This is happening within the time frame I was told it would….
Fox News reports that Chairman Issa is circulating a lengthy pair of documents that make the case for holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his “refusal” to cooperate in an investigation of the ill-fated Fast and Furious operation. He says Holder’s insufficient response “is inexcusable, and cannot stand”.
Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday sent to every member of his committee a 64-page draft contempt order against Holder, as well as a 17-page memo outlining the history of the scandal.
“Operation Fast and Furious’ outrageous tactics, the Justice Department’s refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation and efforts to smear and retaliate against whistleblowers have tainted the institutional integrity of the Justice Department,” Issa wrote.
The committee is not citing Holder or holding the attorney general in contempt at this point. However, the documents lay out the case for contempt should members be called to vote.
The documents specifically charge that Holder’s Justice Department has not properly complied with a subpoena sent Oct. 12, 2011, which listed documents requested in 22 categories.
It’s unclear when Issa might press for action on the documents, but a source close to the investigation told Fox News he would not have put his cards on the table unless he had sufficient votes to push a contempt citation out of committee as well as the consent of House Speaker John Boehner.
A Republican source separately told Fox News that Boehner and House Republican Leader Eric Cantor do not want to deal with a contempt citation against Holder because “it’s off message for them.” But they apparently told Issa he needs to issue a “report” before they would even consider it — which may account for the documents circulated on Thursday.
Since 1975, only one attorney general has been found in contempt — Janet Reno, voted to be held in contempt by the same committee Issa now controls.
The summary of the draft contempt resolution regarding Holder states that the Justice Department “has refused to comply with congressional subpoenas related to operation Fast and Furious.”
This refusal, the draft states, “is inexcusable and cannot stand.”
CBS News covered the story on their morning show:
See the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s website on Fast and Furious for the latest on the investigation.
Click here for a copy of the staff briefing paper distributed to committee members and the draft contempt report.
Highlights of the briefing paper include:
On information sharing failures (p.6):
“When [firearms trafficking syndicate ringleader] Celis-Acosta informed ATF of the names of the two cartel contacts for whom he had been working, agents quickly came to learn that these two U.S.-based cartel contacts were already known to the Department of Justice … In exchange for one associate’s guilty plea to a minor charge of “Alien in Possession of a Firearm,” both of these cartel associates became FBI informants and were considered essentially unindictable well before Operation Fast and Furious concluded. One ATF official would later say that the discovery that the primary targets of their investigation were not indictable was a “major disappointment.” Adding to the information-sharing failure, DEA had actually provided Celis-Acosta’s cartel connection to ATF in December 2009 in an effort to ensure that ATF’s efforts in Operation Fast and Furious were not duplicative.”
On the Justice Department’s Failure to Cooperate (p.9):
“When the Committee issued a subpoena to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on October 12, 2011, for Justice Department documents, the Committee specified 22 categories of documents it required the Department to produce. Department representatives specifically confirmed their understanding of each category. To date, the Department has not produced any responsive documents for 12 of the 22 categories. The Department has not completely fulfilled any of the 10 categories for which documents have been produced. For over a year, the Department has issued false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents, and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence before acknowledging uncomfortable facts.”
On the struggle of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family to get the truth (p. 11):
“While the Justice Department’s admissions have largely come as a result of being confronted with indisputable facts, the painfully slow process of getting the truth has been a continuing frustration for the Terry family. They still do not have the all the facts about the circumstances surrounding Brian Terry’s murder …. As Brian’s sister said of his family’s desire to know the full truth, ‘Brian was about making a difference and justice. And I just feel that this country owes it to him, because he spent his whole life fighting for this country some way or another.’”
On Retaliation Faced by Agents who blew the whistle (p.13):
“Agent Alt notified his superiors about his impending testimony. The next day, ATF Internal Affairs notified Alt that they wanted to talk with him about another matter. On May 5, 2011, Agent Alt met with ATF internal affairs investigators about allegations that Alt downloaded two prohibited applications to his government-issued phone. The total cost of these applications was eight dollars …. Alt was prevented from transferring offices and his eligibility for promotions and pay raises barred during the pendency of the investigation – all supposedly over eight dollars in phone applications.”
On Fast and Furious fueling violence in Mexico (p. 15):
“In October 2010, cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, the brother of the Attorney General for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located. The cartel posted a video of the kidnapped Rodriguez online, in which he alleged, under duress, that his sister had ordered killings at the behest of the Juarez cartel. The video went viral and became a major news story in Mexico. Two weeks later, Mexican authorities found Rodriguez’s body in a shallow grave. In a subsequent shootout with cartel members responsible for the murder, police arrested eight and recovered sixteen weapons. Two of these weapons traced back to Operation Fast and Furious. Although the Department of Justice learned that these weapons traced back to Fast and Furious almost immediately, no one informed the Mexican government. Not until congressional investigators were on the verge of learning the truth about the connection did an ATF agent in Mexico finally tell the Mexican Attorney General in June 2011 – seven months after Rodriguez’s murder.”
On allegations of intentional wrongdoing by Justice officials (p. 17):
“Perhaps the most damning assessments of the Department’s handling of the fallout from Operation Fast and Furious have come from two Justice Department officials. Kenneth Melson, the former Acting AFT Director during the pendency of Fast and Furious, told Congress that, “it appears thoroughly to us that the department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department.” Patrick Cunningham, who had been tasked by the Justice Department with investigating ATF whistleblower allegations of gunwalking, would later invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about his work.”