What does Darrell Issa want?by David Pinar on Jun. 22, 2012, under Pol. & Govt.
What does House Oversight Committee Rep. Darell Issa want? I have to admit that I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to the investigation into the “Fast and Furious” gun running operation, but it did kind of come to a head this week with the House Oversight Committee voting – strictly along party lines – to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress. So I did some fast and furious Googling.
Fast and Furious was a gun-trafficking operation in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed weapons to “walk,” or flow to Mexican drug cartels in the hopes of tracking them to leaders of the cartels and apprehending them. As many as 2,000 guns were lost in the botched sting and two of them turned up at the sight of a shootout that cost the life of U.S. border agent Brian Terry. Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level straw purchaser was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others. The “Fast and Furious” operation was run out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix. No credible evidence has emerged showing that Holder had any knowledge of the controversial gun-walking tactic. Still, shortly after the gun-smuggling scheme run amok came to light, Holder quickly acknowledged that it was a disaster and ordered an internal investigation.
The House Oversight Committee has now been investigating “Fast and Furious” for over a year and a half, and it’s been contentious every step along the way. Rep. Issa has called AG Holder a “liar”, and has labeled the Obama Administration as “one of the most corrupt in history”. I’m guessing Rep. Issa hasn’t read “How to win friends and influence people”. The Justice Department has handed over more than 7,600 documents related to the operation, but every time it has complied with the committee’s requests Rep. Issa has demanded more. The demand that led to this week’s standoff is Issa’s demand for 1,600 additional documents relating to the Justice Department’s strategy for responding to the Committee’s investigation. It is these documents that President Obama declared Executive Privilege this week. Think of it as attorney-client privilege. An attorney and his client will discuss their strategy for winning a case, and the opposing attorney can’t demand access to that – that’s like a coach demanding to see the other team’s game strategy. The opposing attorney can only demand any information relevant to the case, not the discussion between the other attorney and his client.
But even before President Obama declared Executive Privilege, AG Holder to make an offer to release 1,300 pages of the requested documents – BUT with one condition: if the committee would first agree that the production of these documents would end the committee’s investigation of the Justice Department. After all, this investigation has already dragged on for a year and a half, and every time the Justice Department has complied with requests it has only been met with yet more demands. The attitude of the Oversight Committee seems to be that if they can’t find what they want in almost 9,000 pages of documents, just keep digging – maybe they’ll find gold in them thar hills. Somewhere. Somehow.
But now details are emerging that reveal what Rep. Issa really wants: someone’s scalp. Or, in the words of Air Boss Johnson in the movie “Top Gun”: “I want somebody’s butt, I want it now. I want some butts!“.
Rep. Darrell Issa’s chief investigative counsel offered to stop the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder in exchange for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. Issa staffer Stephen Castor brought up the issue of “accountability” during a phone call with a senior DOJ official last week, according to the report. Castor reportedly said they could head off the contempt vote if Breuer stepped down.
DOJ officials think the offer to drop the contempt vote in exchange for Breuer’s scalp was further evidence that Issa’s investigation was more about making headlines than determining facts.
“The reason that this contempt motion happened is that Issa didn’t come up with any evidence and didn’t get a scalp,” Matthew Miller, DOJ’s former communications director, told Klaidman. “When you set expectations that high and you don’t deliver, you have to explain why.”
That’s it in a nutshell: Much ado about nothing, much ado about politics. After a year and a half of investigating, receiving and reviewing thousands and thousands of documents Rep. Issa and his “Oversight” Committee have come up with nothing in their witch hunt. No evidence that AG Holder and his Justice Department had any knowledge of the ATF’s rogue operation, no evidence of any coverup, no evidence of any wrong doing. So instead of just sitting there with egg on his face looking stupid, Rep. Issa want’s some butt. They wouldn’t give him Asst. AG Lanny Breuer’s, so now he wants to try to embarrass the President and AG Holder with trumped up contempt charges. It’s Rep. Darrell Issa who should be held in contempt, contempt from the American people.