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Fox News "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: I'm Chris Wallace.

A constitutional standoff pits House Republicans against the president.
(MUSIC)

WALLACE: The full House is set to vote this week whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, while the president asserts executive privilege, refusing to turn over documents.

We'll talk to the congressman leading the "Fast and Furious" probe, Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee. As well as Elijah Cummings, the panel's top Democrat.

Then, with the U.S. spending trillions to buy foreign oil, what can be done to boost domestic production? We'll ask legendary businessman T. Boone Pickens, who has a dramatic new plan.

And all of Washington is wondering what the Supreme Court will do this week about Obamacare.

We'll ask our Sunday panel to game out what it will mean for your health care and the November election?

All right now on "Fox News Sunday".

(MUSIC)

WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.

The showdown over the botched gun-trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious" escalated dramatically this week, with the president asserting executive privilege over key documents, and the House committee voting Attorney General Holder is in contempt of Congress.

Joining us now to discuss the confrontation are Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And from San Antonio, the panel's top Democrat, Elijah Cummings.

Assuming there is no deal with the administration over the documents you're seeking, Congressman Issa, will the House vote Attorney General Holder in contempt this week?

REP. DARRELL ISSA, R - CA: Yes, I believe they will, both Republicans and Democrats will vote that.

WALLACE: You are saying it's going to be bipartisan.

ISSA: I believe it will be bipartisan. You'll never know how many. But there are a number of Democrats, 31, who wrote to the administration, asking them to be forthcoming. Many of them will stay with us now that the administration has not been.

WALLACE: But no doubt in your mind that the House will vote Holder in contempt?

ISSA: Well, Chris, it's regrettable we are here. And we certainly would not like to be here. And if the president and Attorney General Holder would simply start producing the documents they know they could produce to us that are not by any means are going to be covered by executive privilege, this could be delayed or even eliminated. But we have to see the documents first. We can't have a promise that we're going to be satisfied and dismiss this contempt.

WALLACE: And failing that kind of an agreement, then what?

ISSA: Well, it's the speaker's decision but he's announced that we will vote this week if there isn't a negotiated settlement.

WALLACE: Now, give us an example of the kind of document that's all that important, that you say is going to really get to the bottom of this case and clearly is not a matter of executive privilege?

ISSA: Well, a good example is, shortly after February 4th, after Congress and Senator Grassley specifically got a letter which was untrue, clearly untrue, they said they don't let guns walk, the ATF director, Kenneth Melson, sent an e-mail and he had said to us in sworn testimony that, in fact, he had concerns and we want to see that e-mail, because that's an example where he was saying, if we believe his sworn testimony, that guns walked. And he said it shortly after February 4th and July 4th. When he told us that, we began asking for that document.

WALLACE: This is an e-mail between him and who?

ISSA: His handlers at justice. You know, the ATF director effectively reports to the deputy attorney general. This e-mail would have circulated to them. We'd like to know not just where he sent it, but who talked about it, because that's the point in which shortly after February 4th, they should have known that the February 4th letter was untrue.

WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, we're going to get to this whole question of Melson, because it is important, in a little bit. But let me just ask you, in this overall question -- do you believe that the House is going to vote, failing an agreement, is going to vote Holder in contempt? And this would be the first time -- first time in history that either House ever voted the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the land in contempt, what do you think of this kind of action?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D - MD: First of all, I think it's extremely unfortunate and I absolutely don't think that we needed to be at this place.

You know, over a year ago, Chairman Issa accused Holder of authorizing these tactics and nothing accounted be further from the truth from the evidence we have already gotten. There is no evidence that he knew about it, no evidence that he authorized or condoned it.

And, you know, I'm really kind of saddened that at this point in the history of the Congress, that we would be finding this attorney general in contempt. And, you know, Chris, I think that I am calling on Speaker Boehner to come forth and show strong leadership -- and I know he will -- and sit down with the attorney general to resolve this matter.The attorney general has made it clear that he is willing to work with this Congress. He's already turned over 7,600 documents going through millions of e-mails, and has even given up what's called internal deliberative documents. These are the types of documents that attorney generals over and over, and year after year, have held close to them and themselves in their offices. But he has done that.

And so, I think he's -- all he's asked for is a good faith promise that we would bring these contempt proceedings to some kind of conclusions and he's offering to sit down with House leadership to work it out. And I hope we do. I really do.

