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Interview with Senator Chuck Grassley

Interview with Senator Chuck Grassley

By John King, USA - June 20, 2012

KING: Let's go now to Capitol Hill.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they have also been closely tracking and investigated the Fast and Furious issue.

Senator, the attorney general tonight says this is unnecessary, unwarranted and he says of the House committee vote to hold him in contempt. "It is election-year tactic intended to distract attention and as a result has deflected critical resources from fulfilling my responsibilities, my top priority at the Department of Justice, protecting the American people."

Answer the attorney general.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: If it was last February or March, when we started this, he might have credibility when he says that. But after 18 months of being stonewalled by the attorney general, I think that's intellectually dishonest.

KING: Your chairman, Pat Leahy, on the Senate side -- this vote was on the House side -- but Chairman Leahy says this tonight: "The Bush Justice Department was not nearly this forthcoming and never tried to reach a reasonable accommodation in response to our oversight efforts."

Chairman Leahy trying to make the case that Attorney General Holder is trying. Is he?

GRASSLEY: I can tell you this.

When the Democrats were investigating the U.S. attorneys that were accused of responding to political pressure, that I joined Senator Leahy in efforts to get transparency of all of the documents. I have not had that support of the Democrats in the Senate in my investigation.

KING: You mention the U.S. attorneys firing investigation. When the House committee looked into that, Darrell Issa said this when President Bush invoked executive privilege.

Darrell Issa, now the change, said -- quote -- They didn't need explaining to the public."

Is it possible now because of his past statements on executive privilege issues, the Democrats could say right now he is being partisan or he's being a hypocrite?

GRASSLEY: They can say that about anybody they want to say it about, but they can't say it about Chuck Grassley's investigations and oversight work for the past 25, 30 years.

KING: Well, let me read a bit of the statement you issued today when the administration did claim executive privilege.

You said this: "How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen. Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?"

Senator, what do you think they're hiding?

GRASSLEY: Well, throughout 18 months of investigation, I never had any idea whatsoever that the president was involved, and I never accused the president of being involved.

I always wondered for the most extent how high up in the Justice Department it went, and I could only trace it up to the assistant attorney general. Beyond that, is the attorney general involved in approving this? But now it raises the question of whether -- what does the president know and when did he know it by the claim of executive privilege.

KING: Do you see this going -- do you see any path to a resolution, sir? Or do you think the House will vote on its contempt citation, and if it does, what happens on the Senate side?

GRASSLEY: Well, listen, a contempt citation does not come to the Senate, so it will go from the House of Representatives to the U.S. attorney, District of Columbia, with possible charges against the attorney general, and if those charges would stand, he could be subject to a misdemeanor with up to a jail term and/or some fine.

KING: I understand it doesn't go to the Senate, sir. My question was what happens to the Senate investigation?

GRASSLEY: Oh.

KING: Did the investigation go forward or do you try? It's the Senate side, as you know. It's supposed to be the world's most deliberative body. It's -- will there be some effort, with Chairman Leahy and you as the ranking member, to try to find a circuit breaker here before the House takes such extraordinary step?

GRASSLEY: Well, Senator Leahy's never offered to have a hearing, and -- and you know, when there's a vacuum out there, that vacuum is filled by somebody. And I think I filled that vacuum over the last 18 months. And so far Senator Leahy said that he wouldn't have a hearing until the inspector general of the judiciary, or the Justice Department got done with their work.

Then he said he would have a hearing. But that's going to be too late. I think this -- this isn't just in the Senate a stall. This is a stall in the Justice Department, I think, to get by 'til the next election, because I think there's something embarrassing politically to this administration that they want to keep out of the public's minds, and that's why we've been stone walled.

KING: Senator Chuck Grassley, appreciate your time tonight, sir.

GRASSLEY: Yes. Thank you. 

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