, you've got to understand, this thing has boiled down to initially the Chairman Issa was asking for documents that would have been unlawful for the attorney general to even produce.

And like wiretap applications and documents that would threaten trials and prosecutions that are going on. So last Friday, Chairman Issa took those off the table and now this simply boils down to a letter that was written in February of 19 - of 2011, where the department said that there was no gun walking when in fact there was. We're basically boiled down to that.

O'BRIEN: We're at the stalemate right now is what you're saying.

CUMMINGS: Yes -

O'BRIEN: He has said, Issa as you know has said, listen, no documents, at 10:00, which is roughly two and a half hours from now, we will go into a contempt hearing. How likely is that?

CUMMINGS: That's quite likely and I expect it will come to a vote. I expect that it will be a vote on party lines. And I think that it will be - I still believe this is an effort to try to embarrass the president.

CAIN: Congressman, this is Will Cain. I'm curious then. You talked about the attorney general producing some 7,000 odd documents.

I know that Congressman Issa points out there were something like 80,000 that he's asking and talking about, of course, the one from 2011 seems to be the point of focus. But is your contention right now that the attorney general has complied with the subpoena?

CUMMINGS: I think the attorney general has complied and continues to want to comply. This is an ongoing thing. They have had to review some 2 millions of e-mails, this is ongoing.

And the attorney general says I'm happy to cooperate. I'm happy to give you what you want. I'm continuing to do so. As a matter of fact, Senator Leahy made it clear that every time he's been ever asked to appear before the Congress, he's done so.

But and he's basically saying, you know, give us some type of assurances that we are not going to have to be coming up here every week and taking the time of all of my employees to try to go through these documents. We're happy to give them to you. He made that very clear.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question that you were saying a moment ago. I just want you to expand on that. You said you believe this is an effort to embarrass the president. What do you mean by that, sir?

CUMMINGS: I believe that - and the attorney general said this himself, I think that anything that can be done to I think bring a negative light on the president, that's what - I think that has a large part to do with it.

This - the issue we boil down to is one that could have easily been resolved yesterday. We were on the one foot line and fumbled the ball. And I'm telling you, as a lawyer, I just think contempt is going far too far and very unreasonable. We've never heard an attorney general that is the Congress of United States never held an attorney general in contempt.

CAIN: Congressman, am I correct that the situation here now has nothing to do with the original investigation? This is just about whether or not documents relating to the original investigation should be disclosed or not and how she should be disclosed? The issues related to the original investigation are not on the table?

CUMMINGS: That's right. As a matter of fact, they were taken off the table on Friday after the Democrats presented dissenting views to the original contempt citation.

Understand there was a contempt citation that was asking for documents that he could not legally produce. And so then last Friday, Mr. Issa then took those off the table.

Because he knew there was a flawed document and created another document, citation for contempt on Friday and then says to the attorney general, you've got to produce.

The attorney general says, look, I've already produced some of the documents that you're asking for and I produced others voluntarily.

O'BRIEN: Forgive me for interrupting you there. Senator Grassley said, I'm not going to buy a pig in a poke which is a quote my mother used to actually say all the time about different things.

But his point was like I'm not going to make a deal about whether or not we're going to take this hearing off the table until we get the documents. That's what it seems like this over right now.

CUMMINGS: That's basically - that's exactly where we are. And but, keep in mind, again, the attorney general has said, I have shown good faith and I produced a thousand pages of documents that you wanted, that is the - basically what the Mr. Issa is trying to show is two things.

One, he's looking for information to show that there was some kind of cover-up with regard to this letter of February 11th with wrongfully stated that there had been no gun walking. And two, he wants post February 4th letter documents to show that there was some type of effort to do harm to whistle blowers.

O'BRIEN: So maybe we can continue this conversation because it sounds like you're telling me that in two hours and 20 minutes this will go into a contempt hearing.

Congressman Elijah Cummings, a ranking member of the Oversight Committee. What do you think? We'll chat with you about this tomorrow? See what happens then?

CUMMINGS: Would be happy to.

O'BRIEN: All right, sir, thank you. I'm going to hold you to your word on that.

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