OTR Interviews

Issa: We have no choice but to hold Attorney General Holder in 'Fast and Furious' contempt

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair details meeting with attorney general, whether Holder will still face contempt charges


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: In less than 12 hours, a House committee meets to vote and get one step closer to Congress perhaps holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. The question right now: Is there any chance the attorney general will make an after-hours delivery of documents to Congressman Issa and avoid tomorrow's contempt vote?

Now, a few hours ago, House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa and Attorney General Holder taking one last stab at a resolution. So how did that meeting go? We asked Chairman Issa.


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

REP. DARRELL ISSA, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE CHAIR: Thanks for having me back on, Greta, on this important subject.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so did you get the documents tonight from the attorney general of the United States that you had subpoenaed?

ISSA: Sadly, no. We not only didn't get the documents, but the only offer we got was an offer that if we would take a briefing followed by such documents as they think support the briefing and agree to end the case, we could go our separate ways.

The attorney general did not come with any offer of any documents except as a contingent for ending the case outright, and he didn't bring any list of any documents, or for that matter, anything in writing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose he could have made a phone call to you making that same offer, rather than sort of this journey that we've been through for the last 24 hours, waiting to see what would happen.

ISSA: Well, sadly, what happened in this meeting was exactly what happened in our exchange of letters. We said we need the documents and we'd evaluate them. We limited the scope, extremely limited. And he kept saying that he wanted to have a meeting, so he's had the meeting.

We didn't close the door. I let him know that if he would produce meaningful documents, meaningful relative to the subpoena and the speaker's request before tomorrow's start-up, we would certainly postpone and evaluate those documents. But I'm not optimistic at this point.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how late are you open for business tonight? And is there any indication there'll be a delivery tonight?

ISSA: We'll be here all night. Our offices will be open until after the mark-up is completed tomorrow.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did -- does this mean -- it is assuming that there are no documents that come from the Department of Justice, the attorney general, between now and tomorrow about 10:00 AM, does this mean that you intend to go full speed ahead and seek to hold him in contempt, or at least vote it out of the committee?

ISSA: Well, Greta, we have no choice but to -- for a refusal to deliver documents that are relative to a lawful subpoena, we have no doubt but to -- or no choice but to hold him in contempt. It's not our choice. We want the documents. Brian Terry's family would like the documents that are responsive to how, in fact, their son was gunned down with weapons that came from lawful dealers but at the bequest of -- behest of the Justice Department.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had any conversation in the last 36, 48 hours with the speaker of the House as to anything about this request or Fast and Furious?

ISSA: Well, we've stayed in touch with the speaker's staff. Really, his letter laid out a very reasonable -- extraordinarily reasonable limitation on what it would take to prevent contempt. And we further narrowed that after the discovery of the wiretaps.

So I think the speaker has spoken pretty loudly. He stands, I believe, shoulder to shoulder with all of us, saying, Please just give us the documents we need to conclude our investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the -- I mean, let's assume -- let's jump ahead. Let's assume tomorrow there's a vote out of your committee for contempt and let's assume that there's a vote from the House of Representatives for contempt. What's the practical effect? What -- what do you -- what do you get in the end? Is there -- you don't get your documents, but what do you get?

ISSA: Well, sadly, the attorney general said in the meeting that if we go forward with contempt, we'd get no cooperation from that time forward. On the other hand, he said if we would take the briefing, we'd have to close the case. So we're sort of between a rock and a hard spot. We really have to go forward.

Yes, contempt is unusual, and the U.S. attorney pleading the case before a federal judge in D.C. can take some time. And unfortunately, during that time, we don't expect to get a lot of new discovery. But again, you really have no choice when the executive branch says, No, we won't allow you to look into misconduct within the executive branch.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, the attorney general said -- and one of my colleagues -- Chad Pergram was there. He said, "We have" -- this is in part. "We have made available an unprecedented number of documents that might resolve this matter."

Let me ask you, have they provided an unprecedented number of documents?

ISSA: Not at all, 7,600 documents roughly, almost half of which are regarding an operation that ended during the Bush administration is far from complete. And let's remember the inspector generals -- there's been two of them looking into this -- have received over 80,000 pages. So on a scale of what we've asked for, that's limited. On a scale -- on a fact basis of what we know exists, obviously, it's insufficient.

