Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney should not turn the Operation Fast and Furious scandal into a campaign issue, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told reporters on Friday.
Gonzales’s comments come in the wake of a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Thursday where lawmakers barraged Attorney General Eric Holder with questions about the botched gun-walking operation.
Gonzales said he “knows how damaging [political attacks] can be to a department.”
“If he’s going to use it for a political point to try to embarrass the Department of Justice, embarrass Holder, or Obama, simply for political reasons, I don’t support that,” the former attorney general told The Daily Caller.
Gonzales resigned from his position as attorney general in 2007 after congressional Democrats and some Republicans denounced him for what they said was inept and disengaged management of the Justice Department. His harshest critics claimed Gonzales allowed the department to become a political arm of the White House.
At Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) called the Fast and Furious operation “horribly ill-conceived” and in need of a “continued thorough independent investigation.” But he questioned some Republicans’ motivation for continually hammering Holder about the operation.
“Justice must be done,” the lawmaker said. ”But I would say that I believe the effort here has become politically motivated in an attempt to embarrass the administration.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said on Thursday that he was given wiretap applications from a “furious group of whistleblowers” tired of the department’s “stonewalling.” Issa said the leaked information alleges that Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Jason Weinstein and Organized Crime and and Gang Section chief James Trusty knew of the operation’s use of controversial gun-walking tactics, an assertion department leadership has repeatedly denied.
After the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost hundreds of guns from the operation, two were recovered from the scene of a shootout between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in the gunfire.