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House Republicans Want Answers on the White House Allegedly Trying to Influence a General's Testimony

Was the Obama administration involved in allegedly pressuring a general over his testimony on a White House-backed project?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 16, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Also tonight, there is a new scandal. Accusations are flying in Washington. Did the White House try to influence the testimony of a top general? House Republicans making a stunning accusation today, saying General William Shelton, head of the Air Force Space Command, was pressured by the administration to change his testimony before Congress to support a billionaire Democratic donor's company, a satellite communications firm called LightSquared.

Now, right now, House Republicans are demanding answers, and the pressure is on the White House. But how did it all start? We asked Ohio congressman Mike Turner, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you, sir.

REP. MIKE TURNER, R-OHIO, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Good seeing you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, now, tell me, General Shelton -- there's a controversy obviously swirling around him. But tell me, why was he first called to testify on Capitol Hill?

TURNER: Well, our subcommittee of the Armed Services looks at the issue of threats to national security. In this program, or proposal that LightSquared has brought forward, that appears to be moving through the FCC, there's serious concerns that it threatens our national security by interfering with GPS, on which our Department of Defense is so much dependent.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I -- we should explain. This LightSquared -- what is their technology that they're seeking to get on the market?

TURNER: LightSquared has a broadband system where they'd be constructing about 40,000 towers that would, in effect, jam the GPS system for our precision guided missiles, would affect even agricultural operations. This is a system that would crowd out, if you will, those important precision users of GPS. It's highly impactful to our national security and Department of Defense. General Shelton correctly came forward in front of our committee and unambiguously stated that this affects our national security, that it absolutely interferes with GPS, and that the FCC should not be going forward with considering LightSquared's proposal.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, the LightSquared is competing with Verizon and AT&T, right? Those are sort of competitors in the civilian market on this?

TURNER: Sure. They would be offering to -- directly to consumers their services.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And so now -- so then the big question is, is there an overriding concern by our military as to whether that should be available or not, is that correct?

TURNER: Right. And the real concern here is that there's an irregular process that's going through the FCC. This LightSquared proposal is -- is very strangely moving forward even in light of the Department of Defense very unambiguously stating this affects national security, this affects our ability to utilize GPS in precision ways.

Also, through General Shelton's process of approving his testimony, his testimony was shared outside of the Department of Defense and the White House, the administration, he believes perhaps with LightSquared themselves. And an effort was brought forward to insert language in his testimony that would have downplayed the effect to national security. This is of grave concern when we have something that so unambiguously affects national security. The general testimony perhaps attempting to be affected, and the general himself coming forward, though, and strongly stating this affects our national security.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, that's sort of the polite way to say what the controversy is. I mean, what sort of -- what everyone is now, you know, hair on fire about is the suggestion that this general thought this was bad technology to be on the market since it affects our national security domestically, even how we do training and testing of how we drop ordnance in the country -- in this country for -- to -- on our targets using GPS. There's that. And now the big sort of suggestion that he wanted to raise this concern and someone put the damper on it, presumably someone higher up the chain of command. Is that the blunter way to say it?

TURNER: Absolutely. There was an attempt to bias his testimony that would make it look like LightSquared's technology could move forward, when in fact, it hinders our national security. It puts at risk, as you said, training, our agricultural systems, our national security. This would have devastating impacts. And this should not even be considered by the FCC, but yet it appears to be continuing to move forward in a very highly irregular process.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, who did he say pressured him and how?

TURNER: The general did not report who had proposed the language that would have lessened the effect of his testimony.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not?

TURNER: He say that he believed his testimony had been shared -- he did say that he believed his testimony had been with LightSquared themselves. We did not press the general for him to finger point, but he did say that he resisted the efforts to put the language in his testimony. The general stood firm and said this affects national security.

But this is still pending before the FCC. Even though the general has come before our subcommittee and unambiguously stated this affects national security, the FCC is still proceeding. So we think that this is something that needs to be stopped.

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but that would be the first question I'd ask him. If he -- if a general comes before me and says, National security -- I think this affects our national security, but I'm getting heat from someplace else to soften the language to -- presumably to show some advantage to LightSquared, I would then ask, Who's putting pressure on you and why would anyone put pressure on you from LightSquared? Those would be the questions I'd ask. You didn't ask those?

TURNER: No. He clearly stated that it was through the administration. But he also did not go further to indicate who he believed was the source of the pressure, other than that they were clearly working in concert with LightSquared themselves. He believes that LightSquared themselves were...

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you interested in that?

TURNER: ... getting a tip-off...

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you -- are you interesting in that?

