OTR Interviews

Congressman: The fact that our president did literally nothing to help Tahmooressi makes me 'angrier than angry'

What led to the Marine's release from a Mexico prison after 7 months? How was his freedom finally brokered? #MarineHeldInMexico

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 3, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: It took a strong diplomatic push, not from Barack Obama, but several members of Congress to get Sergeant Tahmooressi freed.

Representatives Matt Salmon and Ed Royce rolled up their sleeves and helped secure the Marine's release. And they join us. Good evening.

REP. MATT SALMON, R-ARIZ.: Good evening.

REP. ED ROYCE, R-CALIF.: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Royce, first to you. Your thoughts tonight?

ROYCE: Well, this took far too long. But I'll tell you that one of the great things to see was this young man, to see Andrew there with Robert Buchanan, one of his fellow Marines who had been an officer.

As Robert testified at that hearing that we held, he said this is one of the bravest young Marines I've served with. They were both wounded in Afghanistan together. I think part of the support system, besides his family, besides those who served with him, are also -- all of the outpouring of support by those who served in the military and all Americans concerned about his fate. So I would say one of the great things about this experience was the number of people throughout the United States that were pushing for his release.

I should also mention Michael Veesy who helped us get him transferred from that first prison where things were so tough in Tijuana over to Taqanti. Myself and Matt Salmon visited him in Taqanti. Michael was pressing on the judge with the arguments that we had made, that I had made to the attorney general. He was in the courtroom every day, so we thank the consulate there in Tijuana for their support in this effort as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Salmon, how did he look to you? And the thing that's so tragic is that he is one of thousands who have PTSD. There's so many that we need to take care of. But how did he look to you?

SALMON: Well, when I first saw him coming across that parking lot in the airport, it looked like his feet didn't even touch the ground. He was ecstatic. And his mom, she was fit to be tied. She ran out to meet him, gave him a big hug. I thought Andrew looked exceptionally well for what he's been through.

But as Montel said just on the prior segment, he's got a long road ahead of him. Those of us who have been working with him have to be engaged to make sure he gets the care necessary. The time he spent in that Mexican prison, he told his mom that that was even more harrowing than his two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Greta, I also want to say, I got involved in this about six months ago and it was 100 percent because of your reporting. I didn't even know about it before watching it on your show. That's when I decided to get involved. And the first time I went to visit him in prison, I took that same drive that you took and I found exactly the same circumstances that you found. It could have happened to anybody.

Greta, I want you to know something. Even though this was a terrible, terrible situation, because of what you've done in bringing this to light with the American people, I saw a really good side of America. So many people coming together for a really good cause. And really because of the efforts I think largely of his mother and what you've done, we were able to get him out. I'm thankful to be able to play any part that I could.

VAN SUSTEREN: You raise a good point, because I can't tell you how many people signed that petition at the White House. There were emails. Marines were coming out of the woodwork, and other parts of the service coming out of the woodwork. Ollie North was talking about it, General Bob Scales, all these military people. They were scandalized that he was just sitting there. He's one of ours. And he volunteered to go to Afghanistan. And he was so hurt. And it was a turn anybody could have taken.

SALMON: To have that happen to an American hero is an unconscionable. But the fact that our president did literally nothing himself and the White House didn't extend any kind of hand to help him makes me angrier than angry. I went to the marriage of one of my staff in Texas about a month and a half ago. My wife and I decided to visit the Alamo. There's a guy standing there with a sign "Free our Marine."

No matter where I went across the country, people were emotionally engaged. Let's not forget this. And for those of us that are still able to be involved in Andrew's life, let's make sure that we now go the full distance. Now that he's out, that's half the battle. We still have a long way to go.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Royce, I'll give you the last word on this. I want to know, will the V.A. step up and do what it needs to do?

ROYCE: They really must step up now. I think there's going to be a lot of attention from Congress on this issue. We held those hearings in order to bring pressure. We went down there and had these meetings in Mexico and talked to every public official.

But I should remind you, Greta, Andrew was facing 21 years under their laws. That's what he was charged with. You covered well the conditions in that first prison in Tijuana before we were able to get him moved. I think, at this point, the focus of -- so many supporters are behind Andrew. As I said earlier, he's got a great support network. But I know he's looking forward to telling his own story. I know that he wants to share his feelings about this. And I know he's going to have the opportunity to do so. Those of us that have been inspired by what he did to defend this country in his two tours in Afghanistan and by just the stamina that he's shown through this last seven months, we're behind him and we're rooting for him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. Let me just again say to all the viewers out there, thanks very much, because you put the wind behind everybody's sail. The viewers were absolutely terrific. The tweets, everything. So the American people, wow, what a great job they did for this guy. Thank you.

Congressman, thank you. We're going to look forward to hearing from him. The American people do want to hear from him because they're worried about him. Thank you for joining us.

ROYCE: Thank you, Greta.

SALMON: Thank you.