Friday, December 09, 2011

Holder Grilled About Fast and Furious

It was quite a battering that Attorney General Eric Holder took Thursday as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee, in cooperation with the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep Darrell Issa. The pattern was set early on - the Democrats on the committee may ask a question about the Fast and Furious operation but they preferred to change the subject and inquire about other topics - from medical marijuana to complimenting him for cleaning up crime in East Los Angeles (according to Representative Chu). The Republicans on the committee went after Holder with vigor. Several members barely allowed Holder to get some sort of answer out before hitting him with another question.

One topic that was fleshed out in a big way was the newest revelation of this disastrous operation - some in the Department of Justice obviously intended Fast and Furious to lead to new gun control regulations. Emails have surfaced that directly tie Holder's department employees with a political agenda that is pursuing limiting Second Amendment rights.

"It was a Rahm Emmanuel moment" Issa said of expanding gun database - to take away gunowners' Second Amendment rights.

Let's remember how we got here:

Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives-led investigation from late 2009 to early 2011 into an Arizona-based gun-trafficking network. “Straw buyers” purchased semiautomatic rifles, which were smuggled to Mexican drug cartels. Agents, seeking to identify higher-level figures and build a more significant case, sometimes did not immediately move to arrest low-level suspects or seize the guns.

They ended up losing track of hundreds of weapons. Of the roughly 2,000 guns purchased by suspects in the case, only about 600 have been recovered. Many probably made their way to Mexico, and two were found near the scene where a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed in last December.

The most disturbing part of Holder's testimony is his attitude. He comes off as far too detached and laid back to be bothered with actually reining in his department. He claims to be a good delegater, which is fine, but at some point he has to be the person in charge. He still claims he is uncertain who actually put the operation into place, and who signed off on the whole thing.

The common thread of the GOP questioning was the distress over "misleading" Congress and having to take back a letter written by his chief deputy due to inaccurate statements on the operation. This has never happened before, that a letter submitted to a Congressional committee has to be taken back for inaccuracy.

So, a bit of back and forth set the tone for the hearing with Rep Issa requesting that Holder be sworn in before he began his testimony, though Chairman Smith deemed it not necessary, as Holder had been sworn in before his last testimony and considered to be still in effect.

Darrell Issa requested that Holder be sworn under oath before any testimony began.

This request was apparently in response to Issa's belief that Holder had in the past misled or lied to the committee and Issa's desire that if Holder dared again to evade, mislead or tell any direct falsehoods that Holder be held accountable.
Issa's request was denied but not until he was assured that Eric Holder had received a letter prior to his appearance that made it clear to Holder that his testimony was under oath and would be subject to all criminal charges.

Rep Sensenbrenner asked Holder to explain the difference between lying under oath and "misleading" with false statements. Threading the needle, Holder spoke much like former Clinton did - definitions that sound odd to non-lawyers. Holder essentially said that if the person believed what he/she was saying was the truth, then it was not lying. Holder maintains no one in his department lied to Congress. "It all has to do with intent", explained Holder.

Sensenbrenner, clearly agitated with Holder, then lobbed the impeachment threat. He stated that that would be one way to clean up the department, though no Attorney General has been impeached prior to Holder's term.

As usual, there were the typical moments of blaming the previous administration and trying to lump them into this mess. The problem with that, however, is that though they did try an operation similar to this one, they quickly realized it to be a mistake and halted the operation.

Simply pointing a finger at the previous administration and claiming they did it, too, is no defense of this horrible situation.

Heads have not rolled. Holder refuses to terminate anyone, and certainly not himself. Some personnel have been shifted around and one Senator is calling for firings.

Grassley did call for the resignation of Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. He suggested Breuer helped to cover up Fast and Furious.

“It is past time for accountability at the senior levels of the Justice Department,” Grassley said on the Senate floor. “That accountability needs to start with the head of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer. I believe it is time for him to go.”

Grassley called for Breuer’s resignation after making the “shocking” discovery that he had been consulted before a letter issued by the Justice Department in February claimed the ATF had never walked guns. Breuer had known about the programs since at least April 2010, said Grassley.

However, he said Breuer’s resignation would not satisfy him if he found someone with higher authority had approved the operation.

“If that’s Holder, then it’s Holder but I can’t prove it’s Holder today,” Grassley said.

Another questionable statement occurred when Holder claimed that he had never spoken to President Obama, Secretary Janet Napolatano, or Secretary Clinton about this operation. How would that be possible?

Many questions are still unanswered. Holder has been less than cooperative with the investigation. Congress has been lied to, or mislead. This is not going away.

1 comment:

Z said...

Holder's attitude is the problem. That, and the fact that his agents didn't do the surveillance necessary to carry out this sting IF, in fact, it was a sting and not just plain out and out helping Mexican drug cartels.
To read the agents' words on this and how shocked they were when told to leave the guns and go is disheartening.
But, he's Obama's friend; so he stays...whether he's good for the country or not; hey, come to think of it, that's sort of like Obama, too :-)