Darrel Issa has his man.
Attorney General Eric Holder is facing heat this week over the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm’s (ATF) Fast and Furious Scandal, the operation in which U.S. guns were released to suspected gun smugglers in the attempt to track these weapons to the upper levels of Mexican drug cartels.
The operation turned into a debacle when the ATF lost track of the guns. Many of these weapons were used in crimes against American citizens. U.S. border agent Brian Terry was killed with one in December 2010, turning the operation into a national story.
Until recently, Fast and Furious looked like a problem that affected only the AFT. Rep. Issa and his committee-the House Oversight and Government Reform committee- interrogated top ATF and Justice Department officials on Capitol Hill earlier this summer. This questioning led to the resignation of the head of the ATF, but didn’t look like it would impact the Justice Department. It was a blow to the administration, but not something that would resonate with the public at large.
Everything changed when newly released emails showed communication about the operation reached the top of the Justice Department. The attorney general was sent memos on the issue last summer. This revelation directly contradicts the sworn testimony Attorney General Eric Holder gave before Issa’s committee in May. Holder said he’d only know about Fast and Furious for a few weeks.
Republicans have demanded the Obama administration appoint a special prosecutor to look into the case. They clearly think Holder lied under oath, should immediately resign his office and hire a lawyer in preparation for a criminal trial.
Democrats are just trying to get through the week. They are on the defensive: about the economy, the Solyndra bankruptcy that’s cast doubt on their green energy policy and now this Holder scandal.
So far the White House has publicly backed Holder. But you have to wonder how long that support will last. The headlines keep getting worse, as new information about the scandal is released. The big question around the capital is: What did Holder know and when did he know it? That question, a staple around town since Watergate, is the last thing an administration wants to answer.
The Obama administration should throw the attorney general overboard. The president is facing crises on multiple fronts. Does he really want to spend his time and (what’s left of his) political capital fighting for an incompetent cabinet member?