Mitt Romney joins calls for VA Secretary Shinseki's resignation

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," May 28, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Breaking tonight, a rare prime time showdown in Washington after a devastating new report on how this administration is failing our veterans with some sometimes deadly results.

Good evening and welcome, everyone, to "The Kelly File." I'm Megyn Kelly. It is 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. on the West Coast. And these are live pictures as some members of Congress are still in a highly charged hearing. The Veterans Affairs Committee is angrily looking for answers tonight after hours ago the VA inspector general confirmed in a preliminary report that 1,700 veterans seeking, needing medical care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center alone were waiting for care but not on any real waiting list. No one really cared. They were suffering excruciating long delays in medical treatment, sometimes over 100 days waiting months and months for one appointment with the government agency they served.

And it's not just Phoenix. The problems according to the IG are systemic throughout the VA Medical System. In fact, the investigation has now expanded from looking into 26 facilities nationwide to looking at 42 facilities nationwide -- 42 -- where there is not just long delays, but they're mismanaging the numbers.

Tonight, VA Secretary General Eric Shinseki and others are professing outrage, really? They have known about these very issues for more than a decade. That's not opinion, that's fact. IG reports previous ones, government accountability reports, Congressional testimony, all raised the alarm on these specific issues. The very ones that they are so outraged about tonight, for years, multiple administrations including this White House have failed to address it. And the law, the judges used to call that willful blindness. Here is a little of what we've seen unfold on Capitol Hill in just the last hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I will not stand for a department cover-up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I know that VA is withholding documents relating to at least three relevant communications.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Let me be clear, I'm not happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can expect us to be over your shoulder every single day.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Let me give you a little hint, VA won't tell you the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who authorized the destruction of the list?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I'm not sure, sir, who authorized the destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Why didn't you tell us about the IG investigation and that no facts, instead of just, you know, ignoring us?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Before I question the witnesses, I first miss call for the resignation of Secretary Shinseki.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have a real problem with broken trust.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Congressman, we appear this evening in good faith to answer the best course of action is the one that best serves the needs of our veterans.


KELLY: In the meantime as calls for Secretary Shinseki to resign grow from both sides of the aisle, veterans themselves are starting to demand an apology directly from the commander-in-chief.

President Obama spoke today at West Point promising to send money overseas to fight terrorism, but failing to even mention the VA disgrace.

TV host Montel Williams served in the Marines and did not hold back in an interview with our own Neil Cavuto just a few hours ago.


MONTEL WILLIAMS, MILITARY VETERAN AND FORMER RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The president just promised $5 billion for terrorists? Where in the world at West Point? Where he could have used a day to say I'm sorry for the pain that I've caused you, the families, and I'm going to fix it today.


KELLY: Joining us now, Governor Mitt Romney, former Republican candidate for president in 2012. Governor, good to see you tonight. Your thoughts whether in the wake of what we've seen today -- I'll start first with President Obama -- the commander-in-chief owes these veterans an apology.

MITT ROMNEY, RFORMER 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, there is no question but the president has not over seen the VA and several other institutions of our federal government in the way that it is expected. There is not been a level of competency with regards to ObamaCare, with regards to the VA, with regards to the IRS and people have to be held accountable, and the president needs to take responsibility for his failures and in a case of General Shinseki, he needs to be removed. He either should resign or be should be replaced by the president in many respects. It would be nice to drill him over the coming weeks and months to find out exactly what he knew and why he wasn't doing the job he was put in place to do. We really don't have time to have someone to take that position any longer that's been there. We need to have someone new who will take responsibility for fixing what has been an unbelievable mess and a tragedy for so many people.

KELLY: Really? So, you are calling for General Shinseki to step down or be fired tonight?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. He's not demonstrated the kind of leadership that you would hope to see in a circumstance of this nature.

Look, when you have a major hospital network like the VA system, you expect it to have benchmarks and investigations looking at each aspect of how the hospital is run comparing, it with public and private hospitals outside the military system and to be able to identify problems before they become as acute and serious and chronic in respects as you're seeing here. That hasn't been done apparently, and as a result, you really need to have a new leader who knows how to manage something of this nature.

KELLY: What does it say to you as a former chief executive, a man who's run not only a state but businesses, successful businesses, that this has gone on for so long, inspector general reports repeatedly over the years, a General Accounting office report in 2012 highlighting all of these various same issues. They passed a law in Congress which President Obama signed trying to address some of these issues, none of which got addressed. The VA spokesman not even heard of the law. What does it say to you about how the lemonade stand, if you will, is being run?

