OTR Interviews

Boehner: There's an 'arrogance of power' in the Obama administration

House Speaker on the IRS's scandalous targeting of conservative groups, Benghazi and the DOJ's targeting Fox News and other journalists

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 22, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Speaker of the House John Boehner says the Obama administration is showing an arrogance of power. We spoke with Speaker Boehner about all the scandals hitting the White House, starting with the IRS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Greta, it's good to be with you.

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VAN SUSTEREN: Well, today, Lois Lerner from the Internal Revenue Service, who's in charge of the exemptions division, said -- in taking the 5th Amendment, she also said, I did not do anything wrong, I did not break any law. Your thoughts, sir.

BOEHNER: Well, looks to me like the IRS has got something to hide here. The White House has changed the story of what happened and what they knew and when they knew it about half a dozen times already. And it's clear that this appears to be a pervasive problem.

As I said last week, I'm not interested in who's going to resign, I'm interested in who's going to jail. There are specific laws that pertain to IRS employees. The attorney general indicated as such earlier this week. There's a serious problem, and I think it's our job to get to the bottom of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation, at least as far as we understand from the attorney general. Do you think instead there should be a special prosecutor looking at this, separate from the Department of Justice, or are you satisfied the Department of Justice can do this?

BOEHNER: At this point in time, I think the Department of Justice can do this, but I think Congress has its job to provide oversight, not only of the IRS, but to make sure the investigation is thorough and complete.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did it take so long to get to this? Because there have been a number of complaints from these conservative organizations, Tea Party organizations, and they've asked their members of Congress to write letters. But now we're to the point where this has been going on for a couple years. At least we know that much.

So why so long to get the oversight or to get the IRS to tell us what's going on?

BOEHNER: We've had two committees that have worked on this for over two years, the Ways and Means Committee and the Government Reform Committee, Dave Camp over at Ways and Means, Darrell Issa, his members over at the Government Reform Committee.

They have written letters, written letters. They've had hearings about this and could never, never pierce the veil. And so there's a lot of testimony that we've heard over the last two years, a lot of mail that we've gotten back from the IRS, where they basically have stonewalled this.

And I'm not sure that we would have known, had it not been for this audit that the inspector general at the IRS performed. But we have to remember, it was just an audit. That means a sampling of information. I'm glad that the inspector general at the IRS has opened up his own investigation, which is a much more thorough look at the data than just what the audit was originally.

VAN SUSTEREN: The president said that he never heard about the IRS investigation until about a week ago, when it was in the press. And White House press secretary Jay Carney has said that the White House senior aides never told the president. Do you believe that?

BOEHNER: It's pretty inconceivable to me that the president wouldn't know. I'm just putting myself in his shoes. I deal with my senior staff every day. And if the White House had known about this, which now it appears they've known about it for about a year, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have come up in some conversation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think that they wouldn't tell the president? Is there any good reason the president should not have known about this?

BOEHNER: Well, they could have attempted to insulate the president from this news. But with as many people that were involved in the audit, the number of people involved in the investigation, somebody -- and the number of people in the White House that knew -- it really is inconceivable that he wouldn't have known about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the first version, or one of the versions we heard from the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, is that on the 24th of April, that the White House counsel was briefed and that a report was coming, there's no information about findings, and that she told no one.

The next information we received is that Jay Carney said that she met with some senior aides at the White House and briefed them on the findings, that she actually had the findings. Now we're learning that there was actually a meeting with the general counsel, chief of staff at Treasury and White House officials how to roll it out.

Do you have any problem with the sort of the way that we're getting this information?

BOEHNER: This is why we have hearings. This is why the House is going to do its job in investigating just what happened and who knew about it and when did they know about it? It's also clear that the Treasury secretary has known about -- the former Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, has known about this for some time, as well. And if he knew about it, why wouldn't he have passed it on to the president of the United States?

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say someone should go to jail for this, what level are you talking about?

BOEHNER: At some point, somebody decided that they were going to hold up these tax-exempt status, and somebody made the decision. It wasn't some low-level employees in Cincinnati. Somebody made this decision. And our job is to find out who and why and how many people were involved in this.

VAN SUSTEREN: I assume that you've seen the recent news, there's been a grab of documents, phone records, from the Associated Press, as well as FOX News Channel, including our bureau in D.C. and our bureau in New York City. What is your thought on this investigation by the Department of Justice?

BOEHNER: Well, when you look at all of this, what you see is an arrogance of power. I believe that those of us in public office have a responsibility to be humble, to make sure that we represent the will of the people who sent us there, that we're honest with them.

