"They would have you believe that I knew, that I knew what the Attorney General didn’t know, that I knew what they were deliberately withholding from ATF, DEA, and Justice agents in Mexico City and from the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico."
Here's the transcript of Anderson Cooper's interview with Congressman Darrell Issa last night on CNN.
Anderson Cooper: “So Congressman, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has formally asked the President to appoint a special counsel to investigate what Attorney General Holder knew and when he knew it. The request is based on an exchange that you had back with him in May. Do you believe the Attorney General lied to you?”
Rep. Darrell Issa: “Well, I certainly believe that he either misrepresented the facts or he’s sufficiently incompetent that he didn’t know what was in his weekly briefings. And I certainly support the fact that the Attorney General cannot investigate himself.”
Anderson Cooper: “CNN has obtained some of the documents that you and your colleagues have referenced and the Attorney General did receive some memos last year acknowledging the existence of Operation Fast & Furious, but only in passing. The Justice Department is saying basically, ‘Look, he receives dozens of reports every week, some more than a hundred pages. There’s no indication he knew of the problems of this particular operation that far back.’ Do you believe that?”
Rep. Darrell Issa: “Well, it’s difficult if at all possible [to] believe it. Additionally, there’s a spin going that when they talked about guns walking in excess were other programs. We’ve had testimony in front of our committee that says, ‘Justice never lets guns walk.’ And now we have written proof that they were concerned about the guns walking. They were concerned about the optics of press interviews in which they were going to talk about problems, including Brian Terry’s murder. And very clearly, this was not hundreds of pages of reports… He had to at least say, ‘I’m familiar with the name. What is it you mean?’ or that ‘I don’t fully understand everything as well as I did two weeks before.’ Instead, in fairness both to myself and to Jason Chaffetz, the Attorney General implied that he had never heard of this until two weeks before, rather than that perhaps he didn’t know what a felony stupid program this was that led to the death of Brian Terry and the release of at least 2,000 weapons into the worst of the worst people’s hands.”
Anderson Cooper: “I want to read you what a Justice Department official has told CNN cause they’re pushing back on what you’re saying. They said, ‘Chairman Issa, of all people, should be familiar with the difference between knowing about an investigation and being aware of questionable tactics employed in that investigation since documents provided to his committee show that he was given a briefing that included the Fast and Furious Operation in 2010 – a year before the controversy emerged.’ So I mean, did you, yourself know about the operation last year?”
Rep. Darrell Issa: “That is an outright lie that the Justice Department has been spinning. They shopped that to the newspapers until they found one that would print it. The fact is Kenneth Melson, a man who under oath very, very well recorded, has said he didn’t know about much of this, and clearly did not brief me in one briefing that was about gun trafficking into Mexico. And let’s understand something, Anderson. They would have you believe that I knew, that I knew what the Attorney General didn’t know, that I knew what they were deliberately withholding from ATF, DEA, and Justice agents in Mexico City and from the M- U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. So as this cover-up and this game of spin-and-delay continues, the problem is it’s only creating problems that didn’t initially exist. Initially, this was a dumb program that led to very adverse consequences. Now it’s about a cover-up, about deception, about slow-rolling discovery of this and other committees. Understand I got involved in this because Senator Grassley was denied any discovery because he wasn’t the Chairman over in the Senate, and I got involved somewhat on his behalf, and my committee has taken a lead on it. But this was about stonewalling of the Senate long before I got involved.”
Anderson Cooper: I’d always thought this was the first time this kind of a program had been tried. There are new revelations tonight coming out that the Bush Administration had a similar weapons program, something called Operation ‘Wide Receiver.’ Do you know about that? Do you think officials from that Administration should be looked at, as well?”
Rep. Darrell Issa: “Well, Anderson, we’d know a lot more about it except that’s among the documents we’re still waiting to get. What we do know about ‘Wide Receiver’ somewhat is very small amount of weapons, much more intensive following, but, in fact, we will get to the bottom of whether or not this practice in a smaller way may have begun on the Bush watch. We’re not putting it past any Administration and giving anyone a pass. The American people and the people of Mexico expect us to have a zero tolerance for letting drugs come into our country or weapons go into Mexico.”
Anderson Cooper: Congressman Issa, appreciate your time. Thank you.
Rep. Darrell Issa: Thank you, Anderson.