WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Attorney General Eric Holder Under Fire; Is The White House Doing Enough To Protect Him? | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Attorney General Eric Holder Under Fire; Is The White House Doing Enough To Protect Him?

Attorney General Eric Holder was under attack last week. Many Republicans called for him to resign and demanded he release more documents in the “Fast and Furious” case.

Is this White House doing enough to protect the attorney general? And also, where is Black leadership?

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney; Armstrong Williams, political commentator for “The Right Side”; White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan; and Politico’s White House correspondent Joseph Williams.

MR. MARTIN:  This week, we’ve seen lots of attacks on Attorney General Eric Holder.  Many Republicans are calling on him to resign by demanding he release more documents also in the “Fast and Furious” case, and so I want to ask the panel, is this White House doing enough to protect the attorney general?  And also, where is Black leadership?  I mean here you have Eric Holder, who has been – first of all, he was a high-ranking official in the Justice Department under Pres. Bill Clinton.  He –

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  — becomes – he becomes the first Black/African-American attorney general. He has been very aggressive on many issues, but some folks are saying that, look.  He is taken to – he’s been taken to the woodshed, and he is not getting the kind of support that you would think he would be getting.

MS. RYAN:  Eric Holder – he was the poster child for the darts once he came out saying that –

MR. MARTIN:  We’re a nation of cowards.

MS. RYAN:  — na- — no, “nation of coward-ice.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.  And – and –

MS. RYAN:  Okay?  And h- –

MR. MARTIN:  — and that speech took place in February 2009, shortly after the President was sworn in.

MS. RYAN:  — now – right.  And – and –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] –

MS. RYAN:  — you have to remember.  There are –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk].

MS. RYAN:  — many ubiquitously clandestine programs here on security issues.  You know, this was dealing with cartels and –

MR. MARTIN:  I’ll give you your ten dollars for using your big words.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  [Chuckles.]

MS. RYAN:  — okay.  Thank you – and I will take it right now.  So – [chuckles] –

[CHUCKLING.]

MS. RYAN:  — we’re in a recession still.  Okay.  So –

[CHUCKLING.]

MS. RYAN:  — bu- — [chuckles] – but – but let me say this.  You have so many programs that we don’t know about, and he may have – if – if what the Republicans are saying is right, he may have tried to keep it secret for the sake of the security of –

MR. MARTIN:  Is – is the –

MS. RYAN:  — but – but how many people remember dates all the time?

MR. MARTIN:  — here’s the question.

MS. RYAN:  You know –

MR. MARTIN:  Is –

MS. RYAN:  — how many – when you go –

MS. FINNEY:  Well, but –

MS. RYAN:  — before –

MS. FINNEY:  — to that –

MR. MARTIN:  — here’s the question.  Is the criticism fair, and do you see a lack of resolve in terms of defending him aggressively on television?  On radio?

MS. RYAN:  The President needs to stand up.

MR. MARTIN:  In print?

MS. FINNEY:  — well – but what I would like to see is – I mean the – to me, the way to do it is let’s have – because you’re right.  These programs are hard to explain.  There’re a lot of different pieces.  It started under Bush.  I mean there’s a lot of –

MS. RYAN:  Um-hum.

MS. FINNEY:  — different pie[ces].  But let’s – how about some surrogates in the intelligence community, some surrogates in the homeland security community that can come out and speak to that?  Because I think there’s a way to be defending Eric Holder and substantiating the points that he’s making, ’cause he’s making some very important points in terms of legal precedents.  We’ve –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. FINNEY:  — heard it in the past from other – other administrations.

OFF CAMERA:  [Crosstalk.]

MS. FINNEY:  And I think that’s the time when you need other validators on the outside –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  But – but – but –

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  Armstrong?

MS. RYAN:  [Crosstalk] — stood by him.

MR. MARTIN:  Armstrong?

MS. RYAN:  Frank Alden[?]* stood by him early on –

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

MS. RYAN:  — in the Administration.

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. MARTIN:  Armstrong, are these attacks on Attorney General Eric Holder – are they fair?  Are they just?  And are Republicans proper to demand his resignation?

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Listen, on the latest issue with the declassifying of information on the cyberspace and the cyber security with “The New York Times,” I think what people don’t understand about the law and the President [is] as long as the President himself authorized them to leak the information, then it’s not declassified, ’cause the President –

MS. FINNEY:  It’s not – it –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — is no- —

MS. FINNEY:  — wasn’t declassified.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — it c- —

MS. FINNEY:  He didn’t

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — it can alwa- —

MS. FINNEY:  — authorize a leak.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.  A- — a- —

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — but – but –

MR. MARTIN:  — go ahead.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — if – but if he did – if he did, then there’s no need to appoint a special –

MS. FINNEY:  No, no.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — prosecutor.

