Back on the Griddle

This partial transcript of Fox News Sunday, May 13, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

TONY SNOW, HOST: The late release of documents in the McVeigh case was the most
recent example of problems for the FBI. With us to discuss that story and more are Senators Arlen Specter and John Edwards.

Senator Specter, one of your colleagues, Senator Charles Grassley, has been arguing in recent days that present FBI director Louis Freeh has been at error because he's refused to challenge what Senator Grassley refers to as the "cowboy culture" at the FBI. Do you agree?

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I think that there is a cultural problem at the FBI, but I think that FBI director Freeh has been tackling it.

The FBI is a tough organization to manage, as vast as it is, and what I think we need to do is to have a lot more active congressional and Senate oversight.

Earlier on your program, there was a comment about disciplining somebody if it was found that the evidence as to McVeigh was deliberately withheld. I would say discipline is the wrong item. There ought to be a criminal prosecution for obstruction of justice, and we really ought to be tough if we can prove that this evidence was withheld deliberately.

SNOW: Senator Edwards, it has been argued that millions of pages were produced in 46 different offices, misplaced a little bit here, a little bit there. Do you think this thing is overstated or is this a huge problem for the FBI?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, the standard, Tony, that's been set by the United States Supreme Court is in order for this kind of information that's discovered later, like this information has been discovered, and not turned over, to have any impact, it has to be probable that it would have changed the outcome of the case.

So I think we have two questions: Number one, what is the likelihood that this evidence would have any impact on the outcome of the case? I think based upon what we know right now, it seems very unlikely, particularly given the fact that McVeigh has confessed to this terrorist act.

The second question is, is there a problem at the FBI, a systemic problem? Or is this just an isolated incident? And that's something I think we need to take a look at. I agree with Arlen on that.

SNOW: Now Senator Specter, when you're talking about increased senatorial oversight, congressional oversight, what do you mean? Are you prepared to start calling in key people in the FBI right now and pretty much putting the screws on them to fire people or to start impaneling grand juries if you think somebody has deliberately withheld evidence?

SPECTER: Absolutely, Tony. When I chaired the subcommittee looking into Wen Ho Lee, they withheld a lot of evidence. We had the Danforth report recently saying that there was evidence of misconduct on the FBI. They had delayed turning over evidence of pyrotechnical devices being used at Waco. There have been a whole series of instances.

We're very busy in the Senate with many, many things, but I think that now the problems have risen to such a level that we really have to be tough about it.

When I was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I found that even the director couldn't find out what was going on at the lower levels. It's been described, the FBI has been, as a fiefdom. I think that applies to other federal agencies as well.

And there are a lot of people, individuals in the Bureau and other federal agencies who make up their mind about what the result ought to be, what's best, what ought to be disclosed, what ought to be concealed. And I think Congress is probably the only agency which has the authority to get to the bottom of it. And if we find deliberate concealment, that's
obstruction of justice and people ought to go to jail.

SNOW: Senator Specter, let me make a turn to things that are before you in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A number of key administration appointments remain unfilled, one of those, Solicitor General-designate Ted Olson. Are you going to vote for him?

SPECTER: Probably. There have about some recent allegations made which I think warrant a look. People have said that Ted Olson did not testify truthfully at a hearing that I attended a few weeks back. That's a serious charge. I don't see at the moment any basis for it, but I think, being a member of the committee, I have a duty to take a close look at it. But on the current record, I think there's a high probability that Olson should be and will be confirmed.

SNOW: Senator Edwards, let me paint a worst-case scenario. Suppose Ted Olson wasn't entirely forthcoming. I know you're not on the committee, but you're a member of the Senate. You voted against convicting President Clinton on charges of lying to a court. Why would a different standard apply to Ted Olson than to Bill Clinton?

EDWARDS: Well, I think the question is -- Tony, we can't look at this in the abstract. We have to look -- if in fact, it turns out -- and we certainly don't know this yet. But if in fact it turns out that Ted Olson gave some testimony that was in some degree not completely accurate or untruthful, I think you have to evaluate it against the truth. And we have to, in fact, know what it is that he said that was inaccurate.

SNOW: Michael Shaheen, who used to be head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, actually conducted a study of this, independently of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, but did present it as part of that, and gave Ted Olson and everybody a clean bill of health. Why
do we need to revisit it, Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: Well, because I think we've gotten some indication in recent weeks -- and Arlen's on the committee; he's been more intimately involved in this than I have. But we've gotten some indication that there's inconsistency in some of the answers that Ted Olson has given. I just think we have a fiduciary responsibility to determine what in fact the truth is and how his testimony is compares with the truth.

SNOW: Senator Edwards, you've placed a hold on one of the president's nominees for the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Is there anything in the nominee's background that you think would disqualify him from being a competent trial judge?

EDWARDS: Actually, Tony, I haven't placed a hold on anything or anybody. We're still waiting to get information and all the paperwork from the White House about this particular judge. No, actually, what I'm doing is working very hard and closely with the White House to try to find competent people to go on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals from North Carolina. I think it's very important for us do that.

SNOW: We're speaking of Terrence Boyle, and what you're saying is that you haven't put a hold, so that may have been misreported.

But isn't it also true that what you're saying is the president needs to be appointing somebody you want? Would that be a Democrat, or would you accept a Republican, particularly an African-American Republican, for the Fourth Circuit?

EDWARDS: Well, I think, first of all, we're open-minded. What's happened is, for a period of about eight years, all the nominations to the Fourth Circuit from the state of North Carolina were blocked. They didn't get a hearing, and they didn't get a vote. And I just think we just need a process now that takes that into account.

But I think it's very important, Tony, that it be a constructive process, that we find a positive way to do this. It's why I've been talking to Judge Gonzales in the White House on an ongoing basis. I think there's a real possibility of us doing this.

I think we need to find good, competent, impartial, fair-minded judges to go on the Fourth Circuit, and I very much want North Carolina to be represented on that court.

SNOW: Senator Specter, would you characterize, as Senator Edwards just has, what's gone in your committee as constructive?

SPECTER: No, I think what's going on in the Judiciary Committee at the moment is very unsenatorial, and I have to say it applies to both parties.

There's a Judge Boyle who the president has nominated for the Fourth Circuit, where some questions have been raised by the Democrats. Boyle was a nominee of President Bush in 1991. And at that time he couldn't get a hearing from the Judiciary Committee controlled by the Democrats. I believe that Senator Edwards raises a good point about what's happened in the past in the Fourth Circuit. There was a Judge Gregory who didn't get a hearing by the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee. I thought he should have and wrote the chairman to that effect. And then the president, in a very unusual way -- President Clinton gave him an interim appointment. And now, to his credit, President Bush has nominated Judge Gregory for lifetime tenure.

What I think we have to do, Tony, is work it out in a constructive way like John Edwards says. The blue slips, which I'm not going to get into now because you don't have enough time...


SPECTER: ... are an anachronism.

If somebody has an objection to a specific judge, let's hear what it is on the merits. Senator Edwards is right. We ought to have balance, and we ought to have ethnic and racial diversity. And we ought to start acting a little more senatorial on the Judiciary Committee and, for that matter, in the entire Senate, in my opinion.

SNOW: All right. Senators Arlen Specter and John Edwards, thanks for joining us.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Tony.

SPECTER: Thank you.

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