Attorney General Eric Holder met privately with Congressman Darrell Issa today after the Department of Justice said it would turn over the thousands (1300) of documents sought by Congress in the Fast and Furious investigation. In anticipation of the meeting, I heard several television pundits on Fox say Holder would surely prefer to turn over the
documents rather than face contempt charges. Not so. According to Issa, Holder’s only offering was advice to Issa to end the investigation. Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a vote on Wednesday, June 20th to hold Holder in Contempt of Congress. According to The Wall Street Journal, we the voters will be have the final word (see below). See an update below.
A Contempt of Congress charge means that someone(s) obstructed the work of the United States Congress, which can be, and in this case is, an investigation. The Department of Justice has ignored subpoenas and there is strong evidence that Holder has lied in testimonies before the House and Senate.
Issa was on Fox just a few minutes ago saying his office will be open all night. If the documents appear before the vote, there will be no vote.
However…if Holder is held to be in Contempt of Congress (Wall Street Journal):
The most immediate constitutional mechanism for accountability happens to be the one Mr. Holder is trying to put off—a vote by the House to hold him in contempt for refusing to turn over documents relating to “Fast and Furious.” That was a stupid policy that had tragic results when a weapon smuggled into Mexico by U.S. authorities ended up being used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Should the House hold him in contempt, Mr. Holder would be left with three choices: standing by as a U.S. attorney begins prosecuting him; directing the U.S. attorney not to prosecute him; or invoking executive privilege to justify not releasing the documents Congress seeks.
There are huge downsides to all three. Let’s take them one by one.
A sitting attorney general under federal prosecution would be fatally weakened, with his continuing presence in the job a fat target for the president’s political opponents.
On the other hand, ordering a U.S. attorney not to prosecute him suggests a massive conflict-of-interest, not to mention conveying that he has something to hide.
Ditto for “executive privilege.” Not only does executive privilege have a tainted history, it couldn’t be invoked without admitting that the White House is also implicated in Fast and Furious. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
My guess is we’ll see “executive privilege” claimed. If the Contempt charges are levied, there will be no resolution before the November elections. We The People must show the final contempt at the ballot box. For information on Operation Fast and Furious, begin here.
UPDATE: June 20, 2012 9:00 am CDT: Fox has just announced that Holder is claiming Executive Privilege and the White House has signed off on it. The next steps will likely be that the House Oversight Committee will vote to hold him in contempt, then it will move to the whole House for a vote, which will likely pass. At that point, a Special Prosecutor will be appointed and take the case before a Grand Jury.