After Rep. Trey Gowdy's House committee put Attorney General Eric Holder on the hot seat Thursday, the South Carolina Republican told Newsmax.TV that he is convinced the Department of Justice (DOJ) was aware of the ill-fated Fast and Furious gun-smuggling operation before it took place.
“I don’t suspect it. I know it and we proved it today using emails from the Department of Justice, memos from the Department of Justice,” Gowdy insisted during an exclusive interview Thursday following the hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
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In Fast and Furious, federal agents lost track of nearly 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns purchased by suspected “straw buyers” who were allowed to walk away with weapons in the hopes that they would lead authorities to smuggling ringleaders and financiers, a tactic that has been described as gun-walking.
About 700 guns connected to suspects in the operation have been recovered in Mexico and the United States, including one near Nogales, Ariz., where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010.
“I proved to him [Holder] — as I said I would — beyond a reasonable doubt, that main Justice in Washington knew about gun-walking before it took place, before border patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder,” Gowdy said. “Several people in main Justice — I can’t prove that Eric Holder knew it — but I can prove that people under him, including the criminal chief, Lanny Breuer, knew about gun-walking.”
A month after Terry's death, Congress began hearing of problems with the botched operation.
Although Holder has shaken up the leadership of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he has not taken direct action against those responsible for the fiasco, Gowdy said..
“Not only has he not fired them, he hasn’t even put a letter of reprimand in anyone’s file. You have a dead border patrol agent. You have hundreds of dead Mexican citizens. You have more than 1,000 weapons that are somewhere in Mexico or the United States. No one’s been demoted,” said Gowdy, who believes that Holder should resign.
“Leaders take responsibility for what the people under them do. So the attorney general himself needs to tender his resignation,” insisted Gowdy. “If he’s not going to do that, and get rid of himself, he needs to at least get rid of Lanny Breuer, whose fingerprints are all over this.”
Republicans on the committee have demanded that the DOJ turn over documents related to Fast and Furious.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., promised on Thursday to take measures to force the law enforcement agency to comply.
“I think it’s clear that the attorney general treats our branch of government differently than he does his own and certainly differently than he would the judicial branch,” Gowdy said. “Can you imagine if a judge asked him to turn over documents? Do you really think he would give him about one tenth of what he had?”
Gowdy said it is likely that Holder will face a contempt of Congress charge if he continues to stonewall.
“If he doesn’t produce the documents, or a valid legal explanation why he’s not going to do it, then he will face contempt of Congress,” said Gowdy.
Gowdy pointed to a Feb. 4, 2011, letter from the DOJ to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as evidence of the DOJ’s prior knowledge of the operation.
“I want you to keep in mind, Feb. 4 is when the Department of Justice sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley denying gun-walking,” according to Gowdy. “At the exact same time, Lanny Breuer was in Mexico advocating on behalf of gun-walking. You can’t have it both ways. So it’s not that I suspect they knew about it, I know that they knew about it.”
A former prosecutor turned congressman, Gowdy said that the investigation transcends politics for him.
“It has nothing to do with politics with me. It has to do with the top law enforcement official in this country and the Department of Justice — and what they knew, and when they knew it — about the death of a border patrol agent and a botched, ill-conceived, ill-fated investigation that was never going to work, that’s resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Mexican citizens and will continue to have consequences for years on end,” Gowdy added.
He said his decision to call for Holder’s resignation boils down to a lack of confidence in the attorney general’s ability to lead.
“The Department of Justice really ought to be above and beyond raw gutter politics,” Gowdy said. “To the extent that I don’t have confidence in his ability to lead, manage, accept responsibility, provide answers, give an accounting, or hold people accountable for what’s happened, I think he ought to do the honorable thing and go back into private practice.
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