In his first interview since being held in contempt by the House of Representatives, Attorney General Eric Holder charges that he has been turned into a symbol by the Republican Party, as a means to attack the President. In doing so, he veers close to the kind of conspiracy theories that have characterized the Republican approach to the Fast and Furious scandal.
In his first interview since Thursday’s vote, Holder said lawmakers have used an investigation of a botched gun-tracking operation as a way to seek retribution against the Justice Department for its policies on a host of issues, including immigration, voting rights and gay marriage. He said the chairman of the committee leading the inquiry, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is engaging in political theater as the Justice Department tries to focus on public safety.
“I’ve been doing all of these things all the time Darrell Issa and his band have been nipping at my heels,” a defiant Holder said. “They’ve been nipping, but I’ve been walking.”
The attorney general has long been a lightning rod for Republican lawmakers’ anger toward the Obama administration. But Holder said the debate over documents related to the gun operation, known as “Fast and Furious” — along with the National Rifle Association’s attempts to make it an electoral issue — have made matters worse.
“I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” he said. “I am also a proxy for the president in an election year. You have to be exceedingly naive to think that vote was about . . . documents.”
I don’t really think the contempt vote was about documents, though I do favor the GOP going to court to clear up the executive privilege issues. But saying that the contempt vote was about the Justice Department’s work on voter suppression stretches it a bit. I can buy the idea that it’s to embarrass the Administration and the President in an election year – the GOP has been quite explicit about that. But that it’s payback for voting rights cases? I think that’s too similar to saying that the Fast and Furious scandal was about creating an environment acceptable to gun control legislation.
Anyway, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has taken the lead on the voter suppression cases. I’m sure Holder has played a role in that, even if it’s one of not interfering. But he’s not the main driver.
The whole contempt spectacle is a pretty sorry one. Republicans could have gone to civil court over the documents without holding Holder in contempt. But it’s a sign of the bloodsport in Washington.