Attorney General Eric Holder yet again attempted to implicate former President George W. Bush’s administration for the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious at the beginning of Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.
“As a result of concerns raised by ATF agents we now know of several Arizona-based investigations that occurred under this administration and the previous one where inappropriate tactics were used in an attempt to stem the flow of illegal guns across the Southwest Border,” Holder said in his opening statement, according to prepared remarks.
“Although these law enforcement operations – which include Wide Receiver, Medrano, Hernandez, Fast and Furious, and others – were focused on the laudable goal of dismantling illegal gun trafficking networks, they were flawed in both concept and execution. I share your concerns about how these operations were developed and implemented. That’s why – just as Congressional leaders have called for answers – I asked the Department’s Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive investigation as well.”
The Wide Receiver, Medrano and Hernandez operations occurred under the Bush administration, while Fast and Furious occurred during the Obama administration. According to congressional Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, though, in Wide Receiver and Hernandez, the Bush administration coordinated with Mexican law enforcement authorities. According to those same Democrats, it’s unclear whether or not Bush administration officials coordinated with Mexico in the Medrano case.
During Operation Fast and Furious, the Obama administration made no efforts to coordinate with Mexico. According to Mexico’s ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico has now launched its own independent investigation into the Obama administration’s actions during Fast and Furious. Sarukhan said the Mexican people have lost faith in America, too, because of the operation.
“Regardless of whether this was or was not the intent or the design of Fast and Furious, the thinking that you can let guns walk across the border and maintain operational control of those weapons is really an outstanding lack of understanding of how these criminal organizations are operating on both sides of our common borders,” Sarukhan said at a recent event in Washington, adding that he thinks the Obama administration had significantly damaged its popularity in Mexico.
Holder and congressional Democrats have tried to argue that the Bush administration’s programs similar to Fast and Furious were just as poorly conceived and executed. But, there are no known casualties as a result of those programs. Fast and Furious, on the other hand, directly resulted in the murders of at least hundreds of Mexican citizens, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and likely Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.
In his opening statement, though, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith painted a much different picture of Holder with regards to Fast and Furious.
“The Department of Justice still has not provided enough information about Operation Fast and Furious so that the American public and Congress can judge who in the Department bears responsibility for the decisions that led to Agent Brian Terry’s death,” Smith said according to prepared remarks. “The Justice Department refuses to comply with Congressional subpoenas that may shed light on why this program was authorized and who had knowledge of the inappropriate tactics.”
Smith also criticized Holder for stonewalling on documents related to Justice Elena Kagan’s involvement in crafting Obamacare’s legal defense while acting as the administration’s solicitor general before being appointed to the Supreme Court and for using the Justice Department to attack voter ID laws.
Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said in response that “never in the career of Chairman Smith as the chair of this committee have I heard so many erroneous statements, and having never heard them before I can assure him and you that I will be going over his statements and help him arrive at a more factual and impartial conclusion.”