WALLACE: All right. Let me get to you, Congressman Issa. Let's assume in fact that the House votes this week to hold Holder in contempt. Then what?
Because you can refer it to the U.S. attorney who works for Holder and in all likelihood will say he's not going to prosecute his boss. You can file a lawsuit in federal court, which will takes years, that you can impeach him. You can arrest him or try to arrest him and have a standoff between the sergeant in arms and his security people or do you just let it sit there.

ISSA: Chris, I'm going to continue my investigation. I left a message with Brian Terry's mother, Josie, last night.

WALLACE: Brian Terry, of course, is the border patrol agent who was killed in December of 2010. And two of the weapons from "Fast and Fast" were found at the site of his murder. Go ahead, sir.

ISSA: I told her that, in fact, we're going to continue regardless of what the vote is this week. We have an obligation to get to the truth about "Fast and Furious" and about those responsible, specifically related to both his death and cover up.

But having said that, mine is not automatically to look at post- contempt. Mine is to continue investigating and doing my job, along with Mr. Cummings, of a host of other abuses and failures, GSA and other scandals, because we need corrective action.

I would take exemption with my colleague in that I did not say that Eric Holder always knew. I knew that Lanny Breuer knew well before the retraction because the Lanny Breuer --

WALLACE: The head of the criminal division.

ISSA: Right. Because Lanny Breuer said that to me, that he thought that this was a good idea but badly executed. Having said that, we in fact are simply trying to get to the truth when we were told a lie and that's what contempt is about. It's about the cover up.

WALLACE: OK. And we're going to get back to that in a moment.

Congressman Cummings, if I may and you can answer -- you can respond to him as well if you want in your answer.

CUMMINGS: I certainly -- I plan to.

WALLACE: OK, good. "Fast and Furious" as Congressman Issa points out is not just another Washington scandal. Someone was killed here. Brian Terry, a border patrol agent, with some of the guns used here and this week, here's what Terry's parents had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPHINE TERRY, BRIAN TERRY'S MOTHER: There's something that they don't want us to know and there's something to hide.

KENT TERRY, BRIAN TERRY'S FATHER: I think they are hiding something. I think they are lying and they're hiding it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: A year ago, Congressman Cummings, you told the Terrys, the parents this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUMMINGS: We will not rest until every single person responsible for all of this no matter where they are, are brought to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, can you honestly say that you kept that promise?

CUMMINGS: I have kept that promise and I will keep that promise.
You got to understand. A year ago, I had a nephew who was slaughtered and shot with a gun. I see it in my district and I see it in my city. I see what guns can do. And I am determined to do that.

But you've got to understand something, Chris. This contempt proceeding has nothing to do with the murder of Brian Terry. What we are dealing with -- and Chairman Issa has made it clear -- we are dealing with now some documents where there is an effort to, number one, figure out how this false document was submitted to the Senator Grassley.

And keep in mind that there was false information, Chris, that was sent to the legislative department of the Department of Justice from the folks down in Phoenix. That is the ATF. These are the same people, by the way, many of them, who were carrying on operations like "Fast and Furious" since 2006. In other words, they were operating in the Bush administration. They sent these false documents up there.

And Mr. Issa knows that. He knows that.

And, again, let me finish.

CUMMINGS: And 1,300 pages of documents delivered, internal -- delivered documents had already been presented to us by Mr. Holder. Those -- and those -- we have gotten those.

All of the attorney general asked for and I sat in a meeting, and he simply -- with Mr. Issa -- and he simply said, look, I am willing to turn over documents, but just give me some, you know, assurances that you will make a good faith effort for us to bring the contempt to an end.

WALLACE: Let me --

(CROSSTALK)

CUMMINGS: I'm almost finished.

WALLACE: This is a key point and I want to ask Congressman Issa about it.

CUMMINGS: OK.

WALLACE: Let me explain to folks who have not followed this closely. In February 2011, a little over a year ago, the Justice Department sent a letter to Senator Grassley said no gun walking operation where they had let the guns go over the border. In December 2011, they had to send another Congress saying that wasn't true, retracting the letters. So, that's why February 2011 is such a big day.

Congressman Issa, you talk about finding the truth about Brian Terry. But you have refused to hold a public hearing with the people at Phoenix ATF who actually ran the operation. You have refused to hold a public hearing with the former head of ATF, Ken Melson, this person whose email you're so interested. You refused a public hearing with him and he has testified that he never told the higher ups at Justice Department about "Fast and Furious".

