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Wildfires burn through Colorado causing thousands to evacuate, and protests in Turkey are in 13th day. Tune in at 7am ET.
June 21st, 2012
10:40 AM ET

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): Fast and Furious a 'stupid program,' wants person who approved the program to be fired

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to recommend that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder be cited for contempt of Congress for witholding documents requested in the investigation of the failed "Fast and Furious" sting operation.

The "Fast and Furious" sting was intended to trace suspected illegal arms as they traveled across the U.S.-Mexico border. However, U.S. authorities lost track of some of the weapons which were eventually found at the crime scene of a killed border patrol agent. Questions about the failed operation spurred an investigation into the sting program

A vote next week by the full House could put Holder in contempt of Congress, a move that would be unprecedented. Meanwhile, President Obama is being criticized by Republicans for using executive privilege just hours before Wednesday's vote to prevent the documents from being disclosed.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) helped launched the investigation and tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" that the Fast and Furious program was "stupid" and says the withheld documents are essential to the investigation of the program, "In order to be a check on the executive branch under our Constitution, we need this information."

Transcript available after the jump.


June 20th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

Sen. Jack Reed on European Union vote: 'We have to have worldwide growth...that is the new phenomenon in the world'

In an attempt to ameliorate its economic crisis, the European Union will vote next week on instituting a European banking union.

President Obama announced his support of the measure at the G-20 Summit in Mexico but German Chancellor Angela Merkel is standing in the way of the vote, saying she opposes the idea. Chancellor Merkel also opposes a stimulus for struggling European nations.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" that "[Merkel's] reluctance I think is eroding. It has to. The austerity is not working in Europe."

"I think Chancellor Merkel understands that politically they just have to find an indirect way to provide support for the European economy," Sen. Reed adds.

The E.U. vote could have a significant effect on the American economy and could be a factor in the November presiential elections. "We're in a global economy," Sen. Reed says. "The president has emphasized significant exports as a way to grow our economy...we have to have worldwide growth."

June 19th, 2012
11:11 AM ET

AFT's Weingarten and TSL's Rogers on launch of 'Share My Lesson,' dubbed a 'digital filing cabinet' for teachers

School teachers will soon have a social network of their own. The American Federation of Teachers and TSL Education have created a website called "Share My Lesson," which will connect educators and their resources online. 

Teachers will be able to access peer lesson plans, download materials, share ideas and rate one another's work all at no cost. An algorithm will use peer ratings to make the most highly rated materials most prominent on the site.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tells Soledad O'Brien on CNN's "Starting Point" the goal of creating the site. "We've teamed up to make this an American product, for American teachers to ensure that they can share with each other online resources," Weingarten says.

"Share My Lesson" is scheduled to launch July 28th and is expected to get 100,000 users right away. It will be available to any educator in the U.S.

Weingarten and TSL Education CEO Louise Rogers explain the program this morning on "Starting Point."

June 18th, 2012
10:40 AM ET

Southern Baptist Convention's Dr. Richard Land on Obama immigration policy change: 'It's the right thing to do'

President Obama announced a new immigration policy last week, which allows some young illegal immigrants in the U.S. to stay to work without the fear of being deported.

The President's policy is applicable to illegal immigrants who are under 30 years old; came to the U.S. before the age of 16; have lived in the U.S. for more than 5 years; are in high school, graduated high school, have their GED or are enrolled in the military; and who pose no legal or security threat.

Before the announcement, presidential advisers met with Evangelical Christian leaders to discuss "The Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform." Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, was one of the leaders in attendance.

This morning on "Starting Point," Soledad talks with Dr. Land, who says attendees discussed immigration reform in relation to certain principles, such as "respecting the God-given dignity of every human person, respecting the unity of the immediate family, respecting the rule of law, calling for secure national borders and then calling for a pathway to either citizenship or full legal status."

Dr. Land adds that "this is the low-hanging fruit of immigration reform. These young people - 99.9 % of them have done nothing wrong. They didn't bring themselves here."

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Filed under: 2012 Race • Immigration • Politics • Religion
June 15th, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Obama Press Sec. Labolt: Citizens United ruling changed fundraising landscape, says 'we need to look for creative ways to raise money'

President Obama and Mitt Romney were both in Ohio Thursday, courting voters in the electorally important swing state. No Republican has ever won a presidential election without winning Ohio, a state Obama carried in 2008.

Both candidates focused on America's economy in their speeches, taking hits at the other's economic plans and touting their own.

