Most GOP governors refuse to join calls for Attorney General Holder's resignation

Republican governors are refusing to weigh-in on whether President Obama should fire his top law enforcement official over a botched gun-tracking operation.

The overwhelming silence of GOP state leaders comes as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have joined more than 40 Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign for his role in Operation Fast and Furious.

The Hill spoke with the offices of all 29 Republican governors. Twenty-six of them either declined to comment or did not respond to whether their confidence in the Obama Administration has waned in the wake of Congress’s investigation into Fast and Furious — a gun tracking operation in the Southwest that oversaw the sale of thousands of firearms to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels.

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The reluctance of the GOP governors to voice their position differs dramatically from the Republican attitude on Capitol Hill where 40 members sent a letter to Obama this week calling for Holder's resignation.

Many of Holder’s critics say he either knew about the operation and did not immediately stop it, or that he didn’t know about Fast and Furious but should have, and they say the attorney general’s ignorance represents incompetence.

Holder has said he did not authorize the operation, which “was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.” He told senators this month that those responsible within the Justice Department (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which immediately oversaw the operation, will be held accountable.

But Jindal said Holder has violated the trust of Americans and Congress, and that he should leave office immediately.

“The Attorney General should resign,” said Jindal in a statement to The Hill. “He has consistently tried to undermine the Second Amendment he was sworn to uphold. His department deliberately allowed violent Mexican gangs to get more guns, and all the evidence indicates that he lied to Congress about it.”

The scrutiny over Holder’s role in Fast and Furious increased several months ago when internal DOJ memos surfaced suggesting he misled Congress over when he learned about the operation. This month before the Senate, Holder clarified his previous remarks, saying he learned about Fast and Furious earlier this year after a whistleblower spurred news reports of the botched operation.

Perry, a Republican presidential frontrunner, also called for Holder to step down, saying that Obama’s continued trust in the attorney general was cause to question his ability to lead the country. Perry pointed to the two weapons sold under the operation and found later at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

“It is high time for Mr. Holder to step down. If he refuses to resign, Mr. Obama must fire him immediately,” wrote Perry in an op-ed this week in The Washington Times.

“America simply cannot tolerate an attorney general who arms the very criminals he is supposed to protect us from and then refuses to comfort the grieving parents of a slain Border Patrol agent. Nor can we tolerate a president who lacks the courage to take decisive action in restoring justice to the Department of Justice.”

But as the GOP in Congress has increased its pressure on Holder and the Obama administration over Fast and Furious, the nation’s Republican governors have largely been hesitant to weigh-in.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, whose state was home base for the failed operation, resisted calling for Holder’s resignation. A spokesman for Brewer told The Hill that the Obama administration has “badly mishandled” Fast and Furious and its response to the operation. He said she was looking forward to the results of the congressional investigation and the DOJ’s inspector general (IG) probe, which has been underway since March.

“The individuals responsible for this failed operation need to be held accountable,” said Matthew Benson, communications director for Brewer, in an email to The Hill.

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“The governor is not a one-woman judge and jury, however, so she’s not willing to call for the attorney general to resign until all of the information has been presented. But it is clear that Fast and Furious has undermined Governor Brewer’s confidence in Attorney General Holder, given that this failed operation occurred under his watch.”

But Jindal, Perry, and Brewer are outliers in the GOP gubernatorial field. The Republican governors of Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all declined to comment or did not respond for this article.

Obama has been largely silent on the issue as well. But in a rare interview on the subject with ABC last month, he expressed his continued confidence in Holder and assured that the appropriate people behind the operation’s decisions would be held responsible.

Holder is set to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in less than two weeks on Dec. 8.