Nine more members of Congress have told The Daily Caller that they’re calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over his handling of Operation Fast and Furious, more than doubling the number on record before the weekend calling for his ouster. A total of 17 members of Congress have now called for Holder to step down.
The latest group of members includes Republican Reps. Dan Burton of Indiana, Allen West of Florida, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Trent Franks of Arizona, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Duncan Hunter of California, Devin Nunes of California and Dennis Ross of Florida.
Burton, who once chaired the House oversight committee that is currently investigating the Justice Department over Operation Fast and Furious, said he has always opposed Holder and didn’t believe he should be confirmed as attorney general in the first place, based on his record of deceiving Congress.
“I think he’s been a mistake from the very beginning,” Burton told TheDC in a phone interview.
“When I was chairman of government reform and oversight during the Clinton administration, we had Holder before my committee a number of times and he misled the committee. In fact, he lied. During his confirmation in the Senate, I sent a letter to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, [Sen. Patrick] Leahy, and I sent it to the other members of the committee as well, and I cited specific cases where Holder had not been straight with the committee and I said he should not be confirmed.”
It also appears Holder misled Congress on May 3 when he told the House Judiciary Committee that he had known of Operation Fast and Furious for only a few weeks. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told TheDC he personally handed Holder a letter on the topic while the attorney general was in his office months earlier. Senior aides sent Holder numerous briefing memos on the subject, including the name and intimate details of the failed operation, as early as July 2010.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both discussed the operation in media interviews about a month before Holder claims he knew of it. Republican Reps. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Jason Chaffetz of Utah have asked Obama to clarify how he was able to speak about Operation Fast and Furious in a media interview while Holder was apparently, at least according to his claims, unaware of the operation.
Burton said Holder’s blatant disregard for the ongoing congressional investigation and the appearance that he lied under oath means he needs to resign now.
“I don’t think he’s a trustworthy attorney general,” he said. “He’s a political animal. He’s more concerned about politics than he is about what’s right for the country.”
Burton conceded, however, that Holder’s fate likely ultimately rests with the president.
“I think [whether Holder should remain in office] is a decision that will ultimately have to be made by the president,” Burton said. “We in Congress can, on a regular basis, contact the White House and tell the president that he is not right for the job.”
West, a tea party favorite, thinks it’s Obama’s responsibility to secure Holder’s immediate resignation.
“The Congressman has for many months now called for the President to force Eric Holder to resign,” West’s spokeswoman Angela Sachitano said in an email.
Huelskamp echoed West’s comments, saying “tell him to resign.”
Jenkins said Fast and Furious was a reprehensible program, and that Holder’s continued refusal to provide thorough answers means he should go.
“Given the nature and terrible failure of the Fast and Furious operation under his watch and the lack of complete transparency from the Justice Department in the aftermath, Congresswoman Jenkins does believe that stepping down would be the most prudent path forward for Attorney General Holder,” Jenkins’ spokesman Sean Fitzpatrick said.
Franks added that if what happened under Operation Fast and Furious isn’t scandalous enough for Holder to step aside, he’s unsure if there’s anything that would convince Holder to step aside.
“If this isn’t outrageous enough to justify resignation,” Franks said in an email to TheDC, “I wonder what would be?”
Operation Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program that allowed guns purchased in the United States to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Some of those firearms have been traced to the murders of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata and countless Mexican citizens.
AFT agents facilitated the sale of firearms to drug cartels via straw purchasers, or people who could legally buy guns in the U.S. but did so with the intention of trafficking them to Mexico. The Obama administration says the program’s initial intent was to track guns in the large firearms trafficking market, a goal that it failed to achieve.
Pompeo thinks Operation Fast and Furious is just the latest in a stream of scandals and poor decisions from Holder’s Justice Department, meriting Holder’s immediate resignation or removal.
“U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has shown a dangerous disregard for our nation’s laws and security that warrants his immediate dismissal,” Pompeo said.
Hunter’s spokesman told TheDC that the DOJ’s decision to go after a Border Patrol agent is indicative of how Holder’s priorities are out of line. “For doing his job, [Border Patrol Agent Jesus] Diaz was sentenced to two years in prison for improperly lifting the arms of a 15-year-old drug smuggling suspect while handcuffed,” Hunter wrote in a letter to Holder last week, shortly before his spokesman told TheDC Holder needs to go. “Reports indicate that the Justice Department cited the incident as a deprivation of the smuggler’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable force �“ something that I find hard to comprehend under the circumstances.”
Holder has finally agreed to reappear before the House Judiciary Committee, in a December 8 hearing. But it’s unclear whether Holder could say anything to satisfy those calling for his resignation.
Several members who have yet to call for Holder’s resignation — including Republican Reps. Wally Herger of California, Ken Calvert of California, Mary Bono Mack of California, Peter King of New York — tell TheDC they are either very concerned about Operation Fast and Furious or on the verge of calling for Holder’s resignation, given the information already available.
“Congresswoman Bono Mack is deeply concerned about ‘Fast and Furious’ and certainly a resignation is not out of the question,” her spokesman Cort Bush told TheDC.
California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher hasn’t called for Holder’s resignation, but he told TheDC he supports those who have. Rohrabacher also thinks no matter what happens with the investigation — whether it is determined that Holder knew about and approved Operation Fast and Furious, or that he was never informed about what was going on — the buck stops at Holder’s desk and he is responsible for what happened.
“Mr. Rohrabacher supports the calls for Holder to resign but has not ‘formally’ called for him to do so,” Rohrabacher’s spokeswoman Tara Setmayer said in an email. “He believes if the current investigation reveals Holder knew it’s grounds for resignation and if he didn’t know, then that’s blatant incompetence and grounds for resignation.”
As has become customary, DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler has refused, for several weeks, to address the concerns emanating from Congress about whether Holder can continue to operate as the United States Attorney General. She continues to ignore TheDC’s requests for comment.
Other members of Congress who have previously called for Holder’s resignation include Reps. Vicky Hartzler, Raul Labrador, Quico Canseco, Blake Farenthold, Paul Gosar, Joe Walsh, Gus Bilirakis and John Mica, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Attorney General Holder had avoided talking openly about Operation Fast and Furious for months until Gosar told The Daily Caller that administration officials responsible for the program could be considered “accessories to murder.” Holder finally spoke out on October 7, citing Gosar’s comments as the reason.