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.
In the months between the DOJ sending that false letter to Grassley, and its subsequent retraction, congressional investigators held multiple hearings and interviewed many witnesses behind closed doors. They continued searching for documents and in early October, they found that Holder himself was sent a series of memos detailing the gunwalking tactics used in Fast and Furious. In the time since Congress obtained them, Holder has said he didn’t read the memos.
The discovery of those memos — and Holder’s statements that he didn’t read them — sparked scores of members of Congress to demand his resignation. A total of 129 House members have called for Holder to go. Three U.S. senators, two sitting governors and presumptive GOP presidential nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney join those congressmen in demanding Holder’s ouster.
When The Daily Caller asked him about the surge in congressional calls for his resignation in late November 2011 at a White House event, Holder attacked TheDC rather than responding, saying, “You guys need to — you need to stop this. It’s not an organic thing that’s just happening — you guys are behind it.”
Since then, Holder has accused his critics of being racists and he has attacked members of Congress during hearings, all while continuing to stonewall congressional investigators and not holding anyone accountable for Fast and Furious.
One DOJ official decided to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating himself while testifying about Fast and Furious before Oversight Committee investigators.
Shortly after congressional investigators discovered the memos Holder says he didn’t read, Issa served Holder with a subpoena. Holder has demonstrably failed to comply with all 22 parts of that congressional subpoena that Issa served him last October. With respect to 13 of the subpoena’s categories, Holder has provided no documents. He is not fully compliant with the subpoena’s other sections, either.
Holder has continually denied the DOJ’s involvement in, or awareness of, Fast and Furious and its gunwalking tactics, blaming ATF officials in Phoenix for coming up with and orchestrating the scheme. Now, though, Issa says he has documents that prove those Holder’s statements are false.
In the letter, Issa said Holder’s comments at a Sept. 7, 2011 press conference, an Oct. 7, 2011 letter he wrote to Congress and two different instances where he testified before different congressional committees — testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 8, 2011, and to the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 2, 2012 — were incorrect.
In each of those statements, Holder denied that senior Department of Justice officials were aware of gun-walking tactics used in Fast and Furious — something that has since been shown to be incorrect.
“We now know all that all of these statements are not accurate,” Issa wrote to Holder.
Issa also told Holder in that letter that Deputy Attorney General James Cole — the DOJ’s No. 2 in command — made a false statement to Congress as recently as May 2012. “In a May 15, 2012 letter, the deputy attorney general reiterated the department’s position that the ‘inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious … were not initiated of authorized by department leadership in Washington.’”
“We now know that statement is false,” Issa said.
Mexico’s ambassador to the United States recently announced that his country has launched its own investigation into Fast and Furious, and that the Mexican people have lost faith in the U.S. government because of the scandal.
“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,” the ambassador, Arturo Sarukhan, said last week, adding that he thinks the Obama administration had significantly damaged its popularity in Mexico.