When Operation Fast and Furious really broke last year, I was a bit surprised that Republicans didn’t make more of it. Here we have an operation – and at this point we have to ignore that it began under the Bush Administration, as the GOP has done – that directed gun dealers to sell weapons to Mexican drug runners, in a botched attempt at tracking them. The head of ATF and a US Attorney in Arizona resigned over the affair. It sort of lingered in the background as an issue for a while. But when Darrell Issa had nowhere else to turn, he put it back on the front burner of his House Oversight Committee. Today, it’s likely that the committee will hold a vote charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress by obstructing the committee’s investigation.
A Republican House committee chairman said Tuesday he is prepared to follow through on a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder unless the Justice Department provides Congress with documents on a flawed gun-smuggling probe.
The likelihood of a contempt vote on Wednesday rose after Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Holder failed to reach agreement in a 20-minute meeting at the Capitol.
“If we receive no documents, we’ll go forward,” Issa told reporters.
Holder claimed he did offer an “extraordinary” amount of disclosure to Issa in the meeting, but obviously not the documents he was seeking.
This is the kind of stunt most people expected from Issa when he got the gavel for the Oversight Committee. In reality he has not kicked up that much dust. The celebrated Solyndra investigation went absolutely nowhere, and others fizzled as well. Even Issa’s press aide had to resign in disgrace after his machinations with the media were discovered. But with Fast and Furious, Issa found his niche.
The document discovery he seeks is in all likelihood nothing more than a fishing expedition. But this is a commentary on an Administration increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Holder maintains that his office did nothing to mislead or deceive Congress about the Fast and Furious operation. If that’s the case, perhaps there’s nothing to hide. But document delivery is something that almost never happens without a lot of wrangling for this White House. They redacted almost all of a document from OLC on recess appointments that was written during the Bush Administration, to use just one egregious example. It’s entirely possible that the Justice Department has already disclosed everything there is to disclose, and Issa is just looking for a fight. But there’s also reason to believe that the Administration isn’t necessarily as transparent as they claim.
TPMMuckraker has more. This is the witch hunt we expected, but Holder could probably make this go away pretty quickly if he wanted. We’ll see how it plays out today.
UPDATE: Holder today asked President Obama to assert executive privilege over the documents in question subpoenaed by the Oversight Committee. The President did assert executive privilege today.
I don’t think this will stop the contempt vote. The NRA just announced that they will score the vote, which is kind of funny, because the vote is over an operation that, in the eyes of the GOP, failed to restrict the flow of guns into the country.