Atty. Gen. Holder Gets Partisan Grilling on the Hill; He Pushes Back

Atty. Gen. Holder on the Hill on Thursday/ttw photo via C-Span
By Danny Fenster

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder took heat once again from congressional Republicans over the ATF’s Fast and Furious operation, speaking with the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

Republican Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.), who has largely been leading the charge against the Attorney General, kept up his sharp remarks, telling Holder he has no confidence in him or a president that would stand behind him. Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar recently told the Daily Caller–a website that has been vocally critical of Holder–that he will push for a vote of no confidence in Holder as A.G.

The attack on Thursday at the hearing  was aimed at ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.  Problem was, ATF, which operates  under the Justice Department umbrella, lost track of many of those guns, some which surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

Holder has said all along that he only learned of the operation when it surfaced as a controversy, and condemned the tactics. Some Republicans have insisted that he’s lying about what he knew, and have asked for his resignation.

James Sensenbrenner, Republican from Wisconsin, implied that Holder had lied to Congress regarding details about Fast and Furious and when Holder learned of the tactics. “If the can keeps getting kicked,” Sensenbrenner told Holder, impeachment may be the only option.

When Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee asked for clarification of who Sensenbrenner suggested he might seek to impeach, she was shut down by Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, the House Judiciary Committee chair.

“I think that some heads should roll,” Sensenbrenner continued, calling for the firing of  Justice Dept. official Lanny Breuer, who heads the criminal division.

The argument remained split along party lines, with Democrats insisting the accusations against Holder and the Justice Department are overblown, citing the good ATF has done in the past. Representatives John Conyers, D-Mich., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the increased gun violence along the border calls for the so-called “Demand Letter 3,” which some gun rights activists have suggested was the plan all along. The letter was sent to gun dealers, mandating that they report sales of two or more assault rifles to the same person within five days.

Holder conceded, as he has in the past, that the tactics used in Fast and Furious were “unacceptable tactics” and “inexcusable.”

Still, he insisted the department has cooperated with Congressional investigators looking into the botched operation and who gave the go ahead.

He also addressed the issue of the department in February providing a misleading to Congress about Fast and Furious, which essentially denied the things that were going on with the operation.

But Holder said no one who prepared the letter lied, but were given incorrect information.

When pressed by Sensenbrenner as why providing false information wasn’t  considered lying, Holder said:

“It all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that can be considered perjury or lie,” Holder said.

Holder was also critical of some Republican critics of his, saying they were engaged in “inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric … in an effort to score political points.”

It’s time to end “politically motivated ‘gotcha’ games,” he said.

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