Attorney General Eric Holder said he hasn’t read emails between two different Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials detailing their intent to use Operation Fast and Furious consequences to further a gun-control agenda.
Despite CBS News publishing a wide reaching report on midday Wednesday about the emails, Holder said that he still hasn’t read them as of Thursday morning. Though he didn’t read the emails, he did comment about their context, as Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona pointed out while questioning him.
The emails first came up in Thursday’s hearing during California Republican Rep. Dan Lungren’s questioning of Holder. Lungren said after reading the emails between the ATF’s lead Fast and Furious agent, Bill Newell, and ATF official Mark Chait discussing Fast and Furious and gun control, he’s convinced “people might reasonably come to the conclusion that it’s sort of self-dealing.”
Holder said that those emails don’t indicate that any public officials broke the law.
“With regard to the question of that memo and the long gun rule, the ATF reached out to the field to obtain examples of cases or operations where that kind of rule would have been helpful,” Holder said. The Operation Fast and Furious was one of seven cases that were already underway that ATF later cited as an example to illustrate the potential benefit of collecting information about the multiple sales of certain types of rifles. So this was already underway.”
“I say this with all due respect: Take a step back and think about the implications of what you’re saying,” Holder added. “That the Justice Department came up with a flawed program in order to justify a regulation.”
Lungren fired back, saying he doesn’t think it’s a “conspiracy” at all because the evidence is there, and it appears as though the ATF was at least considering using Fast and Furious to promote gun control “after the fact.”
“You screwed up, you ought to admit you screwed up, but you ought not to use your screw-up as the basis for trying to extend your authority,” Lungren said. “That’s my point, I’m not trying to talk about a conspiracy — I’m talking about a responsible action after the fact. When you screw up, you ought to say you screwed up. The people involved ought to say they screwed up, and don’t allow the screw-up as a basis to extend your legislative agenda.”