It’s the Republicans’ top investigator in the House absolutely raking the AG over the coals, as he probes a failed policy that may have cost American lives. High drama indeed.

Attorney General Eric Holder was on the hot seat yesterday, squirming as he dodged tough questions about Project Gunrunner, the controversial ATF policy that may have resulted in the deaths of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata. Under the policy, ATF instructed gun dealers to sell guns to straw purchasers for violent Mexican drug cartels. ATF then deliberately let the straw purchasers walk out the door of the gun shops, knowing that the guns were to be delivered to murderous thugs. With no apparent plan in place to prevent the guns from “walking” into Mexico — over 2500 in all, according to one account — it could not have been a surprise when these guns started showing up at murder scenes involving American victims.

Senator Chuck Grassley has been looking into this for months, but was stymied by DoJ stonewalling. When the Republicans took over the House, we finally had subpoena power — wielded by Darrell Issa, who grills Holder in the video below. Issa first requested the relevant documents by letter — and then, when DoJ again stonewalled, out came the subpoena. DoJ’s response has been a joke, as you can see from the video at the end of the post, and Issa is now talking about holding administration officials in contempt of Congress.

I have a full rundown of all the highlights at my site, but here are some of the absolute best lines and exchanges. One of them occurs at 2:13:

ISSA: How about the head of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer. Did he authorize it?

HOLDER: I’m not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it. You have to understand the way in which the Department operates. Although there are operations, this one has become — has gotten a great deal of publicity.

ISSA: Yeah, there are dead Americans as a result of this failed and reckless program. So I would say that it hasn’t gotten enough attention, has it, Mr. Attorney General?

The most tense exchange is at 6:50:

ISSA: We’re not looking at the straw buyers, Mr. Attorney General. We’re looking at you. We’re looking at your key people who knew or should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with good practices and whether or not instead the Justice Department is basically guilty of allowing weapons to kill Americans and Mexicans. So will you agree to cooperate with that investigation both on the House and Senate side?

HOLDER: We’ll certainly cooperate with all the investigations, but I’m going to take great exception to what you just said. The notion that somehow or other this Justice Department is responsible for those deaths that you mentioned, that assertion’s offensive. And I want to tell you that —

ISSA: But what if it’s accurate, Mr. Attorney General?

The people who should really be offended are the families of the victims who died at the hands of guns that the U.S. Government deliberately allowed into Mexico. As Issa asks Holder at 7:58: “What am I going to tell Agent Terry’s mother about how he died at the hand of a gun that was videotaped as it was sold to a straw purchaser fully expecting it to end up in the hands of drug cartels?”

It looks like Issa is on the case — and Chuck Grassley gets his turn at bat today in a Senate oversight hearing.

This scandal isn’t going away. Stay tuned. Click the image to watch.