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During 'Al Punto'
Senator Chuck Grassley talked to Jorge Ramos about the controversial operation 'Fast and Furious', through which hundreds of weapons were smuggled to Mexico from the US while de US government spied on the cartels.
This is the complete interview with the senator as it aired on 'Al Punto'.
Senator Grassley, thank you so much for talking to us and let me start right away. When did you find out about “Fast and Furious”? When was the first time that you heard about it?
A few weeks before January 27th when "that's a date that I first wrote to the Attorney General trying to get some information of which we have gotten very little information to this point. So I would say, maybe, eight to 10 weeks before. And my first knowledge of this came from people that we call whistleblowers, very patriotic people within the ATF who thought something was not right about this program. And they weren't getting any attention from higher ups within their agency. So out of frustration and out of wanting to see good happen, rather than bad happen, they came to me to tell me about it. And that was followed with about 12 to 15 whistleblowers talking to me, some little and some a lot. So that we had backing up of the first whistleblower that talked, and we also eventually got some e-mail from gun dealers who were e-mailing ATF, raising questions about whether or not this was really a wise policy. In other words, a lot of people were seeing what eventually happened, and that eventually happened was that all these guns didn't get across the border, and all the guns could not be traced and a lot of guns ended up at the murder site of Mr. Terry and there's evidence of some of these guns being used in other crimes on both sides of the border.
Now Senator, President Barack Obama told me in an interview that neither he nor the Attorney General Holder approved the program. Do you believe President Obama?
Okay. I think you're referring to what I've sometimes referred to that President Obama was asked about this program. I think on your cable…
Exactly. And he said he was neither informed nor did he authorize the operation. That's what he told me.
Yeah. But at least he said that it was not very good policy. I think he made that statement as well. I have to believe him. On the other hand, you know as Truman said the buck stops here. Meaning at the President's Oval Office. So somehow even if he didn't know about it, he's ultimately responsible. And I, the fact is I...
Who approved it probably…
I, I don’t...
Probably that's the question Senator. Who approved it? If it was not the Attorney General nor the President, who had the authority to approve an operation of such magnitude?
Well, I don't know who had the authority. And I don't know who approved it. And that's what we're trying to find out. And that's the ultimate answer as far as I'm concerned. Because this has turned out to be a very " a bad policy. And whoever made this decision should be fired.
Now, do you have any idea on how many people might have died, either in the United States or in Mexico because of this operation?
I only know about one for sure. And, of course, I suppose you could raise some questions, were these guns really used in the murder of Terry? but " because we don't have ballistics yet that show it. But it's my belief that if these guns were at the site of the murder, they were probably involved in it. And there's reason to believe they've been involved in other crimes because you know we know where the guns come from, because the registration number on the gun was a matter of record.
Now, President Felipe Calderon told us recently in an interview that Agent Zapata was killed by a gun that was part of “Fast and Furious.” Do you have any information that might confirm this?
I don't have any information to confirm it. But I wouldn't have any reason to believe that President Calderon is wrong in making that judgment. And I would think that it would be very appropriate for the Justice Department to comment when the President of a sovereign nation, a person that's in cooperation with us on the war on drugs and the war on terror is making such a statement.
Now are you upset with the Department of Justice Senator Grassley? Have they been forthcoming with the information? Or have they been blocking all the information and if that's the case, why do you think they're doing that? Why don't they just want to be open about this operation?
Yeah. Well, you've asked a very basic question. Am I irritated? Of course, I'm irritated. Because, you know, they're standing between me and my doing my job. My job isn't just to pass law and give them money or laws to enforce. My job also follows up what we call constitutional role of oversight of Congress. We pass laws; we're supposed to be at check on the executive branch of government. We're supposed to see that the laws are faithfully executed. We need information to do our constitutional responsibility. And I've been totally stonewalled not getting information. Now I can tell you within the last couple days there is some indication that the Justice Department is willing to cooperate with us. So I want to give them, give you, that heads up. But until now, we've been totally stonewalled. And it stands in the way of me answering your questions because I don't have the information. And you want, you legitimately asked: “what you think the motivation is for not answering our questions?” And I think it's because somebody's going to be embarrassed. But I can tell the Justice Department, like I tell a lot of government agencies, that they know that Senator Chuck Grassley keeps on these things 'till I get to the bottom of it. And the longer you wait, the more you stonewall, the more egg you're going to have on your face when the information comes out.
Senator, how far are you willing to go? As you know, President Barack Obama nominated Anthony Wayne to be Ambassador of Mexico. Are you going to block his nomination? Until you get the information that you are requesting?
I'm going to "I'm blocking other nominations, to the Justice Department, the Deputy Attorney General and other Assistant Attorney Generals. And those are blocked right now until we get this information.
But not the nomination of Anthony Wayne to Mexico?
Well, I'm not sure that I want to create problems for our State Department, because I have no evidence that our State Department is involved in this cover-up of “Fast and Furious.”
And finally Senator Grassley, what are you expecting for the hearings this upcoming week?
Well, I'm expecting to get all the information that's coming in through subpoena and also through voluntary witnesses that are coming, that are filling in a lot of the questions that we're not getting answers from the Justice Department, or to get information from these hearings that will give us more of a basis for asking for even more documents from the Justice Department. And to fill in voids that my staff and Issa’s staff have as a result of questioning that we have done in the State of Arizona.
Senator Grassley, before I let you go, let me ask you about Congressman Weiner. Do you think he should resign?
Oh, absolutely he should resign. And he should resign because first of all, he lied. And second, members of Congress including this Senator ought to be setting a moral example for the rest of the nation. And what he has done is very immoral. It's very wrong. And it's even more wrong because he's a member of the Congress of the United States as opposed to just being an individual citizen.
Senator Grassley, thank you so much for talking to us.