(CNSNews.com) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told CNSNews.com that Attorney General Eric Holder should be fired.
“I believe, for a lot of different reasons, Eric Holder ought to be fired,” Gingrich told CNSNews.com in response to a question about whether he believed Holder had misled Congress on when he first learned about Operation Fast and Furious, the administration’s law-enforcement string operation that allowed guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels.
“I think he’s a very bad attorney general,” Gingrich said.
Gingrich further said that Operation Fast and Furious demonstrated the administration’s incompetence.
“I think also we have to recognize when the Obama administration’s incompetence extends to selling guns illegally to people who kill both American and Mexican citizens, it just tells you something about how profoundly incompetent this administration is,” said Gingrich.
CNSNews.com spoke with Gingrich when he appeared Friday at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C.
“With regards to the Fast and Furious scandal: Do you believe that Eric Holder knowingly misled Congress with regards to his testimony?” CNSNews.com asked.
“I honestly don’t know. I haven’t looked at it enough,” Gingrich responded. “I believe, for a lot of different reasons, Eric Holder ought to be fired. I think he’s a very bad attorney general.”
Operation Fast and Furious was a Justice Department program run out of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In this operation, federal law enforcement officials knowingly allowed guns to be sold to individuals believed to be straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels. The purpose of the operation was to track gun smugglers back to the cartels. The government lost track of about 2,000 guns sold during the operation. The program, begun in September 2009, was halted in December 2010 after two guns that were sold as part of the operation were discovered at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
When Holder testified in the House Judiciary Committee on May 3 of this year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.)--chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee--questioned the attorney general about the date that he first learned of Operation Fast and Furious. Holder testified that he had “probably” heard about it in “the last few weeks.”
Since then, Issa’s committee has discovered memos written to Holder last year that mention Fast and Furious and the House Judiciary Committee has asked for a special council to investigate the matter.
“Congress does have the obligation to get to the bottom of this. Every person associated with it should be fired,” Gingrich told CNSNews.com at the Value Voters Summit. “There has to be a sense of accountability. It is just mindboggling that the government of the United States could get involved in something illegal and end up actually killing both Americans and Mexicans as a result of bad policy by the Obama administration.”
Holder sent a letter on Friday to members of Congress asserting he did not know about the operation despite the memo sent to him last year discussing it. Holder said he receives a constant flow of memos and “I do not and cannot read them cover to cover.”
“My testimony was truthful and accurate and I have been consistent on this point throughout,” Holder said in the Oct. 7 letter. “I have no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious or of hearing its name prior to the public controversy about it.”
President Obama said he has “complete confidence” in Holder, though only ventured to say Holder “indicated” he was not aware of the program.
“I think I’ve been very clear that I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder in how he handles his office,” Obama said. “He has been very aggressive in going after gun running and cash transactions that are going to these transnational drug cartels in Mexico. There has been a lot of cooperation between the United States and Mexico on this front. 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.”