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WILL REPUBLICANS CAVE?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 14, 2012) — After testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 13, embattled putative Attorney General Eric Holder expressed a desire to “compromise” about documentation requested by the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee last October. Senate and House Republicans have indicated that they are interested in hearing Holder’s offer, which was made in an attempt to “avoid a contempt vote.”
Yesterday Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Holder he should resign, but Holder refused.
The Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, has sent Holder a letter “urging him to make the committee an offer” if it contained language that would “alter its refusal” to turn over documents relating to the Fast & Furious gunrunning scandal which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives carried out since the fall of 2009. The ATF reports to the Department of Justice, which Holder was appointed by Obama to lead.
Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated that he would accept Holder’s offer if it included releasing some 80,000 pages of documentation which Holder’s office has kept from Congress even after a congressional subpoena for them was issued last October. At the time, Obama stated that he had “complete confidence” in Holder, who had originally denied any knowledge of Fast & Furious operations. Emails produced later showed that he did.
In January, Issa stated that he would declare Holder in contempt of Congress if he did not turn over the documents by February 9, although Issa granted Holder at least one extension. After Holder refused to comply, Issa began preparing a contempt citation in late April.
On June 7, 2012, while testifying in front of the Oversight Committee, Holder stated that he “believed” that his department had complied with the congressional subpoenas related to Fast & Furious. Issa told Holder that he was “not a good witness” because he didn’t answer questions posed to him directly.
Documents apparently leaked to Congress from the Justice Department reported in late March indicated that the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) did not work together to keep track of the guns which were transferred to Mexican drug cartel members, including the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, was transferred from his post to another government position after details of the Fast & Furious operation were revealed last fall. Melson had voluntarily spoken with members of Congress in the absence of representatives from the Justice Department. Melson had also reportedly approached his superiors about the gunrunning operation and suggested that they should “reexamine how it was responding to the requests for information from Congress.”
Following Melson’s departure, the ATF announced new staffing as a result of the investigation of Fast & Furious. The agency’s stated purpose is “to protect the American people from firearms–related violent crime, criminal organizations, and the illegal use of explosives and arson; and to regulate the firearms and explosives industries.” Two Border Patrol agents were killed and several hundred Mexicans as a result of guns which were transferred to Mexican criminals through Fast & Furious.
Last August, the ATF produced a press release which refuted reports that ATF personnel has been “promoted” after Congress began its investigation of Fast & Furious, stating that the individuals in question had been subject to “lateral moves.” An official at the Justice Department, Ronald Weich, who had misled Congress by stating in a letter that “the department did not allow guns to be ‘walked’ to drug smugglers in Mexico” has left his post today to assume the position of Dean of the Baltimore School of Law. Holder had denied that Weich had “lied” to Congress about Fast & Furious but retracted Weich’s letter. In March of this year, Weich told Issa that “We are deeply disturbed that the sensitive law enforcement information…has entered the public realm.”
Several months ago, a video surfaced from 1995 showing a black-haired Holder stating that young people should be “brainwashed” into forfeiting their Second Amendment right to own a firearm. Some people believe that Holder and Obama intended Fast & Furious to act as a deterrent to firearm ownership in the U.S.
Update, June 13, 2012, 11:15 EDT: Information provided by Sipsey Street Irregulars, which has reported extensively on the Fast & Furious operation, states that one or two “high-level” informants from the Department of Justice who report to Eric Holder have approached Issa with new details of the failed program. A source is quoted as having said, “If this comes out before the (contempt) vote (on 20 June), then Holder is toast.”