Reps. Chaffetz & Quigley on "Fast and Furious"

Reps. Chaffetz & Quigley on "Fast and Furious"

By John King, USA - June 27, 2012

KING: What will happen when the House votes tomorrow?

Let's get perspective now from two members of that Oversight Committee that recommended to holding the attorney general in contempt.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois.

Congressman Chaffetz, I want to start with you.

It's pretty clear the Republicans have the votes and unless a deal is struck overnight, for the first time, a sitting U.S. attorney general, the nation's highest law enforcement officer, will be held in contempt.

I want you to listen here to the ranking member of the committee saying this is a huge mistake.


CUMMINGS: I think that if we take this attorney general and find him in contempt tomorrow, I am telling you, I think it is a stain on us as an institution, particularly when there is an effort to work things out.


KING: Why, Congressman, do you disagree? Why would it not be in your view a stain on the institution?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, I wish it hadn't come to this. The only thing I would disagree with Mr. Cummings on, Congressman Cummings, is the idea that there's an effort to work this out.

Brian Terry was killed in December of 2010. This letter, this bogus letter from the White House or from the Department of Justice came in February of 2011. Here we are in June of 2012. The subpoena that was issued by Congress was issued in October, and for me it is about the principle of abiding by the subpoena.

The beauty of the United States of America is no one person is above the law. But you have a duly issued subpoena and that ought to be complied with. It is not about Eric Holder, but it is about the Department of Justice and justice in the United States of America.

KING: And, Congressman Quigley, you're the Democrat in the conversation. To be fair, I'm going to play a little bit of Chairman Issa saying that he has tried, he has tried, he has tried, and he has to get to this dramatic step he says because he hasn't gotten the answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ISSA: All we're asking for and the reason for contempt is we were told a lie. We want to know about the deliberation for 10 months between the lie and the truth, and that's the information we seek, and that's the information the attorney general has said, no, I won't give you because it's deliberative and doesn't serve my purposes.


KING: Did the Justice Department, Congressman Quigley, create this mess, if you will?

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: No, I think you have to look at Chairman Issa's predetermination about what this case is about.

In the end, Fast and Furious, and the investigation of the attorney general is his great white whale. Let's remember what he said before he even took the gavel. He said I'm going to have seven meetings a week for 40 weeks to investigate the most corrupt administration in U.S. history.

Let's remember your timeline is just a little off, with due respect. Gun walking under a program like Fast and Furious started under the Bush administration. But the Republican curiosity ends the day before President Obama took office.

Why not bring in Attorney General Mukasey, ask him what happened there, was anyone was hurt, how many guns crossed the border there? They were both horribly conceived and implemented programs. And the investigation on a criminal basis, the inspector general investigation should continue.

But this vote tomorrow has nothing to do with investigating Fast and Furious.

KING: Congressman Chaffetz, answer the congressman's point there. Fast and Furious began under the Obama administration, but there were sister programs, if you will, gun monitoring programs under the Bush administration. Why hasn't the committee scrubbed those as it's scrubbing this one?

CHAFFETZ: Well, actually, if you look at what was requested, it talks about any attempt to do gunrunning. It's not specific to only Fast and Furious.

What you find is Operation Wide Receiver which was started under the Bush administration was put to a halt in 2007 because the line attorney there in the Phoenix U.S. attorney's office refused to prosecute because these tactics were so egregious.

But it was then in 2009, under Lanny Breuer, who was the head of Criminal Division, who started this up. And remember we have a dead Border Patrol agent, and we got 2,000 weapons, mostly AK-47s purposely given to the drug cartels and Congress is just supposed to stand down and not ask questions?

I am getting tired of whole, hey, well, Bush did it, so it is OK. I don't think the American public is buying that. I want to get to the bottom of it. I don't care what administration, what party, it was wrong; gun walking was wrong, whether it was the Bush administration or the Obama administration. It's wrong, and we have to work to solve it.

So far, we have not lived up to what the president promised, which was openness, transparency, and that if there was something wrong, we would fix it. That hasn't happened.


QUIGLEY: Again, the curiosity is very selective -- 2,000 weapons crossing the border is extraordinarily inappropriate and a disaster. Let's remember under the existing gun laws allowing straw purchasers, several hundred thousand weapons have crossed the border.


CHAFFETZ: Straw purchasing is illegal. Straw purchasing is illegal.

QUIGLEY: And the ATF agents told us in committee that punishment for straw purchasing is currently no more than a moving violation. You want to talk about gun safety, let's have that conversation.


KING: Let me ask you here, sometimes -- this is a serious investigation, and I see the disagreements here. There are substantive disagreements between the two of you. Sometimes when you look at it this broader debate, it's hard to sort what I will call the facts and the issues from the politics.

And on the subject of executive privilege, which the administration invoked late in this, a lot -- the speaker says he is going ahead with the vote, and he says the president is doing the wrong thing.

And, Congressman Chaffetz, a lot of Democrats go back to when George W. Bush was president. And listen to John Boehner then when that Republican president invoked privilege.


BOEHNER: It is very clear that while the president has made a good faith effort to provide the information, we have got Democrats here on Capitol Hill that want to have a political sideshow.


KING: Hypocrisy?

CHAFFETZ: No. Look, it is very simple.

There are 140,000 documents relating to Fast and Furious. We have been given less than 8,000 of those. The Congress has a right, duty and responsibility to get to the bottom of this. This shouldn't be a partisan issue.

But when you have a dead Border Patrol agent, you have over 200 dead in Mexico, you have a program that Attorney General Holder has called fundamentally flawed, then we have a right and a duty to follow up on this. If there are specific documents that the president himself believes that we should not see because they were part of that process, then he should specify item by item what those are.

But to just put this blanket out at literally the 11th hour and say, well, we shouldn't do that because I just don't want you to see them, that isn't good enough.

QUIGLEY: Again, we're talking about a chairman who "Forbes" magazine sharply criticized today for the manner of his investigation and the quality of his investigation.

Who are you dealing with here? Someone who has predetermined, who has already made up their mind, who has attempted from his very first day to embarrass the Obama administration? This is his best shot.

KING: Congressman Quigley, Congressman Chaffetz, appreciate your time this evening, gentlemen. Appreciate the civil conversation, even though you disagree. A big day tomorrow. We will stay in touch. Thank you both.

QUIGLEY: Thank you. 

Don't Govern on Fantasies
E.J. Dionne · November 10, 2014

John King, USA

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter