By Jordy Yager - 06/12/12 04:10 PM EDT
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday called on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign.
Cornyn, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has long been critical of Holder, but had so far resisted pushing for Holder to step down.
“You’ve violated the public trust in my view and by failing and refusing to perform the duties of your office,” he said.
“Mr. Attorney General, it is more with sorrow than anger that I would say that you leave me no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office.”
“The American people deserve better; they deserve an attorney general who is accountable and independent; they deserve an attorney general who puts justice before politics,” said Cornyn. “And it’s my sincere hope that President Obama will replace you with someone who’s up to that challenge.”
Cornyn’s strong comments come a day after House Republicans moved to schedule a vote next week on whether to place Holder in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in his 15-month investigation of the botched gun-tracking operation "Fast and Furious."
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has garnered the support of 114 House Republicans for a resolution he introduced late last year expressing a lack of confidence in Holder’s ability to carry out his responsibilities as attorney general as a result of the DOJ’s authorization of “gun walking” tactics in Fast and Furious.
Holder balked at the lengthy list of reasons that Cornyn used to back his call for resignation, which the NRSC chairman read aloud at the hearing and ranged from Holder’s reluctance to appoint a special counsel to investigate White House national security leaks to his approach to Congress’s investigation into Fast and Furious.
“With all due respect, senator, there’s so much that’s factually wrong with the premises that you started your statement with,” said Holder. “It’s almost breathtaking in its inaccuracy.”
Holder pointed to his repeated efforts to try and meet on the issue of Fast and Furious with Republicans, whom he said have not actively responded to the offers.
Holder said the unresponsiveness from House Republicans leads him to believe that they’re playing political games and not actually addressing the issues at hand. He accused the GOP of promoting governing tactics that make the government unpopular in the public eye.
“[It] leads me to believer that the desire here is not for an accommodation but for a political point-making,” said Holder.
“And that is the type of thing that you and your side have the ability to do if that’s what you want to do. It is the thing that I think turns people off about Washington. While we have very serious problems, we’re still involved in this political gamesmanship.”
Cornyn stood by his account of Holder, drawing attention to a letter the DOJ sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last year in which agency officials denies ever allowing guns to “walk.” That assertion has since been proved false by repeated testimony and documents obtained in Congress’s investigation and the DOJ later rescinded the letter.
But, toward the end of his remarks, Cornyn exhibited a glimmer of a desire to discuss the matter further with Holder.
“I’m happy to have a conversation with you about what the facts show but I would stand on the record,” he told the attorney general.
After the contentious exchange, Cornyn told reporters that he had gone into Tuesday's hearing with plans to call on Holder to resign.
"I've had enough," he said.
— Jeremy Herb contributed
— This story was updated at 12:46 p.m.