President Obama Joins Disgraced US Attorney General In Cover Up – Asserts Executive Privilege Over Fast And Furious Documents That Holder Is Hiding From House Committee – Operation Armed Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartels

June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – An extraordinary House committee hearing began considering a contempt measure against Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday even though President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over documents sought by the panel investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting.

Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said the White House assertion of executive privilege “falls short” of any reason to delay the hearing.

However, the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, accused Issa of setting an “impossible standard” for Holder by demanding documents the attorney general was legally prohibited from providing.

Issa has “no interest in resolving” the dispute with Holder, Cummings said.

Wednesday’s development further heightened the drama of a high-profile showdown between Issa and Holder over the committee’s demand for the Department of Justice to turn over more documents about the Fast and Furious program.

The White House move means the Department of Justice can withhold the documents from the House Oversight Committee, which was scheduled to consider a contempt measure Wednesday against Holder.

“I write now to inform you that the president has asserted executive privilege over the relevant post-February 4, 2011, documents,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a letter to Issa made public just before the committee meeting was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

“We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee’s concerns and to accommodate the committee’s legitimate oversight interests regarding Operation Fast and Furious,” Cole’s letter continued. “Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the Committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”

See Holder’s letter requesting privilege (.PDF)

The hearing started 20 minutes late as panel members digested Cole’s letter, and Issa immediately made clear he intended to hold a vote on the contempt measure.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched Operation Fast and Furious out of Arizona to track weapon purchases by Mexican drug cartels. However, it lost track of more than 1,000 firearms that the agency had allowed straw buyers to carry across the border, and two of the lost weapons turned up at the scene of the 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Issa and other Republicans on the panel mentioned Terry’s death by name in accusing Holder and the Justice Department of trying to stonewall the investigation of what happened.

“The Department of Justice has fought this investigation every step of the way,” Issa said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, complained that subpoenas for documents remained unresolved eight months later.

“We have not gotten to the bottom of this, and Brian Terry was killed in December of 2010,” Chaffetz said.

Cummings and other Democrats challenged the Republican contention of stonewalling by Holder, saying political motivations were at play.

“It shouldn’t be a political witchhunt against the attorney general and the president in an election year,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York.

Issa and Holder met Tuesday evening in what was billed as a final effort to resolve their differences. However, the meeting amounted to little more than a reiteration of the positions the two staked out in an exchange of letters the previous week, and Issa said afterward the committee would proceed with its contempt vote if Holder failed to turn over the documents in question.

Holder told reporters that he offered to provide the documents on the condition that Issa gave his assurance that doing so would satisfy two committee subpoenas and resolve the dispute.

See letter to Issa from Deputy Attorney General (.PDF)
Holder at center of GOP fireworks
Holder rejects Cornyn’s call to resign
Front Lines: Holder in contempt?

“They rejected what I thought was an extraordinary offer on our part.,” Holder said. Asked about whether Issa was open to resolving the issue before the committee meets Wednesday, Holder said: “I think we actually are involved more in political gamesmanship” instead of a sincere effort to get the requested documents.

In particular, Issa’s committee wants documents that show why the Department of Justice decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.

In a letter to Issa after the Tuesday meeting, Cole reiterated Holder’s position that the documents would show Holder had nothing to hide about his role in Fast and Furious.

Cole noted that the lone point of dispute was whether the February 4,2011 letter was part of a broader effort to obstruct a congressional investigation.

“The answer to that question is an emphatic ‘no’ and we have offered the Committee the opportunity to satisfy itself that that is so,” Cole wrote.

Holder floats ‘Fast and Furious’ deal with Congress

A committee statement issued before Tuesday’s meeting said it was a chance for Holder to meet the panel’s demands for additional documents, which would allow for a postponement.

“Currently, (the Department of Justice) has not delivered or shown the committee any of the documents it has said it is prepared to produce,” the statement continued. “It is not clear if they will actually produce these documents to the committee before the Wednesday vote to facilitate a postponement.”

Holder, however, said he made an unprecedented offer of documents and a briefing to the committee, which so far has turned him down.

Cummings, who also attended the Tuesday meeting, said Holder was trying to end a protracted standoff with the Republican-led panel.

“He sees this as a never-ending process,” Cummings said in describing Holder’s concerns about the continuing requests for more documentation.

Another person in the room, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, said afterward that he supported Holder and appreciated “that he is going the extra mile to resolve this.”

However, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who also participated in the meeting, said Holder was seeking to get cleared before he actually turned over any of the requested information.

Holder rejects resignation call at heated Senate hearing

“The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today,” Grassley said afterward. “He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over. That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke.”

While such disputes have long been part of the interaction between Congress and the government, the public showdown between Holder and Issa — coming in the politically charged atmosphere of an election year — raised the stakes on an already volatile issue.

