The dance: Holder avoids congressional questions on Fast and Furious accountability

Attorney General Eric Holder refused to tell members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who he’s going to hold accountable for several aspects of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, nor did he disclose how he is going to hold people accountable.

Holder deflected Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responsibility for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death. “It is not fair,” Holder said, “to say the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.” Holder refused to apologize to Terry’s family, including his mother.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn asked Holder if he thinks it was his “responsibility to have known about this operation.”

“There are,” Holder replied, “115,000 employees in the United States Department of Justice.”

“And the buck stops with you?” Cornyn countered.

“I have ultimate responsibility for that which happens within the department, but I cannot be expected to know the details of every operation that is ongoing within the Justice Department on a day-to-day basis,” Holder answered. “I did not know about Fast and Furious, as indicated in the chart (that you now have up there) until … it became public.”

Cornyn wasn’t any more satisfied with Holder’s second deflection of responsibility.

“You cannot be expected to have known about the operation known as Fast and Furious despite the fact that we know you received [a National Drug Intelligence Center] memo on July the 5th, 2010,” Cornyn asserted. “You received another memo on Fast and Furious on Nov. 1, 2010, and you say you cannot be expected to have known about it, because of the size of your agency?”

Later on, Cornyn demanded to know if Holder could “name one person who’s been held accountable for this Fast and Furious Operation.”

“Well, we have made a number of changes with regard to personnel both in the Phoenix U.S. Attorneys Office, also at the ATF headquarters here,” Holder responded. “I will certainly await the report that comes out of the inspector general. And I will assure you and the American people that people will be held accountable for any mistakes that were made in connection with Fast and Furious.”

When the acting ATF director, Ken Melson, was reassigned — not fired — he was moved into another ranking DOJ position much closer to Holder than the position of acting director is.

When Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke was resigned, Holder praised him, making no mention of his resignation’s connection to Fast and Furious until Tuesday.

“United States Attorney Dennis Burke has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorneys’ Office, first as a line prosecutor over a decade ago and more recently as United States attorney,” Holder said in a statement when Burke resigned in late August. “Under his leadership, the office has made great progress in its pursuit of justice with the creation of special units focusing on civil rights enforcement and rule of law, as well as more robust outreach to key communities, particularly in Indian country.”

On Tuesday, when pressed on what he has done to hold his officials accountable for Fast and Furious, Holder said Burke’s resignation was in response to Operation Fast and Furious.