MS. FINNEY:  There’s no “if he did.”  He already said he didn’t.  The President already said he didn’t.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  I – I –

MS. FINNEY:  The reporters –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — I’m not sure –

MS. FINNEY:  — already said –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — I’m not –

MS. FINNEY:  — they didn’t get –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — sure what the –

MS. FINNEY:  — it from the –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — President’s –

MS. FINNEY:  — White House.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — saying.

MR. MARTIN:  I’m –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  I’m not –

MR. MARTIN:  — I’m – I’mma –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — sure what he’s saying.

MR. MARTIN:  — I’mma ask again.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Okay?

MR. MARTIN:  Do you believe that the attacks by Republicans on Attorney General Eric Holder –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  The –

MR. MARTIN:  — are they fair?  And are they right to demand his resignation?

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — not to demand his resignation.  I do think there’re some issues of perjury.  If you look at what I- — Issa has posted on his website versus what the Attorney General said, versus what the – the leaked information that came to him, there’re some contradictions, and the Attorney General was not necessarily forthright in what he’s told them –

MR. MARTIN:  Joe?

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — in the –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  This is –

MS. FINNEY:  What about –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — hearings.

MS. FINNEY:  — Issa –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this is not –

MS. FINNEY:  — saying that –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — the first –

MR. MARTIN:  Joe?

MS. FINNEY:  — he didn’t –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this is –

MS. FINNEY:  — know anything about the program, but then [it] turns out he’d been briefed about the program?

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Of course he’s – but he’s not on trial.  He’s not the one –

MS. FINNEY:  Oh, I see.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  He’s doing –

MS. FINNEY:  So, he – he –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — the –

MS. FINNEY:  — so, it’s okay –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — investigating.

MS. FINNEY:  — if he

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  There’s a different –

MS. FINNEY:  — lies.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — standard.

MS. FINNEY:  Okay.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  There’s a different

MS. FINNEY:  I’m just checking.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — standard.  And you know there’s a different –

MS. FINNEY:  No, I’m –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — standard.  We’re –

MS. FINNEY:  — just checking.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — talking about –

MS. FINNEY:  I’m making –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — Eric Holder.

MS. FINNEY:  — sure.  I’m just making –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  See, this is –

MS. FINNEY:  — it’s okay.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this is not the first time we’ve ever dealt with a leak issue in any administration.  They all

[CROSSTALK.]

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — leak.  Every last one of –

MS. RYAN:  Valerie –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — them do.

MS. RYAN:  — Plame –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  We go –

MS. RYAN:  — Bush.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — through all of –

MS. FINNEY:  Yeah.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this —

MS. RYAN:  Hello!

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — we went through it a couple of times.  Actual people got put on trial.  Actual people’s lives were put at risk.

I think it’s all political.  I think a lot of it is motivated by a – a desire to – to get something that sticks.  I don’t think it’s –

MS. RYAN:  I think to hurt this president.

MS. FINNEY:  But I think the –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Well –

MS. FINNEY:  — answer to your question [is] I think it’s hard to judge, because we don’t have all the facts.  So, that’s why I’m saying I think there are ways to bo- — I think he deserves more of a defense.  There are ways to – to bolster Eric Holder –

MR. MARTIN:  That’s my point, because –

MS. FINNEY:  — without –

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I’m just saying looking – looking at various cable shows, looking [at] what’s in print, I am not seeing the aggressive defense of the Attorney General.  I mean –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I think b- — I think back – no, I think back to Pres. George W. Bush.  I – I look at AG Alberto Gonzalez.  I look at John Ashcroft; and, again, you saw folks saying, “We’re going to have your back.”  And I’m looking at, again, Black leadership.  I have not seen an aggressive –

MS. RYAN:  People are taking their lead –

MR. MARTIN:  — of AG –

MS. RYAN:  — from the White House

MR. MARTIN:  — Holder.

MS. RYAN:  — and you’re right.  They’re taking their lead from the White House

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — but I do –

MS. RYAN:  — but Valerie Jarrett is standing by.  Valerie Jarrett has come up, but –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. RYAN:  — what you need is for the President to say – and in his testimony –

MR. MARTIN:  You – but you actually need a communications plan –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  Well – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — when it comes –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — a communications plan – [crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — to defending one –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — of –

MS. RYAN:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  — your top folks.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — but the Presi- — the President –

MR. MARTIN:  Karen?

