Holder’s contempt for House now affirmed – Washington Times

Holder’s contempt for House now affirmed – Washington Times.

Fast and Furious stonewall a result of Team Obama arrogance

By Alan Gottlieb and Dave Workman – The Washington Times

When the House of Representatives voted 255-67 to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, Mr. Holder and his Justice Department, surprisingly, wasted no time proving that they have nothing but contempt for the lawmakers who undertook that historic measure.

Justice Department officials quickly announced that there would be no prosecution and that as far as they were concerned, no crime had been committed. Mr. Holder, his agency and by proxy, the Obama White House, thumbed its collective nose at Congress, and particularly at the family of a slain Border Patrol agent, who are still waiting for answers about his murder.

How ironic that an administration that rode into office talking about openness and accountability would slam the door of secrecy on the House investigation of Operation Fast and Furious and – at least, so far – not hold anyone accountable for that disastrous misadventure. By invoking executive privilege rather than release an estimated 1,300 subpoenaed documents to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder have claimed full ownership of a scandal for which previously, they had plausibly denied any direct responsibility.

Can it be anything but 100-proof arrogance that now has the attorney general – the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the nation – hiding behind the president’s executive shield and his own department’s indifference to place himself essentially above the law? The Justice Department has treated House Oversight Committee members like lepers, while not removing a single individual responsible for Fast and Furious from the government payroll. Justice took a quick glance at the House vote and blew it off. All these things taken in total reflect a contemptuous indifference toward an equal branch of government that has a job to do.

At the heart of this scandal is an inconvenient truth: Agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) embraced an investigative technique that was disastrous, and they knew it. Had this been a completely private enterprise that was uncovered, those responsible might have already gone before a grand jury, with possible indictments and convictions. Instead, the people most closely associated with Fast and Furious are still receiving paychecks.

Back in 2009, Mr. Holder and others in the Obama administration were sharply critical of “weak” gun laws that they blamed for contributing to Mexico’s mayhem. Gun dealers, gun shows and private citizens making perfectly legal transactions got the blame.

Revelations from the investigation – conducted primarily by online journalists, CBS and Fox News – have vindicated these traditional whipping boys. But gun owners deserve to know who approved this fiasco and then let them take the rap.

When Operation Fast and Furious began disintegrating following the December 2010 slaying of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in the Arizona desert, it was revealed that law-abiding gun dealers had raised red flags. They had been told to complete transactions they believed to be linked to gun smuggling. ATF agents were allegedly told to “stand down” rather than interdict weapons.

When Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley began inquiries, the Justice Department lied to him in a letter that has since been retracted because of “inaccuracies.” When the House Oversight Committee launched an investigation, they were stonewalled. Now, after the House contempt vote, Mr. Holder and the Justice Department are telling Capitol Hill and the American people that we have no right to know what has been done in our name, using our tax money.

The people do have a right to know, especially from an administration touting itself as the “most transparent” in our history, and we need to know now, not after the November election.

Alan Gottlieb is founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. Dave Workman is communications director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

EDITORIAL: Holder: The case for contempt – Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Holder: The case for contempt – Washington Times.

Attorney general must sleep in bed he made

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Thursday on a contempt of Congress citation against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. This unprecedented action has been made necessary by the Obama administration’s consistent refusal to reveal the whole truth about the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation and the cover-up that followed.

The contempt citation is over Mr. Holder’s failure to comply with an Oct. 12 subpoena from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for documents necessary for Congress to fulfill its investigative function. The records in question do not deal with the Fast and Furious operation per se but with the Obama administration’s response to the investigation, the alleged retaliation and punishment of whistleblowers, and – most importantly – potential evidence of an organized and conscious effort to deceive investigators and lie to Congress.

Throughout the inquest, Mr. Holder has exhibited a pattern of at best, misstatement, and at worst, outright deception. On Feb. 4, 2011, he provided a letter to Congress that denied Fast and Furious allowed illegally bought weapons to cross into Mexico. This claim was later retracted in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. On May 3, 2011, Mr. Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee that he did not know who approved Fast and Furious and that he had no knowledge of the operation before the investigations began. In October, however, it was documented that Mr. Holder had been sent briefings on Fast and Furious in July 2010. He again had to correct the record. Meanwhile, Justice Department employees who had been involved in Fast and Furious were subjected to what appeared to be retaliatory personnel actions for whistle-blowing activities.