ROMNEY: Well, there are two things that come out when I look at the scandal at the VA. One is that there were clearly not the kinds of measures that you would have in a public hospital or a private hospital that was run outside the VA system. They have to have measures to compare themselves, benchmark them with others that flag problems and correct them before they become serious. That's number one. But number two, the VA system really doesn't have a competitor.

Hospitals on the outside compete with each other are looking for ways to improve. The VA system basically is the only place that some of our veterans can go. I think Charles Krauthammer was right when he says, look, veterans ought to be give, a voucher if you will. If they want to go to a system outside the VA, they ought to be able to do that. This is just inexcusable for the people who served our country to have been so poorly served by this administration and frankly, by prior administrations as well.

KELLY: It took them dying for this really to explode on the national scene because veterans don't complain, they go where they are told. That's in their nature.

Governor, I want to switch topics with you for a moment. Because the President spoke at West Point today and addressed foreign policy matters. He received what is been described in many corners as a lackluster, it was a lackluster reception by those at West Point and he went on to make points about our military that his critics are describing as straw men, you know, where you set up an argument from the other side that's not really being made in order to justify your own foreign policy. Here is one of those examples where he's talking about how he doesn't believe we need our military in all circumstances. Listen.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.


KELLY: All right. That was the wrong sound bite governor but let me get you to respond to that, as well. Because that's the president talking about American exceptionalism. And what a reversal from Barack Obama in 2009 versus Barack Obama today. Your thoughts on what the president likely really believes.

ROMNEY: Well, it's kind of hard to figure out, but we've watched the President over the past five or six years and we've seen his foreign policy and unfortunately, it has not been a success. I think it's a particularly sad day in America when the president of the United States feels compelled to give an address saying that America in effect isn't weak, saying we really are a leader, we really are strong. Look, if you have to tell people you're strong then you're not. If you tell people you're not weak, then you are.

And it's a sad commentary that the President has felt necessary to do this. You see around the world, you see the Financial Times of London for instance writing an article saying American foreign policy, trouble abroad, saying that our friends are fearful and angry as they look at America and the lack of leadership, they call us timid. Lech Walesa, a leader of the democracy movement throughout the world. Lech Walesa says, America is no longer a leader.

This is the reality of the president's foreign policy and he's grasping it someway to try and take the lead again. I certainly hope we find a way for the president to take the lead again, but shrinking our military capacity, the VA scandal, the reset with Russia, his missteps in the Middle East, these things have combined and convinced people around the world that American leadership is very much in doubt and that has to change.

KELLY: And the president spoke specifically this week of Afghanistan, and announced our withdrawal and said, we'll going to leave about 9,000 troops but announced to the world when they are coming out and was ridiculed by The Washington Post editorial board for doing that, Governor. They came out and said in part, "The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama's previous choices proved out" -- foreign policy choices. "But what is remarkable is that, the results also have been consistent -- consistently bad," suggesting that this isn't a foreign policy that is likely to succeed and that were likely to lose the gains we've made in Afghanistan similar to what we saw in Iraq. Your thoughts on that?

ROMNEY: Well, that's obviously a great concern. On the positive side, I'm happy that the president isn't pulling all of our troops out by the end of 2014, assuming that we're able to get a status of forces agreement. He's intending to maintain about 10,000 troops over the coming couple of years. That's progress from where he may have been in the past. But then down the road beyond 2016, why we'll have to see how things develop, I do have to tell you that I've always been a critic of the idea of communicating to the enemy exactly what your timetable is.

I think it makes a lot more sense to communicate to political leaders what your timetable is going to be and military leaders but you don't have to tell the Taliban exactly how many troops you're going to have and where they are going to be, and how they're going to be stationed. I think that's just a mistake and perhaps political in its natures trying to get some support here in the U.S. But frankly, I'm hopeful that we'll see more progress in Afghanistan. I think the American people are right in wanting to see the Afghanis take responsibility for their own security. We've invested more than a decade there and a lot of blood and treasure and it's time for the Afghans to take that leadership role but I wouldn't be giving the specific dates of our withdrawal but moving our troops out at least to a lower level then maintaining them over the next couple of years is a positive step.

KELLY: Governor Romney, thanks for being here.

ROMNEY: Thank you, Megyn. Good to be with you.

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