OTR Interviews

Cantor: Obama 'disconnected' in scandals, administration has 'lost focus'

House Majority leader sounds off on the IRS, Department of Justice and Benghazi scandals dogging the White House and details his Making Life Work program to improve education


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor calling President Obama "disconnected." Now, we spoke with Leader Cantor earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. I want to talk about a number of things, including the scandals that are consuming D.C., and then I want to get into education. But let me go first to the scandals. The IRS -- do you think a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate, or are you satisfied that Congress can do it alone or should both be doing it?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, obviously, you know, the situation with the IRS is very, very troubling. I don't care what party you're affiliated with in America, you don't expect that an incumbent president and his administration would use a neutral instrument like the tax enforcement agency, the IRS, to go about discriminating against political opponents. So it's a serious matter.

I know here in Richmond, we've had a Tea Party group that was targeted. You know, I've been in touch with them since the minute they realized that that was the case. And we've got to get to the bottom of this.

And I'm very proud of our committee chairmen and our members both on the Ways and Means Committee, Chairman [David] Camp, as well as Chairman [Darrell] Issa on the Oversight Committee, in the work that they're doing. And we will get to the bottom of this.

And it is about producing the answers, about what the American people deserve, and that is from the people who have conducted these investigations, why did they do it? Who gave them the orders to do so? When did everyone know? When did the White House know? And then in that way, we can make sure it does not happen again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Just from the first thing you said, I'm curious. Are you actually connecting the president to this scandal?

CANTOR: Well, I don't know what he knew and when he knew it. So he's got to come forward and lead on this. You know, he has given the impression that somehow, he's disconnected with what's gone on at the IRS, just like he's now saying he was disconnected with what's going on in Benghazi. He's disconnected with what's going on in the DOJ as far as its investigation of the national security leak. It seems that he is disconnected with the leadership and lost focus in terms of what he should be doing as far as leading the country.

So we've got to get to the bottom of this, and I do think the president's going to have to come forward and give the American people the answers that they deserve.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's already said that he didn't find out about it until about May 10th, when he read about it in the news. Number one, do you believe him on that? And number two, are you saying that that's simply not doing the job?

CANTOR: First of all, I just think we can let the facts speak for themselves. And that's why the work that our committees are doing and Chairman Camp and Issa and their members on those committees are doing is so important.

They're conducting the investigations in a way that are fact-based, without assuming anything, but knowing full well that the American people have a right to feel violated when you have the tax enforcement agency exacting punishment, discriminating against certain groups of people. We just don't do that in America.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I'm trying to understand, do you believe the president when he says he didn't learn about it until about May 10th, any of the IRS?

CANTOR: Again, I think that the question is -- is one that is appropriate. When did the president know? And what kind of communications came from the IRS to the White House or vice versa with all of this?

We don't even have the beginning of the answers to those questions, and that's what our committees are tasked with doing and doing a very good job at being very fact-based, very methodical about going about getting the answers for the people of this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Lois Learner, the IRS employee, took the 5th. Technically, I think she's still under subpoena. I don't think she's been discharged from her subpoena. They can always re -- they can also -- always re-subpoena her, if she was. But should she come back? Should she be brought back to the hearing, the committee, and answer questions?

CANTOR: You know, I think straight up, you know, Ms. Learner owes it to the American people to produce the answers, or she shouldn't be working for the American people. That simple. If someone cannot come forward and explain what it is that she did, I think that she shouldn't be working for the American people anymore. It's that simple.

VAN SUSTEREN: Department of Justice has started a criminal investigation. Do you think that's appropriate?

CANTOR: Well, look, national security is something, Greta, that all of us know is a priority. It's a constitutional imperative for the federal government to ensure, and that has to be dealt with.

On the other hand, I know that we very much are a country that values the freedom of the press. In fact, the press are the watchdogs as far as government activity is concerned to make sure that we, as people, can hold our government accountable. So I do think that there are questions that need to be resolved here, hopefully, that the investigation is ongoing at DOJ, will produce some results. I know that our committees, as well, are very interested in monitoring that situation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there's one -- there's one question sort of brewing out there, is whether or not the attorney general misled the House Judiciary Committee when he denied -- he said the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material is not something he was involved in or knew about. Now, he was -- it seemed he might have been asked about the Associated Press and it might not have been including the subpoena of James Rosen. I'm not exactly certain what he meant.

