In testimony last year before the House Oversight and Government Operations Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa of California, Holder said he first learned about Fast and Furious only after media reports began appearing about the congressional investigation started in the wake of Terry's slaying. He subsequently recanted that statement and acknowledged being told about the program by aides a few months before the media reports. He has since strenuously denied intentionally misleading Congress about when he first learned of Fast and Furious, and has accused congressional Republicans of using the program to concoct a partisan witch hunt.
But at yesterday's hearing, Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who has also been probing the Fast and Furious program, released a detailed report about their investigation, saying new documents they obtained demonstrate Holder's department "had much greater knowledge of, and involvement in, Fast and Furious than it has previously acknowledged." Despite the widespread knowledge within the department, however, the report said "senior Department officials showed a serious lack of inquisitiveness when it came to discovering details about Operation Fast and Furious. They knew as early as April 2010 that ATF's Phoenix Field Division ... had previously used this same tactic of gunwalking. Still, these officials failed to ascertain the true scope of the program. Later, when whistleblowers came forward with information and supporting documents, these same officials provided false information to Congress and refused to get to the bottom of the matter."
Holder's attitude before the committee yesterday could only be described as contemptuous. At one point, Rep. Raul Labrador read a dozen quotes from Holder over a period of more than a decade in which he had claimed his staff did not inform him about assorted matters. The attorney general disdainfully replied, "maybe this is the way you do things in Idaho or wherever you are from." Labrador was born in Puerto Rico and represents an Idaho congressional district.
Rather than the country bumpkin Holder appears to consider him, Labrador is a lawyer and the former managing partner of a law firm. More important, he is an elected member of Congress tasked by the Constitution to ask whatever questions he deems appropriate in in a congressional oversight hearing probing executive branch law enforcement activities. As much as he clearly chafes under such oversight, Holder should be relieved of his duties.