TURNER: Absolutely. In fact, what we did in our subcommittee -- absolutely. Our committee is the Armed Services Committee, so we have the issue of national security or not. We've referred this to the House Oversight Committee because we believe that there needs to be a further investigation as to what influence is being -- is happening at the FCC -- the FCC chairman refused to testify before our subcommittee -- looking at the issue of how that influence is occurring, and what is the effect on the Department of Defense. How is this general trying to be influenced when he has a very simple task to report for the -- this country the effects on national security.

VAN SUSTEREN: I still don't get, though, why no one on your committee sort of zeroed in on him. I mean, that would have put up a red flag to me if I'm sitting there and I hear this, I'd want to know, like, well, wait -- I'd say, Wait a second. A general is having pressure onto sort of -- on national security issues to sort of temper his remarks. I'd want to know right away who did it and why. I'd pull the string on that one.

TURNER: No, we absolutely did pressure the general. The general did not want to come forward and talk about it at this point, saying that he's not really certain and did not want to point fingers. But it was clearly an issue that we believe was coming directly from the administration.

This is something that the House Oversight Committee needs to pursue. I sit on that committee. Our committee looks at the issue as, does this affect national security? Does it affect GPS? It was our effort to make sure that the community and the country knew that the FCC is proceeding with a highly irregular process that could affect our national security.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

TURNER: How the administration is trying to affect that is something that we need additional congressional hearings on.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's what I don't understand. Maybe you can explain to me, is that as I understand the concern about the LightSquared technology, as we train our military to drop ordnance on specific targets, that this LightSquared technology may interfere with the GPS so we don't hit the targets, is that correct?

TURNER: Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so...

TURNER: Greta, this...

(CROSSTALK)

TURNER: ... just yesterday...

VAN SUSTEREN: Could I just ask one follow-up question on that? I'm curious, though, is that that technology -- and let me just give you a hypothetical -- do -- for instance, do the Iranians have that technology, should for whatever reason, we want to take out their nuclear plant -- I mean, do they have that technology so that if we sent someone over to try to take out a nuclear plant that their -- that our GPS could be, in essence, scrambled or there'd be so much noise that our GPS would be wrong?

TURNER: It's really not an issue as it relates to other countries because...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not?

TURNER: ... if we have the ability to go in that country and take out that source.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not?

TURNER: We have precision-guided munitions also. We have the ability to go into that country, take out the source that's jamming it and then continue to proceed. This is a system that would be permitted. The FCC would allow it to be constructed in our country, thereby blocking the use of GPS by our military, which would be of great threat. And if you look at our hearing that we had yesterday, the general is clearly concerned and says this absolutely affects our national security here domestically.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess -- you know, explain it to me one more time. Sorry to be so dense on this. But whatever it is that we fear that would interfere with our ability of training here in the United States, our military, I'm wondering if anybody has that same technology because in essence, what it does is it interferes with the GPS so that we can spot targets and hit them. And I'm just sort of curious, is that whatever technology that we're arguing about here in the United States, whether other countries who are not friendly us to might have that same technology, so there's a broader national security issue that we're not even looking at.

TURNER: Greta, there are other countries that do have systems that attempt to jam GPS. We have an ability to target those systems, thereby rendering them ineffective, and then being able to proceed. The problem here is that this would be permitted by the FCC, constructed in our own country, affect our ability to both train and utilize GPS and defend ourselves. It would also impact some commercial operations.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one other last quick question, is that -- do you believe that this is -- I've read all the news suggesting that this is a Democratic contributor and that there may be some reason to put heat on this general to testify, a particular reason. Do you have any reason to believe that this is -- this is pressure for political reasons?

TURNER: Certainly, I think that everyone should be concerned about that. That's why yesterday, at our hearing, we referred this over to the House Oversight Committee to look into the issue of the general's testimony being interfered with, the prospect that LightSquared has undue influence and perhaps the FCC itself is biased as it's moving forward, and the issue of what political influence the White House is asserting both on DoD, this general, and also the FCC itself.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any specific evidence or any e-mails or anything else to -- you know, to bring us beyond the suspicion level?

TURNER: Well, we had the general's direct statements himself, that he has reported that there was attempts to interfere with his testimony, to bias his testimony. That certainly bears further investigation. The general himself doesn't have to refer to e-mails and a file. He himself knows that his testimony was attempted to be altered.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's a very serious issue, and I hope we get to the bottom of it, no matter which way the chips fall on this one. Thank you, Congressman.

TURNER: Great. Thanks, Greta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, after the interview, Congressman Turner clarified one of his answers for us. One of our producers was told that the committee did press General Shelton about who was pressuring him to alter his testimony during a classified briefing, but they did not press him during his testimony to the committee.