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Congress Turns Up the Heat on Richardson over Los Alamos Fiasco

Aired June 21, 2000 - 2:05 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says those disappearing, reappearing nuclear secrets may never have left the Los Alamos weapons lab. Called to Capitol Hill again today, Richardson said a preliminary probe shows no signs of espionage in connection with the movements of two hard drives containing those nuclear secrets.

But as CNN's Bob Franken tells us, that was hardly enough to satisfy some angry senators -- a volatile day, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as the senators sat snarling, Richardson gave them some news. First of all, he said the FBI had decided that the hard drives were authentic, not copies -- that had been a big concern -- went on to say that a grand jury is investigating this matter. It is a criminal matter. Of course, senators on both sides of the political spectrum are investigating too, just one of the investigations Richardson is involved in these days.

He's gotten a huge amount of criticism for his handling of security and national security at the Energy Department, particularly with this latest matter. And you're getting criticism from both parties, Republican and Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I believe you've lost what credibility you have left on Capitol Hill. And I think it's time for you to go.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: You've shown a contempt of Congress that borders on a supreme arrogance of this institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Richardson clearly believing that the best defense is a good offense made it absolutely clear, as he told reporters later, that resigning is not an option.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL RICHARDSON, ENERGY SECRETARY: I take a back seat to no one on issues of security. I'm outraged at what's taken place. There are no excuses. It's unacceptable, incomprehensible to me what happened. I will not rest until I know what happened: when, where, why, and by whom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKEN: Richardson said that he has done more to clear up security problems in the Energy Department in the last two years than had been done in 20 years. As for the political motives behind all this, he said he doesn't think politics is involved.

Lou, he said that with a straight face.

WATERS: I'm sorry, Bob, I'm getting some breaking news information in my ear as I'm trying to listen to you.

Bob Franken, up on Capitol Hill.

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