The Obama administration appears to be attempting to defend Attorney General Eric Holder as the Justice Department dumped more than 650 pages worth of Operation Fast and Furious documents on congressional investigators late Monday.
There are two reasons why the timing of this release is significant: first, 28 members of Congress are currently calling on Holder to resign immediately. Second, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday — and this appears to be an attempt to divert pressure for Fast and Furious away from Holder.
The new documents, according to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, “indicate that contrary to previous denials by the Justice Department, the criminal division has a great deal of culpability in sweeping the previous Wide Receiver strategy under the rug and then allowing the subsequent Operation Fast and Furious to continue without asking key questions.”
“Most importantly, officials raised very appropriate questions related to Operation Wide Receiver at the same time that many of these same officials were receiving briefings on Operation Fast and Furious,” Grassley said in a statement. “It begs the question why they didn’t ask the same important policy questions about an ongoing case being run out of the same field division.”
Operation Wide Receiver was a Bush administration program similar in nature to Operation Fast and Furious. In a statement he gave after the release of the new documents, Breuer took responsibility for not having learned from the mistakes made during Wide Receiver and implementing the failed tactics again under Fast and Furious.
“When the allegations related to Operation Fast and Furious became public earlier this year, the leadership of ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona repeatedly assured individuals in the Criminal Division and the leadership of the Department of Justice that those allegations were not true,” Breuer said. “As a result, I did not draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics used by the ATF years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver and the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious, and therefore did not, at that time, alert others within Department leadership of any similarities between the two. That was a mistake, and I regret not having done so.”
The documents’ content — and Breuer’s admission of at least some guilt for the program — are likely to take center stage during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Grassley is the ranking Republican member, on Tuesday. It’s also apparently an attempt to divert pressure away from Holder — and onto Breuer — during the Tuesday hearing.
The documents haven’t been publicly released, as congressional staffers normally dig through them before publishing them for all to see. But, the document dump’s timing is peculiar as it happened just as a significant number of congressmen started rising against Holder, calling for his immediate resignation.
Heading into Monday morning, 17 members of Congress were calling for Holder’s immediate resignation. By the end of the day Monday, 11 more members joined the choir, bringing the total number of representatives who think Holder needs to resign to 28.
New members calling for Holder’s immediate dismissal as Attorney General of the United States include Republican Reps. Rodney Alexander of Louisiana, Andy Harris of Maryland, Sam Graves of Missouri, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Ted Poe of Texas, Paul Broun of Georgia, Randy Hultgren of Illinois, Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, John Culberson of Texas, Michael Grimm of New York and Mike Coffman of Colorado.