Rep. Darrell Issa, who has been investigating the Fast and Furious operation for nearly a year, declined on Friday to call for Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to resign over the botched undercover probe that led to hundreds of weapons being “walked” to gun smugglers in Mexico.
Mr. Issa, California Republican, said the operation is not about Mr. Holder or Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, both of whom he has criticized strongly over their handling of the failed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s (ATF) investigation.
“It is not about one person,” said Mr. Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, during a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
“It is about a failure that seems to be pervasive within Justice that investigations play fast and loose with the expectations of what is right or wrong when it comes to what I am going to call collateral damage,” he said.
In addition to as many as 1,400 weapons that found their way into Mexico, other guns — including AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles — have been found at crimes scenes, including two at the site of the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, killed during a gunfight with Mexicans just north of the border near Nogales, Ariz.
Mr. Issa said Fast and Furious was not the first federal investigation in which “bad people are allowed to continue to do bad things in the name of going after bad people.” He said he was not joining dozens of Republican congressmen in calling for Mr. Holder’s resignation in part because his committee had not “reached all the conclusions that are appropriate in this investigation.”
“(Mr. Holder) did not order this operation,” Mr. Issa said. “He didn’t demand they do something this stupid.” He said Mr. Holder should fix the problem and it was up to the White House to decide whether the attorney general should go.
Mr. Issa said congressional investigators had established that Fast and Furious was a “dumb program” and were now looking into a suspected “coverup” and also trying make sure a similar operation never happens again.
He said ATF needs to be reorganized and, perhaps, the agency should be “molded into the FBI” as special unit. He said that out of “frustration” he was getting close to saying, “We may have to do that.” He said one of the problems with Fast and Furious was that a number of law enforcement agencies were involved and no one was accountable.