JR: Jorge Ramos
CDI: Congressman Darrell Issa
JR: Congressman Issa, thank you so much for talking to us.
CDI: Well, thank you, Jorge, for covering this important issue.
JR: Well, let me ask you about Fast and Furious – this past weekend at a congressional hearing, you told the Attorney General that he was to blame for the operation Fast and Furious, and you – and I’m quoting – you said, “that the operation Fast and Furious must go to your desk.” Do you think that Attorney General Holder should resign?
CDI: I think it’s critical, Jorge, that the Attorney General either expeditiously fix this problem, regain the confidence of our partners in Mexico and hold those people who directly did this accountable, or he needs to go and allow somebody else to clean house.
JR: Now, as you know, President Barack Obama told me in an interview that he was not aware nor did he authorize Fast and Furious, and he also told me that the Attorney General didn’t know anything about it. Do you believe President Obama, though?
CDI: Of course, I believe President Obama would believe that, and it may be true, but there’s the whole point. Either you knew and you didn’t act, or you were basically incompetent for not acting and still not acting even ‘til today. And that’s the important thing about Attorney General Holder - here we are, a year, one year today after Brian Terry was gunned down, long after this project led 2,000 weapons go south of the border, and nobody has been held accountable by this Attorney General.
JR: Now, during the interview with President Barack Obama on March 22, he, of course, told me that he had no information whatsoever about Fast and Furious. You have subpoenaed all communication between the Department of Justice and the White House in reference to that interview. Why is that relevant?
CDI: Well, there’s a very limited amount of information we’ve gotten relating to communication with the White House. It was just two individuals. Generally, under our system, we do not have access to communication directly to and from the President, but we basically believe that the President didn’t know about this specific operation. Instead, the President now knows about it, knows that Attorney General Holder has not fixed and cleaned up this operation. Even more so, it is very possible that today we’re still being misled as to the DEA’s involvement in money laundering and their communication with their partners in Mexico. All of these things beg the question of when is the President going to lose confidence in the Attorney General and the Department of Justice.
JR: So probably my question, Congressman, is if you truly believe that President Barack Obama knew about this operation before it was made public? Recently I spoke with Dan Restrepo – as you know, he’s one of President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisors, whose name, by the way, appears in a few of the documents – he told me that he was not aware of Fast and Furious, and that therefore, if he was not aware, it was impossible for him to tell President Barack Obama anything about it.
CDI: Well, Jorge, this may all be true. Again, under our system, our Chief Executive, President Obama, has to hold people accountable when things are done wrong, really wrong, so wrong that people are dying by the hundreds in Mexico, and even in America, people are being gunned down by these weapons. When will he hold Attorney General Holder responsible? When will the Attorney General here hold anybody accountable within the Department of Justice and make those changes? If I were in Mexico today, I would have a very hard time trusting this Department of Justice. They lied about Fast and Furious. They appear to be lying about DEA money laundering. This does not work for our two countries, and that’s what concerns me the most, is that going forward there won’t be confidence in a war on drugs and these cartels, and that’s what we need in order to end the killings, both north and south of the border.
JR: Congressman, as you mentioned, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed about a year ago; ICE agent Jaime Zapata was killed in Mexico on February 15. Are you completely convinced that both deaths are related to Fast and Furious?
CDI: We can’t be sure. We are fully confident that two weapons fired and found at the scene of Brian Terry’s murder were from Fast and Furious. More importantly, Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata, they’re symbols of a war that we’re losing because of bad practices like Fast and Furious. And I think that’s something that today on the first anniversary of the death of Brian Terry, all of us are thinking about much more, that he died because these weapons were let loose. Jaime Zapata may have died because of these or other weapons allowed. We’ve got to get control of the drugs, the money and the weapons. And this administration is a long way from having confidence in any of those.
JR: Yes, you know about Fast and Furious probably more than most members of Congress. Do you - can you confirm if these kind of operations were directed not only from the Phoenix office, but from other field offices?
CDI: We see indications that this policy of loose following or not following, and certainly not enforcing gun laws by U.S. Attorneys, was throughout the southern border. So was there a program as out of control as Fast and Furious? No, it seems to be in a league of its own. But was there a systematic reduction in the kind of enforcement that President Obama was -- sorry -- that President Bush was known for? Even firing a U.S. Attorney for not doing enough to prosecute gun traffickers. That part we know. It’s been reduced and it’s one of the reasons that we in Congress don’t have confidence that this President is serious about stopping the drugs, stopping the guns and stopping the money.
JR: I want to ask you about the money laundering operation reported recently by The New York Times. A spokesperson for President Felipe Calderon told me in an interview that the Mexican Government denies having any knowledge about the DEA money laundering operation. Now, do you think that the DEA agents acted without the knowledge or the permission of the Mexican government?
CDI: You know, Jorge, before Fast and Furious, I would have taken the belief that my government would not lie to me. But after Fast and Furious, I have no choice but to know that they will lie. They will distort the truth. So we’re going to investigate this and find out for sure, but it’s very hard to believe that the U.S. is not slanting the truth when they did so under Fast and Furious.
JR: Congressman Issa, one final question about your investigation. The complaints from Democrats I’ve spoken to, they say that this is only politics; that your real intention is to hurt President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. How do you respond to this criticism?
CDI: Well, I don’t even know whether Brian Terry or Jaime Zapata were Republicans or Democrats. And I don’t know anything about the politics of most of the people involved in this. What I know is that the American people, Republicans and Democrats, have not been told the truth, and had they been told the truth a year ago or nearly a year ago, this investigation would be long over and with much less impact on the President. So my only point is if the President would insist that Eric Holder do his job and do it quickly, this would not be an election year event at all. That’s up to him. I cannot stop investigating. I owe it to the Terry family, to the Zapata family. They need answers and they’re not getting them without our help.
JR: Okay. Congressman Issa, thank you so much for talking to us.
CDI: Of course. Thank you.
JR: Thank you.