Former Clinton admin. special counsel: Why isn’t the WH defending Holder?

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

Democratic lawyer–lobbyist Lanny Davis, who served as a special counsel to former President Bill Clinton, told The Daily Caller that he thinks the calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation over Operation Fast and Furious are “ludicrous and partisan.”

But he added that it’s a mystery why the White House and President Barack Obama are not actively defending Holder from congressional demands that he step down.

Obama had originally said he stands by his attorney general, but now the White House and the president aren’t talking about the surge in calls for Holder’s resignation. Fifty-two congressmen, two senators, four presidential candidates and two sitting governors have said Holder should resign immediately in the wake of the gun-walking scandal.

Operation Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program, overseen by the Justice Department, which facilitated the sale of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers. Straw purchasers are people who can legally purchase guns in the United States but do so with the intention of illegally trafficking them into Mexico.

At least 300 people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as was U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

The White House has denied that Obama himself knew about Fast and Furious. Davis told TheDC he thinks the Obama administration should be actively defending Holder as well.

“I cannot understand why the White House has not been 100 percent transparent and aggressive on this issue,” Davis said in a phone interview. “They refer questions to the Justice Department, which is only the first step. The second step is they should be answering all reporters’ questions too and making the point I’m making very aggressively.”

Davis accused Republicans of playing politics with the Justice Department, holding Holder to a different standard than they would a GOP attorney general.

“I don’t recall any Republican calling for the resignation of Attorneys General Alberto Gonzales or Michael Mukasey, both of whom presided over the same ATF abusive gun walking program,” Davis said. “That is a public fact. Of course, it is ludicrous and partisan to ask Mr. Holder to resign when he himself has denounced this program and called for an investigation.”

Davis was referring to Operation Wide Receiver, the Bush administration program that bore some similarities to Operation Fast and Furious. But key differences distinguished the two programs. (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s complete Fast and Furious coverage)

The Bush administration allowed far fewer firearms to cross the border into Mexico, and worked with the Mexican government and Mexican law enforcement officials. The Obama administration allowed about 2,000 weapons to reach drug cartels; the Bush administration program limited the firearms involved to about one-tenth that number.

“Look, there are lots of distinctions that I’m sure can be made, but … the focus is on whether Eric Holder has done something so wrong that he should resign,” Davis said. “And, the answer is ‘no.’”

“It was clearly a mistake, it occurred on his watch, but the same can be said for Attorney General Gonzales and Attorney General Mukasey. I wouldn’t have supported resignation for them, and I don’t support resignation for Mr. Holder.”

Though Davis doesn’t believe enough evidence exists at present to suggest Holder should resign, he said Holder would tip the scales “if he’s lying, and there’s a cover-up.”

“But I can tell you on the record that I’ve known Eric Holder for over 30 years and he’s one of the most honest people I’ve ever met,” Davis told TheDC. “And the chance that he would lie about anything is less than zero, based on my personal knowledge of him. He’s literally incapable of being duplicitous, he’s 100 percent ‘what you see is what you get.’”

Former Justice Department attorney and current Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky said he was unsure whether pressure from Congress and the American people will end up forcing Holder out of office.

“I think he ought to resign,” von Spakovsky told TheDC at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. “But whether the pressure will get to him, I don’t know, because the president, despite the recklessness of the Fast and Furious Operation, the president has said he stands behind his attorney general. And so far the president has apparently been willing to just ignore all of these problems at the Justice Department.”

The administration’s refusal to address the growing chorus of calls for Holder’s resignation, von Spakovsky said, is a sign that White House strategists “understand what a problem, certainly to the public, the Fast and Furious program is — and all the revelations about it.”

“I don’t know at what point they may or may not finally realize that Holder is really a handicap to them,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of political scandals in the past 30 years in this town, but there is only one scandal that has led to people getting killed and that’s Fast and Furious.”

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