ISSA: No, Chris. He testified that he did tell them.

WALLACE: No, he says -- well, we'll get to that in a second.
And you also in the case of these letters, you're seeking documents after February of last year which may be politically embarrassing. They show that they were scrambling to come up for an explanation for their false denial, but how does that tell you what happened two months earlier to Brian Terry?

ISSA: What's important is that this period, February 4th to December -- first of all, Kenneth Melson told us in July 4th that he had sent shortly after February 4th, he had sent an e-mail. We want a copy of that. We'd like to have Kenneth Melson and, by the way, a gentleman named Cunningham who threatened to take the Fifth and a number of all of these individuals before us.

But before you bring them before us, we need to see the documents that were produce perhaps as Mr. Cummings said it very well, perhaps these people were lying to their bosses, but we're not going to bring them in unless we have the kinds of questions we need to ask. I want every one of those people here. I expected to have a panel.

But part of what you do is you get testimony --

WALLACE: You, so far, refused to have Kenneth Melson.

ISSA: Not at all. We have not refused. We want --

WALLACE: But has he testified before your committee?

ISSA: He testified for two days before --

WALLACE: In a private hearing.

ISSA: No, a private gathering with Republicans and Democrats, under oath. Our lawyers were asking those questions. From that, we asked for documents. Our intention is to have him on a panel, along with --

WALLACE: All right. I hate to interrupt, but we are going to -- we have limited time.

Congressman Cummings, does that satisfy you?

CUMMINGS: No, I have asked the chairman to bring ATF Director Melson before us. He has refused to. We've asked for witnesses to come before a public hearing, he's refused to do that.

All I'm saying is I -- the chairman and me has a willing partner if we are really going to be about the business of keeping our promise to Terry family. I want to do that. That is so very, very important.

But I can tell you that, again, and I think -- I've said it before, Chris. I think with regard to getting these documents, we are on the one foot line of the field.
And I have absolutely no doubt that if Speaker Boehner showed the strong leadership, that I know he will, we can sit it down, work this thing out with the attorney general and move on --

WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, I hate to interrupt, but we have limited time. And I want to ask each one more question.

The president, of course, asserted executive privilege this week. And, Congressman Issa, here is what House Democratic Leaders Pelosi had to say after that about the "Fast and Furious" investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D - CA, MINORITY LEADER: They are going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states. This is no accident. It is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of the Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Congressman Cummings, Congress started the investigation of "Fast and Furious" in January 2011, just one month after Brian Terry was killed, and almost a year before Holder got into this voter suppression cases.
Question: What is Nancy Pelosi talking about?

CUMMINGS: I think there are a number of people, they look at Attorney General Holder and they themselves ask why is he become the punching bag for so many Republicans? Why is he the subject of all of the conspiracy theories?
But you know what, Chris? The fact is, I'm a lawyer. I'm used to getting to the bottom of things and resolving them and moving forward.

And again, no matter what other people think, I think they have a duty -- a duty -- to the American public, a duty to the Congress of the United States in this critical moment to get the documents. I know we can get them. It's just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder. We can get those documents and get this matter resolved.

WALLACE: OK.

CUMMINGS: You asked question a moment ago --

WALLACE: I am sorry. We are almost out of time.

I do want to ask Congressman Issa, one final question. After the president invoked executive privilege, House Speaker Boehner said that changes everything. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R - OH, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that the White House officials were involved in decisions that mislead the Congress and covered up the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Question: do you have any evidence that White House officials knowingly were involved in these decisions, that they knowingly misled Congress and are involved in the cover-up?

ISSA: No, we don't. And what we are seeking are documents we know to exist, February 4th to December, that are, in fact, about Brian Terry's murder, who knew, and why people were lying about it, and get to the truth. That's all we want.

Eric Holder ends up being the custodian of the documents. We would go to the deputy attorney general just as easily if he would give us the documents. That's all we are looking for is documents, which are internal to the false statement and not part of the deliberative process, you know --

WALLACE: I just want to be clear. We've got to get out. No evidence at this point that the White House is involved in the cover up?

ISSA: And I hope they don't get involved. I hope this stays at Justice. And I hope that Justice cooperates, because ultimately, Justice lied to the American people on February 4th and didn't make it right for 10 months.

WALLACE: All right. We're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Cummings, Congressman Issa, thank you both so much. We'll follow what happens in the House this week.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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