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Fox on the Record with Greta Van Susteren - Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

Fox News Network


HEADLINE: Interview With Senators Saxby Chambliss and Bill Nelson

GUESTS: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Sen. Bill Nelson

BYLINE: Greta Van Susteren, Simon Marks

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, the big issue: Was a crime committed at the White House? Two U.S. senators and former CIA chief James Woolsey are standing by. But first, Simon Marks is in Washington with the late-breaking developments -- Simon.

SIMON MARKS, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Well, Greta, tonight a full-scale criminal investigation is under way. Staff at the White House have been warned not to destroy any documents, any e-mail, any telephone records relating to the unmasking of Ambassador Wilson's wife as an undercover CIA officer. The Justice Department says it is determined to get to the bottom of all of this.

We heard today directly from the president, speaking for the first time publicly on the alleged outing of Ambassador Wilson's wife. He said there are too many leaks in Washington, and he wants them plugged.


GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing.


MARKS: The president was informed early this morning of the decision to launch the criminal probe by White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez. And Mr. Gonzalez in a memo warned White House staff that, quote, "You must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation."

Up on Capitol Hill, Democrats are insisting this matter is too serious to be left in the hands of the Justice Department. They want an independent counsel appointed to investigate.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: An independent investigation of this despicable matter must be undertaken immediately. It must be thorough and it must be beyond question, in terms of the vigor with which it is pursued.


MARKS: Now, the Bush administration insists that the career investigators at the Justice Department are perfectly capable of handling this inquiry. Under the letter of a law, for a crime to have been committed, prosecutors will have to show that whoever leaked this information about Ambassador Wilson's wife did so knowing that she worked in the covert shadows -- Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Simon.

Now let's turn to Democratic senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who's in Washington, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And from Capitol Hill is Republican senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Both are members of the Armed Services Committee. Welcome to both of you.

Senator Chambliss, to you. How serious do you think this matter is?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: Oh, I think it's extremely serious, Greta. Any time you have any operative from the CIA exposed, certainly, it puts the life of that agent in danger. And you know, these are very professional people. They're career people. Some of them operate in more dangerous areas than others. And I don't know where this -- this very valuable agent worked, but wherever it was, this is a serious, serious operation because it involved classified material. And discussion of classified material in an open forum just can't be allowed. So whoever leaked this created a -- caused a very serious situation and, in all likelihood -- and I emphasize that -- committed a crime.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Nelson, where do we draw the line? How do we know if this isn't politics as usual, sort of one side playing gotcha to the other side in politics? And how do we know if this is, indeed, you know, a breach of -- of our security -- of the law?

SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Greta, you find out the truth, and you do that through an investigation by professional law enforcement officers, and you try to remove the politics from it. And I think that's some of the reasons of the call for a special prosecutor, someone who would not be in the chain of the command that might have a conflict of interest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator...

NELSON: Turn it over to the cops.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Nelson, in terms of turning -- I mean, in the chain of command, I mean, there is a division at the Department of Justice called public integrity. Prosecutors there have been working probably going back to the Reagan administration, some of those old-line prosecutors, through two Clinton administrations, Bush 41. Do you have any problem with those -- those prosecutors, not a special prosecutor, but that division, for instance, looking into this?

NELSON: I don't personally, because I think they are tough, professional law enforcement people. But the question is the politics issue that you raised and what is the perception of the American people that they're getting to the truth. What Saxby said is exactly right. It is alleged that a crime has been committed of which people's lives and the interests of the United States is at stake, and it ought to be dealt with by finding out the truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Chambliss, I assume that nobody wants to bring back to life the independent counsel statute. At least, I'd be surprised. It expired in '99. But we have the issue of a special prosecutor, someone that gets appointed by the attorney general outside the Justice Department, and a prosecutor inside, like, perhaps, the public integrity division. What do you support, in terms of the investigation? Who should we look to to investigate?

CHAMBLISS: Well, Greta, we've got a process that's been established by Congress, and that process requires that the Justice Department make the initial investigation. You know, there's concern that the investigation may lead to the White House. There's simply no foundation for that. I mean, the guy who wrote the article said again today that the source of his information was not somebody from the administration. So you know, this could just as easily point to Congress. And if it does, then what type of investigation or person do we need investigating this particular issue?

VAN SUSTEREN: But Senator Chambliss...

CHAMBLISS: What if it's outside?

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator...

CHAMBLISS: What if it's at the CIA?

VAN SUSTEREN: I know that you're referring to Bob Novak, who's the one who's at the center of this, journalist Bob Novak. But at least one newspaper, "The Washington Post," has said that the White House officials - - now, I don't know exactly what that means and they've changed the wording from day to day in their articles, by saying they called at least six journalists. So I'm not so sure that we just look at the -- Robert Novak. But don't we look to see if someone -- at least, someone's calling somebody else, as well?

CHAMBLISS: Well, Greta, that's why the process that I referred to must be followed. And there must be an initial investigation. If that initial investigation turns up some reason why there should be somebody from outside called in, then you better believe the White House and anybody else involved is going to do that. But at this early stage in the game, we don't know where we are. And to just come off the wall and say we must go in and we must have an independent investigation -- there's simply no need for that at this time. But I do agree with Bill, we need a very thorough investigation of this. And the president reiterated that point today.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Nelson, is there a difference in your mind between someone who accidentally or stupidly revealed the name in passing conversation about a story, may have been leaking something else but added that as a fact -- is there a difference between being sort of stupid and negligent and being -- intentionally trying to out a CIA employee?

NELSON: Well, in criminal law, it's called a "mens rea." It's the criminal intent to commit the crime. And if someone knowingly tells or reveals the identity of a CIA agent or officer, that is the crime. And so it's what is their mental intent.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Chambliss, President Bush says he'll take the appropriate action if it turns out that it is someone. And you're quite right, it has not yet been established who did it, if anyone has done anything wrong. But what's the appropriate action, in your mind, if it turns out an employee of the White House did provide this information to many journalists?

CHAMBLISS: Well, obviously, it's whatever the circumstances are that are revealed by the investigation. But it's pretty clear that if somebody intentionally leaked this with the intent to expose this particular agent at the Central Intelligence Agency, then, you know, that is severe. That has the potential to compromise our intelligence community. And it will cause for criminal action to be taken against that individual and, you know, removal of that person from whatever position they're in, I think would be a given. So we're looking beyond that, certainly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Senators Nelson and Chambliss, thank you both very much.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you.

NELSON: Thanks, Greta.

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