Rep. Darrell Issa to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “The president set exactly the right tone…”
Today on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) spoke with Wolf Blitzer about the release of the Benghazi emails by the Obama administration, the resignation of the IRS acting commissioner and more. A full transcript from this interview will be posted on http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/sitroom.html; highlights are after the jump.
PLEASE CREDIT: CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
Highlights from Interview:
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. IT MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: Do you believe crimes were committed?
ISSA: Well, certainly I think the American people believe in that old axiom that the power to tax is the power to destroy. And people had an intent to destroy, or to affect the outcome of an election by holding back groups that might have been advocates for smaller government, for constitutional behavior and the like. So, it certainly had a disruptive process. In this case, as you’ve been saying, it’s conservatives. But in the past, it’s also been other groups. African-American groups, civil rights groups, a number of others.
So, I think what we have to do is fix the IRS once and for all. I look forward to the president getting ahead of part of this story. But let’s remember, the actions the IRS, in this case, conspicuously benefited the president.
BLITZER: Dana, stand by. Let’s get quick reaction from Congressman Darrell Issa, joining us now live from Capitol Hill. He listened to what the president had to say over at the White House. He’s the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. Did he satisfy you, did he satisfy your demands, Congressman?
ISSA: Well, Wolf, the president set exactly the right tone. I think that immediate relieving of an acting commissioner who had — made false statements and misled Congress is an extremely good first step.
One thing I can assure you that he asked for that he’s going to get, both the Ways and Means committee and my committee with my ranking committee member, Elijah Cummings, have vowed to do bipartisan work. We’ve started off that way, we’re going to stay that way. The IRS is definitely an issue in which what happens wrong today could happen wrong tomorrow to a different group of Americans.
So, I think the president will find very willing partners on Capitol Hill. I think in this case, we very much take him at his word that he wants to be open and transparent in fixing the system and putting new controls in place.
BLITZER: Let me quickly get your reaction to the other news of the day. The White House releasing 100 pages of documents on the e-mails that resulted in those talking points on the Benghazi attack, the attack that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, explaining how Susan Rice eventually wound up saying in effect what she did say in those five Sunday talk shows a few days after the September 11 attack. I assume you welcome the release of these documents?
ISSA: We do welcome them. Although releasing them to the press before releasing them to the Congress, would seem to be pretty inappropriate. And of course, there are many other documents that they’re still not releasing. The idea that they selectively say they have deliberate process protection as they did in Fast and Furious, and they still are in these documents, is an area we need to come to grips with the administration. When the American people are lied to, realizing that their work product should be open for criticism and review.
BLITZER: Those are pretty blunt words, unacceptable and shameful, the way you conduct yourself, Congressman, as a member of Congress. I want you to respond to what he said.
ISSA: Well, you know, I have to keep doing my job even if the attorney general objects. Thomas Perez told us that there were no documents offline. In other words, no private e-mails. It went from zero to 1, to 2, to 34, now 35 responsive e-mails in which he e-mailed privately, including one that was a private e-mail to another private e-mail at HUD. These are violations of the Federal Records Act.
But more importantly, there were 1,200 e-mails that we simply want to look at. And this is my ranking member and myself. We don’t want copies of them, we want to be able to review them to make sure we’re satisfied that there are no additional documents. And in the case of the documents we’re talking about, they’re redacting, these are 35 e-mails in violation of the law that Thomas Perez had communications offline. We know that one of them is to the White House. One of them is to a HUD individual related to a quid pro quo that he conducted secretly in St. Paul, Minnesota.
This investigation is into the wrongdoing as we view it, at least not illegal, but wrongdoing by the proposed secretary, while he was supposed to be heading up Justice in the Civil Rights Division, and areas in which he gave false testimony as to what he did or didn’t do.
It’s a cover-up. We played a tape of his actually instructing somebody in the attorney general’s office in Minnesota, not to speak about things. So these kinds of facts, and we’ve produced a fairly lengthy report that’s on our Web site, as to Thomas Perez and his actions, these were very appropriate questions. I know the attorney general would have liked to have answered for five minutes and my time would have been done. All I was trying to do is ask him questions to hope that he would release information that a very, very strong Democrat and I have both asked for.