OTR Interviews

'Fast and Furious' Fiasco: Nearly a Year of No Accountability and Counting

Attorney General Eric Holder grilled but lost weapons could haunt U.S. for years

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican lawmakers say heads should roll, even threatening impeachment, but Attorney General Eric Holder is adamant. He says he will not resign. And today, he testified before Congress about Operation "Fast and Furious."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Mr. Attorney General...

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was in the middle of an answer, I think.

ISSA: You know, you're in the middle of filibustering! So I'll let you answer. I have two more things to quickly go over, and then you can have all the time the chairman will give you.

Does it surprise you that these boxes, five boxes, represent just what one gun dealer gave us voluntarily? Well, in fact, this seems to be all the information you have responsive to our subpoena.

The president has said he has full confidence in this attorney general. I have no confidence in a president who has full confidence in an attorney general who has, in fact, not terminated or dealt with the individuals, including key lieutenants, who from the very beginning had some knowledge, and long before Brian Terry was gunned down, knew enough to stop this program.

HOLDER: Allowing guns to walk, whether in this administration or the prior one, is wholly unacceptable. The use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable and it must never happen again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So how did the attorney general do? Congressman Steve King joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. STEVE KING,R-ILL.: Evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did Attorney General Eric Holder tell you who authorized Fast and Furious and who is the highest-ranking person who knew about the operation before it was authorized, and then during the time it was in operation?

KING: He did not. I did not hear the answer to that question today. It was one that I submitted to him in writing prior to the hearing. I didn't see it be part of his written testimony. And actually, I ran out of time before I could pose the question directly to him, and I intend to follow up with a written part of a letter question period that'll happen here in the next week.

VAN SUSTEREN: Here's what is so egregious about the fact that this has now gone on about 10 months, and the fact that he hasn't answered this question, is because he just said that it's wholly unacceptable. That's one thing.

He also testified today -- he said that "Fast and Furious" is going to continue to have tragic consequences. Then Congressman Poe said more people are going to die probably, and Holder replied, Unfortunately, I think that's probably true.

And here's what is so egregious, is that all this time, this 10 months, is that whoever was so stupid to authorize this operation, which the attorney general himself admits was wholly unacceptable, and people are going to die, is still sitting over at the Justice Department because no one will tell us who the one is with such flawed judgment!

KING: That's right. The individual, the highest up the ladder that would have authorized "Fast and Furious," if Eric Holder will not identify that person or answer that question, you have to wonder if Eric Holder isn't the person.

And when you listen to the testimony today, there's this great gap in the communications around "Fast and Furious" with Eric Holder's e-mail, for example. And he would argue that, Well, maybe I didn't talk about that in my e-mail, and he answered so that he'd answered that he had provided all the information.

Chairman Issa put up the boxes of documents that had been delivered from the federally licensed firearm dealers in comparison to the answers they got from Eric Holder. And I would say after that, Congressman Trent Franks carefully asked a question that got Eric Holder to say, Well, yes, I didn't give all the information to Darrell Issa on request. There's other information out there. Now we have to go find that information.

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but here's the problem, is if a house is burning down, you put out the fire, and then you -- then you investigate it at that point. I mean, right now, whoever is responsible for this terrible judgment that has cost at least one person's life -- and everyone admits it's unfortunately causing more, even the attorney general himself -- that person, whoever has that bad judgment, is still being -- is still safely ensconced in the Justice Department, making potentially all the other bad judgments. We simply don't know. It's a mystery.

And I don't know understand the first question by any member of Congress is, Who authorized it? Where is that person? And who else was in on it? And it's, like, those are -- that's the house burning down. That's the fire to put out. And I don't get why -- and that's the easy -- that's the easy question.

KING: Well, and Greta, and that's how you end this. I mean, Eric Holder should have looked across that. His office, and it casts aspersions upon the president, too, but the president -- extension of the president into the Department of Justice. If you're in -- if you're heading that department, you want to protect the president. You want to protect yourself...

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but...

KING: ... so why wouldn't you pull out the tooth that was a bad tooth that gave...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you didn't ask that question! I mean, has anyone - - I mean, has anyone asked it? You know, he's under oath. I mean, just ask him!

KING: Yes. Actually, I asked the question. I sent him a letter two days ago and said I wanted that to be the answer -- wanted the answer to that question and be -- and come to answer that question. It wasn't in his testimony. And the gavel fell on me just as I was prepared to ask it.

VAN SUSTEREN: But what -- what about your colleagues! I mean, don't your colleagues want to -- I mean, I can't imagine that -- to me, that's the most important question, is whoever is there with this really bad judgment, we need to get out of there, or at least identify him or her! And -- and the problem is, I -- if you didn't get a chance to ask it, why didn't somebody else ask it? Who's doing this? Who has this terrible judgment who's got all this responsibility who can order these things?

KING: I have to admit that was the obvious question, and it was also a question that Chuck Grassley wanted to ask. And I intended to get that out today. So I take some responsibility for that. But no one else really looked at that thing in that same perspective. And maybe I could have gotten it done if I would have written it out and walked down the line and found somebody. They all had their own agenda.

But I will follow up. I will follow up with a written request to get an answer to that question. And in some weeks or months -- the last time was May 3rd, and we got the answers to our questions on October 31st. It takes a long time to get answers out of this attorney general.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and I know that about a week ago, they sent a letter saying that the letter they sent February 4th contained inaccuracies. The Republicans say they're lies. The Justice Department say, Oh, it's a mistake (INAUDIBLE) whatever it is. But now we are almost 11 months into this. A lot of man hours are being spent on this in terms of trying to figure out, you know, who knew what, or who did what. People are going back and forth from Justice to Capitol Hill! Documents are being Xeroxed and copied and everything else! And we're sort of missing the urgent question and is the wasting an awful lot of time!

KING: Well, who authorized it? But at what point did they -- should they have just drawn the line and stopped this? And another piece of...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's another question, but first let's put out the fire!

KING: Yes. Well, you put out the fire partly also by bringing that person out to the front. And that's one way to get this over with. I don't think they're going to get it over with until we identify the individual, highest-ranking individual that authorized it.

There's not a reason for Eric Holder that I can think to protect an individual below him, whom all of them are under fire now anyway, and all of them are being scrutinized very carefully, and they're -- they're impugned in this in some way. Why would Eric Holder not eliminate that individual unless that lines leads to him or the president? That's my question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should Eric Holder resign?

KING: You know, I've not called for that, and the reason I haven't is because I want to get to the bottom of this with Eric Holder as the attorney general.

VAN SUSTEREN: See, that's what I think -- I think you lose control over a little bit of -- although I don't think you have a whole lot -- I mean, I don't think there's a whole lot of control being run on this because I think it's a pretty simple inquiry that everyone's dodging. But you know, that's what I think is to get the answer.

KING: Well, and Greta, if I just throw another piece in here, too, that emerged today, and -- and you know, in a kind of -- not in a straight factual way, but allegations to that effect, that there -- some of the Mexican leadership, and including the chair of the judiciary committee within the Mexican legislature, has said that there are at least 150,000 Mexicans who have died at the hands of the weapons that were walked south into Mexico, and maybe that number has doubled by now.

So we see Agent Brian Terry as our loss in this country, and it's tragic. But in Mexico, there's 150, maybe twice that number that have also paid that price for this tragic mistake.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.

KING: Thanks, Greta.