South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy told The Daily Caller that he’d be willing to sit down with Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about Operation Fast and Furious, but will not back off his push to obtain the documents Holder has been withholding from Congress.
Gowdy said he’d agree to a meeting out of “southern politeness” but, “at the end of the conversation, I want the documents.”
“I want to know what happened,” he said in a phone interview. “I want to know who knew about it, who approved it, why they’re still in the Department of Justice. So, unless he can answer those questions for me, then other than enjoying a nice cup of coffee or glass of tea, I [don’t see the point in meeting]. I wish he’s going to tell me something other than what I already know, but I’m not sure what would come from a meeting.”
During last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder refused a request from Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz to meet with him, Gowdy and two Democrats on the committee — Reps. Bobby Scott and Mike Quigley — to talk more in depth about the scandal.
“With all due respect, I give you four hours at a crack on eight separate occasions,” Holder told Chaffetz before denying the request and again saying that emails containing the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Operation Fast and Furious. “I’m not sure there’s an awful lot more I have to say.”
Gowdy said Holder’s characterization of the hearings isn’t necessarily accurate. Each member of a committee only gets five minutes to question witnesses during a hearing, and most of the hearings Holder has testified at were for general Department of Justice oversight matters, not just Fast and Furious.
“But, let’s assume it was eight times: Eight times five [minutes per member], I believe, is 40, so that’s 40 minutes — best case scenario — that any one member of Congress would have to ask the attorney general about Fast and Furious,” Gowdy said. “I don’t think asking for more than 40 minutes is too much. Congressman Chaffetz included Congressmen Bobby Scott and Mike Quigley, two Republicans and two Democrats.”
Gowdy said that it “struck” him as “being unprecedented” that the attorney general would “refuse to meet with a bipartisan group of House Judiciary Committee members.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
Since that hearing, and Holder’s refusal to meet with Gowdy, Chaffetz, Scott and Quigley, Holder has publicly requested a meeting with House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Chuck Grassley. All three have said they want the documents about Fast and Furious.
Gowdy said that because Holder is seeking a meeting with leadership rather than with the actual investigators or with members really close to the scandal like him, “that tells me that you’re interested in a political resolution.”
“I’m not interested in a negotiation,” Gowdy said. “I’m interested in the documents. If this were political, then I’d say ‘Sure, let’s compromise.’ But, it’s not political to me. It’s about law enforcement, law and order, respect for the rule of law, confidence in the Justice Department — I want the documents.”
The South Carolina Republican, a former federal prosecutor, also views Holder’s request for a meeting as a sign that “he knows that the sands of time are running through the hour glass.”
“When leadership gave us the green light to proceed with contempt of Congress, this attorney general is on the verge of being on the wrong side of history,” Gowdy said. “So, I’m sure his position on a whole bunch of things will change between now and next week.”
“This way, he can say, ‘Look, I offered to meet with y’all already. Y’all didn’t have to hold me in contempt of Congress,’” Gowdy told TheDC. “And, to a lot of Americans who haven’t been following the issue, they may not be aware that this has been going on for over a year now. This didn’t just happen last week. I think it’s an effort to appear reasonable and to cast us as just a bunch of right-wing nuts who are hell-bent on getting the attorney general. I’m hell-bent on finding out what happened with Fast and Furious and I would be doing the exact same thing if the attorney general were Dan Lungren or Bob Goodlatte or Jason Chaffetz.”
Gowdy added that he thinks it’s dangerous for Holder to be running the DOJ when he describes himself as a “progressive” champion.
“I never once asked a law enforcement officer what political party they were a party of,” Gowdy told TheDC. “I never ask a crime victim. I never ask a witness. I didn’t ask judges. So that’s why some of us like the Justice Department. We work for a lady who’s blindfolded, which suggests she’s not interested in your political agenda, she’s not interested in your race, she’s not interested in your gender. She just carries a set of scales and a sword. She doesn’t carry DNC talking points, she doesn’t carry something from [David] Axelrod or Reince Priebus — she carries a set of scales and a sword.”
Late last year, Holder charged that he was being targeted with criticism because of his politics and because of his race. But, Gowdy said, that’s hardly the case.
“He [Holder] suggests that he’s being targeted because of his race, he suggests he’s being targeted because he pursues a political agenda — he describes himself as a ‘progressive,’” Gowdy said. “I don’t care if he describes himself as a member of the Bull Moose Party. I don’t care if he thinks the Hale-Bopp Comet is coming back around and he thinks he’s going to get caught up in the tail end of that with his Nike tennis shoes on — I don’t care about that. I care about whether you discharge the duties of a very important job, which is the top law enforcement official for the entire country — not just the progressives, but for everyone. And, when you politicize that office, it’s time to go.”