Perhaps the greatest sparks of the day came when Issa questioned Holder. Issa took issue with what he considered a lack of candor and cooperation from Holder and DOJ, saying in his opening statement:
The president says he has full confidence in this attorney general. I have no confidence in a president who has confidence in this attorney general. … Mr. Attorney General, the blame must go to your desk.
Issa added that he did not believe DOJ was actually interested in finding out who murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose murder was one of the precipitating factors in the current scandal:
They are not looking for who killed Brian Terry, but are more interested in maintaining plausible deniability.
Holder later claimed that there has been an indictment in the Terry murder case but said he could not comment further as the case was under court-ordered seal.
Issa expressed frustration at the difficulties inherent in getting Holder and his deputies to agree to testify before his committee.
Do I need to serve a subpoena on yourself, Lanny Breuer, and the other people under direct investigation by my committee? Or will you agree to come voluntarily in the January time frame before the committee?
Issa threatened Holder with contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over any documents generated after February of 2010. Issa asked Holder if he was aware he was potentially standing in contempt of Congress for refusing to release documents requested by the committee without giving a constitutional reason to have done so. Holder responded:
We will respond as other attorney’s general and other Justice departments have done.
John Mitchell responded that way too.
Mitchell was Richard Nixon’s AG during Watergate. Holder fired back by referring to the Joe McCarthy hearings:
As they said in the McCarthy hearings, have you no shame?
It was clear that Democrats and Holder were in damage control mode, trying to both salvage Holder and to use the operation to call for more gun control while blaming Republicans. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), attacked this strategy:
You screwed up, you admit you screwed up, but don’t use your screw up as an attempt to extend your authority.