The contempt citation and call for resignation target Holder's alleged failures to be forthcoming with documents and testimony in the case of "Fast and Furious." That's the program of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bureau that allowed smuggled guns to "walk," that is, to be transferred to low-level members of Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would lead to indictments of higher-level individuals. The program began at the federal level in 2006 as "Wide Receiver" under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as part of Project Gunrunner.
Members of both the House and Senate committees have complained that Holder has withheld documents they claim are necessary to complete their investigation of Fast and Furious.
In a fiery hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, read a list of complaints. Among other things, he claimed Holder had misled the committee, sent a letter containing false information to a committee member, will not tell the truth about what he knew and when he knew it regarding the program, will not take responsiblity for various failures of the Department of Justice, has engaged in a conflict of interest by not setting up an independent investigation of the gun-walking scandal, has endangered national security and will not hold anyone in his department accountable.
Cornyn: In short, you've violated the public trust in my view and, by failing and refusing to perform the duties of your office.On Monday, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, Republican of California, said he would move ahead with a vote on a contempt citation against Holder. That, according to Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan, is seen as problematic by Republicans they did not name:
It's more with sorrow than regret, than with anger, that I would say that you
leave me no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office.
Americans deserve an attorney general who will be honest with them. They deserve an attorney general who will uphold the basic standards of politiical independence and accountabilty. You've proven time and time again, sadly, that you are unwilling to do so. The American people deserve better. They deserve an attorney general who is
accountable and independent. They deserve an attorney general who puts justice before politics.
It's my sincere hope that President Obama will replace you with someone who is up to that challenge.
[Chairman Patrick Leahy offers a few remarks of support for Holder and then allows him to respond.]
Holder: With all due respect, senator, there is so much that is factually wrong with the premises that you started your statement with, it's almost breathtaking in its inaccuracy, but, I'll simply leave it at that.
You know, we want to talk about Fast and Furious, this is, I guess, what, the ninth time?— [turning to an aide who nods "yes"]—this is now the ninth time that I have answered questions before a congressional committee about "Fast and Furious."
If you want to talk about Fast and Furious, I'm the attorney general that put an end to the misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious. An attorney general whom I suppose you would hold in higher regard was briefed on these kinds of tactics in an operation called "Wide Receiver" and did nothing to stop them. Nothing. Three hundred guns, at least, "walked" in that instance.
I'm also the attorney general who called on an inspector general to look into this matter, to investigate this matter. I'm also the attorney general who made personnel changes at ATF and in the U.S. Attorneys office that was involved, have overseen the changes of processes and procedures within ATF to make sure that this doesn't happen ever again.
So I don't have any intention of resigning. I heard the White House press officer say yesterday that the president has absolute confidence in me. I don't have any reason to believe that in fact is not the case.
And in terms of, you know, what is it that we have turned over to Congress in this regard, let's put something on the record here. ... We have collected data from 240 custodians, we have processed millions of electronic records, looked at over 140,000 documents, turned over 7,600 pages. Over the course of 46 separate productions, we have made available people from the department at the highest levels to be interviewed.
And I've also said, indicated, I guess, earlier in my testimony, to the extent that all of that is not enough to satisfy the concerns that have been raised in the House committee, I am willing to sit down and talk about the provision of more materials. I have sent letters in that regard, the deputy attorney general has sent letters in that regard, and have not had responses. Which leads me to believe that the desire here is not for an accommodation but for a political point-making. And that is the kind of thing that, you know, you and and your side, I guess, have the ability to do if that's what you want to do. It is the kind of thing that I think turns people off about Washington. While we have very serious problems, we still have this political gamesmanship.
Cornyn: The problem we have is that you won't allow Congress to do its job when it comes to oversight and you thwart a legitimate investigation into programs like Fast and Furious.
“This isn’t the message leadership wants,” one veteran House Republican lawmaker said. “They just want a boring, quiet summer of us not saying anything to screw up [and] get in the way of Obama’s economic news.”A spokesman for the committee says the problem is that talks with the DOJ about resolving the matter have gone nowhere.
A House GOP aide added, “Not a fight we are looking for. It doesn’t look good for anybody.”
If the committee does vote on a contempt motion, its outcome is unknown despite the Republican majority because some GOP members haven't decided which way to go. An aide in the office of Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who, like Cornyn, has called for Holder to resign, said the congressman will review the contempt motion when he receives it.