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Public Statements

CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript

Interview

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BALDWIN: Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz was part of the hearings. He joins me live from the Russell Rotunda there at the Capitol.

Congressman, welcome. Good to see you.

Let me just first get your reaction here to some of the nuggets that have emerged from this 478-some page review. What is your reaction?

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, at first blush, it is, like you said, more than 478 pages. It seems the inspector general did a very thorough job.

I think it validates exactly what Chairman Issa, myself, Trey Gowdy and others have been saying all along, that when you have the federal government knowingly and willingly give the drug cartels 2,000 weapons, you end up having a dead Border Patrol agent and then the Department of Justice lies to Congress in their February 4 letter that there are a lot of serious flaws in that whole setup.

At the various highest levels of the Department of Justice, there was a lot of wrongdoing there. And we were chastised as House Republicans as being on a witch-hunt and all this, but I would look to this report and it validates exactly what we said, that this was fundamentally flawed from the get-go, the Department of Justice didn't have the proper controls on that.

The attorney general was getting very bad advice and was ill- served and did not take personal responsibility in that inner circle there at the Department of Justice.

BALDWIN: But, Congressman, you talk about lies. And specifically from Eric Holder, I know you wanted to subpoena a number of documents from the DOJ and a lot of questions very pointed toward him as far as what he knew and when. Now we have learned it was specifically February of 2011 when he was made aware of this, you know, very much so botched operation.

I want to just read part of his statement today for you -- quote -- "It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations, accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion. I hope today's report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of circumstances is completed."

Congressman Chaffetz, do you believe Holder? Do you believe he was not involved?

CHAFFETZ: I totally disagree with that assertion that was just made.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: With all due respect, answer my question first. Do you believe him? Are you believing this review that he did not, he was not aware?

CHAFFETZ: The question about when he was aware of that, I will look to the report and I believe that.

BALDWIN: OK.

CHAFFETZ: But here is the problem.

In February of 2011 is when the -- on the Department of Justice letterhead, they sent this false and misleading letter. It was 10 months later that the Department of Justice finally pulled this back.

I would point to page one of the inspector general's report, which calls upon the -- working with the Department of Justice to unseal these wiretaps, because they believe, I think, that the Department of Justice is not being candid with the American people, and they say there is nothing in there relating to gun-walking.

The inspector general wants that stuff released and I think when the public sees it, when we see it, you will see that we will be vindicated that, yes, indeed gun-walking or certainly red flags that would lead to these questionable tactics was in these wiretaps, and I think that's why Jason Weinstein resigned today and why the attorney general is wrong when he testified to Congress.

BALDWIN: That is two of the 14, sir, two of the 14 ATF and DOJ referred to for discipline. You think all 14 should go away?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I think we're not only the Oversight Committee, but we're also the Government Reform. We got to make sure we have controls in place so this never, ever happens again. We got a dead Border Patrol agent.

Yes, they have identified 14. I'm not in a position to say that there should necessarily be more than that, but clearly at the senior levels of the Department of Justice, particularly the Criminal Division with Lanny Breuer, there still needs to be some reform in place, absolutely.

BALDWIN: Final question for you, Congressman Chaffetz. Is this over for you? No more questions?

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: No, I wish it was, because, again, the inspector general has said, there needs to be more documents released. We still have not seen a bulk of these documents that the inspector general got to see, and then we also have to put the reforms in place and we should do so on a bipartisan way so this never happens again, regardless of the administration that is in place.

BALDWIN: Brian Terry losing his life over this, December of 2010.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, thank you so much live from Capitol Hill.

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