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Interview with Representative Darrell Issa

Interview with Representative Darrell Issa

By John King, USA - October 27, 2011

KING: California Republican Darrell Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Mr. Chairman, let me start first with your premise. Do you think she slow-walked an investigation?

ISSA: Well, I think she would like to have us believe that she never talked to Eric Holder, even though she was terribly concerned about the loss of not one but two of her agents in two separate episodes, and she did so because of an I.G. investigation over at Justice.

Well, candidly, there were more than two months that went by between the death of Brian Terry, her attendance at his funeral, and the beginning of the I.G. investigation. You would think there were a few Cabinet meetings and plenty of opportunities to say, oh, by the way, Eric, tell me more about Fast and Furious and how my agent got killed with weapons that you let walk into the hands of drug cartels.

KING: I want you to listen to a little bit more of your exchange with Secretary Napolitano -- a question on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAPOLITANO: I think your insinuation that...

(CROSSTALK)

ISSA: Ma'am, please answer the question. Don't -- don't -- please don't talk in terms of insinuations.

NAPOLITANO: Mr. Chairman, may -- may I have the opportunity to answer, please?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: A couple of points here. Number one, you can see it in her face and hear it in her voice, and then you challenge her back.

Are you concerned here at all that there is a level of mistrust, even enmity that is going to get in the way of this?

ISSA: Well, remember, this is a secretary who, her appointees demanded that FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, request documents be brought to them and then politicized the process of releases to organizations like CNN and others.

So, this is somebody who thought -- started off not wanting to have full and complete disclosure and transparency. And we have already seen that. You saw yesterday she can be very thin-skinned about being asked very legitimate questions and talks in terms of, how dare you ask this question or I don't like your tone.

We are looking at dead people on both sides of the border. An estimated over 200 Mexicans have been killed by weapons that were allowed to walk by our administration, by our government. All we're doing is what we must do constitutionally and she must do and Eric Holder must do, and that is hold people accountable who made mistakes and then make sure those mistakes are not repeated.

We're not getting the cooperation we'd like. We believe that she should be as concerned and as forthcoming as we are. And this shouldn't be a partisan question. This should be, how do we keep something from going so wrong in the future? And right now we're not getting that level of cooperation in this process.

KING: The gravity of this underscores the importance of your investigation and any investigation into this, which is why I ask if you're worried at all from your perspective that the politics of it, the mistrust of it are getting out of control.

Do you, for example -- I know how these things get in the back and forth at a committee hearing, but you called her ma'am. Protocol in Washington would be Madam Secretary. Any regrets for that?

ISSA: Not at all. I did also say Madam Secretary.

I was brought up in a household with sir and ma'am. And certainly Madam Secretary or Secretary or Chair -- I think there was no intention -- I haven't ever called a Cabinet officer by their first name in a formal hearing or anything of that sort.

Look, I respect her qualifications. She was a U.S. attorney. She was attorney general. She was a governor. But I am concerned that she made a statement that an I.G. investigation stopped her from asking her question, but that investigation didn't begin for more than two months after Brian Terry's murder and she characterized it as immediate action.

I don't think two months is immediate action. Remember, Senator Grassley and myself had already opened investigations and been thwarted by Justice before they ever went to their own attorney general or to their own I.G.

KING: The president of the United States was asked about this the other day by ABC's Jake Tapper. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: This investigation will be complete. People who have screwed up will be held accountable. It's very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen. And we will find out who and what happened in this situation and we will make sure that it gets corrected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you take the president at his word? Do you trust the thoroughness of the administration's internal investigation? And is there any sharing of information? Maybe they have information you would like. Maybe you have information that could help them.

ISSA: I do take the president at his word. I believe that he wants to hold all of those accountable.

I don't take the attorney general at his word, because I get the distinct impression they want to make this go away by blaming low- ranking people, the resignation of the U.S. attorney, rather than realizing that plenty of people knew or should have known to stop this program and didn't.

And we want to know that the safeguards, not just by name, but by position, will really be there in the future, because we can't bring these two agents back to life. We can't recall the 2,000 weapons.

But we can take steps to make sure this wouldn't happen in the future. We owe that to the families. We owe that to the next administration, because this is not a Republican mistake or a Democratic mistake. This is the kind of mistake bureaucracies make. And if we don't hold them accountable, who will?

KING: We were trying to shed some light on this issue a few days ago. We had one of your Republican members, Jason Chaffetz, on the program, along with the ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings.

And Mr. Cummings make the case -- and again you just saw it there in Secretary Napolitano -- you have received a letter from the attorney general who seems to think there is politics behind this. Listen to the ranking Democrat on the committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I think we have to be very careful as to how we proceed. I mean, I think we need to go where the evidence leads, but we have got a subpoena that has just been issued that is literally requesting tens of thousands of documents from the Justice Department. And many of these documents are totally unrelated to Fast and Furious. So you got to begin to ask the question, what is this about? Is this about trying to score some political points?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Have you cast too wide of a net, Mr. Chairman? Are you trying to score political points?

ISSA: Well, I certainly hope not.

In some cases, we did things, like we asked for all of the e- mails of one individual for a three-day period. Now, you know, John, if you have e-mails like I do, that could be a lot of documents. But we tried to be narrow. We looked at a window that we had been informed by a whistle-blower correspondence went on, and we asked only for that window.

So sometimes there is a voluminous amount of documents. That's not our intent. Remember that I have a very limited staff compared to the administration. And the last thing I need is more documents than we can go through.

We are trying to be narrow. The other thing is if they would just be forthcoming -- you know, the attorney general told us under sworn testimony that he'd only heard about Fast and Furious a few weeks earlier. He has yet to correct how much earlier.

And when asked to come back before Judiciary, another chairman's committee, he's put it off until December. That by definition slows the process. Elijah Cummings and I do not have a great working relationship. I believe he is there to be stopping, a stumbling block, in his opinion, to try to stop and help and protect the administration. And I regret that, because the last chairman, Ed Towns, and I had a good relationship in which we were willing to go where the facts took us. And that sometimes is a problem here in Washington.

KING: Chairman Issa, appreciate your time tonight.

ISSA: Thanks, John. 

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