OTR Interviews

Issa's 'Fast and Furious' frustration bubbles over: Holder's truth 'is not consistent with the facts'

Uncut: House Oversight chair reflects on Attorney General Holder's latest testimony on ill-fated gun-running operation, their tense exchange and what's next in the investigation

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 7, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Fireworks were exploding today on Capitol Hill! And it got loud. It got very loud! GOP lawmakers skewering Attorney General Eric Holder over Operation Fast and Furious. But the attorney general's response is sparking obvious frustration, especially for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Have you and your attorneys produced internally the materials responsive to the subpoenas?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: We believe that we have responded to the subpoenas...

ISSA: No! Mr. Attorney General, you're not a good witness. A good witness answers the question asked. So let's go back again. Have you and your attorneys produced internally the materials responsive -- in other words, have you taken the time to look up our subpoena and find out what material you have responsive to it, or have you simply invented a privilege that doesn't exist?

HOLDER: You're saying internally, have we...

ISSA: Internally! Have you pulled all that information?

HOLDER: We've looked at 240 custodians (ph). We have processed millions of electronic records and we've reviewed over 140,000 documents and produced to you about 7,600.

ISSA: So 140,000 documents. How many documents are responsive but you are withholding at this time?

HOLDER: Well, we've produced 7,600...

ISSA: Look, I don't want to hear about the 7,600!

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-MD, RANKING MEMBER: Mr. Chairman, I would beg to allow...

ISSA: The lady is out of order!

You know, I appreciate that there was hostility between the attorney general and myself. I would hope that the...

CUMMINGS: Just for the record...

ISSA: I would hope that the ranking member would understand that...

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: ... that, in fact, most of it was produced by the fact that I have a great many questions and a relatively little period of time in which to get answers...

HOLDER: With all due respect to Chairman Issa, he says there's hostility between us. I don't feel that, you know? I understand he's asking questions. I'm trying to respond as best I can. I'm not feeling hostile at all. I'm pretty calm. I'm OK.

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: If you think that you are being singled out because of political ideology or race or any other characteristic or factor when it comes to Fast and Furious, you are sorely mistaken!

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-ILL.: With the greatest respect, I would say that I believe that the effort here has become politically motivated in an attempt to embarrass the administration, and that diminishes the process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: So how does Chairman Issa think the hearing went? We spoke with him earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: You've had quite a morning today. Did you get what you wanted from the attorney general?

ISSA: Well, I think we got the impression that we needed to know. Will he cooperate with the request of the speaker? And it was very clear he wanted to talk about cooperation, while, in fact, clearly, he did not answer any questions about new discovery.

And you know, it's been since May 18th. Obviously, the speaker has to judge now whether or not no answer in this long a period of time means he's not going to answer questions that the speaker of the House believes are legitimate.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So you are -- so have pending a draft to hold him in contempt of Congress for failure to respond to the subpoena, correct?

ISSA: We do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, and mid-May, let's get facts straight, is it that the speaker of the House, John Boehner, got involved in it in an effort to sort of persuade the Justice Department to comply.

ISSA: He asked for a very reduced, very limited, very targeted portion of all of our subpoenas in hopes that that would be sufficient. And certainly, he cut it down to the minimum we would need in order to find out how Congress was lied to on February 4th of last year.

And this is the problem we have is that the attorney general only wants to answer questions before February, when we were lied to, not about the 10 months in which they didn't come clean.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so did you get today the answers to everything you have asked for from the attorney general?

ISSA: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. And so now -- the attorney general came today. You had the little go-'round. I heard that exchange, which it got hot, right?

ISSA: Well, I think we asked questions. He wanted to not give straight answers. And I tended to cut him off so I could get to the next one. But I think even by the time we got down to Jason Chaffetz, his answer to questions were that he had superior knowledge to the verbatim reading of an email that we were able to discover.

And this has been the problem. He wants to say he has superior knowledge, he knows things, but he doesn't want to actually provide them. And Greta, the most important thing that we had today was multiple members of our committee -- both attorneys, career attorneys and members of Congress -- have read the wiretaps that were supplied to us by whistleblowers and reached the conclusion that if you read them, you knew, they knew they were gun walking.

VAN SUSTEREN: At what point? Before -- obviously, before Agent Terry was killed...

ISSA: All of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... in December of 2010?

ISSA: All six of them were before that, well before it, in the summer. More importantly, the attorney general didn't say he didn't see gun walking in some cover sheet. He said, I read these wiretaps, and I don't -- I do not believe you would see gun walking in them.

We've read them. I've read them. Yes, you do. You see no question at all that you know that guns are going -- being bought by specific individuals and ending up in Mexico. It's conclusive in these wiretap requests.

That to us says that he's willing to be disingenuous in live sworn testimony before the Congress. Ultimately, we can't make these documents public, but our intention now is to have additional people read them, ones that understand they're under seal, they can't be released, and reach independent decisions.

And I'm going to bet you that if I found 50 career attorneys, 50 would read it, 50 would determine that it was gun walking.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me cut to the chase. You used the term "disingenuous." Are saying he lied?

ISSA: Yes. Let me rephrase that. He found his own truth, and that truth is not consistent with the facts. And I say that because that's what he kept saying throughout the day, that, you know, it's not consistent with the facts. Well, the facts are these six fairly thick documents...

VAN SUSTEREN: That were leaked to you.

ISSA: That were leaked to us, that we have now read, that he never wanted us to read...

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he read them? Has he read them?

ISSA: He said he read them and he said they don't say what we believe they say.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is why the Justice Department says you're distorting the facts, right?

ISSA: The facts that they won't release.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any indication how high up the authorization of the wiretaps went? Who knew about the content of the wiretaps?

ISSA: Lanny Breuer.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and...

