A Fast & Furious state of mind

Having read several news account of Eric Holder’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, including the New York Times story, I think Michael Walsh hits most of the highlights in his New York Post column on it. Walsh summarizes Holder’s testimony with these statements:

That the answer to several questions about who ordered Fast and Furious — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “deeply flawed, reckless, misguided and inexcusable” (Holder’s words) gun-trafficking operation — is: “We don’t know yet.”

That concerns over the program’s death toll (one, probably two American agents, hundreds of Mexicans) and demands for accountability — including for Holder’s resignation and that of his deputy, Lanny Breuer — are “inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric to score political points.”

That the recently withdrawn letter from the Justice Department to Congress denying federal responsibility for the program was not a lie, “because it all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that would be considered perjury or a lie.”

That the push for something called “Demand Letter No. 3”— a new regulation to compel border-state gun dealers to report multiples sales of long guns to the ATF — had nothing to do with the fact that the feds had just allowed some 2,000 weapons to “walk” to Mexico and were using the blowback to justify more gun control.

That Holder doesn’t read the memos in his own in-box, instead relying on staffers to bring pertinent information to his attention.

And that, miraculously, of the thousands of pages of e-mails about F&F turned over to Congress last Friday night, not one is from or to Holder — that he was just an innocent bystander as the US Attorney’s office and ATF field headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., cooked up the scheme.

Walsh comments:

Let’s believe all that; what are we left with? Let Holder sum it up:

“Although the department has taken steps to ensure that such tactics are never used again . . . we will continue to feel the effects of this flawed operation for years to come. Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border.”

There you have it: One of the most incompetent (at best) and murderous operations ever undertaken in the name of the Justice Department, and all the attorney general can do is say they’ve closed the barn door now that the horses have fled, taking the guns and ammo with them.

Oh, and promise to get to the bottom of things . . . someday.

Walsh’s column should be supplemented by Politico’s story and the accompanying video. Politico includes additionnal exchanges of interest:

“I have no intention of resigning,” Holder told Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.). “I’m the attorney general who put an end to these misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious.”

Holder said he is “ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the Department of Justice” but that it is unrealistic to think he is aware of every investigation — even those that could have international ramifications such as the outrage in Mexico over Fast and Furious.

“There are all kinds of operations going on right now in the Justice Department about which I know nothing because of the way the Department of Justice is structured,” he said….

While weathering a lot of criticism from the GOP, Holder occasionally lectured his inquisitors.

After Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) managed to elicit from Holder that he had never discussed Fast and Furious with President Barack Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or the president or attorney general of Mexico, Holder responded with a fatherly lesson in Washington protocol.

“You have to understand something about the way Washington works, here, OK?” Holder said. “The meaningful conversations that happen between DHS and DOJ that happen at lower levels, between investigators. … [Obama] can find out about my state of involvement in matters connected to the Justice Department without speaking directly to me.”

One more thing: “I’m a big guy. I’ve been in Washington for a long time,” Holder said, seeking to create the impression that the controversy over Fast and Furious is sound and fury signifying politics as usual. It’s even possible he believes it.

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