Numerous House Republicans are banding together and calling for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder, demanding that he take responsibility for the failed Operation Fast and Furious that allowed gun smuggling into Mexico and ended with the tragic death of a border patrol officer.
“Eric Holder should resign, fast and furiously,” Rep. Connie Mack of Florida said Tuesday during a press conference with a dozen other members of Congress who voiced their frustration with the Obama administration. To date, 40 Republicans have called for the nation’s top lawyer to step down.
Holder’s first appearance before a Senate panel last week to answer questions about when he was first made aware of the operation, which allowed weapons to be smuggled from the U.S. and sold to Mexican drug cartels, did not curtail the growing frustration of Republican lawmakers who are increasingly asking more detailed questions about what key officials knew and when they knew it.
“After reviewing Attorney General Holder’s conflicting testimonies, uncovered evidence and recently released documents on Fast and Furious, it is clear that he is either lying or grossly incompetent,” said Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho.
Added Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas: “There are two options: Either Mr. Holder is not telling the truth, or he is inept. In either case, he should resign.”
Republicans say Holder added insult to injury when he revealed at last week’s hearing that he has never apologized or offered his condolences to the family of slain agent Brian Terry. At least two of the guns used in the crime were traced back to the botched operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department said a letter has been sent to the family, but did not reveal the subject of the letter. However, one Republican lawmaker revealed that Holder offered his sympathies but refused to take responsibility for the department’s role in the agent’s death.
“The American people deserve answers about this, but first and foremost, the Terry family deserves answers,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee.
Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina said Holder is unable to speak honestly about the operation, and that his entire tenure has been marked by troubling decisions.
“It appears that under his watch, the lack of judgment at the Justice Department may have cost people their lives,” Jones said.
Congressional investigators say Justice Department officials allowed straw purchasers to buy 2,000 guns and walk them across the border without interference from law enforcement. The weapons have been linked to numerous crime scenes and hundreds of deaths in Mexico.
Republicans said it is not plausible that Holder was completely unaware of the operations, and some memos that have surfaced during the investigation suggest that the attorney general had been briefed on the matter.
Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said he found it also disturbing that U.S. Embassy officials in Mexico were never notified of the cross-border operation.
“Attorney General Holder has a repeated pattern of misleading members of Congress under oath, and Fast and Furious appears to be no exception. As a consequence, I believe he has lost all credibility with Congress and the American people, which is why I am calling for his resignation,” Grimm said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa) is leading the investigation in the Senate, and took advantage of a hearing Thursday in the Judiciary Committee on stricter gun control to question the lone Justice Department official about the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The official repeatedly declined to answer any questions, citing the ongoing Office of the Inspector General investigation, but Grassley pressed his case and announced he was expanding the oversight of his investigation to the State Department. Grassley said he has issued a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding documents he says outline a myth perpetuated by officials that most arms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico and Central and South America are coming from the U.S.
Although the Justice Department agency maintains that 70% of guns recovered south of the border can be traced to a U.S. gun dealer, Grassley said the agency provided his investigators with numbers that add up to 25% in 2009 and 37% in 2010.
“Either way, both are a far cry from 70%,” Grassley said.
“Not to mention,” Grassley added, “that guns in 2009 and 2010 from gun dealers could include some of the nearly 2,000 firearms walked as part of the Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious.”