Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told The Daily Caller on Thursday that he’ll call for the resignation of the highest-level government official who signed off on Operation Fast and Furious. At this point, though, he’s not sold on whether that person is Attorney General Eric Holder.
“I’m not going to ask for anybody’s resignation until I find out who signed off on this at the highest level of government — and then I’m going to ask for that person’s resignation,” Grassley said in a phone interview.
When TheDC asked Grassley if he thought Holder signed off on Fast and Furious, or at least knew about it, he wasn’t sure. “We’re going to answer that question before we stop this investigation,” Grassley said. “All I can say is, if [Holder] didn’t know about it, he should’ve known about it.”
Grassley, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also told TheDC he thinks the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will carry into next year. Seeing as 2012 is a presidential election year, Fast and Furious may become a campaign issue for President Barack Obama.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has not returned TheDC’s requests for comment about the calls for Holder’s resignation.
Another reason Fast and Furious might become a 2012 campaign issue is Maryland Republican Senate candidate Dan Bongino, an ex-Secret Service agent who used to guard Obama. Bongino went on record with TheDC about DOJ reforms he’d like to see post-Fast and Furious. (RELATED: Issa subpoenas Justice Department over Fast and Furious)
Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is expected to bring Holder before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, soon. But his staff won’t answer whether he thinks Fast and Furious is important enough for its own hearings. Instead, a spokesman said that senators can ask Holder about it at a general Judiciary Committee hearing.
“It would be nice if Chairman Leahy would do it [hold Senate hearings specific to Fast and Furious], but he’s not going to do that,” Grassley said.
Because Grassley is in the minority party in the Senate, he doesn’t have subpoena power. But, from the House side, Rep. Darrell Issa does have subpoena power and can compel Holder and the DOJ to offer up documents and other information.
Issa issued new subpoenas earlier this week requesting specific information and communications. Almost immediately after the subpoenas came out, though, the DOJ and the House oversight committee’s ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings labeled it “an effort to generate headlines,” a “deep-sea fishing expedition” and a “political stunt.”
Grassley said none of those accusations hold up when looking at the facts and the details. “What they said about a fishing expedition [is a stretch],” Grassley told TheDC. “We have my letters and these subpoenas and what we’re requesting is so definitive, you can’t accuse us of that because we’re saying we want emails between this date and that date, and who we want them from and only the ones applying to the people we specifically ask for.”
When TheDC asked what he thought about the candor of Holder’s May 3 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, during which he said he first learned of Fast and Furious just a few weeks prior, Grassley scoffed. “What I can tell you is, either he [Holder] isn’t reading his mail or reading his memos or he’s not reading my letters I specifically hand to him,” Grassley said. “He said he knew about it just a few weeks before May 3. Well, I handed him my first letter, he was in my office on another issue, and I handed him letters on January 31. And then we got these emails that say he should’ve known about it in July of 2010.”
Grassley has been investigating Operation Fast and Furious for about two full months longer than Issa, who got involved later. Issa’s subpoena power has helped the investigation enormously, Grassley said, as he thinks it’s the only way to get answers out of Holder. He told TheDC that though the Obama administration hasn’t been forthcoming with much information, they’ve been able to uncover quite a bit.
He added that Holder’s reluctance to answer congressional information requests and subpoenas at least makes him look guilty. “If Holder didn’t know about this, then just give us all the documents and let the documents speak for themselves,” Grassley said.