Former Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis – who recently defected from the Democratic Party to join the Republican Party after undergoing a political shift – said Tuesday he thinks it’s up to President Barack Obama to decide whether he keeps Attorney General Eric Holder or removes him from office.
“People may be wondering, do I think Attorney General Holder ought to stay?” Davis said a Heritage Foundation event in response to a question from The Daily Caller. “You know, look: these guys and ladies serve at the pleasure of the president. The president gets to keep them, and if the president decides to keep this person around despite questions, that’s his prerogative, and voters can make their own judgment based on that.”
While serving as a Democratic U.S. congressman, Davis and California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff led the charge in the House against then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for allegations of politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys. Davis and Schiff led a resolution of “no confidence” against Gonzales, similar to the one Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar has introduced with regard to Holder and Operation Fast and Furious.
Gonzales eventually resigned, but Davis said he doesn’t think he and Schiff and other Democrats handled that situation correctly.
“I’m going to try to not personalize the comments about the attorney general [Holder],” Davis said Tuesday. “Take the mistake that my old side made five years ago. You alluded to the controversy over U.S. Attorneys five years ago when I and some other people raised questions about the firing of those folks – I think my old side made a mistake, I think a mistake was made.”
“We kind of personalized it a little bit and we made a lot of it about Attorney General Gonzales,” Davis continued. “And, frankly, sometimes we seemed so mad at Attorney General Gonzales that people stopped hearing what we were saying about how U.S. Attorneys were selected and dismissed – I think we made a mistake in doing that. So, I’m not going to bend over backwards to the other side and make the same mistake.”
Davis did, however, take issue with how Holder’s DOJ carried out Operation Fast and Furious. “Fast and Furious, you know, is something I have a very hard time understanding because I was a junior federal prosecutor in Montgomery, Ala.,” Davis said. “I was 28 years of age and I tried cases – a lot of drug and gun cases. I never got to work in the high confines of the Department of Justice, that was kind of above my level, but we always had a basic principle: We had a lot of undercover operations, but our basic principle was ‘Don’t let guns and drugs walk.’”
“I probably would have gotten fired as an assistant U.S. Attorney if I had gotten that wrong, if people had gotten killed because of my carelessness,” Davis added. “So, I have a very hard time understanding if I had to get all that right as a 29-year-old, why people who are much more experienced in the Department of Justice are so confused by all of it. So, I don’t understand how this even came to be.”
Davis threw his support behind congressional Republicans investigating Fast and Furious, too. “And, yeah, I think the Republicans on the Hill are absolutely right to try to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
Davis’ support of the investigation stands in stark contrast to comments Schiff – his former partner against Gonzales – has made against House Republicans’ push to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious. “The Justice Department’s inspector general is doing an investigation, and members on both sides of the aisle agree that we need to get the facts,” Schiff said in a recent Los Angles Times article. “What I don’t want is the continual use of this investigation for political purposes that distract us from the need to curb the problem at hand and focus on solutions.”
Back in 2007, Rep. Darrell Issa, the House oversight committee’s then-ranking member and current chairman, criticized that push against Gonzales. During a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, in response to MSNBC’s Luke Russert trying to make a comparison between Fast and Furious under Holder and the allegations of politically motivated firings under Gonzales, Issa said they’re two distinct cases.
“The question of firing of U.S. attorneys was vetted through a great many hearings, I participated in those hearings,” Issa said. “I think that the firing of political appointees certainly needs to be in bounds to be looked at but it’s a very different issue. Brian Terry is dead. He’s dead with weapons that were allowed to walk by our government and then, in fact, false statements were made about letting guns walk. Holding the people responsible for Brian Terry’s death within the Justice Department is critical to the family and to me. Holding responsible for false statements made to Congress that the American people relied on for eight months is also important. Those are the areas that we need to resolve.”
“I know you all realize that if it was your loved one who was gunned down in the streets or in the country in the Tucson, Arizona, area you would be equally upset,” Issa added. “So, I think getting answers to these questions in which a real law enforcement agent was killed with real guns is at least fairly unique in my [experience].”
Davis also said he thinks the DOJ’s priorities are out of order. He cited the recent Roger Clemens perjury case, which cost taxpayers more than $10 million, and the case against former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
“I have no idea why we just spent millions of dollars trying to figure out if Roger Clemens ought to be in the Hall of Fame,” Davis said, sparking the room to fill with laughter. “Now, I happen to be a convicted Atlanta Braves baseball fan.”
“I love baseball and as a fan of baseball, I care a lot about whether Roger Clemens cheated,” Davis continued. “I do not understand why, when 10 baseball players went before Congress and claimed they didn’t use steroids, while one of them ends up getting prosecuted for false statements when frankly it probably looks like all of them probably didn’t tell the truth. The John Edwards case – I know opinions may be mixed on that – but I saw that as a dispute over campaign finance law. So, I don’t get some of the priorities.”