Will "Fast & Furious" Lead to Contempt Charges for Attorney General Holder?


Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio is annoyed with Attorney General Holder over the ongoing investigation in the DOJ's "Fast & Furious Program" (which allowed U.S. guns to illegally enter Mexico in alleged hopes of tracking down drug crooks) as per a press release today:

"The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into 'Fast and Furious,' and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Agent Terry's family, the whistleblowers who brought this issue to light, and the American people deserve answers. Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation."

Last week, Boehner vehemently denied a New York Times story that intimated he was seeking a deal with Holder. Details from Daily Caller:

The Times reported late on Tuesday that Boehner had "opened direct negotiations with the Department of Justice aimed at resolving a dispute over subpoenaed information related to the botched gun-trafficking investigation dubbed Operation Fast and Furious." The story ran under the headline "Boehner in talks with Justice Dept. on gun-running inquiry." 

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, however, said the report is not true. He alleged that it illustrated a Holder-friendly bias among some establishment media outlets.

"This story shows how the mainstream media is ignoring this scandal and covering up for the Department of Justice," Steel wrote in an email to TheDC.

"Staff for the speaker, other leadership offices, and Chairman Issa have been encouraging Attorney General Holder's staff to comply for weeks or months to no avail, but there have certainly been no direct talks between the speaker and attorney general, and the department is still stonewalling."

More details on the latest from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, containing their June 20 deadline and the core of what they want from Holder:

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will convene to consider a report holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to produce documents specified in the Committee's October 12, 2011, subpoena.  Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement on the scheduling of a Committee vote on contempt:

"For over a year and a half, the House Oversight Committee, with Senator Chuck Grassley, has conducted a joint investigation of reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious. With the support of House leadership, the Republican Conference, and even some Democratic Members who have expressed concern to the White House over the Justice Department's failure to cooperate, this investigation has yielded significant results. The Attorney General has acknowledged that the operation was fundamentally flawed and he has committed to take steps to ensure that it does not occur again. Evidence found in applications for wiretaps shows that although senior officials were given information about reckless tactics, they still signed affirmations that they had reviewed the investigation and determined that electronic surveillance of phones was necessary.

"Despite what the investigation has uncovered through whistleblowers and documents the Justice Department had tried to hide, the Committee's work is not yet complete.  Attorney General Holder has failed to meet his legal obligations pursuant to the October 12 subpoena.  House leaders reiterated this failure in a May 18, 2012, letter. Specifically, the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical documents on the grounds that they show internal Department deliberations and were created after February 4, 2011 – the date Justice issued a false denial to Congress.  Contempt will focus on the failure to provide these post February 4th documents.

The Committee's dedicated web site on the Fast and Furious investigation.

This article from The Hill back in April has some background on the congressional investigation into "Fast and Furious" so far:

The top two officials at the ATF stepped down from their positions as a result, as did the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, who provided legal advice to operational agents on the ground.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has requested thousands of documents from the Justice Department about the operation and has threatened to hold Attorney General in contempt if he does not get them. 

This interesting post at Intermex Power points out that the GAO was reporting on "Fast and Furious"-type programs, and the inevitable problems with them, back in 2009 before "Fast and Furious" itself was officially launched.

*The NRA back in October explaining what upsets the gun rights community so much about "Fast and Furious":

The U.S. government's Operation Fast and Furious was a plot to subvert gun rights in America, National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre charged October 14 in an interview with Newsmax.TV.

"It's the only thing that makes any sense," LaPierre said of the gunrunning "sting" operation that resulted in thousands of U.S.-purchased firearms ending up in the hands of violent Mexican drug traffickers. LaPierre noted that "over a period of two or three years they were running thousands and thousands of guns to the most evil people on earth," while government officials were claiming that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels were coming from the United States. However, said LaPierre:

"That [90 percent] was a phony figure from the very start. Even the Wikileaks cables from our own State Department prove they are coming from Central America; they are not coming from the U.S. Every police officer will tell you that they're coming from Russia, they're coming from China, most of them are coming from Central America and a lot of them are coming from defections from the Mexican Army."

The NRA president charged that President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to make it appear that guns were coming from the United States, "so they could stick more gun [control] legislation on honest American gun owners of the United States."

*While the gun rights community would be delighted to see Holder held in contempt, Brian Darling at Townhall.com argues the GOP in Congress has been neglecting that community this year in general:

Numerous bills to restore and preserve Second Amendment rights to Americans have been filed, yet not one has been slated for a vote this year. John Velleco of Gun Owners of America (GOA) tells Townhall, "Every election year, the members of Congress come to pro-gun voters asking to be re-elected, yet we don't have any pro-gun votes scheduled to come to the House and Senate floor."

My book on the legal history leading up to where the Second Amendment is today, Gun Control on Trial.