Capitol Hill -- After thirteen months of investigation into the Obama Justice Department’s lethal Operation Fast and Furious and Attorney General Eric Holder’s sixth time answering questions from Congress on the topic, we are stuck with stonewalling, non-answers and more calls for gun control.
“This committee has lost its patience to wait longer,” Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa said.
It was a tense scene inside the committee room when Eric Holder arrived for his testimony. Unexpectedly, ATF whistleblower John Dodson, who came forward first to expose details of Fast and Furious, along with Issa approached Holder for a brief conversation before Holder took his seat.
(Attorney Geneeral Eric Holder (left) speaks with ATF Special Agent and whistleblower John Dodson (center) and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (right). Photo: House Oversight Committee)
(ATF Special Agent and whistleblower John Dodson watches as Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Oversight Committee. Photo: House Oversight Committee)
“Have you apologized to the whistleblowers who in effect were called liars within your agency who we know were telling the truth?” Indiana Rep. Dan Burton asked Holder.
“No,” Holder responded, saying if whistleblowers wanted to discuss an issue they could “give him a call.”
The reoccurring theme throughout the hearing was stonewalling. "Fortress Holder" graphics were displayed outside of the hearing room and he was continually pressed about why his department refused to cooperative with the Congressional investigation into the program. Out of 80,000 documents relevant to Operation Fast and Furious, the committee has received just 6,000.
“We’ve been down that road before, and we’ve gotten them [documents],” Rep. Burton said referring to Eric Holder stonewalling Congress for information and refusing to submit thousands of requested documents in unredacted form. “I think you’re hiding behind something here that won’t stand up.”
Holder adamantly denied his department was involved in a cover-up.
"There is no attempt of a cover-up, we have shared huge amounts of information,” Holder said.
Burton encouraged Issa to proceed with a contempt citation if stonewalling from Holder’s Justice Department continues to withhold requested information.
In the six times Holder has been questioned about his knowledge of Fast and Furious, he has been presented with emails and memos detailing and discussing the program. Some of those memos were addressed directly to him as early as July 2010. In May 2011, Holder said he had known about Fast and Furious for “a couple of weeks.” Then in November, Holder said he should have said he knew about the program for a couple of months. Today, he said he found out about the program in February 2010, but didn’t know about tactics being used between November 2009 and December 2010 just before Brian Terry was killed. His defense has been that he didn’t see the memos, read the memos or wasn’t told by his staff what was in the memos about the program.
“Mr. Holder, you’re well known in this town for not reading memos,” Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg said. “What does that say about your leadership and management that you’ve consistently failed to read your memos?”
Holder responded by saying the American people should give him credit for how he has handled the situation, for the “good things” the Justice Department has accomplished during his time as attorney general. He touted the war on terror and his gains in the Justice Department when it comes to the civil rights division. He also said the American people should give him credit for his work on Fast and Furious and called the investigation a “political gotcha' game in an election year.”
When asked whether he would have approved gun walking techniques, Holder said “no,” calling the tactic “stupid” and “dangerous,” yet he hasn’t fired anyone who we know approved of gunwalking techniques.
“You as the Attorney General, or someone does, needs to be held accountable,” Rep. Buerkle said. “How many more border patrol agents would have had to die for you to take responsibility?”
Holder also denied that Fast and Furious was developed as a way to push through new gun control measures, yet mentioned the Obama administration’s full support for the instatement of the assault rifle ban.
"The notion that somehow or other that this was set up to attack Second Amendment rights is not correct," Holder said, but later adding, "This administration has consistently supported the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban."