OTR Interviews

What happens if Congress finds Attorney General Holder in contempt in the 'Fast and Furious' scandal?

What it means for the attorney general and the White House if Congress forces the release of info in 'Fast and Furious' case


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 30, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, contempt! House Republicans turning up the heat on Attorney General Eric Holder. They just moved one step closer to holding him in contempt of Congress. Now, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has already drafted a 46-page contempt citation, and it accuses the attorney general of stonewalling over Operation "Fast and Furious."

Congressman Jason Chaffetz joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you. All right, the draft is 46 pages. How serious is this? Is this sort of saber rattling or should the attorney general either begin figuring out ways to comply, or is this just going to -- or is this going to really land on his lap?

CHAFFETZ: Only handful of times in the history of the House have we had to go so far as to actually hold somebody in contempt of Congress. But a subpoena that was issued in October of 2011 has been totally ignored. There are 22 categories of documents that we're looking for. Twelve of those categories we've received zero documents. It's a very serious step.

But look, Greta, we've got a dead border patrol agent. You have the Department of Justice who has knowingly lied to Congress. We have 300 people dead in Mexico on the other end of these Fast and Furious guns. We have thousands of weapons knowingly given to the drug cartels. Come on! It doesn't get much more serious than this, Greta!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'll tell you, a subpoena in court, if you don't comply, you know, you end up in the -- in the hot seat. You get hauled into court right away, and then you get -- you get put in jail or something until you comply.

If you -- if you don't get -- if you get a subpoena from Congress, it seems to linger and go on for months and months and months and months. I'm curious, you know -- you know, let's jump ahead for a second. Suppose that you do hold him in contempt. What does that really mean?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it means that they're going to have to provide the documents. What we're trying to do is determine how is it that the Department of Justice, in their own words, came up with a program that was fatally flawed? Why is it that the intra-department agency discussions absolutely failed?

And we got to remember, at the heart of this, Greta, we have a dead U.S. border patrol agent that when he was on the receiving end of that weapon from Fast and Furious, he died! I got to be able to look that Brian Terry family in the face and say we did everything we could to figure out why this will -- how this happened and make sure that it never, ever happens again!

The Democrats just want to play politics with it! They say we're out there just trying on a witch hunt. Nothing is further from the truth! They should be locking arms with us and holding some people accountable!

The president on March 25th of 2011 said he was going to hold somebody accountable. Nobody's been fired there at the senior levels of the Department of Justice! These people are getting promotions! Their chief of staff got a promotion. Come on! That's not right!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, OK, all right, you know, you've asked for 80,000 documents, and that is sort of a daunting task. But if I were a member of the committee, and nobody's asked me to, I'd ask two questions. Who authorized Fast and Furious? Who's the top person who authorized it? And who knew about it how high up?

Those two questions -- I'd want those two answers, and primarily because if the person who is -- who -- who authorized it and the people who knew about it are still there, then we're at risk that they're showing other really bad judgment.

I mean, they need to be transferred out, maybe sent to the GSA, I don't know where, but transferred out because we don't need them making really bad decisions. And I shouldn't be sarcastic about it.

But why not just those two questions, who authorized it and it how high up?

CHAFFETZ: Well, that is the core of the question that we ask within the subpoena in these 12 categories in which we've had no information. The only thing I would add on top of that I think is critical is the communication with the White House. The White House has denied any involvement. Then we actually found an e-mail that went from an ATF agent...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's...

CHAFFETZ: ... to the White House. And then they said...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why I say how high up.

CHAFFETZ: ... Well, OK, yes -- exactly because I do think the White House is involved because whistleblowers who've given us the bulk of the information that we do have stepped up and provided this information.

And so they have 80,000 documents that the IG within the Department of Justice is looking at that Congress should be looking at. You can't just ignore a subpoena!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, see, I think those two questions -- that's why I say, Who authorized it? How high up was it authorized? And who knew -- who at the White House may have known are the two key questions. And I do not understand why you haven't gotten those answers.

What -- what is the response as to why you have not gotten the answers to those two questions? Because Congressman Issa said they've been asked.

CHAFFETZ: Well, we have been asked. We've been patient. Again, the subpoena was issued in October. I think we've been more...

VAN SUSTEREN: But what's their excuse?

CHAFFETZ: ... than patient. Well, they say, Oh, we're on a witch hunt. Oh, but they're doing an investigation. We're not trying to pry into the investigation that they're doing on some of these people that committed these crimes. We're doing an investigation of the Department of Justice! And you can see why we're at an impasse. We're saying we, as a separate branch of government, deserve and need these documents. That is why we have the Constitution. That's why we're set up as separate branches, but also why you have to apply -- you know, reply to a subpoena. And...

VAN SUSTEREN: But I think you're missing -- you know, I think -- I think the strongest argument for it is that this is very bad judgment. Everybody agrees with it. Even the attorney general of the United States agrees with whoever authorized it. But whoever authorized it may still be floating around the government. That's the problem.

That's why you need to know who authorized it and how high up because that person really needs to move out so that that person isn't at risk of exercising other bad judgment. And that's going on right now, if that person's still there. I mean, that's -- you know, that's your most powerful argument as to why you need it now.

CHAFFETZ: Exactly. It goes to the White House, goes to Gary Grindler, who is the chief of staff, and Lanny Breuer, who's the chief of the Criminal Division.

Lanny Breuer actually had the documents related to Fast and Furious. He forwarded them from his -- from his Department of Justice e-mail account to his own Gmail account. Then he testified before Congress he had no idea what was going on!

And the letter that was issued to Congress on February 4th, which was a lie -- they had to rescind it. They lied to Congress on February 4th! On that same day, Lanny Breuer was in Mexico talking about gun running. And so for the White House and the Department of Justice to deny that they ever used these type of taxes -- tactics is an outright lie! You cannot lie to Congress and not have a consequence!

VAN SUSTEREN: Is Speaker Boehner on board if the attorney general doesn't comply with your subpoena -- is he on board to go forward with the contempt citation?

CHAFFETZ: One step at a time, Greta. The next step is to have a...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's not an answer!

CHAFFETZ: ... a mark-up...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's not an answer!

CHAFFETZ: He has not made that -- crystal clear. I want to be candid. He has not made that final determination. It needs to go through the committee process, then it goes to the hands of the speaker. And he will make a determination, and the timing as to whether or not to bring this up to the floor of the House for a vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, you're lucky I ran out of time so I can't (INAUDIBLE) and keep asking you the same question, trying to get an answer. You lucked out on that one. Congressman, thank you, sir.

CHAFFETZ: Thanks, Greta.