House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said on Friday that he thinks the groundswell in calls for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, a topic that most recently took center stage at the GOP debate in Iowa Thursday night, is a sign that changes are needed at the Justice Department.
“You have to ask: Isn’t there a point at which real management changes need to happen?,” Issa told Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum. “I’ve called for a house cleaning, a thorough house cleaning, because I think that up and down political appointees and in some cases career professionals clearly did what was wrong or failed to do what’s right. And Brian Terry’s family is grieving today, one day past the anniversary of his killing.”
U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed with a weapon from Operation Fast and Furious a year ago Thursday.
Fast and Furious was a program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, overseen by Holder’s Justice Department. It sent thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers, people who legally purchased guns in the United States with the known intention of illegally trafficking them somewhere else.
At least 300 people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as was Terry. The identities of the Mexican victims are unknown. The Terry family has called for criminal charges to be brought against administration officials.
Issa and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley have led a nine-month long investigation into the program.
In recent weeks, 60 congressmen, two senators, six presidential candidates and two sitting governors have demanded Holder resign over the program. Seventy-five House members have signed on to a resolution of “no confidence” in the attorney general.
Issa, who hasn’t called for Holder’s resignation or firing, added that he thinks it’s President Barack Obama’s responsibility to decide if Holder should keep his job. But Issa said if he were president he would handle the Holder situation much differently from how the president has.
“Our job is to investigate,” Issa said. “The president’s job is to figure out whether Eric Holder has become too much of a distraction and whether or not Justice would be better off without him.”
Issa added that Holder is “somebody I would not have full confidence in and I would not keep on if I had control of that decision.”
Issa also addressed the emergence of 75 House members who have cosponsored Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar’s resolution of “no confidence” in Holder. Issa is not one of those cosponsors.
“It’s not unheard of, but it’s a pretty high number here to get people to say that they really believe uniquely that one person needs to go,” Issa said. “Remember, on the hill there’s a lot of people that would like house cleaning from top to bottom of the cabinet. But it generally doesn’t turn into this kind of a specific call for resignation or call for firing.”