By Jordy Yager - 02/02/12 04:59 PM EST
Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking to cool tensions with Republicans over the bungled "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation, said the alleged killers of a U.S. border patrol agent are close to being arrested.
Holder in a sometimes testy appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the Justice Department could bring a case against the alleged killers of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry within the next two months.
“I think that’s likely this year,” he continued, when pressed for specifics. “Yes, I think it’s likely in the next six months.”
Holder’s was peppered with questions about his role in Fast and Furious, an operation in which thousands of guns were released into the U.S. and Mexico in the hope they could later be tracked if used in crimes.
Two of the guns found at Terry’s murder scene in Arizona were sold under Fast and Furious, and at Thursday’s hearing Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) demanded to know why Holder had not taken more action on the matter.
McHenry asked if an announcement on arrests could come by March 31.
“Possible,” responded Holder.
Holder’s also sought to assure lawmakers that he would hold federal officials responsible for the failed operation.
“To the extent that we find out who precisely was involved in this or who gave that order, I can assure you that unless there is some truly compelling circumstance, that person or those people will be removed from federal service,” Holder said.
Holder said that it has taken more than a year to build the case against Terry's alleged killers in order to ensure that a conviction is highly likely when they go to trial.
“You don't want to go into court and put yourself on a time limit and at three months say let's take whatever we got and get it into court because some critics are going to say we're not acting fast enough,” Holder said.
“We go into court when we think we have cases that are ready to go. I'm not putting any pressure on people in that regard, other than to do it as quickly as they can, but to do it as thoroughly as we can, and so that we bring the best possible case that we can.”