Interview with Representative Darrell Issa

Interview with Representative Darrell Issa

By John King, USA - April 27, 2012

KING: Attorney General Eric Holder may soon face a contempt of Congress citation. House Republicans now considering the dramatic move because they say the Justice Department is stonewalling their investigation of a program called Fast and Furious. You may remember the program was supposed to trace weapons smuggling but ended up helping Mexican drug cartels acquire guns from the United States.

One of those guns was found at the scene of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent.

The contempt citation is being prepared by Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. And According to "The L.A. Times" it reads in part -- quote -- "Those responsible for allowing Fast and Furious to proceed and those who are preventing the truth about the operation from coming out must be held accountable for their actions."

The committee chairman, Darrell Issa, joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Mr. Chairman, is this a bluff to get the Justice Department to give you more of what you want or are you prepared to take this step?

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: It can't be a bluff.

Ultimately, many committees of Congress, including ours, are trying to get to the truth in a number of matters. Some of them go all the way back to the Bush or Clinton administration. Some of them like Fast and Furious occurred on this president's watch.

In this case, just to put it in perspective, only a few weeks ago we learned of Cartagena, of the Colombian scandal, 12 Secret Service agents. Today, nine of them are gone, two have been cleared and I believe the last one or two will be gone shortly.

In the case of Fast and Furious, this has gone on for more than a year. Key people at all levels still have their jobs and most of them, we don't even know their names. When it comes to taking quick action, I commend the Secret Service director. I have got to question Eric Holder about holding people accountable.

KING: The attorney general says he's responded to more than three dozen letters from Congress, facilitated numerous witness interviews, given you more than 6,400 pages of documents.

And yet you say he's in contempt or at least at the verge of contempt. Why?

ISSA: Well, quite frankly, he's totally stonewalled discovery of why Congress was lied to on February 4, why were lied to in a letter and in live testimony.

He's made that off-limits, finding out why we were lied to. Ultimately, the American people were misled for more than 10 months, told that there was no gun walking. That's part of the investigation is, why is it we were given outright false testimony and key people at Justice were part of it and they are still there?

That and other questions are important, but here is the most important. Brian Terry's family wants those held accountable for getting 2,000 guns into the bad guys' hands, two of which killed their son, their brother, their cousin. And that, at a minimum -- we have got to hold people responsible by losing their jobs for this bad judgment. This was not slightly bad judgment. This was monumentally bad judgment.

KING: And so how much time does the attorney general have before you bring this up to a vote in the committee? And you would need to take this to the full House. Do you have the speaker's support? Has he said, go ahead, Mr. Chairman?

ISSA: This draft was the result of work to make the case properly. It was a draft. We're sorry that it got out there. Ultimately, "The L.A. Times" has our thoughts on many of the areas we've received no discovery on. It's a little technical, but we have 22 areas that we asked for discovery on. Every one of them the speaker agrees with me are in-bounds and appropriate for Congress needing to know.

And 12 of them, we've received no answer at all on. So rather than getting into pages and so on, we need answers. We're entitled to the answers. The attorney general has said before our committee we're entitled to what he thinks we need and he will give us. That's just not the way it works. It's not the way it should work in a republic like ours where the balance of power says the president wants to hold people accountable and yet, his own chief law enforcement officer is stonewalling the truth coming out so people can be held accountable.

KING: So when? When are you prepared to bring this to a vote?

ISSA: Well, I'm prepared to continue trying to get to the truth. I've said my patience is not infinite. Obviously, we've prepared the documents.

Ultimately, the decision belongs to leadership, because they have to decide on the House floor. My committee is continuing to do its job. We're doing our job in dozens of other areas. The American people want us working on waste, fraud and abuse broadly.

So this isn't the only investigation, but it's one very important to people on both sides of the border. And I hope the president over the break will say to Eric Holder, if you want to continue having my full confidence, you've got to come clean with the information.

Otherwise the buck will stop with the president, and it will look like every other cover-up over the years. It isn't the president's in the beginning. It becomes the president's by the end because of inaction. That's what I hope will change over the break.

KING: Chairman Issa, appreciate your time tonight.

ISSA: Thanks, John.

KING: Take care, sir. 

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