PHOENIX - Congressional Republicans are stepping up pressure on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and asking for an independent investigation into how much he knew about the gun trafficking operation Fast and Furious, and when he learned it.
On Tuesday the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, sent a letter to President Obama, asking him to appoint an independent counsel to determine whether members of Congress were misled by Holder when he testified before them in May.
At a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on May 3, when asked when he first knew about Fast and Furious, Holder replied "a few weeks ago."
New leaked internal Department of Justice memos show Holder's aides provided written memos mentioning the program as far back as July 2010.
"I certainly believe he either misrepresented the facts, or that he's sufficiently incompetent that he didn't know what was in his weekly briefings," Rep. Darrell Issa (R, TX) the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said on CNN Tuesday night.
Whistle blowers have testified that under Fast and Furious, ATF agents were instructed to allow the sale of guns to straw buyers. Some of those "walked" guns wound up at the murder scene of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in the desert near Rio Rico, AZ in December 2010.
The newly leaked DOJ memos also make reference to a Tuscon gun trafficking program known as "Operation Wide Receiver," that took place under the Bush administration in 2006.
It allegedly also involved the sale of weapons that ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.
"We will get to the bottom of whether this practice in a smaller way may have begun on the Bush watch,"Rep. Issa told CNN. "We're not putting it past any administration or giving anyone a pass."
The Department of Justice told CNN: "The attorney general has consistently said he became aware of the concerning tactics earlier this year, and when he did, he asked the (inspector general) to investigate."
Meanwhile accusations have surfaced the Rep. Issa also knew about Fast and Furious as early as last year, something he called an "outright lie."