Obama's New Headache

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 18, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama has a new headache. Seven men, both Democrats and Republicans, who served as director of central intelligence, or CIA director, have joined together telling the president he needs to do something. All seven men signed a letter to the president.

They write in part, "We respectfully urge you to exercise your authority to reverse Attorney General Holder's August 24th decision to reopen the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations that took place following the attacks of September 11."

The seven former directors say the investigation has been done and that another investigation will damage the willingness of intelligence officers to take risks to protect our country. Now, the Department of Justice released a statement today saying, in part, "The attorney general's decision to order a preliminary review into this matter was made in line with his duty to examine the facts and to follow the law."

Moments ago, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went "On the Record."


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


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the president got a letter from some former directors of the CIA and other intelligence officials today. Apparently, doesn't want -- he wants them (SIC) to tell the attorney general not to go forward with the investigation.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think if you represent the American intelligence community, the idea that -- as this letter points out, the CIA reviewed these cases. The Justice Department career professionals reviewed these cases. Everybody involved, with one exception, was told that they had done the right thing. One person was, in fact, found guilty. And then they were told it was over.

Now you got a new administration, a new attorney general. He wants to open up all these cases that have been closed. The first thing that does is it creates a double jeopardy for these people. The second thing it does is it sends a signal to every intelligence officer in the world there's no safety, there's no security. Doesn't matter what the lawyer told you because the next lawyer under the next president could reverse it. And I think it causes enormous damage to our ability to run intelligence operations around the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, as a technical matter, it's not double jeopardy. I know in theory it is, but not as a technical matter it doesn't because they haven't started a trial (INAUDIBLE) start over. But the thing that I found interesting in the letter was not only the sort of the cost to these people -- and the CIA said it would pick up the cost for their legal costs -- but that it would send a message to foreign intelligence agencies with whom we want information that we may not be able to keep things secret. And so...

GINGRICH: This is...

VAN SUSTEREN: So the international cooperation is something I hadn't thought about.

GINGRICH: This is a continuing problem. Back in the Carter years, there were so many leaks that they literally -- various foreign intelligence services just cut us off. They wouldn't share things because they didn't want some American congressman releasing who their agent was and getting their agent killed. And it's a very -- when you're a foreign government and you watch the kind of political manipulation we get involved in with our intelligence community, you begin to think, Maybe I shouldn't cooperate with the Americans.

And people need to understand, you know, this is a dangerous world. There are people who want to kill us. And we can either send the signal that we want Americans to protect us or we can send a signal that we want Americans to worry about lawyers and not protect us. But there's no middle ground on this one.

VAN SUSTEREN: It puts the current director in sort of an unusual position because on one hand, he supports the administration. On the other hand, he supports sort of the sentiment within the CIA that this investigation should not go forward.

GINGRICH: Well, I give Leon Panetta a lot of credit. He has been pretty courageous in speaking up in defense of the CIA both when Speaker Pelosi said things and when the attorney general has. And my impression is that there have been some very strong arguments at the White House.

But your point's right in the end. The current director is operating within the framework of the president's approval and he has to accept the president or resign. I think it's very telling that you had a number of CIA directors with 35 years' experience, both Democrats and Republicans, who have now publicly said to the president that it's his duty as commander-in-chief to step in and instruct his attorney general not to pursue this. And I think this is a real test for President Obama of whether he puts protecting America first or he puts appeasing his allies on the left first because it's a very clear choice.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think is going to happen? I mean -- I mean, there -- there are people in the far left side of his party that are going to be extraordinarily unhappy with him if there isn't a full and complete investigation done by his administration.

GINGRICH: Well, I would like to believe that the same concern for national security that led him to appoint Marine four-star general Jim Jones to be national security adviser, that has led him to take a pretty courageous position on Afghanistan -- that that same concern for security will lead him to come down on the side of the intelligence community and issue instructions to his attorney general.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, ACORN -- the scandal is blowing up all around us here in Washington. Actually, it's interesting. It took two young people to sort -- to sort of get this one rolling.

GINGRICH: This is, I think, one of the most amazing stories. These two young people -- I guess they'd watched "Borat" or something, and they decided, You know, why don't we go out and pretend -- I'll pretend I'm a pimp and you pretend you're a prostitute. We'll go in and we'll say to the local ACORN federal government-paid employees, How do you think we might turn part of the public housing project into a ring of prostitution so we could make money so we could run for office? And in 9 out of 10 cities, people said, Well, let me share with you how to do this.

