The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Eric Holder, the Attorney General, in contempt of Congress. They voted 255-67 to file a criminal charge against him, and 258-95 for a civil charge. The criminal charge was joined by 17 Democrats, who were either voting for the indictment as a matter of bipartisan respect for the House, or because they represent conservative districts.
Eric Holder becomes the first sitting cabinet official to be held in contempt of Congress.
The criminal charge is going nowhere. A criminal contempt of Congress charge is referred by law to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In short, the U.S Attorney will convene a grand jury to consider indicting the Attorney General. It won’t happen. James Cole, the Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department on Friday said no charges would be filed against the Attorney General because no crime was committed.
Of course, since the House is interested in possible misconduct by high officials in the Justice Department, it looks like a coverup.
That leaves the civil charges, which the House can pursue on its own, but probably will not be decided by a judge until after the November elections.
The dispute arises out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives failed “Fast and Furious” Program. The facts are relatively simple, except for the misrepresentations, written and oral, made to Congress and the failure to closure critical facts about the operation. Here are the facts, as we know them.
The Phoenix office decided to start a program that would have American gun dealers legally sell guns to buyers for the drug cartels. The agency would then trace the guns across the border to the cartel bosses in Mexico. That was the theory.
Smaller operations were started during the Bush Administration, but they had been shut down, without losing any of the guns.
The reality is that the agency lost track of the Fast and Furious guns. About 2,000 are still unaccounted for. Over 300 of these guns, mostly AK 47’s, were used in crimes in Mexico and the United States
Mexico was not told of the operation. Mexican officials were irate when the American guns were used in
killings in Mexico.
The operation blew up when Fast and Furious guns were involved in the killing of two federal agents.
Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila were Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents assigned as advisors in Mexico. They were gunned down in February 2011 on a Mexican highway. Avila survived, but Zapata was killed. The gun that killed Zapata came from the United States.
ICE agent Brian Terry was shot to death in December 2010. Two fast and Furious guns were found at the scene. The facts seemingly indicate terry was killed by a third gun.
Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch sent a letter to Congress on February 4, 2011 denying that guns were allowed to walk across the border.
Attorney General Holder testified to the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2011 that he had first “heard about “Fast and Furious” for the first time over the last few weeks.”
Both statements were false, or in the vernacular of the Nixon Administration “Prior statement inoperative.”
President Obama said on March 23, 2011 that neither he nor the Attorney General authorized Fast and
ATF agents started talking to Congress about fast and Furious with numerous documents being leaked to Congressman Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Documents surfacing in October may have indicated that the Attorney General may have been briefed on the operation as early as July 2010.
The Attorney General testified on November 11, 2011 that neither he nor other top officials of the Justice Department were aware gun walking tactics were used.
The Justice Department knew as early as March 2011 that Ronald Welch’s letter was inaccurate, but did not send a correction to Congress for eleven months. At a subsequent hearing Attorney General Holder said it wasn’t days or weeks earlier, but months, when he first heard of Fast and Furious. Some documents indicate that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer approved 6 wiretap applications for Fast and Furious.
The House wants the documents that answer the Watergate question “What did they know and when did they know it?”
Those are the documents that the Attorney General refuses to turn over.
The Department has turned over 7,000 documents, but they are heavily edited and redacted. It is refusing to turn over an additional 80,000 documents, which it has given to the Department’s Inspector General. The IG’s report is expected in a few weeks.
On Tuesday evening last week AG Holder met with Congressman Issa, purportedly to attempt to resolve the dispute. The AG offered to brief the Congressman and provide additional documents, but only if the Congressman agreed to drop contempt charges before the briefing and and documents disclosure. That shows contempt for The Congressman’s intelligence.
Right before the House Committee met last Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Cole delivered a letter saying the President was asserting Executive Immunity to block disclosure of the documents. The President was standing by his man, close friend, and advisor on the 40th Anniversary of Watergate.
I’m really reliving Watergate now. The Nixon Administration unsuccessfully claimed Executive Immunity to shield its crimes and misdeeds. The Obama Administration will be equally unsuccessful.
The refusal to disclose the internal facts smells like a coverup.
Conspiracy buffs believe that Fast and Furious was actually a plot by the Obama Administration to build support for gun control by having American guns kill Mexicans in Mexico’s drug wars.
The problem is not contempt of Congress, but contempt for Congress, or at least the Republican House.
When a athlete, like Roger Clemens lies to Congress, it’s perjury and contempt of Congress.
When the Justice department misinforms Congress, it’s contempt for Congress and contempt for the American people.
And when the time came to vote, about 100 Democrats, led by Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Black Caucus, walked out in solidarity with Eric Holder.
That’s contempt for Congress.