White House officials have been in consultation with the GOP House leadership in advance of tomorrow’s contempt of Congress vote for Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious scandal and the Justice Department’s response to an Oversight Committee investigation and document request. However, the two sides have not reached an agreement, and as of now, the contempt vote will be held as scheduled. Even though the White House provided access to 30 new documents, that was not enough to delay the contempt vote, suggesting that the vote itself and not the investigation is the end goal here.
Meanwhile, a piece from Fortune magazine reveals that the Fast and Furious investigation was not as it has been portrayed, particularly in conservative media. First of all, it was not a so-called “gun-walking” investigation:
Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.
Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.
Read the whole thing. This is the heart of the scandal, that ATF intentionally let straw purchasers, who were buying guns for drug cartels in Mexico, walk without investigation or arrest. But it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen for an interesting reason. The ATF agents tried to make cases, but current state and federal drug laws, particularly in Arizona, hobbled them. In other words, the success of the NRA in gutting gun control laws led to the outcomes in the Fast and Furious operation as much as anything else.
Dave Voth, who figures prominently in the piece, was an ATF agent responsible for stopping drug traffickers in Arizona. However, under state law, customers over the age of 18 can legally buy as many guns as they want without a waiting period or a permit. What’s more, buyers can legally resell the guns.
That set of facts must frame any discussion of Fast and Furious. The operation was not, as the NRA wants you to believe, an effort to make gun purchasing look bad in order to push a spate of gun control laws. No, it was a failed effort to negotiate those laws and stop guns at the border, made impossible by previously passed, NRA-endorsed legislation. And the Administration won’t tell you that because, as ever, they are afraid of being seen as on the side of gun control, even though they’re being accused of that anyway.
The NRA will score the contempt vote, and that probably means that some House Democrats, in an election year, will vote for contempt, wary of getting on the wrong side of the gun lobby. But it’s worth pointing out that absolutely nothing you’ve heard about Fast and Furious is likely to be true.