And we've only seen the tip of this iceberg. It's going to keep coming. We're going to learn more and more. And what it's done is it's suddenly focused attention on an organization which in 12 states is under investigation for breaking the law. And now when you see it on TV and you hear these people talk and you realize this is your tax money going to an organization which was hiring people who were willing to plan and condone criminal behavior.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me put another dimension on it. What in the world is Congress doing? I mean, they're just handing money out. Aren't they following through and looking to see where this money is going, where it's being spent? I mean, it's just -- I mean, there's millions and millions of dollars just sort of flooding out of Congress of taxpayers. Is there no accountability? I mean, don't they ever check to see what's happens?



GINGRICH: No. In fact, one of the things that Congressman Darrell Issa has done is he's demanding that the federal government audit all the money paid to ACORN over the last five years. Even after they released a video in which the one young actress says, Do you think it matters if I bring in illegal El Salvadorans who are between 12 and 15 to be prostitutes, and the person from ACORN, being paid by the government, says, Oh, no, you don't have to pay any taxes on them. Don't worry about it -- I mean, even after that, there were still 75 Democrats in the House who voted to keep funding ACORN.

VAN SUSTEREN: Including Senator Durbin, who is -- who is in the Senate leadership...

GINGRICH: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... voting to fund it.

GINGRICH: I mean, you have to wonder what they're thinking of.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, the -- I put a -- I posted a video on Gretawire today that was taken from another network, an interview with the CEO, and her complaint part of it was that she was complaining about FOX News. And when I sat and watched this, and I thought, you know, if I were the CEO of ACORN, I wouldn't be squawking about those mean old rotten people at FOX News. I would think, How can I clean up my organization? How can I apologize to taxpayers? How can I do something to make sure they have the confidence -- because there is some good work that ACORN does, and now the entire group is tarnished.

GINGRICH: Well, but that's -- that's part of the challenge is that they've had a very long tradition of breaking the law. They've had a very long tradition, for example, of occupying people's houses. They've had a very long tradition of doing things in terms of voter registration that got them indicted. And all of this is coming to bear. But now it is so vivid in this series -- it's really quite remarkable. And I give Andrew Breitbart and Big Hollywood a lot of credit for having helped launch this, and I think that the two young people who went out and did the filming are just amazing. They have a long career ahead of them doing stuff.

VAN SUSTEREN: And -- and the people who, you know, have shame on them is the United States Congress and even -- and those who still won't defund them pending an investigation and those who are still defending them. And it's not to say that -- they certainly are not all crooks but at least stand tall and stand tough on this one with the millions of dollars.

GINGRICH: Yes. And it's interesting, though. John Boehner, the Republican leader, introduced a bill to defund them totally, and I think to everybody's surprise, that bill was accepted as a motion to recommit and voted on and passed by a big margin. And so both in the House and the Senate now, they have voted to defund ACORN within a week of these things coming out. And it's an interesting example that sometimes things tilt, and all of a sudden, people start reacting to the new information.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next: Is Congress lazy? You'll find out. More with Speaker Gingrich next.

Plus: The Iranian president, who arrives in New York in a few days -- he just did it again. He said the Holocaust just didn't happen. Why is he doing this? And what is going to happen when the Iranian president does come to U.S. soil next week? Ambassador John Bolton is here in a few minutes.


VAN SUSTEREN: We spoke to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich about your money being wasted and the funding that ACORN received before the undercover video scandal.


VAN SUSTEREN: When I read about this and find out that Congress is -- you know, they just write the checks and just run and don't look the other way, apparently, is that then I think about the Medicare fraud and the health care reform. And I think, you know, it's, like -- you know, at what point -- is no one monitoring it? I mean...

GINGRICH: And of course...


GINGRICH: You had last night Jim Frogue at our Center for Health Transformation, who just wrote "Stop Paying the Crooks," and he'll tell you we have tried to get the committees to hold hearings on fraud, and they don't want to do it. And...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? I mean, like, wouldn't you want to be a hero and say, Look, I discovered all this fraud, you know, there's a -- you know, We'll take this fraud and we'll help these people here who really need it?

GINGRICH: No. You may...

VAN SUSTEREN: Wouldn't you think they'd be proud of that?

GINGRICH: You may want to ask Chairman Waxman why he doesn't want to hold hearings. But I think part of it is the psychological of liberal Democrats, who love big government. They don't want to confront it when it's corrupt. They don't want people to think badly about big government. And so as a result, they don't go out and find out what -- why...


GINGRICH: ... why are we having, we think, between $70 and $120 billion a year stolen from the taxpayer in Medicare and Medicaid.

