Are congressional Democrats trying to protect Eric Holder?
Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas told The Daily Caller that his Democratic colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee acted like defense attorneys trying to protect Attorney General Eric Holder, rather than pushing for accountability over the deadly Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking program.
Holder testified before the committee on Thursday about Fast and Furious and admitted he doesn’t plan to terminate anyone over the program that led to the murders of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and at least 300 Mexican citizens. As Republicans continued to grill Holder, Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and others interjected with complaints about the nature of the questioning.
Poe thinks this kind of behavior is unacceptable, and told TheDC he thinks Holder can handle the tough questions on his own.
“The Democrats in the Judiciary Committee seem to be giving cover for Eric Holder,” Poe said during an interview outside the hearing room. “They keep interrupting when members of Congress or Republicans ask the tough questions. They act almost like defense lawyers to Eric Holder. I don’t think he needs any help. He can answer the questions on his own.”
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One notable exchange came when Jackson Lee interrupted House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa -– who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee –- as he questioned Holder. (SEE ALSO: Congressional bosses from Hell: Sheila Jackson Lee)
Issa asked Holder how his current chief of staff and former deputy attorney general, Gary Grindler, didn’t inform him about Fast and Furious after learned of the program and its intimate details back in March 2010.
Holder defended the Justice Deparment’s compliance by claiming that the DOJ’s Fast and Furious document production was “unprecedented.”
“Unprecedented would be an attorney general who knew nothing about something where his own DAG [deputy attorney general], now his present chief of staff, was intimately familiar,” Issa responded. “Gary Grindler was well aware, according to documents provided, about Fast and Furious, on March 12, 2010. Are you aware of that, that he was aware of that — that he was aware of Fast and Furious and what its procedures were in March 2010?”
Holder responded by claiming — despite evidence Issa was displaying on a large poster board behind him — that Grindler wasn’t aware of the gun walking tactics of Fast and Furious. “It was certainly brought to his attention as part of a regular briefing that he got about ATF but he did not hear during that briefing anything about the tactics,” Holder said.
“Really? We have notes in his own handwriting when he talks about going to stash houses,” Issa responded. “He clearly understood, in a document you’ve delivered, he clearly understood in his own handwriting what the tactic was. I’m sorry, but I’m going to ask you a different question because he understood.”
Holder interjected, asking Issa if he could “answer that question.”
Issa said “You’ve answered it — less than truthfully,” at which Jackson Lee began, as Poe put it, acting like one of Holder’s “defense lawyers.”
“May the questioner allow the witness to answer the question?,” Jackson Lee asked Issa.
Issa cut across Jackson Lee, reminding her of the Committee’s hearing rules: “Madam, this is my time. I am not yielding.”
Jackson Lee kept pressing. “I’m not asking you to yield,” she snapped back at Issa. “I’m asking you to allow the witness to answer the question.”
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, jumped in at that point, saying: “This is the gentleman from California, Mr. Issa’s time.”
Jackson Lee responded to Smith, saying: “I’m saying the witness should be allowed to answer the question.”
Smith then said: “The gentlewoman from Texas has not been recognized.”
Jackson Lee remained quiet for a few minutes but then interrupted again later during Issa’s questioning of Holder.
Poe considers the exchange a dodging of responsibility and accountability rising to the level of requiring Eric Holder’s resignation.
“He has shown he is not qualified to be the Attorney General of the United States,” Poe said. “The president should appoint a special counsel to investigate the Justice Department and the ATF in this rogue operation of smuggling guns to Mexico.”
Videography by Direna Cousins