Politics

              Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled, "Fast & Furious: Management Failures at the Department of Justice".   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
              Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled, "Fast & Furious: Management Failures at the Department of Justice". (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)   

Ahead of Fast and Furious hearing, Issa tells Holder ‘lead or resign’

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Ahead of a Thursday morning House Judiciary Committee hearing to question Attorney General Eric Holder on Operation Fast and Furious, House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa made his message clear: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

“When you’re attorney general, you don’t get to follow,” Issa added during an appearance on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday morning. “So [Holder needs to] lead or resign.”

On Tuesday, Issa announced that his committee had obtained evidence proving that senior Department of Justice officials approved the tactics used in Fast and Furious.

In a letter to Holder, Issa specifically said his committee has “obtained copies of six wiretap applications in support of seven wire intercepts utilized during Fast and Furious.” Those documents, he said, “show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them.”

Issa explained that the documents prove that Holder and other Justice Department officials in the Obama administration provided false statements to Congress.

During his Fox News appearance, Issa said, “We’re interested in who signed or saw these documents, and what they knew. What we know is people in the Justice Department who directly work for the attorney general, political appointees and some career professionals, all knew they were gunwalking, saw it in the documents and then continued to allow it to happen, and then allowed Congress to be misled for more than 10 months after a false letter and false testimony was given to Congress. That’s the crux of the cover-up.”

“You don’t lie to Congress, and then lie about lying to Congress and then lie about knowing you lied to Congress and then not fire the people who did all of that and have it be anything but a cover-up,” Issa added. “That’s really what it has become. [Border Patrol Agent] Brian Terry’s family is not getting the kind accountability for the people who knew and allowed him to be ultimately gunned down in Arizona. That’s part of it. But, Congress also has a role, which is: How can Eric Holder continue to lead an organization when he has people working for him that lied to Congress, are continuing to lie to Brian Terry, the Border Patrol agent who was gunned down with weapons from Fast and Furious? How do we allow that?”

Issa added that while Holder’s signature doesn’t appear on these new documents, signatures of “people who report to him on a daily basis” do. (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)

In Fast and Furious, the administration likely knew people would die because of its actions. The Obama administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives facilitated the sale of the weapons to straw purchasers, who then trafficked them into Mexico. The overall plan was to “track” trafficked weapons to where they ultimately ended up, allowing law enforcement to target bigger kingpin criminals in the weapons trafficking trade.

But the only way to “track” those weapons after they were “walked” into Mexico was to find them at stings or crime scenes. When Mexican drug cartel operatives kill people, they often ditch their weapons at or near the crime scenes.

Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder on Dec. 15, 2010 sparked a national outcry and what has become a lengthy congressional investigation that’s lasted more than a year. Despite a series of hearings, document requests and congressional subpoenas, Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration have failed to provide complete answers about Operation Fast and Furious – which has turned the issue into Obama’s bloodiest scandal.

On Feb. 4, 2011, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Sen. Chuck Grassley — who has led the investigation with Issa — denying that the Department of Justice or ATF ever let guns walk. It wasn’t until nearly the end of 2011 that the DOJ withdrew that letter from Congress because that statement was false.