In a riveting moment at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday morning, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, barely containing his anger, told Attorney General Eric Holder that he should resign.
Cornyn has accused Holder of misleading Congress over Operation Fast and Furious, in which federal officials let guns illegally "walk" into Mexico from Arizona with the goal of tracking them to drug cartels. Some weapons were used in violent crimes, including the slaying of a U.S. border agent.
Cornyn has also rebuked Holder for refusing to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate leaked national security information, and he has fumed over the Justice Department's block of the Texas voter ID law this year.
During his turn to speak at the committee hearing, Cornyn did not mince words.
"You still resist coming clean about what you knew and when you knew it with regard to Operation Fast and Furious," Cornyn said. "You won't cooperate with a legitimate congressional investigation, and you won't hold anyone, including yourself, accountable. Your department blocks states from implementing attempts to combat voter fraud. In short, you've violated the public trust, in my view, by failing and refusing to perform the duties of your office.
"So, Mr. Attorney General, it's more with sorrow than anger that I would say you leave me with no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office."
Holder was even-keeled in his response.
"I don't have any intention of resigning," he said, after calling Cornyn's list of grievances "almost breathtaking in its inaccuracy."
He characterized the criticism as an attempt to score political points.
Holder, who noted that the White House said Monday that the president has "absolute confidence" in him, said it was the ninth time he had appeared before a congressional committee questioning Justice Department operations. He also said it was he who called for the department's inspector general to investigate the Fast and Furious program.
He said he would cooperate with lawmakers and "sit down" and discuss new material, including wiretap applications tied to Fast and Furious, to head off a contempt vote June 20 by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
More than 100 House members have signed onto a resolution of "no confidence" in Holder, including GOP lawmakers who represent parts of Tarrant County: Joe Barton of Ennis, Michael Burgess of Lewisville and Kenny Marchant of Coppell.