Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that he believes Attorney General Eric Holder misled him and the rest of the House judiciary committee during his May 3 testimony. Chaffetz questions how honest Holder has been throughout congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious. And now the House Judiciary Committee chairman has called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate.
The scandal broke new ground this week, as new documents surfaced late Monday showing Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, and at least some details of the scandal, as early as July 2010 — and at least once more on November 1, 2010.
During a May 3 hearing, Holder told House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, who also sits on the judiciary committee, that he had only learned of Fast and Furious very recently. Holder said he was “not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious over the last few weeks.”
Asked about the conflicting timeline that is beginning to emerge, Chaffetz said Tuesday of the Justice Department: “They have documents they’ve failed to provide, and I think the Attorney General was less than candid at that hearing.”
“The Attorney General and the President of the United States are ultimately responsible,” Chaffetz continued. “And the president was talking about [Fast and Furious] back in March. This was a major investigation involving thousands of guns. This wasn’t a minor investigation buried in the bowels of the Department of Justice.”
In statements this week to Fox News and CBS, officials at Justice claimed Holder misunderstood Issa’s questions during the May 3 hearing.
But Chaffetz told TheDC that video of the hearing clearlly shows him restating Holder’s testimony for the record. “You said it was in just the last few weeks that you had heard of this [Operation Fast and Furious], right?” Chaffetz asked Holder.
Holder didn’t object to Chaffetz’s characterization of his testimony even though, Chaffetz now says, he had ample opportunity to clarify the record.
“My impression was [that] he was indifferent, and leading us to believe he knew nothing about the operation,” Chaffetz told TheDC. “But it seems the more we’ve learned, maybe that wasn’t the case.”
Though Chaffetz wouldn’t definitively say whether or not he believes Holder committed perjury, he did say the responses he has received from the Attorney General and his staff are troubling.
“I was really surprised to hear the [DOJ] spokesperson say that the Attorney General misunderstood the question,” Chaffetz said. “I restated what the Attorney General had said and he didn’t refute it. He had an opportunity to clarify and he obviously didn’t. So, for the spokesperson to say the Attorney General misunderstood the question doesn’t hold any water.”
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas is calling for an investigation into Holder’s statements at the hearing.
“Allegations that senior Justice Department officials may have intentionally misled Members of Congress are extremely troubling and must be addressed by an independent and objective special counsel,” Smith said in a statement. “I urge you to appoint a special counsel who will investigate these allegations as soon as possible.”
Chaffetz said House investigators want to get to the bottom of this scandal as soon as possible. “We would like to put this to bed,” he said. “But, until the administration provides us with all the relevant documents, it will be very difficult to move on.”
To the suggestion of Holder possibly resigning because of the scandal, Chaffetz said he think it’s too early to know if that’ll happen but didn’t reject the idea either. “I don’t know,” Chaffetz said when asked if he thinks Holder will resign because of Operation Fast and Furious. “It’s still early yet to make a determination on that, but as I said, it raises more questions than it answers and I think the Attorney General should answer them.”
“He was asked those questions under oath and seems to have given us a less than candid answer,” Chaffetz added.