ISSA: Jason Weinstein.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's -- those are -- that's the number two level under the attorney general -- under the attorney general.

ISSA: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has the attorney general said that he knew nothing about it? So are you...

ISSA: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you accept that.

ISSA: Yes. He said he knew nothing about it, and there was no reason for him to see wiretaps. The real question is, when did he -- when did he become aware of it? Well, now, today, he said he read the six wiretaps, and he's still not aware of it. That's where it's very troubling, is that he can say he read these documents and he still doesn't see what it seems the rest of us do see.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you have outrage on this. Representative Chaffetz is outraged. You have this -- this outstanding subpoena that hasn't been complied with. So where's the hold-up? Either the Justice Department, the attorney general complies, or you get enforcement of your subpoena, provided your leadership, Speaker Boehner, agrees to it because I assume you can't do it -- you can't end-run the speaker.

ISSA: A floor -- a contempt floor vote is, in fact, Eric Cantor and John Boehner's decision. We have some additional tools. We're going to continue to use them. We have additional witnesses we expect to bring.

My choice at this point would be to go to contempt because I think today, the attorney general made it very clear he's not going to cooperate.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, have you asked the speaker to go forward with contempt?

ISSA: We are in a process in which I...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's sort of a slow-walk answer!

ISSA: No, no.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, what's the truth? I mean, have you asked him - - you must have -- you must have said, you know -- you've had -- you had to have conversations about...

ISSA: We've had lots of conversations and...

VAN SUSTEREN: And he says what?

ISSA: We have agreed to a process, and we're continuing that process. The timeline for that process is pretty much over. So do I believe that we're within weeks of it? Yes. Do I have some additional hearings I can hold to allow at least the public to better understand? Yes. But do I believe that we should be going to contempt and planning it, based on the fact that the attorney general clearly is not going to cooperate? Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, from my perspective, this is really a sleeper in the sense that this has been going on for a year-and-a-half. There's been an awful lot of -- I don't know if the Justice Department is right or you're right, but I certainly know there isn't a resolution. And you've got the border agent's family who wants answers.

I also know that we got answers quite swiftly with the scandal down in South America in Peru. That was within, like, a week or two. So I know -- so I know that it can be had.

So there's either -- there's either -- the Justice Department's refusing or the speaker's posturing and not letting you do this, or you enjoy subpoenaing these people, putting them on the hot seat.

Something's simply not right, I mean, because doesn't take that long not to get these answers.

ISSA: We have sufficient answers to know that Justice is not well run, that there is not real accountability, particularly in approving these wiretaps and in controlling the actions of the ATF and other agencies. That we know.

But Greta, you know, knowing that there's a problem is not about fixing the problem. We want to know enough to be able to fix the problem. And I'll just give you one that's very important.

From what we can tell, the approval process for wiretaps -- a pretty darn important document. The approval process seems to be broken because everyone up to Jason Weinstein signs these documents based on a cover sheet, not based on the documentation that the judge sees, but based on a cover sheet, a summary sheet. So they don't actually know what's in them, they only know a sheet that's pulled...

VAN SUSTEREN: A summary.

ISSA: ... says. And you look and say, Well, so we're relying on a summary. The question is, Congress didn't say, You shall be accountable for a summary. You're supposed to be accountable for the underlying documents. That means the system is broken from an approval standpoint.

This isn't the first time we've seen robo-signing in government. But you know, when it happens in...

VAN SUSTEREN: But the problem is that -- OK, I mean, I'll give it to you that it's broken. I mean -- I mean, we have a border agent who's been murdered and we have a family who wants information, and we have -- we have a series of people who have that information and have the ability to get it.

You've got the Justice Department, which has the information, and you have Congress, which provides oversights, trying to get the information from Justice.

ISSA: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Every time there's hearings, it's expensive. It's time. It's everything. Meanwhile, the family doesn't get the information. And if there's somebody who is really incompetent in the Justice Department who is making these decisions -- and the Justice Department admits this is a flawed investigation -- that person could still be there, making other flawed ones. So the fact that this is taking so long is rather -- I mean, it really isn't necessary and -- I mean, it's appalling.

ISSA: It's appalling. It's particularly appalling because, you mentioned it, GSA, once it became public, action was quick. Secret Service, once it became public, action was quick. In this case, it's been public, very public for a long time.

Eric Holder -- or sorry, the president's standing behind Eric Holder and Eric Holder is standing behind all his lieutenants, and we're asking, Well, if they're not responsible, who is? And he's saying, We'll call you when the IG is done. The IG's been working for over a year.

VAN SUSTEREN: And why doesn't the speaker then say, Let's fish or cut bait, either do this or don't do this, and either issue the contempt -- I mean, I don't know if you're right or wrong, but at least that would move it forward.

ISSA: I believe that the speaker is close to the end of his rope. My job, of course, is to do my job until the speaker makes that decision. I'm comfortable that he will make the decision relatively soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's relatively soon, a week, two weeks, a month, two months?

ISSA: I don't expect to go home for 4th of July without having a date for contempt or knowing that it's time to wrap up this investigation and just admit that Justice is not transparent, that you're not going to get the kind of cooperation you want.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last question. Has the border agent's family been in any contact with members of Congress? I mean, is this still extremely raw and personal to them?

ISSA: I met with Brian Terry's cousin just a few days ago in San Diego. I continue to stay in touch with the family, including the mother...

VAN SUSTEREN: So they're -- they're anxious to get this information.

ISSA: They are. And in early September, we're going to be dedicating the Brian Terry border patrol station in Arizona, and it's one of my targets for this has to be wrapped up, in the sense of they get the kind of accountability they deserve. You know, Brian Terry was killed over 18 months ago. It's a very long time not to have anyone fired or held accountable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)