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Rep. Issa Presses Atty. Gen. Holder for Answers in Controversial ATF Gun Program

Atty. Gen. Holder before House Judiciary/ticklethewire.com

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In an exchange that was intense and sometimes contentious, Rep. Darrell Issa  (R-Calif.) on Tuesday pressed Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. on who gave the OK for a controversial ATF gun-walking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  pointedly asked Holder at a Congressional hearing whether deputy Attorney General James Cole or Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division,  authorized the Fast and Furious program, which encouraged straw purchasers to buy guns in Arizona — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.  ATF lost track of some guns, and at least one federal agent Brian Terry may have been killed by one of the guns.

Holder said he didn’t think Cole was  in the department at the time it was authorized, and “I’m not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it.”

“You have to understand the way in which the department operates…,” Holder said. “This has gotten a great deal of publicity..”

“There are dead Americans as a result of this of this failed and reckless program,” Issa shot back. “So I would say it hasn’t gotten enough attention, has it Mr. Attorney General?”

Holder responded: “We’ll have to  look at that and see exactly what happened….I take very seriously the allegations.”

Issa later said to Holder: “We’re not looking at straw purchasers. We’re looking at you. We’re looking at your key people, who knew, who should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with good practices…”

Issa, who chairs another committee that has been aggressively investigating the ATF program, also asked about a subpoena he issued to ATF to get documents.

“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. Thirty two days later, last night your people responded by giving us 92 pages representing three documents that were public records already,” Issa said. “And saying that the 400 or so responsive pages were not going to be produced. Do you stand by that and were you aware of that?

Holder: “I think we indicated that the other 400 pages be made available for review,  to be accurate.”

Issa also suggested the Justice Department and ATF were to blame for the deaths of Mexicans and Americans including  Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry as a result of the Operation Fast and Furious.

“I take great exception to what you just said,” Holder said. “The notion that the Justice Department is responsible for those deaths that you mention, that assertion is offensive.


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