The documents the committee has subpoenaed relate to Mr. Holder’s contradictory assertions and the internal communications that led to him changing his account of his personal knowledge of Fast and Furious. The fact that these are deliberative documents is the basis for the White House claim of executive privilege, which arrived shortly before the committee voted to recommend the contempt citation last week. But deliberations cannot be privileged when they are at the center of the case. If any such privilege ever existed, it was nullified when Mr. Holder began radically changing his story. This made the documents fair game because they represent the only available means to validate Mr. Holder’s version of events.

The executive-privilege defense is contradictory. On the same day Mr. Holder offered the committee a “fair compilation” of the subpoenaed documents in exchange for calling off the contempt vote, he appealed to the White House to extend executive privilege to avoid “significant, damaging consequences” should the documents be released. This calls into question how fair the compilation would have been in the first place and reinforces congressional concerns about the nature of the information in the withheld documents.

The privilege claim also widens the circle of the inquiry by implying that President Obama or his immediate staff was involved in the Fast and Furious operation, the cover-up, or both. Mr. Obama said on March 23, 2011, that neither he nor Mr. Holder authorized the gun-running operation. The documents in question and others being sought by the committee have a direct bearing on that statement. The stonewalling raises the question whether Mr. Holder has not been trying to protect himself but acting on White House orders to shield Mr. Obama.

This crisis is completely the result of Mr. Holder’s actions – his statements, his reversals and his refusal to produce documents that could potentially vindicate him. The vote is unprecedented, but so is the Obama administration’s degree of contempt for the people’s house.

The Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Holder’s contempt and Obama’s privilege – Washington Times

EDITORIAL: Holder’s contempt and Obama’s privilege – Washington Times.

Fast and Furious fight heads to the House floor

President Obama’s attempt to invoke executive privilege to forestall contempt-of-Congress proceedings against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. failed. Instead, the claim elevates the dispute between the administration and Capitol Hill to a new and troubling level. The operative question now is, what did the president know and when did he know it?

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted Wednesday to recommend a contempt charge against Mr. Holder. Since October, the Justice Department has refused to respond to a subpoena seeking 1,300 pages of documents related to the botched Fast and Furious Mexican gunrunning operation. Negotiations between the Justice Department and committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, broke down, and the contempt recommendation followed.

Mr. Obama’s last-minute move to extend the umbrella of executive privilege raises the question of whether the president or his staff had extensive prior knowledge of the operation, because this privilege can only be invoked when the chief executive’s office is involved. “Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding Fast and Furious were confined to the Department of Justice,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed.”

Mr. Holder claims the documents in question are internal and deliberative and thus are records that traditionally are removed from congressional oversight. The committee is investigating the role Mr. Holder played in these very deliberations and how much he knew about the operation. He swore under oath that his involvement was limited and came late in the game, but he is withholding evidence that could either support or undercut his testimony. White House intervention gives the appearance that Mr. Holder’s stonewalling was not to protect himself from a perjury charge, but to conceal hitherto unknown Oval Office involvement in Fast and Furious. This also may explain why Mr. Holder said that what should have been a routine investigation could lead to a “constitutional crisis.”

Mr. Obama has an affinity for exerting unilateral power, so the attempt to extend executive privilege ought not to come as a surprise. Former President Bill Clinton made no such effort when his attorney general, Janet Reno, faced a contempt charge from the same committee in 1998. That dispute was resolved eventually without any broad claims of authority even though Mr. Clinton did exercise the privilege on 14 other occasions.

The danger in the administration’s strategy is that congressional investigators may already have obtained documents by other means. Earlier this month, Mr. Issa revealed that an anonymous whistleblower had provided wiretap applications related to Fast and Furious that had been under a federal court seal. Those papers by themselves probably have no bearing on Mr. Holder’s case or on the matter of White House participation, but it is possible that Mr. Issa may yet obtain other material directly contradicting Mr. Holder’s sworn testimony or revealing White House involvement. It remains to be seen whether this investigation will produce a smoking gun.

The Washington Times

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