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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today called for an independent investigation into whether Attorney General Eric Holder perjured himself during a recent committee hearing on a controversial weapons program.
In a letter to the White House, Smith said President Barack Obama should instruct the Justice Department to appoint special counsel to determine whether Holder misstated his knowledge of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation called Fast and Furious during a May 2 hearing before the Judiciary Committee.
At that time, Holder testified that it wasn't until late April that he learned of the operation, which allowed guns bought in the United States to be taken into Mexico, where they ended up in the hands of drug cartels.
However the Justice Department recently provided the Judiciary Committee with memos that show Holder received briefings as early as July 2010 that discussed the weapons trafficking program and mentioned it by name.
"Allegations that senior Justice Department officials may have intentionally misled Members of Congress are extremely troubling and must be addressed by an independent and objective special counsel," Smith wrote.
The letter cites two communications Holder received from the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer that mentioned the Fast and Furious operation.
The first, a weekly briefing from the Center dated July 5, 2010, called the program by name and described a Phoenix-based trafficking ring that had purchased at least 1,500 weapons. Smith described the second as a memo from Breuer on October 18, 2010 that discussed specifics of the operation.
"The Department's consistent response to Congress has been that Operation Fast and Furious was a discrete law enforcement effort largely isolated to the ATF office in Phoenix. These documents appear to undermine this claim and bring into question statements made by Attorney General Holder to this Committee," Smith wrote.
At press time, the Justice Department had not yet responded to a request for comment.