Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), former chairman of the House Oversight Committee, joined Breitbart News Daily on Tuesday with SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon to talk about his new book, Watchdog: The Real Stories Behind the Headlines from the Congressman Who exposed Washington’s Biggest Scandals.
Bannon noted that Issa’s tenure as House Oversight chair covered some of the biggest scandals in modern political history, including Benghazi and Operation Fast and Furious. The latter culminated in Issa’s becoming the only Oversight chairman in history to hold a Cabinet officer – Attorney General Eric Holder – in contempt of Congress.
“One might say it was the first time it was appropriate,” Issa observed. He added:
That’s really sort of a challenge. In the past, if a Cabinet officer, given plenty of time and notice, was told that they had to do something, they did it. But in the case of the Attorney General, not only did he not do it, but, until this day, his department, his former department, is still part of the obstruction of Congress.
Issa said he stands by his prediction that the Obama administration would be remembered as one of the most corrupt in history.
“It’s sort of one of those sad things. One hates to be right,” he said. He continued:
The fact is that it was a predictive statement, all the way back on the Rush Limbaugh show, as we were going into the majority. We’d had just two years of the Obama administration, no investigation, no oversight had been done whatsoever by the Democratic majority in those first two years.
“But they had given the President an unprecedented amount of money,” Issa stated, then said:
He not only had the $800 billion, or a big chunk of it, in control from TARP – a legacy of the Bush administration – but he then had the stimulus money and, of course, this very new money, if you will, that Obamacare was providing. And so it was a prediction, a prediction that we were going to be dealing with that sort of too much money in Washington for them to not sort of be corrupt.
“Sadly, it was only a small part of what turned out to be this administration’s wrongdoing,” he shared, adding:
I never loaded in there Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the secretary of state already having perhaps hundreds of classified documents on her server by the time I took the majority. So I have to be honest: some of it was just luck predicting it because of the vast amounts of money and new power – but now, looking back, I should have waited a little while and realized that real corruption comes in trying to thwart the Constitution, not just wasting the taxpayers’ money.
Issa disagreed that the eleventh-hour invocation of privilege by President Obama to shield Attorney General Holder from oversight “shut down” the Fast and Furious investigation, thanking several judges – including Obama appointees – for chipping away at the President’s “unreasonable assertion” over the years, but by his own accounting, the momentum of the investigation stalled with that anticlimax. The mainstream media certainly didn’t seem interested in pursuing the story aggressively after that.
The Fast and Furious case is one reason Issa writes in his book about “the need for the power of the House to be linked to the power of the judiciary.”
“Our real power is not inherent in attempted oversight, but it’s in being able to get to the courts, to that neutral arbitrator that was anticipated in the Constitution also,” he explained. “To create that two-against-one when, in fact, the administration is wrong. And, conversely, if the administration has a legitimate right, then the Court’s job is to side the other way.”
“That’s one of the stories of Fast and Furious. Fast and Furious is still in the courts as we speak,” he pointed out, elaborating:
Only a few months ago – and this is sort of a last annex to Watchdog – about two months ago, after the book had originally gone to print, did we get a host of documents that the judge ordered them to turn over. They finally turned it over, and it showed actual obstruction, actual wrongdoing in the sense of an attorney, Eric Holder, coaching his people in emails on how to obstruct our investigation.
“In other words, the felony, the crime that is obstruction of justice, and the emails, I think, very clearly show that the Attorney General was doing it,” Issa asserted. “What makes it interesting is the Attorney General, under oath, said, ‘I don’t email very much. I text a little.’ Well, no, he emailed a lot. He emailed his critical people to actively try to thwart our investigation, for a reason that has yet to be determined.”
Issa stressed that his book is not solely about Obama administration’s scandals, as earlier chapters chronicle his rise through the House Oversight Committee ranks during the Bush years.
“Every administration does some things,” he said, citing Bush’s aborted effort to elevate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, and the firing of nine U.S. attorneys as examples.
Issa noted that the latter case was resolved not by the courts, although a Bush-appointed judge had recently ruled against them, but when the outgoing Bush administration “cut a deal to provide transparency on the firing of those U.S. Attorneys.”
“The President had an absolute right to fire his political appointees,” he pointed out. “What he didn’t have a right to do was to obstruct Congress deciding whether there was something nefarious in that firing.” Explaining, he said, “It’s sort of like, the president has a right to record things in his office, but if you’re investigating Watergate, then there becomes a very valid reason that you should be able to ask and receive evidence.”
That’s really a lot of what Watchdog is doing, is making the case through examples – most of them during the Obama administration, but not all – making examples of why we need reform, why we need Congress to step up to the plate and do their job, why we need tools not to increase power against the executive branch, but to assert that balance that was intended in the Constitution.
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.