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Republican lawmakers today released five memos that they say showed Attorney General Eric Holder had knowledge of a controversial weapons program as early as July 2010, months before when he told the House Judiciary Committee he learned of a controversial weapons program that funneled weapons into Mexico.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the memos show Holder's testimony at a May 2 committee hearing did not accurately reflect his knowledge of the Fast and Furious operation. The two lawmakers have been leading the investigation into who approved the program, which allowed firearms from the United States to be transferred over the border into Mexico, where they ended up in the hands of drug cartels.
"Attorney General Holder has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew about gunwalking and Operation Fast and Furious. The lack of candor and honesty from our nation's chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing," Issa said in a statement.
"With the fairly detailed information that the Attorney General read, it seems the logical question for the Attorney General after reading in the memo would be 'Why haven't we stopped them?'" Grassley said in a prepared statement.
The memos released by the lawmakers were from National Drug Intelligence Center Director Michael Walther to Holder. They were sent between July and August of 2010.
The joint move on Thursday followed a letter that House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent the White House earlier this week. Smith asked President Barack Obama to instruct the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to determine whether Holder misstated his knowledge of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation during the committee's May hearing.
A Justice Department official rejected the lawmakers' conclusion that Holder had detailed knowledge about Fast and Furious earlier than he stated.
"The weekly reports provided to the offices of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General are compiled each week from entries submitted by 24 divisions and components with offices around the country," the official said. "These reports are compiled to provide regular updates to the department leadership and can contain hundreds of cases, investigations, filings, court opinions and initiatives going on at any given time. None of the handful of entries in 2010 suggested that there was anything amiss with that investigation requiring leadership to take corrective action or commit to memory this particular operation prior to the disturbing claims raised by ATF agents in the early part of 2011."
The furor over the program prompted the head of the ATF to resign after a Border Patrol agent was shot with weapons that were linked to the Fast and Furious operation.
President Obama said during a press conference Thursday that he had "complete confidence" in Holder.
"He's indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious. Certainly I was not. And I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could have been prevented by the United States of America," Obama told reporters.
"He's assigned an inspector general to look into how exactly this happened," he added.