'Fast and Furious': A puzzling, frustrating quest to find out who authorized the botched-gun-walking operation

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: A fiery showdown over Operation Fast and Furious. And today on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Eric Holder vigorously denying a Justice Department cover-up, and Republican lawmakers firing back accusations of stonewalling and incompetence.

Here's part of that contentious hearing on the botched gun-running investigation.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Allowing guns to walk, whether in this administration or the prior one, is wholly unacceptable. I'm determined to ensure that our shared concerns about these flawed law enforcement operations lead to more than worn-out Washington gotcha games and cynical finger pointing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find out you've not fired a single individual. We find out that you have not rebuked any staff members. Heck, you haven't even put a letter in people's personnel file saying that they -- they -- on their watch, acted and an agent was murdered. That is absolutely absurd from this side of the dais!

HOLDER: We're still in the process of trying to determine -- the inspector general is trying to determine where this policy originated.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Darrell Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Good evening, Greta. Thanks for covering this important hearing.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I -- this is what I don't get. I have three questions. Who authorized it? Is that person still working in the government? And how high up this went. Did you ask those three questions, and have you gotten those three answers?

ISSA: We did ask those three questions, and this was the first hearing -- even though he's appeared before Congress and winged questions in the past, this is the first hearing that was specifically about Fast and Furious and only Fast and Furious.

What we know is that Eric Holder absolutely says he didn't know and he didn't authorize it. We know that Lanny Breuer, one of his chief deputies, clearly was at the center of it. And as we're getting discovery, we're knowing more of what he did, and also, even what he did as late as February 4th. The day they were denying gun-walking, he was in Mexico lobbying for what on paper looks like the same operation.

But Greta, we don't have all the facts and we don't yet have -- although the attorney general has assured us he has the same goal we have, we don't yet have the protective measures that are going to ensure that this type of operation can never happen again.

And I think that's what Brian Terry's family wants. They can't bring Border Patrol Agent Terry back, but they can certainly see that people at the center of this lose their jobs or are appropriately punished, and in fact, that steps are taken so this can't happen again.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I -- if I were this border patrol agent's family, I would be so enraged, and I think every American should be enraged at the slow pace to get the information. It's now been 13 months. It really isn't that difficult to find out who did it, who authorized it, and whether that person is still there. And the idea that this family has to continue to suffer and we Americans have to sit and watch this go down without any information is absolutely appalling, Congressman! I don't -- I just don't understand why that answer shouldn't have been available a year ago. This is 13 months late.

ISSA: Well, and this is one of the areas in which we have a serious disagreement with the attorney general. He's waited 12 months for an investigation that's still ongoing. He has mentioned the actions done locally, but he hasn't found anybody close to him, people that are there in Washington. And we would think that he could.

He did assure us today that there were more that could come. But I think for the Terry family that are now a year into it, that haven't seen the kinds of prosecutions of the people related to their son's death and their family member's death, and they're obviously disappointed that the attorney general didn't act quickly to actually, if you will, get to the bottom of it -- maybe, maybe in the next few -- six or eight weeks, as the attorney general alluded to, we'll begin to see real progress.

Obviously, my committee will continue doing what we should do. Hopefully, the IG will wrap up her investigation. But this is one of the problems in Washington...

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Congressman...

ISSA: ... is the speed is too slow.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- I mean, you know what? It doesn't have to be. You know, if the IG can't move on this, get rid of that IG. Get someone who will get the investigation. The attorney general says he didn't authorize it. Well, did someone above him authorize it? Did someone at the White House authorize it? Did someone below him authorize it?

It really simply isn't that difficult! It really isn't! And this family has suffered, and I appreciate Congress trying to get this, but you know what? I think Congress should push this harder. You know, this is -- I know you guys have been trying, but this is just so bizarre, and it doesn't look any better, any prettier every single day when more information is not forthcoming! If you -- an investigation -- if it can't -- if the IG can't get it, get rid of her and get someone who can get the information!

ISSA: Well, you're right. And Greta, I opened up very tough on the attorney general, made it very clear that the information that I believe Congress has a right to, if I can't get it and get it soon, we will go through the contempt procedure, which we don't like doing. But we obviously do feel that with the IG seeing 80,000 documents and us seeing 6,000 documents, almost half of which have nothing to do directly with Fast and Furious as an operation, that we feel we're not getting the level of cooperation we should get.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why not -- why not just call...

ISSA: And as you know...

VAN SUSTEREN: Subpoena each one before Congress! Forget the documents! Just put everyone under oath and say, Did you do it? And keep going up the chain of command and you get, No, no, no, no, no. Eventually, we get yes, or if it turns out you don't get a yes but then the documents later show someone is lying, you have yourself another situation!

ISSA: You know, you're a skilled attorney and you get it. One of the things that our investigators did is when they got to Patrick Cunningham, he took the 5th. We're now exploring -- the attorney general, to his credit, said that he would consider it -- we're now exploring a limited use protection, you know, so that -- or in fact, he can't claim the 5th. Right now, we're very, very concerned.

As soon as we read through the documents that we expect them to deliver, we're going to explore how we get testimony from this individual. And if we can't, we already have scheduled both above and below him the kinds of additional depositions so we can bracket why it is that a high- ranking career professional in charge of prosecutions for all of Arizona, is taking the 5th and leaving government.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, I hope you're not satisfied with simply the answer by the attorney general that he didn't authorize it. It's whether he knows who did it and who knew about it because, you know, these are just grossly incomplete answers. And Congressman, I'm going to take the last word on that. Thank you, sir.

ISSA: Thank you, Greta.