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — is supporting the Attorney General.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  There is no question he’s supporting him, and it’s unconditional.  The President has not even indicated anything about Eric Holder resigning, or should there be any kind of fla- — back – or any- — anything to d- — to punish him for anything that he’s done.  The bottom line:  he’s carrying the President’s water.  The President knows exactly what the Attorney General’s doing.  They’re in bed together.  They’re on the same sheet of music, and the President’s going to protect him.

MR. MARTIN:  Karen.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  That is one person he will protect.

MS. FINNEY:  That’s why I say I think it’s important to have outside validators –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. FINNEY:  — who understand the complexities of these issues, because – but let’s take the foreign po- — the leaks.  Ho- — how many people are – who are not necessarily political people in the loop –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. FINNEY:  — and have access to that information where that could have leaked?  We have no idea.  I can tell you from having worked in the White House those documents go all over the place, between the White House and the Defense Department and the NSC.  You don’t – it could’ve – the leak could’ve come from anywhere.  So, I –

MR. MARTIN:  First of all, you go[?] [to the] State Department.  You – [crosstalk] –

MS. FINNEY:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — a –

MS. FINNEY:  So, you can’t – so, I think part of the reluctance is, you know, on the one hand, you – you know that there’s more to the story, and you don’t know what the story is.  But there’s a way to still, again, support the Attorney General and his integrity –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — right.

MS. FINNEY:  — while you’re doing that –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Are you –

MS. RYAN:  And it’s –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — saying –

MS. FINNEY:  — investigation.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  – it’s unfair?

MS. RYAN:  — going nowhere right –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  Are you saying the –

MS. RYAN:  — in the –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — hearings are –

MS. RYAN:  — campaign.

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — unfair?  Are the hearings unfair?  That –

MS. FINNEY:  I –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — Issa– [unintelligible]?  I don’t think so.

MS. RYAN:  — it’s not unfair –

MR. MARTIN:  One o- —

MS. RYAN:  — but he’s going anywhere

MR. MARTIN:  — one of the r- —

MS. RYAN:  — in the midst of a campaign –

MR. MARTIN:  — and – and –

MS. RYAN:  — presidential –

MR. MARTIN:  — and the bottom line –

MS. RYAN:  — campaign –

MR. MARTIN:  — and the bottom –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  I –

MS. RYAN:  — right now.

MR. MARTIN:  — line is –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — I agree.

MR. MARTIN:  — bottom line is – one of the reasons I say when you look at these various attacks – you look at what’s happening in Florida when it comes to the voter purge, when you look at the –

MS. FINNEY:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — D- — DOJ’s involvement, when you look at voter I.D. laws, at this moment, when it comes to the election being months away, it is important to have stability and a strong Department of Justice to ensure that those voting rights are protected.  And so that’s why I’m saying when you have an attorney general who is being taken through – taken to the woodshed, it makes it even more difficult when some of these other cases come out.

So, that’s why I’m –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  — still – I – that –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — partisanship –

MR. MARTIN:  — precisely.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — accusations to stick.

MR. MARTIN:  And –

MS. FINNEY:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — that’s why I’m still very surprised that I have not seen an even more aggressive defense of him from Black leadership

MS. FINNEY:  You’re right.

MR. MARTIN:  — considering the fact that he is the first African- —

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  And I think –

MR. MARTIN:  — -American attorney –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — it’s because of the –

MR. MARTIN:  — general.

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  Which “Black” –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — legal issues –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — “leadership” are – [crosstalk] –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — that are involved is –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — why you –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this – this –

MR. ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS:  — don’t see it.

MS. RYAN:  But ju- —

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — this goes back to the central question.  What “Black leadership” are you talking about?  Are you talking about Hill leadership?  Are you talking about internal, White House leadership?  I mean who –

MS. RYAN:  — but, you know –

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  — is the –

MS. RYAN:  — Black leaders.  But I’m going to say this real quick.  Black –

MR. MARTIN:  I need –

MS. RYAN:  — leaders and Bla- —

MR. MARTIN:  — ten seconds.

MS. RYAN:  — Black people are scared to come out to say anything in fear of hurting this president, and that’s a lot of the reason why you haven’t heard a lot of Black people come out.

MR. MARTIN:  I would say “other” Black people, ’cause I ain’t scared o’ nobody!