Holder’s days as attorney general may be numbered as resignation calls double overnight

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

Attorney General Eric Holder’s tenure in the Obama administration may be coming to an end. At least eight members of Congress have now called on Holder to resign over the growing Operation Fast and Furious scandal.

Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Quico Canseco of Texas and Gus Bilirakis of Florida each told The Daily Caller on Thursday that they believe Holder should step down now. The number of members of Congress calling for Holder to end his career in government because of Fast and Furious is now eight, a number which has doubled in one day.

Previously, Republican Reps. Joe Walsh of Illinois, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Blake Farenthold of Texas and Paul Gosar of Arizona called on Holder to resign.

A spokesperson for Mica, a powerful congressman who serves on the House oversight committee and chairs the House Transportation Committee, told TheDC that he “thinks Attorney General Holder should resign, for more than just the Fast and Furious operation mishandling.”

Hartzler spokesman Steven Walsh said the congresswoman doesn’t think Holder is capable of leading the Justice Department after his flimsy May 3 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Congresswoman Hartzler is of the opinion that documents pertaining to Fast and Furious call into question Attorney General Holder’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee,” Walsh said in an email. “In particular, she is concerned with his testimony regarding knowledge of the timeline of the gun program. Given the information we now have, she is of the opinion that Mr. Holder is not up to the task of advocating on behalf of the American people and should resign.”

At that May 3 hearing, Holder said he had not learned of Operation Fast and Furious until a few weeks before — even though Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley told TheDC he personally handed Holder an inquiry letter about the scandal months before. (RELATED: Rep. Joe Walsh to Holder: ‘Resign immediately’)

Since then Grassley and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, the two leading congressional Fast and Furious investigators, have probed the White House for answers to questions about how Obama knew of the program before Holder claims he knew. Obama addressed Operation Fast and Furious in an interview on Univision about a month before Holder claims he first learned of the gun-walking program.

In an email, Canseco told TheDC that Operation Fast and Furious endangered many Americans in his Texas district, which includes “almost 800 miles of U.S.–Mexico border that is already struggling to deal with the threat of Mexican cartels and violence that is spilling over from Mexico into the United States.”

“Attorney General Holder’s approval of an operation that could put the lives of Americans at risk, as was the case with Operation Fast and Furious, and the fact that he misled Congress — whether intentionally or not — about his involvement has demonstrated to me that he does not possess the judgment that I believe is necessary to serve in the position of Attorney General of the United States,” Canseco said.

“Attorney General Holder’s lack of judgment has only made the situation along the U.S.–Mexico border that much more difficult to deal with as he made it possible for the Mexican cartels to be better armed, compliments of the American taxpayer.”

Canseco added that it would be in the best interest of Americans’ safety for Holder to step aside now.

“I call on him to put the safety and interests of the American people first and resign as Attorney General,” Canseco said.

A handful of Republican presidential candidates have made veiled calls for Holder to resign, suggesting that if he somehow hangs on to his position into 2012, Fast and Furious could become a campaign issue harming Obama’s re-election efforts. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said on Oct. 11 that while he’s “never called for the resignation of anybody,” he thinks “if he [Holder] lied to Congress, the president would be wise to do the right thing [fire Holder].”

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann was more straightforward a day earlier. “This is an extremely serious set of facts that we’re looking at,” Bachmann said on Oct. 10 when TheDC asked if Holder should resign. “There needs to be a full investigation. And surely he should resign … if the facts prove to be what they appear to be.”

And although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hasn’t addressed the issue himself, he echoed Bachmann’s comments through his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.

“Look,” Fehrnstrom told TheDC after the Oct. 12 GOP debate in Hanover, N.H., “if Eric Holder — if it’s determined that Eric Holder deliberately misled Congress, then yes, he should resign.”

Holder avoided talking openly about Operation Fast and Furious for months until Gosar told The Daily Caller that administration officials responsible for the program could be considered “accessories to murder.” The attorney general finally opened up, citing Gosar’s comments to TheDC as the reason for his first-ever unsolicited disclosure about the controversial program.

Even congressmen who haven’t called on Holder to resign expressed doubts about his ability to continue doing his job. A spokesperson for South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, who serves on the House oversight committee, said Holder should be forced to answer questions from members of Congress.

“Holder should be held accountable for the actions of his office,” Gowdy’s spokesman told TheDC. “He should be required to answer all relevant questions accurately and fully, and let the person who hired him decide [whether or not he should keep his job].”

House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King expressed disgust with Holder’s leadership in a comment that left the door open to a call for his resignation in the near future. “I have had serious problems with him since day one, but I am not yet calling for his resignation,” King said in an email to TheDC.

Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert told TheDC that a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate Holder and the Justice Department. If that investigation shows Holder misled Congress during the May 3 hearing, Schweikert thinks Holder should then resign.

“Rep. Schweikert believes, and has said several times, that we need a special prosecutor to hold Eric Holder and the Justice Department accountable for what they knew and when,” Schweikert’s spokeswoman explained to TheDC. “If a thorough investigation yields facts that show that our attorney general misled Congress, then the honorable thing for him to do is resign.”

A spokesman for Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz told TheDC that he wants Holder to come back and testify before Congress again — a request the attorney general continues to ignore. Holder hasn’t even discussed the matter with other Obama administration officials, including .

During a Wednesday House Judiciary Committee hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano acknowledged that she and Holder have never discussed Operation Fast and Furious. She said the reason is that the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General has launched an internal investigation.

Chaffetz isn’t pleased with the senior Obama administration officials’ lack of responsibility or candor and their consistent refusals to devote any time or attention to the issue, especially since border patrol agent Brian Terry and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata died as a result of the operation.

“For you to have two dead agents and to have never had a conversation with Eric Holder about Fast and Furious and about this is totally unacceptable,” Chaffetz said. “Totally unacceptable.”

Grassley also told TheDC that he will call for the resignation of the highest-level official who approved Fast and Furious.

Holder’s reluctance to cooperate with the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious has also attracted attention in the Senate. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Grassley, is demanding that Holder address the scandal and the inconsistencies in his testimony.

Cornyn echoes the frustration of others in Congress, and is calling on Holder to testify under oath again.

“Sen. Cornyn believes that the Attorney General should come before Congress and explain what he knew and when he knew it,” Cornyn spokeswoman Megan Mitchell told TheDC. “As a former Attorney General, Sen. Cornyn cannot understand why Mr. Holder would not want to come to Congress and clear this matter up.”

As has become customary, the Justice Department has not answered The Daily Caller’s requests for comment. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has refused, for several weeks, to address the concerns emanating from Congress about whether Holder can continue to operate as the United States Attorney General. She did not answer again on Thursday.

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