OTR Interviews

Cutting Off Funding to Future 'Fast and Furious'-Like Scandals: The Closest Thing to Bipartisan Cooperation You May Ever See

Stung by scandal, Senate approves amendment that bars funding for programs that include the transfer of firearms to drug cartels

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: There is still much mystery surrounding the "Fast & Furious" scandal. So far no one in Justice will own up to authorizing it. But in the meantime the United States Senate is taking action, and it's unanimous action. We spoke with Senator John Cornyn a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: Good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, "Fast and Furious" certainly has drawn a lot of attention across the nation. But you have a particular amendment that was voted on. Tell me about it.

CORNYN: It was basically to cut off funds for these kinds of gun-walking programs that unbelievably sprung up in Phoenix. And we don't know how high it went, but the attorney general has denied knowing about it until several months after a border agent, Brian, Terry, was killed in December, 2010. I find it implausible. Of course, some of the evidence seems to cricket that. Memos have gone across his desk a year early earlier. But now he said he didn't read his own memos and didn't really know anything about it.

But we shut it down. It can't happen again. It was a bad idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: It was a unanimous vote yesterday?

CORNYN: It was. The closest thing to bipartisan support, 99-0. We had one senator was out. I was pleasantly surprised. Senator Barbara Mikulski This is a bad program. She said she will work with us to try to get the answers we need from Eric Holder. And frankly Eric Holder has not been very forthcoming. He needs to be more forthcoming and let us know when he found out about it and if high doesn't know about it, why not, and the people held accountable who are responsible.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I understand it, though, I think he has himself -- the Justice Department department agrees it was a bad idea, at this point, right?

CORNYN: I agree. That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is sort of curious that we have gotten to the point that everybody agrees, but we have to legislate so it doesn't happen again. We are trying to legislate stupidity out of ourselves.

(LAUGHTER)

CORNYN: Part of it is just to keep the heat on and frankly the bright light of publicity on this so we can get Eric Holder and Department of Justice to come clean with the facts.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you can see -- everyone thinks it's a bad idea, but we have to pass legislation so we don't do it again.

CORNYN: Yes, it's a very strange, I agree. But if we get the answers and we find out who was responsible and held accountable, I think that will be worth the effort. That's the thing that I think drives people crazy about Washington. They feel like all of this crazy stuff, bad things happen, but nobody ever gets held accountable. And I think that's what this is all about.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's taking so long to get the answers? I know that there is the question that everybody wants, who is the highest person in government who signed off on Fast and Furious? It's a simple question. We ought to be able to find that out with a phone call.

CORNYN: You would think so. The president himself said and Eric Holder said the acting inspector general is investigating. But that started in February.

VAN SUSTEREN: He could make one phone call.

CORNYN: It is than the complicated. Senator Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Darrell Issa in in the House have been extracting the information from the subpoena power of the house and it shouldn't be that hard. But what happens in Washington, as you know, sometimes when people make mistakes, it is not the mistake, it's the cover up. And I am afraid that's kind of where we are headed.

VAN SUSTEREN: So do you think they are not busy, that they are deliberately trying to cover something up?

CORNYN: They are certainly giving us a stiff arm. They are not being cooperative. And a lot of contradictory evidence which has been -- which has been disclosed by the investigation has not explained. To me, when a border patrol agent is killed using one of these 2,000 firearms purchased from dealers in the United States and allowed with the knowledge of U.S. government to walk across the border and get in the hands of the cartels, that should be news. And the attorney general should know about it. And if he doesn't know about it, if I were him, I would want to know why he didn't know about this and who authorized this and hold the people responsible and accountable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me switch to the border area since it is your state. There are some who sort of act -- I don't think they think it is as serious as some other people do in terms of the level of seriousness and violence. Can you give me an assessment of the Texas-Mexico border?

CORNYN: What is happening in Texas is nothing shorts of a drug war. About 40,000 people killed as a result of President Calderon and the federal government in Mexico challenging the cartels and trying to bring them to justice. But these folks are very well armed. They have a lot of money from drug sales here in the United States. They have extended networks of gangs that distribute the drugs.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it is coming into the United States, in your opinion?

CORNYN: Yes. But this is important, though, Greta. Some of the border towns in the Texas side are some of the safest cities in America, like El Paso. Juarez, on the other side of the river, as you can see, standing on the bridge, is one of the most dangerous. I think the cartels realize if they spillover in a significant way in the United States, they will reap a whirlwind of American law enforce on them, and they don't want to do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a difference between the cities and the ranch areas? I know people say El Paso is safe, but what about the ranch areas? A lot of ranchers say they are worried?

CORNYN: They should be worried because our border is not under control, notwithstanding the protests of the president and Secretary Napolitano. We had well over a half million people coming across last year, selling drugs to people and whatnot coming into the United States, and 59,000 came from countries other than Mexico. So we know Mexico remains a pipeline for a lot of illicit activity and it's very dangerous.

And people who used to be able to be on their ranches in south Texas and enjoy those are afraid now because of the violence and the cartels and the type of people who are coming across are much different from the way it used to be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir. Nice to see you.

CORNYN: Thank you. Nice to see you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)