Congress v. Holder: Despite 'bombshell' wiretap, feds decline to investigate top cop
The US Department of Justice declined to investigate its own chief, Eric Holder, after the House cited him for criminal contempt over the Fast and Furious scandal. But House Republicans say they’ve found a ‘bombshell’ document that suggests DOJ officials knew more than they let on.
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He goes on to say: “The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border.”Skip to next paragraph
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The affidavits Issa quotes from were approved in March 2010 by DOJ attorneys in Washington. In early 2011, Holder told Congress he had just heard about the program.
A Democratic committee staffer told Roll Call newspaper that Issa’s letter contains unspecified inaccuracies, and that Democrats “won’t stoop to [Issa’s] level” to address “desperate and unsubstantiated claims.”
With the DOJ decision to not investigate Holder, the wiretap letter will likely push Congress to hire its own investigator, though the House will probably stop short of appointing a special prosecutor or actually arresting Holder, which it has to the power to do.
In his letter to Issa on Friday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege validates the legality of Holder’s decision to ignore the congressional subpoena – and has precedent in similar actions taken by both Republican and Democratic administrations in the past.
“We will not prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” Mr. Cole writes. DOJ has “determined that the Attorney General’s response to the subpoena [from the Oversight Committee] does not constitute a crime, and therefore the Department will not bring … the contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General.”
The Obama White House, with the help of Democrats, activists, and liberal commentators, have tried to stay above the fray, painting Issa’s committee as empty political theater featuring Holder as the straw man for paranoid conspiracies about Second Amendment politics and cover-ups.
At the same time, Issa’s credibility has taken a hit, especially after insinuating without proof that Fast and Furious may have been part of a broader political strategy by Democrats in Washington to covertly provide arms to Mexican cartels in order to build a case domestically for tighter gun controls. (It’s that notion that led the National Rifle Association to announce it would score the Holder contempt vote, which likely played into 17 Democrats crossing the aisle and voting with Republicans.)
But politics aside, large questions do remain, piqued by a series of misstatements and walk-backs by Holder.
Holder has prevaricated on when, exactly, he first knew about the program, and he had to acknowledge a major error when he retracted a letter to Congress stating that the ATF, a Justice agency, never allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico – a statement that turned out to be false, and acknowledged as such by Holder.
At the heart of the documents Congress now wants is most likely what was said between the White House and Justice after the scandal broke.
This week, emails were released indicating that Holder was demanding, as the scandal broke, to find out what happened, suggesting that he was as in the dark as he has claimed about the operation. Since the story broke in early 2011, Fast and Furious has been shut down, half a dozen officials and agents have resigned or been reassigned, and Holder has apologized to the family of Brian Terry.