Despite the sometimes fierce accusations of misconduct that he has levied at Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said today he will not call on Holder to resign over the controversial Fast and Furious operation, at least for now.
“The fact is, it’s not about any one person. It’s not about Eric Holder,” Issa, a California Republican, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. “Eric Holder didn’t order, as far as we know or even suspect, he didn’t order this operation. He didn’t demand that they somehow do something this stupid.”
His aides said later that Issa’s no-resignation stance could change depending on what else his probe into the operation finds.
Issa is spearheading the Congressional investigation into the widely-criticized program, under which federal agents allowed hundreds of guns to be sold to suspected gun traffickers in order to track the firearms to upper-level Mexican drug cartel members.
But instead of leading U.S. authorities to high-level criminals, the guns led officials to crime scenes, including the murder of U.S. border agent Brain Terry who was allegedly shot using a Fast and Furious weapon.
“This is about a failure that seems to be pervasive in justice,” Issa said Friday morning. “Investigators play fast and loose with the expectations of what is right or wrong when it comes to, I’m going to use the word, collateral damage. This isn’t the first time that the FBI and other agencies have been involved in investigations which bad people are allowed to continue doing bad things in the name of going after bad people.”
Issa has been highly critical of the gun operation as well as both Holder’s and the Obama administration’s involvement with it. In October the California congressman said Holder “has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew” about the gun walking program.
“The lack of candor and honesty from our nation’s chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing,” Issa said following the release of Justice Department documents seemingly showing that Holder knew about the program months before he testified that he did.
Issa’s decision not to call for the attorney general’s resignation stands in stark contrast to many of his fellow Republicans. Two of the GOP’s presidential candidates have demanded Holder step down, as have 40 Republican Members of Congress.
“America simply cannot tolerate an attorney general who arms the very criminals he is supposed to protect us from,” wrote GOP presidential contender Rick Perry in a Washington Times op-ed. “Nor can we tolerate a president who lacks the courage to take decisive action in restoring justice to the Department of Justice.”
“It is high time for Mr. Holder to step down,” Perry continued. “If he refuses to resign, Mr. Obama must fire him immediately.”
GOP hopeful Michele Bachmann was one of the 40 lawmakers that signed a letter to President Obama calling for Holder’s resignation.
The Obama Administration has said repeatedly throughout the investigation that high level officials in both the White House and the Justice Department were not involved in the Fast and Furious program.