Issa: Contempt vote against Eric Holder moving forward
It looked as though Attorney General Eric Holder was going to be able to avoid a looming contempt vote in the House provided he cooperated with the inquiry into the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. However, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said yesterday that he plans to move forward with the vote, as early as today, in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:
A House committee is poised to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over more Justice Department documents on a flawed gun-smuggling probe that resulted in hundreds of guns illicitly purchased in Arizona gunshops winding up in Mexico.
The likelihood of a contempt vote rose after Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., failed to reach agreement Tuesday in a 20-minute meeting at the Capitol.
Issa wanted the documents immediately. Holder told reporters he would not turn over documents on the gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious unless Issa agreed to another meeting congressional briefing on the Justice Department material. Holder wants an assurance from Issa that the transfer of the records would satisfy a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs.
“If we receive no documents, we’ll go forward” with a contempt vote, Issa told reporters.
“We have offered to make materials available … to brief on those documents, to answer any questions that might come up with regard to the documents that we produced,” the attorney general said.
“The ball’s in their court,” Holder said. “We made what we thought was an extraordinary offer.”
Issa took a different view: “After this meeting I cannot say that I am optimistic” for avoiding a contempt vote.
Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said that at the meeting, “the attorney general indicated he would only be willing to produce a subset of documents that numbered fewer than 1,300 pages if the committee would first agree that the production of these documents would end the committee’s investigation of the Justice Department.”
Issa declined the offer.
While I believe that Republicans are missing a key problem that led to Operation Fast and Furious — the absence of any permanent leadership at ATF, which oversaw the operation; the lack of cooperation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) raises eyebrows. Not to mention that Holder’s own statements about his knowledge of the operation are inconsistent.
Moreover, I don’t think that the DOJ understands the seriousness of the issue. Operation Fast and Furious allowed more than 2,000 guns, some of which were purchased by convicted felons, to walk across the border with Mexico and into the hands of violent drug cartels. More than 200 of those guns found their way to crime scenes in Mexico. Some 200 people are believed to have been killed with weapons connected to the Operation Fast and Furious. Guns connected to the operation have found their way back into the United States and have been used in crimes here, including the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
The scandal is significant, though you wouldn’t know it from watching the news. With that said, House Republicans don’t have a lot of leverage with which to pressure Holder. They can’t impeach him since that would require cooperation from the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.
From a political perspective, Holder can survive a contempt vote, but the scandal will leave a mark on the Department of Justice.