On Thursday, February 2, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding his role in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ gun running operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
During the hearing, Holder continued to deny any foreknowledge of the botched operation. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House committee, led the charge in questioning Holder on his involvement and knowledge. When Issa asked Holder if he had been briefed on the wiretaps presented in this case, Holder responded, “These wiretaps are very voluminous, read well kinds of things. I have not read them.”
The U.S. Attorney General has an obligation to the American people to know what is going on under his watch, but throughout the hearing Holder continuously tried to distance himself from the activities of his staff.
At one point during the hearing, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told Holder, “You’ve not taken action, you’ve not fired anybody, you haven’t changed policy, because it’s clear you didn’t enforce the policy before.”
Holder responded, “I’ve made personnel changes with regard to leadership positions. We have moved people around. We have instituted a series of policies now that I think are designed to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
McHenry countered, “An agent was murdered and your action is to move people around? That seems to me to simply inconvenience people, not to rid them of federal employment.”
During her questioning of Holder, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) said, “I think it’s important to recognize that you, as the Attorney General, with all due respect, need to be held accountable, or someone does, as to what happened. Of all the issues that face this country, this is the issue that I hear from my district so frequently about. In fact, today I have no fewer than 30 questions from folks in my district who want to know what happened, why it happened, and who’s going to be held accountable.” Buerkle went on to say, “With all due respect, yes you are [the Attorney General], but you are also accountable not only to the folks in my district, but to the American people.”
Buerkle then played a portion of video from a June 2011 hearing in which the spokesman for murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family asked if enough was being done to identify everyone involved, and if those involved would face charges. Buerkle then asked Holder how far the investigation had come since June of last year.
Said Holder, “We’re certainly working now to, it’s an ongoing investigation, this is a very sensitive time, I’m not sure I can talk an awful lot about where the investigation is. I’ve indicated that I think we’re pretty close to making some announcements.” Holder continued, “And with regard to people who were involved in Operation Fast and Furious, we are endeavoring to find out who made the determination to allow guns to walk. I am not at liberty to talk about weapons that were used during the actual incident.”
After some additional back-and-forth discussion, Buerkle asked, “I was one of the members [of this committee] who called for your resignation. I feel that [as head of the] DOJ, that you’re responsible for all activities that fall under your umbrella. You’ve denied knowledge of the program and that accordingly you should not be held accountable. My question to you here today is what more could have possibly gone wrong? …How many more Border Patrol agents would have had to die for you to take responsibility?”
Holder tried to characterize the question as ridiculous, and never did answer it.
For gun owners, one of the most alarming and telling statements from Holder during the entire hearing was when he stated, “This administration has consistently favored the reinstitution of the assault weapons ban, it is something that we think was useful in the past with regard to the reduction that we’ve seen in crime and certainly would have a positive impact on our relationship and the crime situation in Mexico.” How renewing this misguided ban would have prevented the Administration’s lack of judgment in overseeing a gun running operation, though, is not clear.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) insisted that the Committee has obtained no evidence that Holder authorized gun walking in “Fast and Furious.” Many other committee members on his side of the aisle echoed that sentiment throughout the hearing. Earlier in the week, a committee minority report was released blaming federal agents in Arizona for the flawed operation and attempting to exonerate Justice Department officials.
Holder remained defiant and dismissive, even as he faced the specter of being held in contempt if he continues to stall requests to turn over documents. Holder accused the Committee of playing political “gotcha” games in an election year. “This has become political. There is no attempt at any cover-up. We have shared huge amounts of information.”
The Committee is seeking about 93,000 documents, but the Justice Department has only produced 6,400 of those. Holder said he will not hand over “deliberative materials” that came after Feb. 4, 2011, when the Committee began its review. Congressman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) challenged Holder by saying, “I think you’re hiding behind something here. There’s things you don’t want us to see. You ought to give us the documents.”
Eric Holder has not been honest with the American people, and we deserve better. Eric Holder should resign.