OTR Interviews

Issa promises answers for slain border agent's family: It's 'sad' White House thinks Holder's contempt charges are 'political theatre'

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa reflects on Congressional vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It has never happened before, but today it did. The full House of Representatives in a bipartisan vote, vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It's the first time an attorney general has been held in contempt. But not all house members were sticking around for today's historic vote. In a dramatic display, most Democrats walking out of the capitol building in protest. What is next? We spoke with House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa.


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


VAN SUSTEREN: I take it you have received NO phone calls from the White House in the last 12, 14 hours?

ISSA: No. The last conversation we had was a picnic yesterday even evening with one of their staff and said we would have liked to brought it to a close without the vote.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I should say the annual are picnic with everyone gets together at the White House.

ISSA: And the entire administration and all of the key staff is there. But we had no contact after that and obviously the vote has been held.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have held them in contempt criminally and civilly. Tell me what is the difference, or what the impact is?

ISSA: Based on past experience, it's very possible the president will instruct the U.S. attorney not to prosecute further on the criminal side. The House is authorized me to hire staff and legal staff who then can pursue civilly in the courts to try to get a federal judge to order separately this discovery.

VAN SUSTEREN: When do you head off to federal court with the civil contempt?

ISSA: After a reasonable time to see if the administration will allow compliance by the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia. Certainly a few weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think it will take that long? Won't it be obvious whether they intend to or not?

ISSA: If the president issues instructions, that would settle it. But if we don't know any better we certainly have to give the U.S. attorney a reasonable amount of time. After all, the same U.S. attorney is also investigating the leaks in the administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course with the Republican U.S. attorney in Maryland, so he has a lot on his plate.

ISSA: He has a lot on his plate. But at the same time this is a year and a half. We will be off for a week during the district work period. Our committee will be planning to continue the investigation, if you will, around the cooperation of the attorney general.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was your thought when the democratic delegation got up and walked out, most of them? This was a bipartisan vote, I will concede that. But many in the Democratic delegation walked out ever the chamber.

ISSA: Their walking out was probably symbolic of the fact that in 2008 something similar happened among Republicans. What's disappointing, though, is the facts were lost. A lot of things were said on the house floor today that do not bear any resemblance to the truth. For example, repeatedly members on the Democratic side kept saying that this was begun under Bush when they know that the programs gun under President Bush were stopped under President Bush, and I've admitted and said they were wrong, and that in fact this was a program that was completely gun under President Obama and that ultimately the attorney general's justice department does own this failed operation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the attorney general has made a statement, and he has said "Others,: and I assume he's pointing at you, "have devoted their time and attention to making reckless charges, unsupported by facts," he said you don't have facts, "and to advancing truly absurd conspiracy theories." That was said right after the vote.

ISSA: Well, the attorney general was a little bit like, if you remember the Menendez brothers who killed their parents, and then if they claimed they were orphans it would have been equally genuine. Ultimately he is saying we don't have facts. Well, the facts we have points to the cover-up in people in Justice who weren't being given the documents. It's rather self-serving to say we don't have all the proof of what we are trying to discover, even though we have testimony that indicates high ranking individuals in Justice are ultimately responsible for fast and furious.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have subpoenaed documents. Are any documents forthcoming the last 24 hours?

ISSA: They've actually given the press some that they denied us. One where apparently the attorney general looks really good saying I want no BS, I want to get discovery. The fact is they are selectively releasing documents from what they claim to have privilege on as we speak apparently. But, no, there's been no offer ever documents. As a matter of fact, the attorney general told us if we didn't go forward with the contempt he would give us a couple hundred documents and if we did go forward, we would get nothing.

VAN SUSTEREN: The White House calls it political theatre. What do you think?

ISSA: I'm sad they think that the White House would think that way. When the shoe was on the other foot President Obama felt very strongly in the oversight and for the separation of the branches and their responsibilities. I would wish he will feel the same way now.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think they have? Is it that they have a grudge with you or they don't want to turn them over or they think they have a legitimate right on the privilege, or are they hiding something? What is your theory as this advances?

ISSA: A year ago, July 3rd and 4th, the former acting ATF director, Kenneth Melson, told us that he believed they were covering for high- ranking political appointees and it's one of the reason he came forward to give us voluntary testimony was he wanted to clear the air about what he knew, what he didn't know, and in fact correspondence he had once he discovered that guns were walking and that some of his ATF agents were part of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did he give you names?

ISSA: He did. And we pursued those and that's one of the problems is he gave us the names, he gave us the emails that he sent to, and those are some of the emails that we've been denied.

VAN SUSTEREN: And do you think those names he gave you, are those people obstruct being the investigation in any way? Or are they cooperate?

ISSA: Well, they certainly aren't cooperating the email trains that we are talking about asking for. And we have to consider that a cover-up because they were, at least if Kenneth Melson gave us honest testimony, and it's a crime to lie to us, then in fact they were informed and should not have allowed that false letter to come to Congress and to last for ten more months, at a minimum.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any last message tonight as everyone starts to go home after the vote, any statement to the attorney general you want to make?

ISSA: I have no statement for the attorney general. My statement is to the Terry family that in fact we will continue with the investigation to try to get to the people responsible for their son, their family members' death, and we will let the court and the rest of the process play out for the attorney general.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir.

ISSA: Thank you.