The President followed his Ohio trip with a visit to New York's Greenwich Village where actor Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick hosted a $40,000-per-plate fundraiser for the president's campaign. With 50 guests in attendance, the event raised a total of about $2 million. Critics say the high-end fundraiser is problematic for the President, who spent the day in Ohio speaking about the middle class.

Obama Campaign press secretary Ben Labolt tells Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling "changed the fundraising landscape in this country." He adds, "we need to look for creative ways to get people involved who wouldn't be traditionally involved in politics contributing to the campaign."

See more clips from Soledad O'Brien's interview with Labolt in the videos below. Read the full transcript of the interview after the jump.


LaBolt: Government has role in economy

Obama Campaign's Ben LaBolt says government does have a role in investing in the economy to spur growth.


LaBolt on Romney's Obamacare threat

Obama Campaign's Ben LaBolt responds to Mitt Romney's threat to repeal Obamacare if he is elected as president.


LaBolt on economic 'vision' in election

The Starting Point Team asks Obama Campaign's Ben LaBolt if the President can run on blaming Congress for dysfunction.


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Filed under: 2012 Race • Economy • Jobs • Politics
June 14th, 2012
10:08 AM ET

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa to Washington: Stop the partisan gridlock and get Americans back to work

Nearly 200 U.S. mayors are convening this week at the 80th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Florida. The mayors are rallying together and telling Congress to stop partisan gridlock and work across the aisle to help create jobs.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, tells "Starting Point" anchor Soledad O'Brien, "...we've got to work together on both sides of the aisle to get things done, to put people back to work."

Approval numbers for both Mitt Romney's and President Obama's economic plans are low. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 38% of Independents favor Obama's economics plan while 35% favor Romney's. Looking ahead to the November presidential elections, Mayor Villaraigosa says both candidates need to avoid harping on what the U.S. is doing wrong with regards to the economy, and emphasize plans for the future.

Villaraigosa says both investments and cuts are necessary for economic improvement. "We can't continue to extend the Bush tax cuts and not make investments in education and transportation," he says. "We've got to do both."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors wraps up Friday.

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Filed under: 2012 Race • Economy • Jobs • Politics
June 13th, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Sen. Corker (R-Tenn.) on JPMorgan's CEO Congressional testimony: It's not about more regulation, it's about structure

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon will testify on Capitol Hill today. Dimon will appear in front of the Senate Banking Committee to explain why the bank's London office made a trade that cost the company $2 billion.

The company says the trade was meant to protect against risk, but questions loom about why the trade backfired and what Dimon knew about the transaction.

In prepared remarks, Dimon is expected to say the bank is investigating what went wrong and has instituted new policies to prevent such trades from taking place in the future. In the wake of the bad trade, the head of the investment operation in London has been replaced. But some are asking if more regulation would have prevented the risky bet.

Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee who will be at the hearing today, tells Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point" this morning that "it's not about more regulation. It's about putting in place the right kind of structure."

See more from Soledad's interview with Sen. Corker in the clip below.

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Filed under: Banks • Economy • JPMorgan Chase
June 12th, 2012
09:45 AM ET

Gov. Rick Scott on voter purge: We have no choice but to sue Justice Department for voter database

In response to the Justice Department's threat to sue the state of Florida over its move to purge names from its voter lists, Gov. Rick Scott says "we don't have a choice but to sue them to get the database we're entitled to, to make sure that U.S. citizens votes are not diluted."

Florida, a key voting state in the presidential elections later this year, is in the spotlight for spearheading the removal of names from voter registration lists. Under Republican governor Rick Scott, the state has sought to remove names of non-citizens from voter registration lists using information compiled by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The Department of Justice issued a letter Monday indicating the Federal government will initiate legal action against the state of Florida for a program the Federal government views as in conflict with voting rights laws.

The letter written by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez says in part, "One of Congress's concerns in enacting the protections of the VRA and NVRA, and one of the Department's concerns in enforcing federal law as enacted by Congress, is ensuring that state efforts to find and purge ineligible persons from voter registration lists do not endanger the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status...Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court."

The "voter purge" movement has been criticized as a targeted effort to reduce the amount of minority voters in the November election—voters who tend to swing left. Meanwhile, proponents of the movement to eliminate ineligible voters from the lists say the so-called purge protects eligible voters.

Florida Governor Rick Scott talks with Christine Romans on "Starting Point" today about the voter purge, and the Assistant Attorney General's move to take the state of Florida to federal court. He responds to the criticism, saying "This is not a partisan issue. This is not a Republican, Democrat or Independent issue."

See more clips from the interview below.

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Filed under: 2012 Race • Florida • Politics • Voter purge • Voting issues
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