But do you have any reason to believe that the attorney general of the United States was misleading Congress?

CANTOR: Again, without imputing any of that intent right now, certainly we have a very troubling situation, and something that occurs as big as this would occur without the knowledge of the attorney general or the suggestion that it would do so.

So again, I think the facts are going to be able to speak for themselves. This is a very serious matter and one that, again, the American people deserve the answers that they seek.

And I would just say, Greta, once again, we have an administration that has lost focus on governing. And that is very problematic going forward on all of these issues.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The -- Chairman Issa has sent now a subpoena to the Department of Justice asking for -- and he gives a deadline of Friday, June 7th. It was actually sent to Secretary of State John Kerry -- to provide documents and communication of 10 personnel, including Cheryl Mills, counselor and chief of staff to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Victoria Nuland, who is a nominee for a new job, other people, William Burns, and of course, Beth Jones, acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs. He wants all these documents.

Do you agree with him that the documents should be forthcoming by the 7th of June? And has the State Department been dragging its feet?

CANTOR: Well, no question that there is some dragging of the feet going on here, and the American people have a right to know what exactly happened that night when Benghazi burned. And we need to find the answers as to who knew what when and what happened as far as the message that came after that from the administration.


VAN SUSTEREN: And we will have much more with Leader Cantor coming up in a few minutes.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's no secret. Education in this country is in deep trouble. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has a plan. Here's more of our interview with him.


VAN SUSTEREN: In the last two years, you have made at least 14 school visits in your district. You were going to do one today making life work and it got aborted because after problem at the school. Tell me, what are you doing about education?

CANTOR: Well, it's true, Greta. I'm very concerned and have made it a real passion and have made it a thing that I want to accomplish because it's such a passion as a parent to make sure that we can address that every child in this country is given a chance to succeed. That starts with education.

We were going to be at Patrick Henry Charter School here in Richmond today, and unfortunately a fire took place at the school. Hopefully we will do that visit next week. But it is just one of the many school visits that I have done not only here in Virginia, but throughout the country, to try and understands what we can do to help parents and their kids.

You know, I met a woman in New Orleans, her name is Essence. She says her daughter goes to the one of the charter schools or one of the private schools in New Orleans in part of their choice system. She said she would do anything to keep that daughter there.

We've got to, as a country, realize the building block of success, the ability of people to go out and earn that success and seize opportunities starts with education, and I'm hoping that over the next year and a half in Congress we can effect some of these reform ideas so that we can actually help people get about their life so we can continue to see growth in our country and our economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: What happened to our education system? We used to be number one in so many different areas. Now we've got parents who are just begging to get into charter schools and get out of the public school system. It seems like we really haven't identified. What in the world happened to our education system that all of a sudden we have slipped down below? If we identify the problem, I think it would be easier to fix it if we knew what happened.

CANTOR: Well, I think that sometimes -- you know, whenever you have sort of an establishment that sets in, and whether it's the, you know, the government unions, the teachers are belonging to or whether it is just a status quo mentality that you have to defend what is rather than try and instill some disruptive change so we can actually see results.

We are faced with a school system that's not meeting the needs of so many kids and their families today. And all of us would like to fix the entire system, but I think you do that by helping one child at a time. And the parents that I meet want more than anything control over the choice of where their child is best put in terms of a classroom.

One of the other areas is special needs. You know, I mean, all of us know parents with special needs children, whether it's autism or any other condition that children may have, we've got to help them.

If their needs are not being addressed by our local school system, we should make -- put in place reforms that allow dollars to follow the kids so that parents can be empowered and the ones that know best are those parents so that that child will have a quality education.


VAN SUSTEREN: And we have more with Leader Cantor. To see the rest of our interview just go to GretaWire.com.