Washington, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder continues to claim to have had no prior knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious before members of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Several other lawmakers wanted to know what Holder knew in advance of public disclosure of a so-called gun-walking tactic in early 2011.
When Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) read excerpts of the recently disclosed emails, Holder claimed that the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Fast and Furious but instead referred to another gun-walking operation known as “Wide Receiver.”
Democrat members of the committee continually interrupted with questions during Holder’s testimony in a veiled attempt to help him out of the jam. But Chaffetz persisted by pointing out that the three e-mails in question referred to both programs, “Fast and Furious” and the “Tucson case”. The e-mails also revealed Justice Department officials discussing how to handle media scrutiny when both operations become public.
From the time it was revealed that a U.S. border agent was killed with a gun purposefully placed into the hands of a Mexican drug cartel, the U.S. Justice Department has refused to acknowledge its complicity in the matter. Agents lost track of hundreds of guns which flowed south to Mexico, where many were recovered at crime scenes. Two such guns were found in the U.S. at the scene of the killing of border agent Brian Terry.
Since then, Holder has consistently failed to comply with the congressional subpoena House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa served him on Oct. 12, 2011. But now it appears the time to answer has come. Holder told the committee he became aware of the gun-walking tactic at the same time as the public and that he found out “about the same time” that guns found at the scene of Terry’s death were part of Operation Fast and Furious.
The e-mails paint a far different picture, however. In his testimony Holder said that the emails only referred to Operation Wide Receiver. When questioned about the term “fast and furious” he told the committee: “That refers to Wide Receiver, not to Fast and Furious. The e-mail that you [Rep. Chaffetz] just read [between Trusty and Weinstein] – now this is important – that email referred to Wide Receiver, it did not refer to Fast and Furious. That has to be noted for the record.”
Chaffetz replied, “No, it doesn’t. It says Fast and Furious. ‘Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?’ It’s specific to Fast and Furious. That is not true, Mr. Attorney General. I’m happy to share it with you.”
“How many people in Mexico have been killed as a result of the U.S. engaging in the gun-walking tactic?” asked Rep. Ted Poe, Republican of Texas.
“I don’t know, but I think there would be some,” replied Holder. In fact Operation Fast and Furious involved about 2,000 guns in total, and agents lost track of about 1,400 of those.
Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican and Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Thursday that wiretap applications in Operation Fast and Furious show that a number of key individuals at the Justice Department were responsible for the use of the gun-walking tactic.
At Thursday’s hearing, House Democrats placed on record letters urging Issa not to pursue Holder’s contempt citation. The letters included notes from Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the survivors of the mass shooting in Tucson that wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the National Action Network headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Now Issa and others in Congress must decide if they will pursue contempt of Congress charges against the Attorney General of the United States or allow him to run roughshod over the Constitution and the rule of law. Their allegiance to that founding document and the American people are as much on trial here as Holder’s Justice Department.
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