And this arrogance of power that we're seeing out of this administration, whether it be Benghazi, the IRS scandal, the fact that the Justice Department is going after the news media, raises some very serious questions. But when you look at going after the media and how the Justice Department has handled this, they better have some -- they better have some big answers for the Congress and for the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Will there be hearings on that particular aspect, about going after the documents, the phone records of the AP and FOX News? Do you expect that?

BOEHNER: Our Judiciary Committee headed by Bob Goodlatte will be spearheading our investigation of what they did and why they did it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: More with Speaker John Boehner in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Speaker of the House John Boehner demanding to know more about Benghazi -- a lot more. Our interview with the speaker continues.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: We have been asking for emails for quite some time, at least back as far as November. Recently, we got 100 emails. We understand that there are more pages. Are you satisfied that we have enough information out of the administration on Benghazi, or should the investigation be pursued further?

BOEHNER: Oh, no, there's a lot more that we don't know. Who ordered our rescue team in Tripoli -- who ordered them to stand down? When -- when -- you know, when did the president get briefed on the fact that this was a terrorist attack? Why did they continue to try to describe it in some other fashion? There's a lot more that we just don't know.

And the administration doesn't like the fact that this is an ongoing investigation and this continues (INAUDIBLE) going on for eight months, and it's been going on for eight months because the administration won't level with the American people and won't level with the United States Congress.

If they would come forward with the documents that we've been requesting for months, it would be helpful. They gave us some documents a week ago. It was helpful. But a lot more documents that we've asked for that they've refused to turn over.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you be in favor of a select committee at this point to try to sort of narrow it, so it's not several committees that are doing this investigation?

BOEHNER: Four committees that are heavily involved in this. Probably the most significant committee involved would be the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, headed by Darrell Issa. I think Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz, Trey Gowdy and the members of the committee, are doing a good job.

I don't think at this point in time that it's necessary. Now, we may get to a point where it is. But at this point, I think our committees are doing a very good job, and I'm going to be supportive of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: When we first asked for these emails, we were told a couple things. One is it's part of the deliberative process that -- in the executive branch. Another thing was that these documents were classified for national security. In reading those documents, those e-mails, do you see any reason why those were appropriately classified documents for national security?

BOEHNER: No, none whatsoever. A lot of the other documents that we've asked for are not classified documents. They have no reason to hold them back.

But we're going to continue to stay on this until we get to the truth. We have four Americans who lost their lives. There were mistakes made. We need to learn from those mistakes so that we make sure that it doesn't happen again.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, we on the media side, in fact, we look at these documents and we always think that things are grossly overclassified, you know, and it's not this administration, it's every administration. I mean, what can sort of the remedy be on this? Because there seems to be an appetite in every executive branch to classify everything so that the media and the American people...

BOEHNER: Having been here for some time, I've seen the same -- every administration does this. They want to classify every kind of a document. There are procedures, rules, regulations and laws that outline what should be classified and what shouldn't, but every administration seems to overreach in terms of what they want to keep from the public's eyes.

Our job here in the Congress is to make sure that the procedures are followed, and to the extent that we can, get these documents unclassified so that the American people get to the truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you determined why the whole YouTube video thing was brought up in Benghazi in the first place, whose idea it was, and why they seized upon it and held onto it for so long?

BOEHNER: Don't know yet, but we're going to find out.

VAN SUSTEREN: You have no sort of conceivable theory about, like, you know...

BOEHNER: Our job -- our job is to get to the facts. Even while we're doing all of this -- our big job here is to work on jobs. You know, the economy is just not producing jobs like the American people want. And we've had this anemic economic growth for the last four years.

And so while we have a constitutional responsibility to provide oversight of the executive branch, understand, it's not the only thing that we do here. This week, we're working on the Keystone pipeline, making sure that we can get this thing approved sooner rather than later. It's been going on now for, I don't know, 1,700 days, thousands and thousands of documents. It's time to just say yes and put Americans to work.

VAN SUSTEREN: To what extent do all these scandals -- and you talk about jobs, and that's -- you know, that really should be on everyone's conscience, you know, first and foremost, but to what extent do all these scandals, whether it's IRS, Benghazi or even the seizure of media records, impede or distract?

BOEHNER: Well, it may be somewhat of a distraction, but most of our members don't sit on the committees that are involved in the investigations. And they're working on things that would actually help produce jobs. The president's policies are getting in the way of our economy performing the way we would want it to perform.

But our focus is jobs and getting these policies straight so that we can get Americans back to work. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

VAN SUSTEREN: When was the last time you talked to the president?

BOEHNER: I saw him last week at the peace officers memorial.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you talk about jobs?

BOEHNER: No. We said hello.

VAN SUSTEREN: When was the last time you talked about jobs?

BOEHNER: It's probably been a few months.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to talk to you. Thank you, sir.

BOEHNER: Nice to see you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)