Thursday Reads: A Reckoning is Coming for Trump

Good Afternoon!!

It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.

Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.

Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.

A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.

Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.

H9-kash-patel

Kash Patel

In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.

The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.

That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.

Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.

Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.

Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.

Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.

I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.

This is from a New York Times article on this new development:

The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.

Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.

The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….

Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.

Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….

Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.

Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.

There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.

From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.

Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.

“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”

“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.

Trump lawyer Kevin Chesebro

Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro

The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….

Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.

Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.

There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:

In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.

“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.

The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.

Read more and see the emails at Politico.

There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.

https://twitter.com/NYMag/status/1588143351253159936?s=20&t=0jL5j6PFFd0McENHeAYidw

As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.

During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.

And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.

In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.

All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.

At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.

Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.

More interesting stories to check out, links only:

The Washington Post: Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path to chaos’ as democratic system faces strain.

The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.

Reuters: U.S. Capitol Police to conduct internal review over missed camera images of Pelosi attack.

Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.

Insider: Elon Musk’s Twitter has identified thousands of employees who will be laid off, representing about 50% of the company’s workforce.

The Guardian: Twitter exodus: company faces murky future as top managers flee the nest.

Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!


Lazy Caturday Reads

lightning_cloud_by_chiakiro_dea7odg-pre

Lightning Cloud, by Chiakiro

Good Afternoon!!

Politico “Playbook” has a good brief summary of where things stand right now with the January 6 Committee investigation: The Jan. 6 committee drama gets serious. (I’ve added a few links to longer articles.)

JAN. 6 INVESTIGATION STEAMROLLS FORWARD — Over the last 24 hours, we’ve seen major developments in the ongoing investigation into the pro-Trump Jan. 6 riots that sought to overthrow democracy in America.

1) Executive privilege waived: “President JOE BIDEN will not invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of records from DONALD TRUMP’s White House that’s being sought by congressional investigators probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack,” report Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Meridith McGraw.

— What comes next: Trump has 30 days to challenge the decision in court, after which time, the National Archives will release the documents to the Jan. 6 panel. The former president is already asserting privilege over 45 specific documents requested from the committee, and indicated in a letter that he wants to bar the release of additional documents “potentially numbering in the millions.”

2) Committee subpoenas hit deadlines: The first wave of high-profile subpoenas from the Jan. 6 committee have been served, and not all of the subjects are cooperating, as Nicholas, Kyle, Betsy and Meridith detail:

  • STEVE BANNON claims that Trump’s invocation of executive privilege means that he doesn’t have to participate. (That strikes legal experts as dubious, seeing as at the time of the 2020 election, Bannon hadn’t worked in the White House for several years.)
  • MARK MEADOWS is “engaging with the Select Committee,” per a statement from the panel.
  • KASH PATEL issued a statement Friday confirming that he “responded to the subpoena in a timely manner” and is engaging with the committee.
  • DAN SCAVINO was officially served with his subpoena on Friday.

— What comes next: In a statement from Jan. 6 Committee Chair BENNIE THOMPSON (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), the panel said it “will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral.” If they’re serious, a criminal referral would require a full floor vote in the House.More from NYT’s Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater

— Something to watch:“Congress’ Jan. 6 investigators face an inevitable reckoning with their GOP colleagues,”by Kyle Cheney and Olivia Beavers

Ophelia Redpath, 1965

By Ophelia Redpath, 1965

Also from Politico: Capitol Police whistleblower delivers scathing rebuke to two of its senior leaders on Jan. 6, by Daniel Lippman and Betsy Woodruff Swan.

A former high-ranking Capitol Police official with knowledge of the department’s response to the Jan. 6 attack has sent congressional leaders a scathing letter accusing two of its senior leaders of mishandling intelligence and failing to respond properly during the riot.

The whistleblower, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons and left the force months after the attack, sent the 16-page letter late last month to the top members of both parties in the House and Senate. His missive makes scorching allegations against Sean Gallagher, the Capitol Police’s acting chief of uniformed operations, and Yogananda Pittman, its assistant chief of police for protective and intelligence operations — who also served as its former acting chief.

The whistleblower accuses Gallagher and Pittman of deliberately choosing not to help officers under attack on Jan. 6 and alleges that Pittman lied to Congress about an intelligence report Capitol Police received before that day’s riot. After a lengthy career in the department, the whistleblower was a senior official on duty on Jan. 6.

The whistleblower’s criticism went beyond Capitol Police leaders to Congress. Without naming specific lawmakers, his letter accuses congressional leaders of having “purposefully failed” to tell the truth about the department’s failures.

POLITICO obtained the letter detailing the allegations, which is circulating among Capitol Police officers, and is publishing portions of it here. To protect the whistleblower’s identity, POLITICO is not publishing the letter in full.

Click the Politico link to read the rest.

Evelina Oliveira

By Evelina Oliveira

This morning the Washington Post Editorial Board posted this in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s report on Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election at a meeting three days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol: Opinion: Without these changes, U.S. democracy will remain vulnerable to Trump and other bad actors.

The Senate report details how Mr. Trump tried persistently to enlist the Justice Department in his scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. His pressure campaign, after Attorney General William P. Barr resigned in December, featured calls and meetings with Mr. Rosen and other top Justice Department staff. It continued as Mr. Trump sent them a preposterous petition he wanted them to file with the Supreme Court asking the justices to void Joe Biden’s victory. It reached its zenith in a cockamamie plot to force Mr. Rosen to pressure state governments to cook the results or be replaced by Jeffrey Clark, a lower-ranking Justice official who would go along with the scheme.