Again, what we've asked for is limited. We're not looking for information that would lead to the interruption of any ongoing criminal case. But we are looking for the misconduct that occurred within Justice, giving us false testimony and then standing by it for the best part of a year.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think the attorney general is deliberately trying to cover something up, or that he has a difference of opinion as to what he should turn over to you, even lawfully turn over to you?

ISSA: Well, I think often what happens is, to avoid embarrassment, they don't provide information or they cover up what they know, and then the coverup becomes the problem. Again, we're looking simply to get to the bottom of how it was that guns were allowed to walk, and the administration would tell us that guns never allowed to walk, when, in fact, they were. And then another best part of a year went by from February to November before they finally retracted that and said, Yes, we really did let guns walk.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, tell me what happened. He shows up at the Capitol. And you greet him. Where did you meet? How long did it take. What it was like inside?

ISSA: We met in one of the upstairs conference rooms on the third floor of the Capitol, sort of right beneath the rotunda, Senator Leahy, Congressman Cummings, the Deputy Attorney General Cole and the attorney general on one side, Senator Grassley and myself on the other side.

We were hoping to hear about what the documents would be and see some of them. Instead, they presented no paper. And they simply told us, in return for ending the investigation, they would give us a briefing and some supportive documents, but we'd had to agree to end the investigation outright without seeing the documents.

And Greta, you've been an attorney. You certainly have gone through discovery. Nobody agrees to a settlement based on documents not seen, and that's exactly what we were asked to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what did you say to him? When he told you that, what were your words to him?

ISSA: Well, what I said really was that I would certainly hold the doors open until tomorrow morning, until we go to the markup, in the hopes that he would change his mind and deliver a meaningful amount of documents responsive to the subpoena.

Very clearly, he knew -- you know, he was a line attorney for 12 years. He knew we couldn't take this deal. It wasn't a good faith offer based on what he would do if he were on the other side of the table.

We have an obligation to find out who was responsible. And he hasn't fired anyone, so it's kind of hard to believe that he's found out who's responsible.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, it was a very short meeting, as best I can figure out. Somebody called, you know, It's over, time's up. Who said, All right -- you know, who said, This is over? I assume someone said it's going nowhere. Who said what to end this?

ISSA: Well, that's always the question. And in this case, Senator Leahy got up and said, I've got to go back to a vote. Senator Grassley got up shortly thereafter. Mr. Cummings got up to go, and then I got up.

But ultimately, the meeting had resolved everything that we could go back and forth probably 20 minutes earlier. We gave opportunity for Mr. Cole, for the attorney general, Holder, for Senator Leahy and for Mr. Cummings to each state their positions, and that took about five minutes apiece.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he know, the attorney general -- did you communicate to him right then and there, Look, I'm going forward tomorrow? Did you tell him that?

ISSA: I did. I told him that he gave us nothing that would cause us not to go forward...


ISSA: ... but that we would hold the doors open for actual discovery.

VAN SUSTEREN: And he said what, when you told him that?

ISSA: Well, he started through the same line that he used in public statements that you've seen before Judiciary -- unprecedented access, nobody can give you the deliberative process, we're willing to do it, but it's unprecedented.

And again, we're sorry to have to ask for this information, but I think the American people by now, if they've been following Fast and Furious, know that we don't have answers relative to who was responsible for Brian Terry as it went up the chain. We certainly don't have any information about how a document that was false remained out there for 10 months.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was his demeanor when you told him that, No dice, I'm going forward? And that's my word, "no dice," obviously.

ISSA: It was a calm meeting. I think that the exchange of letters told us that unless positions changed, we'd end up where we are. He came in basically consistent with a much earlier letter that said that he would provide us a briefing and then documents that supported it.

But let's understand, the problem is he's already reached the conclusion that they did nothing wrong. His briefing very clearly is going to tell us they did nothing wrong, that he's made the changes necessary because of the failed policy that began during the Bush administration and he ended, and that he would give us such documents as he deemed we need needed to understand that he was innocent.

That's an interesting defense. It's one that I don't think you'd ever suggest be used in a court.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir. And we'll look forward to seeing what happens tomorrow. And I hope you come back soon, sir.

ISSA: Of course. Thank you, Greta.