President Barack Obama says he has “complete confidence” in his attorney general, and that neither of them was aware of the “Fast and Furious” operation that allowed the flow of firearms in the U.S. across the border to Mexican drug cartels.
“I have been very clear that I have complete confidence in Attorney General [Eric] Holder and how he handles his office,” Obama said during a Thursday press conference. “He has been very aggressive in going after gunrunning and cash transactions that are going to these transnational drug cartels in Mexico.”
“He’s indicated that he was not aware what was happening in Fast and Furious.
Certainly I was not, and I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through, that could have been prevented by the United States of America,” Obama said.
The President also said he has “complete confidence” that Holder will “figure out who in fact was responsible for that decision and how it got made.”
However, Republicans on Capitol Hill said the responsibility lies with Holder, and some are demanding his resignation as well as an investigation by a special counsel.
“President Obama appears to be the only person left with any confidence in Attorney General Holder,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.).
Just hours before Obama spoke, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who are leading the congressional investigation, released five memos that were addressed to Holder as far back as July 2010 describing the ill-fated strategy. Holder told Congress during a May hearing this year he had just learned of the operation weeks before. The memos written by Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, said the straw buyers were “responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”
“Attorney General Holder has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew about gun walking and Operation Fast and Furious, Issa said. “The lack of candor and honesty from our nation’s chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing.”
Grassley said the memos to Holder contained “fairly detailed information.” and should have prompted him to put a halt to the operation.
Following Obama’s press conference, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R.-Idaho) questioned whether Holder has been honest with Congress, and said that documents linking the nation’s top lawmaker to the failed operation “have convinced me that he is either lying or grossly incompetent.”
Labrador called for Holder’s resignation, joining Rep. Allen West (R.-Fla.) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) in linking the scandal to top officials of the Obama administration.
“Attorney General Holder has a troubling pattern of failed cooperation with the legislative branch,” Labrador said. “Because of this intentional stonewalling and his misleading testimony, I now call for Mr. Holder’s resignation. It is clear he has not been honest about the extent of his involvement with the failed Fast and Furious program and should not be entrusted with managing the Department of Justice.”
“Mr. Holder has lost all credibility and should step down immediately. The question now is if Mr. Holder is only protecting himself or is he also protecting others—perhaps all the way to the top of the administration,” Labrador said.
Earlier this week, Rep. Lamar Smith (R.-Tex.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for a special counsel to investigate whether Holder has misled Congress and to determine his role in the operation.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operated Fast and Furious in 2009 as an attempt to track the sale of thousands of guns on the U.S. side of the border to Mexican drug rings. It wasn’t exposed until some of the same weapons turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R.-Ariz.) told the Daily Caller this week that Obama administration officials responsible for Fast and Furious might be accessories to murder.
“When you facilitate that, and a murder or a felony occurs, you’re called an accessory,” Gosar said. “That means that there’s criminal activity.”
The Obama administration announced this week that two of the top supervisors at ATF have been reassigned, but Grassley questioned whether rearranging the deck chairs will make the controversy disappear.
“There is a lot of effort at the Justice Department to spin the fact that the attorney general was less than candid before the House Judiciary Committee, and what better way to make that go away than a bureaucratic shuffle,” Grassley said.
“There are a lot of questions that remain to be answered,” Grassley said, “and actions that need to be explained.”