United States Senator John Cornyn joined me on today’s show to discuss the VA scandal. As I noted this morning, this is becoming a criminal probe very quickly. Cornyn, the second ranking GOP senator, has confidence in FBI Director James Comey’s oversight of that investigation, but added his name to the list of senators calling for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.
HH: Joined by United States Senator John Cornyn from the great state of Texas. Senator, it’s good to be back in your home state.
JC: Well, good to have you in my hometown of San Antonio, Hugh.
HH: Oh, I didn’t know this was hometown for you.
JC: Absolutely. I’m an Air Force brat, so my dad was stationed there at Lackland Air Force base. That’s where I went to high school and college, and met my wife and married, first ran for public office.
HH: Everyone’s talking about the Spurs, so you’re probably one of those people.
JC: Are you kidding? We are beyond excited about them. Of course, you go to downtown San Antonio, and you see on the bank buildings, Go Spurs Go.
HH: I know, that’s all I, I checked in today, it’s like Spurs mania.
HH: I wish it was all happy talk we could chat about, but I wanted to get your quick reaction to the VA inspector general’s report, Senator Cornyn. I know this is near and dear to your heart, and to many of your colleagues’ hearts. What do you think should happen now?
JC: Well, it’s beyond outrageous, and it’s hard to give the sort of level of anger and a reaction that it deserves. I was meeting today in Houston where I am calling in from with a number of veterans service organizations, and a number of veterans, and here’s the picture they paint. They said basically, you know, the military said if you have PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome, you need to acknowledge it, you need to get it treated. But then they show up, the veterans show up at the clinics, first of all, they can’t get an appointment. And then you know, obviously we’ve got a problem with people self-medicating, actually people in the worst cases committing suicide. And many of them have just given up, or else they’ve gone to other health care providers if they have access to them. But this is a top to bottom problem at the VA, and you know, when they start paying bonuses to leadership on the basis of cooked books and destroyed records, this is something that FBI Director Comey and his colleagues need to look at. This is a call to arms. We’ve got to get this right, and we’ve got to give it the sort of urgent response that it deserves.
HH: Now your colleague, Senator McCain, said yesterday, this isn’t just an ethical scandal or a procedural problem or a political misfire. It’s a criminal investigation. Do you agree with that, Senator Cornyn?
JC: Well, anytime people start destroying evidence, I think it does give rise to concerns about criminal conduct, because obviously, somebody doesn’t want the facts to come out. You’re an outstanding lawyer, Hugh, and you know, this gives rise to all sorts of concerns, including possible criminal conduct.
HH: Now I’ve got to finish by talking to you about confusion, though, among our ranks in Washington. On the one hand, a number of Democrats and many Republicans have called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. But today, House Speaker Boehner said no, that really doesn’t do anything. Mixed message again from the GOP. What do you think, John Cornyn? You’re the number two guy in the leadership, and obviously, you have a lot of sway with your colleagues on both sides of the Congress.
JC: Well, I think General Shinseki served honorably in the military, and he’s had his chance at the VA. But unfortunately, he isn’t getting the job done. We need new leadership there, and we need some ground floor to the top review of the practices there, and how possibly there’s so little accountability for serving, for customer service, which is really what this is about for our veterans, that we’ve allowed this culture of corruption to permeate the VA all to the disservice of our veterans who we should be providing for. And so this is very, very serious. I agree with Senator McCain. Somehow, we’ve become desensitized to the problems at the VA, but this is an all hands on deck moment, and one that we need to get to the bottom of as soon as possible.
HH: So is that a call for his resignation?
JC: Yes, it is. I, unfortunately, I think we need new leadership. The President is the guy who can make that happen, and I think you’re seeing bipartisan support for new leadership at the VA, and that’s a good place to start.
HH: And do you have any confidence that Eric Holder will pursue with vigor the criminal side of this, because he hasn’t done that with the IRS, with Fast & Furious, with so many things. They’ve just languished over at 9th and Constitution. What do you think?
JC: Well, as you know, I don’t have much confidence in Eric Holder, but I do have confidence in James Comey, the FBI director. I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for the FBI, and I think he tries his best to rise above politics, something that Eric Holder has a lot of trouble doing. So my hope is that he will be given the opportunity, that is FBI Director Comey, to conduct this investigation, that we’ll get a thorough investigation and let the chips fall where they may.
HH: Senator John Cornyn, I guess I can say go Spurs, because the Cavs aren’t going to dominate the NBA until after this draft, and we pick up Andrew Wiggins. So good luck to your Spurs, and talk to you again soon. John Cornyn from Texas, America.
End of interview.