The House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It’s the fourth time in 30 years that Congress has launched a contempt action against an executive branch member.
This time, the dispute stems from Holder failing to turn over documents subpoenaed on October 12, 2011 in the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” investigation.
The Justice Department has maintained it has cooperated fully with the congressional investigation, turning over tens of thousands of documents and having Holder testify to Congress on the topic at least eight times.
However, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Justice Department has refused to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents. Those include materials created after Feb. 4, 2011, when the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress saying no gunwalking had occurred. The Justice Department later retracted the denial.
“The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics,” Issa wrote in an announcement of the vote to be released shortly. It will reveal the vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20.
Issa says the Justice Department can still put a stop to the contempt process at any time by turning over the subpoenaed documents.
If the House Oversight Committee approves the contempt citation, the matter would likely be scheduled for a full House vote.
On 8/31/2011, heritage.org told the story of this fatally botched operation:
A U.S. government gun-trafficking investigation gone horribly wrong has resulted in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol officer, some 2,000 firearms in the hands of criminals, and the dismissal of a 24-year veteran law enforcement official. This is the story of Fast and Furious, and yesterday the latest chapter unfolded when two top officials associated with the operation were removed from their positions, while a third individual resigned.
The story begins in the fall of 2009, when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) office in Phoenix, Arizona, began selling weapons to small-time gun buyers in the hopes of tracing them to major weapons traffickers along the southwestern border and into Mexico. Their efforts failed, the number of arms unaccounted for numbers around 1,500 as of late July, and about two-thirds of those guns ended up in Mexico, according to congressional testimony.
Tragically, the botched operation has had serious consequences. On the night of December 15, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed during an effort to catch several bandits targeting illegal immigrants in Arizona near the border. When law enforcement rushed to the scene, they discovered two of the killers’ assault rifles that were among those sold as part of Operation Fast and Furious. Additionally, 57 Fast and Furious weapons have been connected to at least an additional 11 violent crimes in the U.S.
Of course, the Obama Administration is incredulous over Congress’ accusations regarding the Attorney General’s role in this fatal fiasco:
RollCall.com reported yesterday that
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today defended Attorney General Eric Holder’s cooperation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gun smuggling operation.
Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced today that his committee will hold a vote June 20 on a report relating to the committee’s efforts to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to produce some documents subpoenaed by the panel.
Carney said Holder has taken the allegations that a gun-running sting resulted in thousands of guns being lost to criminal elements in Mexico “very seriously” and has asked his own inspector general to investigate.
He added that the Justice Department has handed over more than 7,600 pages of documents to the committee and has appeared eight times before Congress to discuss the scandal.
Carney then referred reporters to comments by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who told the Hill in March that the investigation is, in part, “politics.”
“Given the Justice Department’s efforts to accommodate the committee investigation, I can only refer you to the Republican House Judiciary member who recently conceded that this investigation is ‘politics,’” Carney said.
King’s comments appeared in a story about House GOP’s leadership’s reluctance to pursue the contempt citation against Holder. King reportedly said, “I think leadership doesn’t want to be seen as using the gavels here for political purposes. I think there’s a bit of an aversion to that. Me? I have no reservations about that. This is politics.”
Since then, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have gotten behind Issa’s efforts to compel the Justice Department to comply with the committee subpoena.
Carney also said the White House does not see a need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate national security leaks relating to cyber-attacks against Iran, the U.S. drone strike program, the president’s involvement in selecting which terrorism suspects should be targeted for assassination and other stories that have recently appeared in the news.
Carney cited the administration’s record in prosecuting leaks of classified information in the past in indicating that the White House believes that the two U.S. attorneys Holder has appointed will be able to independently investigate the source of the information.
“I think our seriousness about this matter in general — about these matters in general has been demonstrated while the president has been in office. I would refer you to the Department of Justice and the FBI when it regards questions of matters under investigation or potential investigation. So there is no need for a special counsel. These things have consistently been investigated when that’s appropriate,” Carney said.
Yeah, right. And America’s Private Sector is doing just fine.