Top congressional Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder received at least five weekly memos starting in July 2010 about the controversial gunrunning probe known as Operation Fast and Furious, though he claimed this past May he only learned of the operation a few weeks prior.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., released a series of heavily redacted memos apparently sent to Holder from Michael Walther, the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center. They appear to describe an operation involving the straw purchase of hundreds of firearms that went to Mexican drug cartels.
"With the fairly detailed information that the Attorney General read, it seems the logical question for the Attorney General after reading in the memo would be 'why haven't we stopped them?'" Grassley said in a statement.
Issa claimed Holder "has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other."
The release of the documents comes as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, requests the president instruct the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel.
Through Fast and Furious, hundreds of firearms were allowed to walk across the U.S.-Mexico border, some later turning up at bloody crime scenes. The focus has turned lately to what Holder knew and when he knew it.
He said under oath in May: "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
But documents that started to surface earlier in the week suggested Justice officials at least tried to inform Holder. The latest memos show he was notified of the program repeatedly, though it's not clear to what degree Holder paid attention to the memos.
The Justice Department defended Holder earlier this week in a statement.
"The Attorney General's testimony to both the House and the Senate was consistent and truthful," the statement said. "He said in both March and May of this year that he became aware of the questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious Operation in early 2011 when ATF agents first raised them publicly, and at the time, he asked the Inspector General's office to investigate the matter."