Chris Wallace Darrell Issa interview, Operation Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Attorney General Eric Holder congressional investigation
From Fox News October 9, 2011.
“Darrell Issa Talks Fast and Furious Fallout”
“The following is a rush transcript of the October 9, 2011, edition of “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace.” This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.”
“CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I’m Chris Wallace.
Congressional Republicans are demanding answers from Attorney General Eric Holder about a federal gun running sting gone wrong.
With “Operation Fast and Furious” in the crosshairs of investigators, what’s the fall for the Obama administration? We’ll ask the head of the House Government Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa — only on “Fox News Sunday.”
And then Chris Christie and Sarah Palin take a pass on the presidential run. Is the time right for another candidate to make a move? We’ll speak with a contender looking to fill the void, former Senator Rick Santorum.
Plus, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests gain momentum, spreading across the country. We’ll ask our Sunday panel if the new movement is the left’s answer to the Tea Party.
And our power player of the week — a pro-football veteran tackles an issue of life and death.
All right now on “Fox News Sunday”.
And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The Obama administration is now being rocked by two scandals — “Operation Fast and Furious” and the awarding of a half billion dollar loan guarantee to Solyndra, a solar panel company that went bankrupt.
Our first guest is at the center of both investigation, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Congressman, welcome back to “Fox News Sunday.”
REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Well, thanks for having me on and covering two of the issues that are causing Americans to lose confidence in their government.
WALLACE: OK. Let’s start with “Fast and Furious” in which ATF agents allowed more than 2,000 weapons to be sold illegally to cross the border. They were going to try to track them to catch drug traffickers. They lost track of a number of them. Hundreds ended up with the Mexican drug cartel and two of them ended up at the murder scene of a U.S. border patrol agent.
I want to take you back to May when you had this now famous exchange with Attorney General Eric Holder. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISSA: When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called “Fast and Furious”? To the best of your knowledge, what date?
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am not sure about the exact date. But I probably heard about “Fast and Furious” for the first time over the last few weeks.
WALLACE: Congressman, I understand that you are going to issue a new set of subpoenas to the attorney general this week. About what?
ISSA: About “Fast and Furious” and basically, at this point, about why are they denying knowing about something that they were briefed on? Exactly when the American people want to know how did it happen? Understand, we didn’t start off going after the attorney general or Lanny Breuer or anyone else in justice. We started off knowing that Brian Terry was dead, that a lot of —
WALLACE: The U.S. border patrol agent.
ISSA: The U.S. border patrol agent. And that a lot of weapons have been let to walk.
After that, we started being told things like by the Justice Department designated official that we never let weapons walk.
Now, we have literally e-mails in which they are concerned about so many walking and you said something and I don’t mean to correct you — but to expand. We didn’t just have a few not be tracked. The whole program was about not tracking them until they were found in the scene of crimes. And they didn’t just allow. They facilitated just one guy buy, one straw buy, over 700 weapons.
WALLACE: So, specifically, what are your subpoenas about?
ISSA: We want to know what and when they knew it. But more importantly, we have to understand — at what level of the authorization really come? It wasn’t an ATF operation. They were part of that. It was a joint operation in which DEA knew more than ATF.
WALLACE: Drug Enforcement Administration. ATF, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
ISSA: And, of course, these are all parts of the Department of Justice. And as we are beginning to see, and we’re not talking about Eric Holder at this moment, but the people in the top of justice were well-briefed, knew about it, and seemed to be the command and control and funding for this program. And any law enforcement person who’s ever been asked under oath or not under oath comes back and says this wasn’t the right way to do it.
Well, when did they know it wasn’t the right way to do it and why do they keep doing it?
WALLACE: Are you going to subpoena the attorney general to testify again?
ISSA: The Judiciary Committee in which I also served, that’s where that actual question got asked, is — has invited him to come and clear the record, because, clearly, he knew when he said he didn’t. Now, the question is, what did he know and how is he explaining why he gave that answer?
WALLACE: OK. The attorney general sent you a letter Friday afternoon, along with other top officials in both the House and the Senate.
I want to go through some of this push back. He acknowledges that several memos, and here you can see them heavily redacted —
ISSA: This is the way we usually get this, Chris.
WALLACE: — on these dates were sent to his office as much as 10 months earlier, not the few weeks before he testified in May of 2011. But he says — and I want to put up his comments from his letter, “I do not and cannot read them cover to cover. Here, no issues concerning ‘Fast and Furious’ were brought to my attention because the information presented in the report did not suggest a problem.
He’s saying I didn’t know about this program and I certainly didn’t know that we were letting guns walk.
ISSA: Well, I’ll take him at his word, but let’s go back. He answered before Judiciary Committee, myself, Jason Chaffetz, and others, that he didn’t know about it until two weeks earlier. That’s just disingenuous on its face.
Very clearly, he had to know when Brian Terry was killed and everyone realized these were “Fast and Furious” weapons, he had to know something serious had happened and that’s months before he says he knew. Now, if we assume for a moment he didn’t know, the question is, is he competent? If, in fact, a border patrol agent has been murdered, 2,000 weapons have gone, this program has completely gone off of the rails, why didn’t he know? And that’s probably a more important question for the chief law enforcement. If Lanny Breuer knew, why didn’t Eric Holder?
WALLACE: And Larry Breuer, one of his top —
ISSA: One of this top aides who is very involved much earlier on and works in the same office.
WALLACE: OK, Holder points out that top officials briefed you in April of 2010, just around the time that he was first hearing of all of this. He writes and let’s put it up, “I’m aware that Chairman Issa has said that he was not briefed on the unacceptable details of ‘Fast and Furious.'” In other words, the fact they were letting the guns walked.
Two questions, one: is that true? Were you brief and not told? And second, if it is true, how do you know that he was also not told?
ISSA: The interesting thing is he’s quoting a story that he planted, that justice shopped around to the newspaper. But having said that, I’ll answer it.
We were looking into the drug problems, we asked for a briefing. We got a briefing, including Kenneth Melson. We —
WALLACE: Of ATF?
ISSA: Of ATF, one of the people that knew about the program but didn’t all the other things that he ultimately read in a still sealed wiretap. That when he read the wiretap and understood how much they knew that this was deliberately letting bad guns go to the drug cartel, he became sick to his stomach. So yes.
WALLACE: But my question is — all right. So, you are saying you were not told about “Fast and Furious” and the gun walking. So, how do you know that he wasn’t told?
ISSA: Well, first of all, it was concealed from us by the Justice Department. That briefing, they were not allowed to know what Kenneth Melson later knew and made him sick to his stomach. Let’s understand, ATF is running an operation. They’re being told guns aren’t getting to the bad guys. Ultimately, the whistleblower came forward, when he realized, of course, guns are getting to the bad guys.
This investigation is not about an operation that was supposed to trace guns. This is about Justice Department knowing and this is where the American people have a right to know more, knowing that these guns were deliberately intended to end up in the hands of the drug cartels without any kind of traceability except if you find a gun in the scene of the crime. That is the reason that it is felony and stupid — and I use the word “felony” deliberately — program.
This should be criminal to let criminals have thousands of deadly weapons.
WALLACE: I have to point out, because Holder does in his letter, the Bush administration had a similar operation called “Operation Wide Receiver” that also, he says, let guns walk?
ISSA: Well, first of all, Eric Holder came in wanting to indict people from that administration. So, I think his standard of the — well, other administration did it, too, is not so good.
But understand, from what we discover from “Wide Receiver” and those, by the way, we have subpoenas for those and those documents have not been delivered. Very few weapons, very, very well-traced — overhead, observation and so on.
What you would think would happen if you let a weapon start to move, you trace it at every step. This was one where they let the weapons go and never looked until they showed up in the scene of Brian Terry’s murder.
WALLACE: Some of your Republican colleagues have called for a special prosecutor to look into Holder’s involvement. Some have called on Holder to resign.
Do you join either of those?
ISSA: Well, I’ve always taken the tack that the president picks the people he has full confidence, and the president still seems to have full confidence in Eric Holder — something I don’t share. When it comes to a special prosecutor, Eric Holder cannot investigate himself. Congress is well along the way of investigating this operation to find out what went wrong, who knew it and what we have to do in the future to make sure it can’t happen again.
If there’s a special prosecutor to look at the narrow issue of top officials who — and they beat political appointees, that’s a separate issue. Our investigation, along with Senator Grassley has to get to the bottom of this sooner, not later, because the American people and people in Mexico don’t trust their government right now.
WALLACE: Let’s turn to the other scandal, Solyndra. The Obama administration had a document dump late Friday, hundreds of pages of e-mails late in Friday afternoon.
ISSA: I don’t know what is about Fridays.
WALLACE: I mean, it’s — all administrations do it, to be fair.
WALLACE: Overview, before we get into a couple of specifics. What’s your take away from the document dump?
ISSA: Well, they are trying to bury it into the weekend. But just as the document dump a week earlier gave us the Eric Holder situation, what we are finding it is not just Solyndra. It’s a pattern of these sorts of investments. You know, understand, in the last day that the law was there, $4.75 billion was thrown into loans. And one of the questions we have for Secretary Chu is, tell us why that last day, somehow, you had everything you needed and you didn’t have it over a period of time before?
The American people have a right to know on the rare occasions in which their money is used to invest in private operations, if you will, take bets on capitalism, that is very well vetted, very well thought out and without political interference.
Solyndra is a story of political interference, picking winners and losers. It’s salacious because, quite frankly, there were a lot of people giving to President Obama’s campaign.”