During a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee accused Holder of stonewalling and misleading congressional investigators on Operation Fast and Furious -- a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program intended to track guns sold illegally in the southwestern United States from 2006 to 2011 to their ultimate purchasers. The operation's "gun-walking" strategy led to hundreds of weapons ending up in Mexico, including two found at the scene after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in 2011.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is expected to vote next week on finding Holder in contempt of Congress. The committee has demanded documents on Fast and Furious but Holder says the Justice Department does not have the documents the committee is seeking.
At Tuesday's Senate hearing, Republican John Cornyn of Texas accused Holder of misleading Congress on Fast and Furious and accused Holder of violating "the public trust."
"With regret, you've left me with no choice but to join those who call for you to resign your office," Cornyn said.
Holder responded, calling Cornyn's statement "almost breathtaking in its inaccuracy."
"If you want to talk about Fast and Furious, I'm the attorney general that put an end to the misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious," Holder said. "An attorney general whom I suppose you would hold in higher regard was briefed on these kinds of tactics in an operation called 'Wide Receiver' and did nothing to stop them. Nothing. Three hundred guns, at least, 'walked' in that instance."
Holder said he had directed an inspector general to investigate Fast and Furious, and had "made personnel changes at ATF and in the U.S. attorney's office that was involved, have overseen the changes of processes and procedures within ATF to make sure that this doesn't happen ever again."
"So I don't have any intention of resigning," he said.
Holder said his office had processed millions of electronic records and "made available people from the department at the highest levels to be interviewed" in response to congressional demands. He said he has written to the House committee offering to "sit down and talk about the provision of more materials" but has not had a response to his offer.
"Which leads me to believe that the desire here is not for an accommodation but for a political point-making," he said. "While we have very serious problems, we still have this political gamesmanship."
"The problem we have is that you won't allow Congress to do its job when it comes to oversight and you thwart a legitimate investigation into programs like Fast and Furious," Cornyn responded.