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I disagree with you. I think that there are a lot of Democrats that would love find fraud and be the big hero and ride in on the white horse. I think it's being lazy and it's by just not caring. I think it's about focusing on other things.

GINGRICH: We'll do -- we'll do most of the work for them if they're willing to hold the hearings. They don't have to do much work.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you think they won't even...

GINGRICH: If we can bring...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... hold the hearings.

GINGRICH: So far, at least, Chairman Waxman's refused to hold the hearings.

VAN SUSTEREN: What does he say? I mean, what's his explanation?

GINGRICH: They just say, It's not in our -- it's not -- we're not interested.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- how can he not be interested?

GINGRICH: Well, invite him on the show. Ask him why he won't do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll call him and ask him, you know, why -- why -- I'll ask him. I'll -- I'll find out. He probably wouldn't come on the show and (INAUDIBLE) but I'd like to -- I'd like to know.

GINGRICH: Yes. I think -- I think it's...

VAN SUSTEREN: Because my...


VAN SUSTEREN: If we're going to be spending billions in stimulus and we need to fix the economy, there's got to be some way -- the American people have to have some confidence that the money is really arriving at its destination. And when you read about ACORN and you read about Medicare fraud, it's terribly distressing.

GINGRICH: But remember, this is a Congress in which the Democrats passed the stimulus bill without having read it. So it's pretty hard to ask them to go find out where the money went...

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- but...

GINGRICH: ... when they voted for the money before they even knew where it was going.

VAN SUSTEREN: With all due respect, some of this ACORN money was also being handed out during the Republican Congress. So this is not necessarily -- I mean, the Republicans can't -- you know, they can't hold their head high on this one, either.

GINGRICH: Well, I think most of the Republicans voted no on the ACORN money last year.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but once it's funded, they could still follow through. When they -- when they had -- when they had the majority, they still could have checked up on it.

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) I'd be curious to know how much ACORN money they got under Republicans. That's a good question.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Missile defense -- the president has changed up, at least on the sort of long-range missile defense. Czechoslovakia and -- the Czech Republic, rather, and -- and the Poles are not particularly pleased with this.

GINGRICH: You know, it's very strange. The Obama administration picked, I'm sure by sheer ignorance, the date that was the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union stabbing Poland in the back in 1939. And in Poland, there's this permanent sense of insecurity because they got Russia on one side, Germany on the other, and I think they regard this as a very bad and a very troubling decision.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did -- the president said because the technology wasn't there in terms of Iran doesn't have the long-range missiles, they have the shorter ones, so we needed something that sort of met that problem. You don't buy that? Do you think it was an effort just to keep the Russians happy?

GINGRICH: Look, let me say first of all I think that it's totally wrong to be defending against Iranian missiles because I don't think we should have a strategy of allowing the Iranians to have the missiles. So...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't care whether they have middle -- medium, short, long...

GINGRICH: I think we should make sure they have no nuclear weapons and we should do whatever it takes to make sure they have no nuclear weapons. But I think, symbolically -- you know, the Russians came out within an hour and said, This does not mean anything, we're not going to give you any concessions, don't think it makes us happy, this was an American mistakes and we're glad you corrected your own mistake. I mean, they were really almost nasty to the president in a way that I didn't find -- I didn't understand what was going on.

I think the Obama administration wanted to kill the deal. I think it was ideological. I think it has nothing to do with any strategy they've thought through. And I think the next question is going to be, So are they going to sell the next generation Patriot missiles to Poland? Are they going to sell other military -- I mean, are we going to do things so Poland feels protected, or is this the beginning of leaving Poland abandoned and the Czech Republic abandoned? I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, even if -- even if the President Obama administration wanted to get rid of this program anyway, you would have thought that they would at least, and maybe they did, leverage it a little bit and say to Russia, OK, we're going to get rid of it, but we need your help with Iran.

GINGRICH: Well, you would have thought that there was a way to do that, but they didn't, apparently.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do we know they didn't do that, or is it just...

GINGRICH: The Russians were very publicly blunt about it. They said, This involves no deal, no quid pro quo, that this does not require us to do anything, this was an American decision to fix an American mistake. I mean, I was surprised how blunt and direct they were.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I wonder if the president was surprised.

GINGRICH: I suspect he was disappointed. I mean, it's almost like they went out of their way to be mean to him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, next week, we'll have a lot of people meeting in New York, a lot of countries. It'll be interesting to see the dynamics.

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) it's going to be fascinating. It's the first time an American president has ever chaired a National Security Council meeting -- I mean, a U.N. Security Council meeting. So it'll be interesting to see what happens.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you for joining us.



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