The Republican Witchhunt Against Attorney General Eric HolderPosted: June 20, 2012
First, I want to state up front that I don’t understand the Republican obsession with “Operation Fast and Furious.” Frankly, I’ve paid almost no attention to the story until recently. But I guess if you watch Fox News it’s a huge story that is connected to Republican fears that President Obama is coming to take away their guns.
Republicans have been convinced that Obama wants to strip their Second Amendment rights since before the 2008 election–even though Obama has shown no interest at all in changing gun laws. He didn’t even propose any sort of gun control after the shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Of course Republicans never let facts get in the way of their beliefs.
“Fast and Furious” is part of a “gun walking” program begun by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) under the George W. Bush administration. Here is video in which radio talk show host Thom Hartman explains the program and the controversy.
Here’s a transcript of Hartman’s presentation:
Republicans live in an alternate universe. It’s a universe where Attorney General Eric Holder conspired with President Obama to sell a bunch of guns to Mexico in hopes that those guns would eventually make their way back to the United States – kill Americans – and create a crisis that gives the administration justification to then start confiscating everyone’s guns. I know this sounds like a tin foil hat conspiracy. But it’s how Republicans – in their alternate universe – have spun this so-called “Fast and Furious” program run out of the Department of Justice.
But for those who don’t watch Fox News and don’t know what Fast and Furious is – here are the facts. It was a program started by the Bush Administration – and it’s purpose was simple – though arguably misguided. Basically – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives sold guns across the border in Mexico – in hopes that they could then track those guns as they made their way up to Mexico’s biggest drug cartels – to then bust up those big drug cartels. The plan didn’t work out too well – and in December of 2010 – a border patrol agent named Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with suspected undocumented immigrants along the Souther Border in Arizona. And it was later discovered that one of the guns that killed Agent Terry was traced back to the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun-running mission.
A month later – the ATF ended the Fast and Furious program. And the Republicans began their conspiracy-theory witch-hunt against Attorney General Eric Holder. Again – Attorney General Holder has handed over thousands of documents to comply with Chairman Darryl Issa’s investigation. The only documents he hasn’t handed over are ones that pertain to ongoing criminal investigations – which are not subject to Congressional subpoena. And Holder’s witchunt is even turning off other prominent Republicans. As Politico reported last month, “Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California have decided to slow Rep. Darrell Issa’s drive to hold the attorney general in contempt…Some within House GOP leadership circles would like Issa to abandon his plan for a committee and floor vote…They fear negative political fallout from citing the U.S. attorney general with contempt of Congress in an election year.” Yet next week – Republicans – stuck on their delusion and led by Darryl Issa – will vote to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress. They’ll do that rather than anything constructive – like trying to figure out what went wrong in the Fast and Furious program to begin with – or better yet – trying to figure out how to get Americans back to work.
It’s well known that Republicans plotted to commit treason on President Obama’s inauguration day – when the likes of Eric Cantor, John Kyl, and Newt Gingrich came together at a fancy steakhouse in Washington, DC and vowed to sabotage the economy to ruin the President’s first term. Voting no again and again to economic stimulus is just one part of the plan. The other is to carry out witchhunts – be it against Attorney General Holder – or Treasury Secretary Geithner – or President Obama’s so-called “czars” This isn’t about justice – this is about distractions, sabotage, and treason – led by people like Eric Cantor and executed by people like Darrell Issa. The only question is – who will hold these people to account when they succeed in crashing the economy and sentencing millions of Americans to poverty and desperation?
Yesterday, Attorney General Holder met with Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in a last ditch attempt to satisfy Issa’s unreasonable demands (He has been demanding records that Holder cannot legally release).
Issa’s committee is specifically seeking documents that show why the Department of Justice decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.
Holder said he offered to turn over some of the documents sought by Issa when they met Tuesday in a final effort to resolve the dispute before Wednesday’s hearing. Issa, however, said Holder put unreasonable conditions on his offer.
In a letter to Issa after Tuesday’s meeting, [Deputy Attorney General James] Cole reiterated Holder’s position that the documents would show Holder had nothing to hide about his role in Fast and Furious.
Cole noted that the lone point of dispute was whether the February 4, 2011, letter was part of a broader effort to obstruct a congressional investigation.
“The answer to that question is an emphatic ‘no’ and we have offered the committee the opportunity to satisfy itself that that is so,” Cole wrote.
Predictably, Rep. Issa was not satisfied. Today, the President asserted Executive Privilege to protect Holder in his refusal to release the documents.
This afternoon the House Oversight Committee voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt.
The 23-to-17 vote, which fell along party lines, came after President Obama invoked executive privilege to withhold the documents and communications among Justice Department officials last year as they grappled with the Congressional investigation into the case. As part of the operation, weapons bought in the United States were allowed to reach a Mexican drug cartel in an effort to build a bigger case….
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a letter to Mr. Issa that the president was claiming privilege over the documents, although he suggested that there might yet be a way to negotiate the release of some of the contested documents.
“We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious,” Mr. Cole said in the letter. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”
Here are a couple of primers for those of us who don’t watch Fox News and don’t think the President wants to take away everyone’s guns:
Wall Street Journal: The Fast and Furious Dispute: A Guide.
I’d also like to call your attention to a post I wrote about Rep. Darrell Issa back in January, 2011: New Chairman of House Oversight Committee Lacks Moral Gravitas (To Put It Mildly). I spent quite a bit of time researching Issa’s history of criminality and corruption, and wrote about it in this post after the Republicans took over the House.
The full House still has to vote on whether to cite Holder for contempt of Congress, but it sounds like “Fast and Furious” is the new “Whitewater.” There’s no there there, but Republicans will continue to pretend it’s a real controversy; and the media will continue writing and talking about it.