In May Holder testified before Congress — under oath — that he had learned about the gun-running scheme only “in the last few weeks.” But last week, he changed his story after it became well known via the Justice Department’s own documents that his claim was completely false.
“In my testimony before the House committee, I did say ‘a few weeks.’ I probably could have said ‘a couple of months,’” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 8. “I don’t think that what I said in terms of using the term ‘a few weeks’ was inaccurate, based on what happened.”
As it turns out, however, Holder is still not telling the truth. And the evidence that shows it was still available on the Department of Justice’s own website by November 14.
“My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner,” Holder boasted in April of 2009 at an arms trafficking conference in Mexico. Gunrunner, of course, is the very same operation being investigated by Congress after whistleblowers exposed it.
Holder also admitted that a letter sent to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich claiming that the ATF was not deliberately allowing guns across the border was “inaccurate.” But, Holder claimed, DOJ was not lying on purpose — it was the field office's fault.
Still, Senators were outraged that they had been misled. “It’s unconscionable that a federal agency would let such a misleading letter stand for more than nine months,” Grassley said. “The head of the Criminal Division knew it was false, his deputy knew it was false, the whistleblowers knew it was false, the documents suggested it was false, and I discovered it was false — but, if Congress had relied on the department’s official talking points, we still wouldn’t know the truth today.”
In his testimony last week, Holder pointed to an ongoing internal investigation of the program as evidence that something was being done. He promised it never should have happened and that he would hold lower-ranking bureaucrats accountable after the Inspector General concludes his inquiry.
But so far, officials involved in the operation have simply been transferred to other positions. And some have even been promoted, provoking a furor among critics.
In a slight change of tone, however, Holder finally admitted during his testimony last week that the gun-running scheme was “flawed in concept, as well as in execution.” Similar operations must “never” happen again, he added.
“Unfortunately, we will feel its effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crime scenes both here and in Mexico,” the Attorney General said. So far the Obama administration’s weapons have been linked to the murders of at least two U.S. federal lawmen and countless civilians.
Despite the acknowledgments, however, Holder also lashed out at congressional critics. More than a few have called for his resignation, saying he perjured himself and that he is “unfit” for office. One Republican even suggested Holder and other DOJ officials were an “accessory to murder.”
Holder doesn’t seem to think so, though. “I'd like to correct some of the inaccurate, and frankly, irresponsible accusations surrounding Fast and Furious,” he told the Senate Committee. And as part of what analysts called his new “aggressive” strategy, Holder also recently sent an angry letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has played a key role in the congressional investigation.
“I cannot sit idly by as a majority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests, as happened this week, that law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens be considered ‘accessories to murder,’ ” Holder wrote. “Such irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms.”
According to critics, Holder is trying to deflect the uproar over the deadly scheme by blaming it on Republican politics. And early on during his testimony, he seemed to confirm that suspicion when he claimed: “I am determined to ensure that our shared concerns about Operation Fast and Furious lead to more than headline-grabbing Washington 'gotcha' games and cynical political point-scoring."
But the Attorney General, whose term has been clouded by scandals since he took office, still refused to accept any responsibility for the thousands of guns his department put in the hands of criminals. Instead, he laid part of the blame on the size of his bureaucracy.
“I cannot be expected to know the details of every operation that is ongoing," Holder told Senators. "As I look at the information as it was brought to me, I think that I acted in a responsible way by ordering the inspector general investigation, by issuing the directive to the field."
But according to law enforcement advocates and border groups, the DOJ cannot possibly be trusted to investigate itself — a special prosecutor and a formal congressional investigation are likely needed. And the calls for a real investigation — along with demands for Holder’s resignation and possible prosecution — are growing louder.
Obama’s top law enforcer also admitted that he had not apologized to the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, and refused to apologize when offered the opportunity to do so. Terry was killed close to the border late last year and several “Fast and Furious” guns were recovered at the crime scene.
"It pains me whenever there is the death of a law enforcement official, especially under the circumstances that this occurred," Holder claimed. "It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry."
Following Holder’s testimony, however, the family demanded that he accept responsibility. “Mr. Holder needs to own up to Operation Fast and Furious,” the slain agent’s relatives said in a statement. “In the end, Mr. Holder may choose not to apologize to the Terry family for the role that ATF and DOJ played in the death of Brian Terry, but the Attorney General should accept responsibility immediately. It is without question, the right thing to do.”
The President himself is also embroiled in the scandal. Obama claimed early on, for example, that he did not know anything about the gun-trafficking operation until it was exposed by whistleblowers. But he championed and signed legislation — the misnamed “stimulus” bill — which provided tens of millions in funding for the scheme. And the White House was briefed on several occasions.
But as the administration continues its futile efforts to downplay the growing scandal — claiming it was a simple mistake — critics are not buying it. In fact, National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre says it was a deliberate plot to undermine the God-given right to keep and bear arms.
Meanwhile, Holder attacked Congress for not violating the Constitution with even more gun-control legislation. He claimed a “lack of effective enforcement tools” — not the administration’s gun-running program or the “War on Drugs” — was to blame for escalating violence in Mexico.
“We must be careful not to lose sight of the critical problem that this flawed investigation has highlighted: we are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico,” Holder told the Senate last week.
But instead of more gun control, almost 40 U.S. Representatives are calling for Holder to step down. And because he has failed to resign voluntary, the NRA is calling for Obama to fire him immediately.