It was a very uncomfortable Thursday for Attorney General Eric Holder on Capitol Hill as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee about Operation Fast and Furious. If it wasn’t clear that Fast and Furious was implemented as a way to push more gun control measures without the consent of Congress, it’s crystal clear now. Continued stonewalling from the Justice Department had Rep. James Sensenbrenner talking about impeachment
Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers called for the enforcement of new gun control measures pushed through the Justice Department in July without the approval of Congress, requiring gun shops in southern border states to report multiple sales of long gun rifles. Conyers made it a point to adorn Attorney General Eric Holder with praise.
“I have never encountered an attorney general more dedicated and more effective than the current occupant of that chair, Eric Holder,” Conyers said.
Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee continually asked Holder what Congress can do to stop the trafficking of firearms into Mexico, implying Congress should be implementing more gun control as a result of this program. During Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, knowingly allowed the traffickingmore gun control laws that would punish law-abiding gun shop owners.
“There is a hole in our gun control laws that you could drive or fly a space shuttle through it,” Dem Rep. Hank Johnson said, adding that the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment supporters are “radicals.”
Holder called for support from Congress for long gun reporting measures, saying guns are easily accessible in Mexico because of the open flow of guns from America into Mexico. Holder failed to mention the U.S. government's increased role in weapons trafficking between the two countries that has resulted from Fast and Furious.
"We have sought additional legislative abilities to deal with the gun trafficking problem," Holder said.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was visibly frustrated the calls for gun control, saying this administration is more interested in building databases and more interested in talking about gun control than stopping gun and drug trafficking. Issa also made it clear that Operation Fast and Furious was not botched
"This was not an accident, this project was flawed and failed from the beginning,” Issa said. "Brian Terry is dead today in my opinion because of this failed program, but even today we won’t hear Justice taking responsibility."Holder’s misdirection of investigators about Fast and Furious was also at the center of questioning and testimony.
"My committee was systematically lied to by your representatives," Issa said.
With the ongoing stonewalling from the Justice Department, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wisc.) brought up the possibility of serious charges for Holder. "If we don't get to the bottom of this, and that requires your assistance on that, there is only one alternative that Congress has - and it's called impeachment," Sensenbrenner said. "I’ve done more impeachments than anybody in the country."
Holder was asked whether his department had lied to Senator Grassley's office after a document dump last Friday showed Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer submitted false information in a letter to his office denying knowledge of gunwalking prior to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in February 2011. In November 2011, Breuer testified that he actually knew about gun walking tactics as early as April 2010.
Holder responded by saying lying is a “state of mind.”
"Lying to congress is a federal felony. I don’t want to say that you have committed a felony, Mr. Attorney General but obviously there have been statements so misleading that a letter had to be withdrawn and I think some heads should roll," Sensenbrenner said.
The letter submitted to Senator Charles Grassley was so false it had to be withdrawn, which Rep. Issa said is unheard of.
"We now know that some of the information provided by those supervisors was inaccurate," Holder said. "Nobody in the Justice Department lied."
Holder also gave himself numerous pats on the back for his response to Fast and Furious.
"I took action to ensure accountability," Holder said. "Unacceptable tactics were adopted as part of Operation Fast and Furious."
Nobody in the Justice Department has been fired for their involvement in Fast and Furious, which has left more than 300 innocent Mexican citizens dead and led to the murders of two U.S. federal agents. Fast and Furious guns have also been used to kill Mexican government officials. Agents within DOJ and ATF have been promoted after Fast and Furious, not held accountable, while the lives of whistleblowers are being ruined through DOJ retaliation. Holder was asked about how many murders have occurred in Mexico as a result of Fast and Furious and couldn’t give a direct response. He didn’t know the figures.
The president has said he has full confidence in this Attorney General. I have no confidence in a president who has full confidence in an attorney general who has in fact not terminated or dealt with the individuals, including key lieutenants, who from the very beginning had some knowledge and long before Brian Terry was gun downed, knew enough to stop this program,” Issa said. “Mr. Attorney General, the blame must go to your desk and you must today take real responsibility. Why haven’t you terminated the many people involved? Why is it that we’re still hearing about inconsistencies that don’t even take the correct responsibility for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death?”
Holder once again tried to pin responsibility for Fast and Furious on ATF field agents, saying this “wasn’t a top to bottom,” operation.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz asked Holder if he had spoken to Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mexican Attorney General or President Obama about Fast and Furious and Holder responded no.
“The answers that you have given so far are basically saying well 'gee somebody else did it.' There really is no responsibility in the Justice Department,” Sensenbrenner told Holder. Holder claimed he has been in contact with the Terry family to bring him justice. He has not. It took Holder nearly a year to apologize to the Terry family for the murder of their son, but leaked the apology email to the press before it even reached the family, proving Holder was more concerned with his public image than really apologizing. In testimony today, Holder said he was outraged about Terry’s death, yet hasn’t shown outrage. Despite Eric Holder and President Obama wishing that this year long scandal would just go away, the investigation into Fast and Furious isn’t going away any time soon. The House Oversight Committee just launched a brand new website, FastandFuriousinvestigation.com, solely dedicated providing information about the investigation of Fast and Furious.
The questions we have about Brian Terry's death remain unanswered; people remain unaccountable for their lethal decisions.
“No house has been cleaned,” Issa said.