Mr. Trump failed because Mr. Rosen and other officials in key positions refused to cooperate and threatened to resign. But they could not stop Mr. Trump from forcing the resignation of the U.S. attorney in Atlanta and replacing him with a lawyer the then-president thought would pursue the fraud investigations he wanted to see.

The editors argue:

The seriousness of Mr. Trump’s effort to nullify an election, his continuing lies about the results and the willingness of so many Republicans to indulge those lies call for several responses.

The investigations must continue. The House’s Jan. 6 committee should compel Mr. Clark, who did not cooperate with the Senate Judiciary panel, to testify. The House and the Justice Department must enforce the committee’s subpoenas, which several Trump confidantes appear prepared to flout on the former president’s say-so. The National Archives should turn over documents immediately. If courts are involved, judges must act with urgency….

Most urgently, Congress must reinforce elements of the nation’s democratic infrastructure vulnerable to exploitation by bad actors such as Mr. Trump. It should revamp the ancient Electoral Count Act to limit partisan interference in presidential vote tallying, and it should impose federal election standards that insulate state election officials from political pressure.

The Committee needs to get right to work on enforcing the subpoenas and Steve Bannon should immediately be arrested and jailed. I hope they do something quickly, but I’m not holding my breath.

After he backed down and allowed a vote to avert a U.S. default and a global financial crisis, Mitch McConnell is now threatening to let it happen in December. His excuse is that Chuck Schumer made an
“inappropriate” speech after the vote. Here’s the speech:

Behind Schumer, you can also see Joe Manchin having a hissy fit over the speech. He agrees with his pal McConnell, apparently.

The Guardian: Schumer ‘poisoned well’ over debt limit, McConnell says in insult-laden letter.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, sought to fight his way out of a corner on Friday by releasing an angry letter in which he blamed Democrats for the impasse over the debt ceiling he broke by ending a refusal to co-operate he had said was absolute.

In the letter to Joe Biden, McConnell complained about a speech in which the Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, attacked Republicans for their behaviour.

Lamenting Schumer’s lack of civility – which prompted angry scenes in the Senate – McConnell levelled a string of insults at his opposite number.

paradise-cat-hans-ruettimann

Paradise Cat, by Hans Ruettimann

“Last night,” the minority leader wrote, late on Friday, “in a bizarre spectacle, Senator Schumer exploded in a rant that was so partisan, angry and corrosive that even Democratic senators were visibly embarrassed by him and for him.

“This tantrum encapsulated and escalated a pattern of angry incompetence from Senator Schumer … this childish behavior only further alienated the Republican members who helped facilitate this short-term patch. It has poisoned the well even further.”

Democrats argue it was McConnell who poisoned the well by refusing to co-operate with raising the debt limit, a step they took repeatedly with Donald Trump in power. Experts say a US default would be catastrophic for the global economy.

McConnell insisted: “In light of Senator Schumer’s hysterics and my grave concerns about the ways that another vast, reckless, partisan spending bill would hurt Americans and help China, I will not be a party to any future effort to mitigate the consequences of Democratic mismanagement.”

Suddenly being partisan is a bad thing because a Democrat did it? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Finally, a little comic relief: it appears that the Q-Anon nuts have turned on Michael Flynn. Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: Michael Flynn to QAnon Believers: I’m Not a Satanist!

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been on a relentless media tour since his pardon last year, sitting for interviews with even the most obscure right-wing media outlets to promote the MAGA agenda.

But on Tuesday, Flynn appeared on a little-known YouTube channel called Truth Unveiled TV for a very different reason: rebutting the idea that he led a church congregation in a Satanic ritual borrowed from a nuclear doomsday cult.

In a video entitled “Some Have Said That General Flynn Prayed to Satan in a Recent Prayer,” host Paul Oebel gave Flynn a chance to rebut the growing right-wing controversy alleging he’s signed on with Lucifer.

Steampunk cat lady, by Jeff Haynie

Steampunk cat lady, by Jeff Haynie

“I even saw a show the other day saying ‘Michael’s flipped on the side of the devil,’” Oebel said. “Can you please explain what happened there?”

“All of these people that talk about turning to whatever…” Flynn said. “People need to stop overthinking what everybody is saying.”

The bizarre YouTube interview marked Flynn’s latest attempt in a weeks-long campaign to convince his one-time fans in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement that he isn’t a Satanist.

Prior to the unusual controversy, Flynn had embraced his position as a hero to supporters of QAnon, taking a QAnon oathraising money from QAnon believers, and selling QAnon T-shirts. In May, Flynn even appeared at a QAnon conference and endorsed the idea of a military coup.

But QAnon fame is a fickle thing. After promoting QAnon for more than a year, Flynn now finds himself on the business end of the conspiracy theory. Like QAnon targets before him, Flynn is now struggling to persuade angry QAnon believers that he isn’t a secret Satan-worshipper.

Read the rest at The Daily Beast.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great weekend!


The Republican Witchhunt Against Attorney General Eric Holder

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:

Think Progress: Five Things To Know About The Republican Witchhunt Against Attorney General Holder.

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.