Attorney General Eric Holder just said in a hearing on Capitol Hill he has only known about Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious for a couple of weeks. Holder claimed that he does not know who authorized the operation and claimed the Justice Department has been cooperating in with the Oversight Committee in their investigation of the DOJ, and that he was very offended by Rep. Darrell Issa's suggestion that the Justice Department is responsible for the deaths of Border Patrol Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jamie Zapata. Guns used to killed the agents by cartel members have been tracked back to Project Gunrunner, meaning, those guns were sold to the cartels under order of the Justice Department and ATF.
The Justice Department has refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee and Chairman Issa has threatened to hold ATF and the DOJ in contempt if officials continue their refusal to comply with the investigation.
Although the following exchange is lengthy to read, it will be worth your time. The ATF Project Gunrunner may end up being the largest scandal to plague ATF and the DOJ in U.S. history.
Issa: When did you first know about the program, officially know as Fast and Furious?
Holder: I don't know an exact date but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the past few weeks.
Issa: Now that you've been briefed on in, the President has said on March 22 that he didn't authorize it. Did your Deputy Attorney General James Cole authorize it?
Holder: I'm sorry the....?
Issa: The Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
Holder: Um.. I couldn't hear, did he....?
Issa: Did the deputy attorney general authorize it.
Holder: My guess would be no. Mr Cole wasn't in the...I think, I don't think he was in the department at the time that operation started.
Issa: He's been aware of it much longer.
Holder: Been aware of it much longer?
Issa: Than you have been aware of it. How about the head of the criminal division Lanny Breuer did he authorize it?
Holder: I'm not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it. You have to understand the way in which the department operates although there are operations, this one has gotten a great deal of publicity.
Issa: There are dead Americans as a result of this failed and reckless program so I would say that it hasn't gotten enough attention.
Holder: There's an investigation underway.
Issa: I am aware of the investigation.
Holder: We'll have to look at that to see exactly (crosstalk) I take very seriously the allegation....
Issa: Mr. Attorney General, do you take seriously a subpoena signed by the Clark of the House?
Holder: Of course.
Issa: After 14 days of waiting for a letter to be signed or acknowledged or responded to we sent a subpoena signed by the Clerk of the House, 32 days later, last night, your people responded by giving us 92 pages, representing three documents that were public records already, all were available and saying the other 400 or so responsive pages were not going to be produced, do you stand by that? And were aware of that?
Holder: I think we indicated that the other 400 pages would be made available for review, just to be accurate. So those in essence were being made available as well.
Issa: That took 32 days to get that answer.
Holder: The information was gathered as quickly as it could. I've taken steps to enhance our ability to respond to subpoenas and requests in that regard. I was not satisfied at the pace at which these things were happening so I took steps to make sure we are more responsive.
Issa: Mr. Attorney General do you agree that Congress has an independent responsibility, particularly when U.S. persons have been killed because of a failed, reckless program to investigate those who authorized, approved, knew about it or were in some other way responsible for it?
Holder: Well as I indicated to you last night when we spoke about this at the White House, that there is a legitimate oversight responsibility that Congress has but I think also Congress has to use that oversight responsibility in a responsible way. We have cases and matters that will go to trial in June of this year....
Issa: Mr. Attorney General is it true that those cases that will go to trial in June, those cases are basically a bunch of meth addicts who did the buying, that you do not have what this program was supposed to produce. You don't have the king pins. You don't have the places it (guns) went. What you have are the people that you already had on video tape many many months before indictments were brought. Isn't this true?
Holder: There are cases that are important that we want to try and bring successfully. They are part of a scheme. You cannot look at a case as an individual matter and think it's unimportant because small cases lead to larger ones and that's why it is important.
Issa: Mr. Attorney General, my final question though is, from what you're saying about a scheme and so on, do you stand by this program, in other words, and it's not a hypothetical really, if you knew about this program 90 days ago, 180 days ago, would you have allowed it to continue and if not then what are you going to do about the people who did know and allowed it to continue?
Holder: Well what I have told people under the Department of Justice is that under no circumstances in any case or investigation that we bring should guns be allowed to be distributed in an uncontrolled manner.
Issa: So that would be consistent with the March 9 letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole in which he said, "We should not design or conduct undercover operations which include guns crossing the border. If we have knowledge that guns are about to cross the border, we must take immediate action to stop the firearms from crossing the border." That's your policy today?
Holder: That's our policy. That has been the policy that I have tried to impose.
Issa: Isn't Fast and Furious inconsistent with that policy?
Holder: Well that's one of the questions that we'll have to see whether or not Fast and Furious was conducted with what's consistent with what Jim (James Cole) wrote there, what I have said today. That's what the inspector general is in fact looking at.
Issa: And would you agree to work with both this committee of course and the other committees investigation this as to, we aren't looking at straw buyers Attorney General, we're looking at you, straw purchases. We're look at you. We're looking what your key people knew or should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with practices and whether or not instead the Justice Department is guilty of allowing weapons to kill Americans and Mexicans. So will you agree to cooperate in that investigation both on the House and Senate side?
Holder: We will certainly cooperate with all the investigations but I take great exception to what you just said, that somehow rather this Justice Department is responsible for those deaths that you mentioned, that assertion is offensive.
Issa: What if it's accurate Mr. Attorney General?
Holder: The Justice Department will do all that it can to protect law enforcement agents. It is one of the reasons why I have tried to look at a whole variety of messages, techniques that we can use to protect the lives of law enforcement agents, something that this country is not focused enough on.
Issa: What am I going to tell Agent Terry's mother about the way he died by a gun, when you have this video tape showing as it was sold fully expecting to end up in the hands of drug cartels.
Holder: We'll have to see exactly what happened with guns that are at issue there. I've attended the funerals, this isn't theoretical, this isn't political, this is extremely real for me as Attorney General. I have had to look into the eyes of widows, of mothers who have lost sons, I have felt their pain, and the notion that somehow some way we are less than vigilant, less than strong in our determination to keep the people who put their lives on the line everyday to protect the American people, that we're not doing all that we can to protect them is inconsistent with the facts, is inconsistent with the people who serve in the Department of Justice.