OTR Interviews

What Did Attorney General Holder Know About the Doomed 'Fast and Furious' Operation and When Did He Know It?

Attorney general's testimony under scrutiny as House Republicans call for special counsel

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, here's a question. Did U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder lie to Congress? His testimony about the "Fast and Furious" gun program is now coming under fire. Did he know a whole lot more a lot sooner than what he told Congress? House Republicans tonight urging the White House to appoint a special counsel to investigate.

Washington Post investigative reporter Sari Horwitz joins us. Good evening. So...

SARI HORWITZ, WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... what's the problem?

HORWITZ: Let's put this in context. "Fast and Furious" is a debacle. It was a gun operation that went bad. You covered it from the beginning...

VAN SUSTEREN: And you're from Arizona!

HORWITZ: ... I've been covering it.

(CROSSTALK)

HORWITZ: I've been covering it. And Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley have been holding very comprehensive, important hearings on this. They just released new documents this week, and they say these documents show that Eric Holder knew about "Fast and Furious" before he said he did.

We need to look at these. These are memos from Justice Department officials in October and in July of 2010, months before the border agent was killed, months before people ever heard of "Fast and Furious." But what they say is there was a big gun operation going on on the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: There were two, actually. There were two, right?

HORWITZ: Two memos...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean two gun operations, too, one...

(CROSSTALK)

HORWITZ: That's a different e-mail. But these ones going to Eric Holder talk about "Fast and Furious," a big gun operation involving guns ending up in Mexico. They do not get into any of the controversial tactics, the tactics of the ATF agents allowing the guns to walk, the 2,000 guns that have been allowed to be basically get out on the street and get into Mexico. None of that is in these memos.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- but some of the memos are redacted, right? They're blackened...

HORWITZ: Oh, yes...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: There's huge chunks of blackened, so we don't know...

(CROSSTALK)

HORWITZ: But what we do see does not reveal the tactics that one would expect Eric Holder to say, Whoa, what's going on in this case?

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So basically, there's a little smoke, not necessarily a fire. I mean, there's something -- I mean, the memos -- I mean, the memos with the topic supposedly crossed his plate. We assume that he saw them, but we don't know to what extent he knew what was going on in the underlying. Is that a fair description?

HORWITZ: Exactly. Assuming that he received these two memos, that he read them and that he remembered them, he knew the words "Fast and Furious." They went back farther than what he said in the Issa hearing.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, are they -- one of the things that's always in Washington, as you know, is that it's always the, quote, the sort of -- I hate to use the word cover-up, but the sort of drip, drip, drip, trying to get information. Is the Justice Department turning over everything as rapidly and easily and quickly to the House and that is -- that they're asking for it?

HORWITZ: Well, Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley say it's not fast enough. The Justice Department is saying that they're doing it as fast as they can.

But let me point out one more thing about these memos. Chairman Issa himself was briefed last year, as Holder was briefed, about gun operations on the border, and maybe even "Fast and Furious," the name, came up. But what he says and what his staff says is they never knew the tactics, and that's exactly what Eric Holder is saying.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So basically, we need more information, and it would behoove the Department of Justice to move very quickly with this, since they're in the hot seat. And in the meantime, there has at least been one letter from Congress to the president saying -- from a Republican to a Democratic president, saying, We need a special prosecutor to investigate whether Eric Holder committed perjury. And of course, I might add one other thing, is that perjury is not just making a mistake, it's -- that it has to be material.

HORWITZ: Exactly. Lamar Smith, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has asked for a special counsel, something that Issa and Grassley are little bit wary about and are not necessarily excited about because they feel that will delay documents coming to Congress.

But one more thing that came out in these documents which is really news is there's a reference to a whole new gun operation that we didn't know about called "Operation Wide Receiver."

VAN SUSTEREN: Which predated it.

HORWITZ: Which predated it. It was actually in the Bush administration, predated Eric Holder, and there are memos that say guns walked in that operation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meaning the same sort of idea, that they watched guns being purchased illegally, going into Mexico. Presumably, the whole theory was to try to catch some drug cartel with the guns.

HORWITZ: Exactly. And this one was out of Tucson, several hundred guns, apparently, that ATF agents watched small-time buyers buy, pass on to middlemen and get into Mexico.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bottom line is, is that it behooves the government -- the Justice Department to go over and talk and give them as much as they want (INAUDIBLE) very quickly. It's this drip, drip, drip that always creates a bigger problem.

HORWITZ: You're right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, nice to see you.

HORWITZ: Nice to see you, Greta. Thank you.