This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: An absolutely scathing description of the Justice Department's handling of "Operation Fast and Furious." Senator Chuck Grassley says you always have somebody covering up for somebody else. The Justice Department finally admits they provided Congress with inaccurate information about gun running. But Senator Grassley says the DOJ is still stonewalling. We spoke with the senator earlier tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, R-IOWA: Glad to see you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Explain this to me. On February 27 as ranking member you sent a letter to the Justice Department for information on the gunrunning operation.
GRASSLEY: There weren't any accusations in that letter either, and they kind of want to make out that I was accusing them of a lot of things. All I wanted was information. In fact most of us here, all we've wanted from the justice department is just information.
VAN SUSTEREN: They responded on February 4th.
VAN SUSTEREN: And then during the course of several months that followed there's a lot of controversy going back and forth, back and forth about information they provided you or didn't. Now you received a letter dated December 2nd in which they say they will withdraw the February 4th letter. What happened?
GRASSLEY: Well, in the meantime, even within a couple weeks after the February 4th response we got to them, we sent them some information that indicated very clearly that their letter had misinformation in it and they wrote us back the same letter saying there wasn't really anything to it. Then in October we had a hearing that involved the assistant attorney general. He came in --
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that Lanny Breuer?
GRASSLEY: Yes. He came in and said, yes, there was misinformation in that letter.
VAN SUSTEREN: So now James Cole, deputy attorney general, sends a letter saying they gave you misinformation on February 4th. Why did that happen and what's the reaction now?
GRASSLEY: Well, OK, what happened was basically they did not want to admit that there was an operation like fast and furious going on, and they would say at that time they didn't know that. But we got plenty of evidence that they did know it. We had not only evidence that people in the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms knew it, but we know that people within the Justice Department knew it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you, did they not want you to know it for legitimate investigative reasons or were they being deceitful?
GRASSLEY: Well, it looks like now they are being deceitful from this standpoint that we knew that they knew about it. They sent us a letter and said that none of this was true. They sent us basically two letters that none of it was true and finally it was nine months before the hearing that -- before our Judiciary Committee that they admitted that that letter of February 4th contained false information.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did they send you this letter, do you think? By this I mean the December 2nd letter saying the February 4th letter had a bunch of inaccuracies in it.
GRASSLEY: We, they wanted to finally cover themselves. But basically what they are saying is something, idiocy, that we are withdrawing the letter. This is on my websites and is probably on 100 websites around town. You can't withdraw a letter. How would they think if I said to them we are going to withdraw our support or a nomination for somebody we supported a year ago? You can't do that. This is in the public domain.
And the reason for doing it I think they -- if we bring it up again, they want to be able to say, well, that letter is no longer in the public domain. But it is in the public domain. You can't do away with letters that were written.
VAN SUSTEREN: What distresses me in the letter of December 2nd is that when they say that the February 4th letter is inaccurate when they were supposedly providing you information in sons to your January 27th letter, at best they are sloppy because they didn't fully investigate, at worst they are deceitful, and in the meantime lots of money and time is spent trying to sort this out.
GRASSLEY: Well, without a doubt, because it gets back to the one word that I have been using for the several months as you interviewed me on this subject from February 4th on until at least October, and to some extent now, "stonewalling." Although I have to say that they did give us Friday 2,000 more pages of documents and information. But why -- that's what we asked for back on February. Why would it take them so long to deliver what we said, and maybe not even everything that we said we are entitled to?
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that sloppy and overworked and they are busy with other matters, or are they trying to stonewall for political and deceitful? Go back to that word, "deceitful."
GRASSLEY: They are stonewalling because this is a politically difficult situation for them. Just understand what "Fast and Furious" is. It's saying to licensed gun dealers, federally licensed gun dealers that we in the Justice Department up here in Washington want you to illegally sell guns to straw purchasers so we can follow them across the border. We're a government based upon the rule of law. And we have our own Justice Department advising people to violate the law. That's what -- it doesn't meet the commonsense test.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who should have authority on making a decision on how much Congress should have and shouldn't have on this? Because in this December 2nd letter is says that there was significant concern about how much information properly should be shared with Congress. Should you be making the decision about how much information you get about this operation or should someone at the Justice Department?
GRASSLEY: I should unless it involves national security or privacy, because the public's business ought to be public. And when you've got a program like fast and furious that's a violation of law but it's being promote the by the federal government, and Brian Terry ends up being murdered and some of these guns are at the scene of the murder, that's the epitome of the public's business. And the Terry family ought to even be informed, and they aren't being informed.
VAN SUSTEREN: This started at least January 27th. We are almost coming up on a year, trying to get information out of the justice department. It costs a tremendous amount of money, wasted energy. We've got a lot of other things for the United States Senate to be involved in. Is there anything that should be done or can be done, the president or the attorney general to get the information and get to the bottom instead of this drip, drip, drip, drip, drip?
GRASSLEY: I suppose if you ask them this question this very day they will say that's what we did last Friday.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's a year out. That's almost a year out.
GRASSLEY: Well, then it's inexcusable that they didn't give us this information back in February I guess is the easy answer to your question. But they were embarrassed. They were stonewalling. And to some extent they still may be stonewalling.
But our goals have stayed the same. Number one, we want to find out who approved fast and furious, get that person fired. Number two, the Brian Terry family is entitled to all the information the government knows about their son being murdered. And number three, we want to make sure a stupid program like this is not repeated.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can't you just ask the attorney general under oath who authorized this, who is the top guy or top person who authorized it? Tell us now and we will move on.
GRASSLEY: I asked tough questions like this before the Judiciary Committee, and you always have somebody covering up for somebody else.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's horrible.
GRASSLEY: It is horrible. Maybe this Thursday, December 8th, Holder is coming before the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives, maybe those questions will be asked again. But basically --
VAN SUSTEREN: Why don't you just send him a letter and say you are going to be here Thursday, December 8th. We are going to ask you one specific question. You have four days to find out. Who is the top person when authorized this? Come with that information.
GRASSLEY: I will have to get a congressman to ask it because I won't be over in the other body.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's right. Get a congressman.
GRASSLEY: But I will a congressman to ask that question.