Politics
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 4, 2011, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP) Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 4, 2011, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP)  

Congresswoman and Holder tangle over attorney general’s future

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

New York Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle tussled with Attorney General Eric Holder during Thursday morning’s House oversight committee hearing over her demand that he resign or be fired as a result of Operation Fast and Furious, the gun-walking program that occurred on his watch.

“I was one of the members of Congress who has called for your resignation,” Buerkle said to Holder. “I feel the Department of Justice and you are responsible for all of the activities. You deny knowledge of the program and, accordingly, you think you should not be held accountable.”

“My question to you today is what more possibly could have gone wrong that you would have been held accountable?” Buerkle continued. “And, before you answer, I would suggest that the president has been eerily quiet about coming to your defense. So, let me ask it this way: How many more Border Patrol agents really have to die as part of Operation Fast and Furious for you to take responsibility?”

Rather than answering the question, Holder attacked Buerkle. “That’s the kind of thing, you wonder why you’re getting these calls, people focus on the question as much as the answer,” Holder retorted. “As a member of Congress, I mean, really? Is that the way in which you want to be seen?”

“I should be held accountable for my role in whatever I did or didn’t do in connection with the supervision of Fast and Furious,” Holder continued. “You know, I’m the attorney general of the United States and I should be held accountable.”

Then, Holder demanded that Congress praise him for his contributions to the DOJ. “Perhaps you should give me some credit,” Holder said. “Imagine that. Give me some credit for the things the Justice Department has done under my leadership whether it deals with national security, revitalizing anti-trust, revitalizing our civil rights enforcement effort. So, one has to balance all of these things.”

“I’m not claiming to be a perfect person or a perfect attorney general,” Holder continued, praising himself. “But, I get up every day and do the best job I can and I have great faith in the people who work for me in the department. So, that kind of question, I think, again I’m being respect, I think it’s beneath a member of Congress.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)

After the hearing, Buerkle told The Daily Caller that Holder is in the position he’s in because the Department of Justice continues to stonewall congressional requests for information.

“If the Attorney General and the Department of Justice would have responded to the requests for documents appropriately, we’d have all these answers,” Buerkle said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, he’s reluctant to or unwilling to take responsibility for what happened so we keep having these hearing. It will be interesting to see if the chairman of oversight [Rep. Darrell Issa] proceeds, as he has talked about, with the contempt proceedings.”

Buerkle said that it’s evident that while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “conducted” Fast and Furious, the main Justice Department “authorized” it.

One particularly interesting email that came out Wednesday evening shows Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of DOJ’s criminal division, calling Fast and Furious and gunwalking a “terrific idea” back when plans for the program were being made.

During Thursday’s hearing, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy also walked Holder through documents, which show senior Obama administration DOJ officials were aware of Fast and Furious and that involved in gun-walking.

If Holder ran a company in the private sector, Buerkle said, he wouldn’t be allowed to get away with this. But since he’s in government, he resists holding himself or anyone else accountable for Fast and Furious. “The people who are along the way responsible for it need to get punished or fired,” Buerkle said. “So far, you heard his testimony, they have not punished, they have not fired, they have not done anything to anyone.”

“So, not only has he not taken responsibility for his own actions, but he hasn’t for anyone else along the way,” Buerkle added.

Buerkle also told TheDC that there’s an air of “arrogance” emanating from Holder as the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious has continued.

“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat,” Buerkle said. “Someone was killed, many hundreds of Mexicans have been killed, there’s over 1,000 guns still out there at-large and missing, there are so many unanswered questions. This isn’t about who you are. This is about accountability. He has a responsibility to answer to the American people. He works for the American people.”

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