'Fast & Furious': Bad law enforcement and a fundamental frustration in finding answers

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Attorney General Eric Holder calling Operation "Fast and Furious" bad law enforcement and fundamentally flawed, Attorney General Holder appearing frustrated while testifying before the House Appropriations Committee.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Once this was brought to my attention, I stopped it. I stopped it. In spite of what other attorneys general might have done with briefings that they got, when this attorney general heard about these practices, I said to the men and women of the United States Department of Justice, to the field, to people at main Justice, This ain't going to be the way we conduct business. Stop it.


VAN SUSTEREN: So what does Congress think of the attorney general's latest testimony? Chairman Darrell Issa is chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. We spoke with him a short time ago.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, nice to see you see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, attorney...

ISSA: We're working -- we're working on that -- we're working on that issue by the way, and we think it's going to be a good one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Great. Well, what I want to talk tonight is about Attorney General Holder, who said that when he heard of "Fast and Furious," that he stopped it. Is that the question you have for him? and are you getting the answers to the questions you want from him?

ISSA: Well, Greta, as you know the -- Attorney General Holder didn't hear about until very late, long after people like Lanny Breuer had known about it, orchestrated it, been involved in it.

So you know, our investigation has always been to make sure we find out who was responsible and how to stop it. But as you also know, Eric Holder, although he said this was fundamentally flawed in his testimony before appropriations, he really implied that you could do the same thing better. And Lanny Breuer on February 4th, the same thing we were getting a document that said they never let guns walk, was in Mexico trying to negotiate a new gun-walking program.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well this is getting really insane because Lanny Breuer is high enough in the Justice Department, he probably could have stopped it himself or he could have walked five feet into Attorney General's Holder's office and told him about it much earlier. That's the first problem.

The second problem is that Attorney General Holder has been up on Capitol Hill, and it seemed to me to basically two lines of questions. Who is the highest-ranked person in the government who authorized "Fast and Furious"? That's the first question. And then secondly, who's the highest-ranked person in the government, whether it be at the attorney general level or even someone over at the White House, who knew about it while it was going on?

Do you ever get those answers?

ISSA: No, we don't. But we suspect a great many of them are located in the 74,000 documents we've been denied. As you know, there has been 80,000 documents requested and delivered to their own inspector general, but we've received less than 6,000.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but don't -- I mean, but -- but forget the documents. He's -- he's there. Why doesn't someone just ask him the question? And if he says, I don't know, then you say, Well, you know, isn't it your job to know, sir? Don't you run the Justice Department? Why don't you go down the street and come back in an hour with the answer?

ISSA: Well, you know, up and -- and that is the answer we want. Up and down the dais, all the way down to Ann Marie Buerkle, those were the kinds of questions that we asked when he was before our committee that one time.

But we do intend to get those answers. We've been promised by the attorney general further cooperation. We recently granted him an extension, well past the expiration of the subpoena, in hopes that we will be able to avoid any further action and be able to get cooperation.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, but this has been ... I mean, an extension -- he really doesn't -- you know, look, I practiced law for years. I've done investigations. It doesn't take forever to get answers to some questions. That one seems reasonably simple.

But the reason why dragging this on is so painful to the family of the agent who was killed, the border agent, and to many Americans, is because whoever made the really dumb decision to go forward with Fast and Furious may still be in the federal government, making more dumb decisions! And we just need to get that person out of that position! And the longer this gets dragged on, that person's in a position to do other stupid things!

ISSA: Well, exactly. And the highest-ranking person who we know was involved, who had a role was Patrick Cunningham. He's resigned and said that he intends to take the 5th. So we go up to a point, but as we -- as the evidence we have shows, Lanny Breuer needs to really answer fully about what he knew, when he knew it and why, with the evidence we know that he knew a lot earlier, he didn't recognize that this was as deeply flawed as his boss said it was the moment he saw it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, do you -- let me ask you just one more question.

ISSA: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you put the question to Attorney General Holder, Did you, sir, authorize "Fast and Furious"? Do you -- have you put that to him?

ISSA: We have, and he said he did not. Additionally, he said he did not know about it to the famous few weeks, few months answer. We take the attorney general at his word. The problem we have is we can't take that this is finished. We have to see it to its conclusion, and the conclusion has to be, on behalf of Brian Terry's family, those responsible losing their jobs. But more importantly, we need to make sure this can never happen again, and that assurance is a long way from being granted.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, if he didn't authorize it, does he tell you who did? And does he tell you whether or not anyone, for instance, I don't know, at the White House knew about it? Because there's -- this whole investigation is -- like, it seems like an awful lot of dodging, you know, only because I don't hear the straight answers. There may be a good explanation, but I don't hear them!

ISSA: Well, straight answers have been hard to get. We have had some denials, limited, but some denials about what the president would have been told or not told. We've been told he didn't know.

Unfortunately, we've also had executive privilege claimed more broadly than ever in history. They're essentially saying work product about -- to be honest about whether to tell us the truth or not and how they felt about our investigation and what cover-up may have gone on -- that's all being considered executive privilege. It's one of the areas that we have to get those documents because we have a right to know who orchestrated telling us a lie in the February 4th document.

And more importantly, we've got to hold people accountable. The public understands that. Attorney General Holder, when he said our hearing was fair, was also admitting that people have to be held accountable. He just said he's waiting for the IG's report. We are, too, but we have to at the same time pursue the investigation we've been doing, hopefully, to a close very soon.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir.

ISSA: Thank you, Greta.