(Newsroom America) -- Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday denied the Justice Department engaged in a "cover-up" of a gun running operation that saw thousands of guns from the United States "walk" into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
"There's no attempt at any kind of cover-up" of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms operation "Fast and Furious," Holder told members of the House Government Oversight Committee. "We're not going to be hiding behind any kind of privileges or anything."
Holder was responding to questions from the committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., about whether he has been up front in responding to requests from lawmakers.
The hearing comes after Issa and his Senate partner in the investigation, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, intimated that top Justice Department officials are trying to cover up events surrounding the failed operation.
Issa made his assertions in a letter alleging that he may seek a contempt of Congress ruling against Holder for his failure to hand over documents related to the operation that the California Republican had requested as part of his probe.
Also, prior to the hearing, Republicans released a statement claiming that Justice Department officials "had much greater knowledge of, and involvement in, Fast and Furious than it has previously acknowledged."
Holder, for his part, said he did not authorize gunwalking or other tactics employed in the operation, nor did he believe they were authorized by Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler or Assistant Attorney Lanny Breuer, head of the department's Criminal Division.
"Not only did I not authorize those tactics, when I found out about them I told the field and everybody in the United States Department of Justice that those tactics had to stop," Holder said. "That they were not acceptable and that gunwalking was to stop. That was what my reaction [was] to my finding out about the use of that technique."
Holder hinted that the probe had turned political, saying his department had already turned over thousands of documents and was planning to release even more. He also said he did not believe accusations that the public had lost trust in him.
"I don't think the American people have lost trust in me. ... This has become political, I get that," he said.
Holder also acknowledged, however, that no one had "yet" been published in the case, despite the fact that some guns from the operation turned up at the scene of border agent Brian Terry's murder in December 2010.
"There have been personnel changes made at ATF. We obviously have a new U.S. attorney in Arizona. We have made personnel switches at ATF. People have been moved out of positions," he said.
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