Fast and Furious: House Oversight votes on contempt charges for Attorney General Holder next week
Well, it looks like Eric Holder’s weird testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week didn’t go over very well. The process of holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress has begun moving forward, as CBS News reports the House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether or not to press charges.
CBS notes this is “the fourth time in 30 years that Congress has launched a contempt action against an executive branch member.”
Holder is still sitting on tens of thousands of subpoenaed documents, which has been grounds for contempt of Congress citation in the past. The standing excuse for failing to hand over these documents is that the Justice Department is conducting its own “internal investigation” of the Operation Fast and Furious outrage – an investigation so obsessive that it would impress Captain Ahab, since it’s been “in progress” since February 2011, without a shred of results.
In fact, no one is exactly certain when this “internal investigation” started, because Holder testified to Congress in December 2011 that he launched the investigation with some sort of offhand verbal comment to somebody-or-other, leaving no written evidence of his actions. “I was, in fact, the person who requested, ordered the Inspector General to begin this investigation,” he told the Judiciary Committee six months ago. “I don’t think I did that in any written form. I think that was transmitted from me either through my chief of staff, through the Deputy Attorney General, to the I.G. There might be a writing that exists in that regard, but I don’t think that I signed off on anything actually.”
Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said that Holder can still avoid contempt charges if he turns over the requested documents. It’s growing clear to everyone that the fabled internal investigation, already running for 470 days (versus 303 days for the Warren Commission’s investigation of the JFK assassination) probably won’t be wrapping up before Barack Obama is either safely re-elected, or positioned to hand Holder a blanket pardon on his way out of the White House.
Holder should be removed from office, not just held in contempt – not only for his past conduct, but because his incompetence and stonewalling have already cast doubt upon his ability to conduct the recently-announced investigation into leaks of sensitive national security information from the Administration. The idea of leaving such an operation in the hands of the man who claims rank incompetence as his defense against perjury charges is risible.
It looks as if the House Republican leadership is aligning behind contempt charges, after the events of last week. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement Monday morning that said, “The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Agent Terry’s family, the whistleblowers who brought this issue to light, and the American people deserve answers. Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the lead Fast and Furious investigator in the Senate, also expressed strong support. “Congressman Issa deserves credit for moving forward on contempt,” Grassley said in a statement. “The Attorney General and the Justice Department are thumbing their nose at the constitutional authority provided to the legislative branch to conduct oversight.”
However, House Democrats have proven willing to obstruct investigation into Fast and Furious with every means at their disposal. Even if contempt charges made it out of Congress, it’s not entirely clear what practical effect they would have, beyond embarrassing an Attorney General who appears incapable of embarrassment. This is the guy who just claimed, on the record, that an email clearly referencing Fast and Furious wasn’t really about Fast and Furious, based on his “superior knowledge” of operations he otherwise claims are obscured from his thoughts by invincible ignorance and amnesia.
Holder has enough unconditional political support from certain quarters to stall for a few months by posturing as a martyr. He still has a few underlings he could throw under the bus in a pinch, and White House claims of executive privilege lie inside a box on the Oval Office wall labeled “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass (and Constitution).”
On the other hand, House Oversight has already obtained white-hot documents proving Holder’s duplicity from whistleblowers inside the Justice Department. There might be a few other hole cards on the table in front of Oversight chairman Issa. Will the Justice whistleblowers turn over more of the subpoenaed documents Eric Holder has been keeping under wraps… and has Issa revealed everything the moles already gave to his committee? Hopefully Holder will ask himself those questions between now and Wednesday, June 20, when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee convenes to vote on holding him in contempt of Congress.