Congress Scrutinizes Fed Gun Walking Programs; Grills Atty General

December 09, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. -- U.S Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Judiciary Committee that the federal gun walking program - Operation Fast and Furious - was an unacceptable law enforcement tactic. But he also suggested Congress needs to move forward.

On Thursday, Holder faced committee members who challenged him to fire high level Justice Department officials whom they say misled Congress. Some of that comes after Holder’s agency withdrew a letter sent to Congress last February. The letter stated the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) did not allow guns to walk into Mexico. Evidence now shows guns had been allowed to enter Mexico since at least 2006.

This is an exchange between Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) and the attorney general:

Holder: "Let me make something very clear and in response to an assertion that you made or hinted at. Nobody in the Justice Department has lied."

Sensenbrenner: “Why was the letter withdrawn?"

Holder: “The letter was withdrawn because there was information in there that was inaccurate.”

Sensenbrenner suggested Holder could face impeachment over Fast and Furious. His charges topped a long list of accusations made against Holder during the hearing.

“The wagons down the street are in a pretty tight circle, Mr. Attorney General,” Sensenbrenner said. “The American people need the truth.”

After declining to turn over new documents related to the gun walking program, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California), pronounced Holder in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said Justice Department officials should be prosecuted under manslaughter charges for allowing guns to walk.

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Arizona) asked Holder if he would resign.

For his part, Holder accused members of the committee of politicizing the hearings. He also said Congress could do its part towards helping his agency by increasing funding for ATF on the border and by creating gun trafficking statutes.

House Judiciary Committee Hearing

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View Attorney Genera; Eric Holder's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 8, 2011. Courtesy C-SPAN.