Issa has accused the attorney general of stonewalling an investigation into Fast and Furious and how the Justice Department provided Congress with erroneous information about it. The department says it already has handed over more than 7,000 pages of records to House investigators, and that the remaining material Issa wants could jeopardize criminal prosecutions.

The back-and-forth letters exchanged between Holder and Issa before Tuesday’s meeting revealed an incremental negotiation over what the committee wanted and what the Department of Justice was willing to provide.

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Disgraced US Attorney General May Face Contempt Vote Today – Still Refusing To Turn Documents Over To House Oversight Committee Investigating His Department’s Botched Operation That Armed Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartel

June 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The House Oversight Committee could proceed Wednesday in considering a contempt measure against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder unless he provides at least some of the documents the committee has sought in relation to Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal firearms sting operation that allowed weapons to reach Mexican drug gangs.

A showdown meeting Tuesday between Eric Holder and committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, failed to resolve their dispute.

“We are disappointed,” Issa told reporters after the meeting. “We never expected to get all the documents. Our hope was and still is that later this evening we’ll get the documents.”

Holder said he offered to provide the documents to Issa on the condition that Issa provided his assurance that doing so would satisfy two committee subpoenas and resolve the dispute.

“I think the ball’s in their court,” Holder told reporters. “They rejected what I thought was an extraordinary offer on our part.”

Asked about whether Issa was open to resolving the issue before the committee meets Wednesday, Holder said: “I think we actually are involved more in political gamesmanship” instead of a sincere effort to get the requested documents.

A Justice Department spokesman reiterated Holder’s position that the documents would show Holder had nothing to hide about his role in Fast and Furious.

After the meeting, Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent a letter to Issa, expressing disappointment.

“Our offer would have provided the committee with unprecedented access to these documents, many of which are not covered by the committee’s subpoenas in this matter,” he wrote. “We had hoped that you shared our interest in bringing this matter to an amicable resolution and we regret that you rejected our extraordinary proposal to do so.”

The meeting in the Capitol building amounted to both sides reiterating positions already staked out through an exchange of letters over the past week.

A committee statement issued before Tuesday’s meeting said it was a chance for Holder to meet the panel’s demands for additional documents, which would allow for a postponement.

“Currently, (the Department of Justice) has not delivered or shown the committee any of the documents it has said it is prepared to produce,” the statement continued. “It is not clear if they will actually produce these documents to the committee before the Wednesday vote to facilitate a postponement.”

Holder, however, said he made an unprecedented offer of documents and a briefing to the committee, which so far has turned him down.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee who also attended the meeting, said Holder was trying to end a protracted standoff with the Republican-led panel.

“He sees this as a never-ending process,” Cummings said in describing Holder’s concerns about the continuing requests for more documentation.

Another person in the room, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, said afterward that he supported Holder and appreciated “that he is going the extra mile to resolve this.”

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also participated in the meeting with Holder and Issa.

“The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today,” Grassley said after the meeting. “He wants to turn over only what he wants to turn over and not give us any information about what he’s not turning over. That’s unacceptable. I’m not going to buy a pig in a poke.”

Issa has accused the attorney general of stonewalling an investigation into Fast and Furious and how the Justice Department provided Congress with erroneous information about it. The department says it already has handed over more than 7,000 pages of records to House investigators, and that the remaining material Issa wants could jeopardize criminal prosecutions.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched Operation Fast and Furious out of Arizona to track weapon purchases by Mexican drug cartels. However, it lost track of more than 1,000 firearms that the agency had allowed straw buyers to carry across the border, and two of the lost weapons turned up at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

Asked by a reporter about why he was pushing so hard, Issa said it was because the nation and Terry’s family deserved to know as much information as possible about the program linked to Terry’s death.

In particular, Issa’s committee wants documents that show why the Department of Justice decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.

The back-and-forth letters exchanged between Holder and Issa before Tuesday’s meeting revealed an incremental negotiation over what the committee wanted and what the Department of Justice was offering to provide.

In a late Monday letter, Issa made clear he wanted the documents ahead of time and also wanted Grassley, a leading Holder critic, to take part.

Holder agreed to a meeting but told Issa he wanted to include Cummings and Leahy. His letter Monday said the purpose of the meeting would be to reach an agreement that would avoid a “constitutional confrontation,” a reference to the committee’s planned vote on the contempt measure.

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East Haven Connecticut Police Chief Leonard Gallo Quits In Disgrace For Handling Of Latino Abuse Allegations That Led To Arrest Of 4 Of His Officers

January 30, 2012

EAST HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – A police chief under fire for his handling of anti-Latino abuse allegations that led to the arrests of four officers last week is retiring from office, the mayor said Monday, describing his departure as a “selfless act” intended to help the town heal.

Leonard Gallo, chief of the East Haven Police Department, has been chastised by federal civil rights investigators for creating a hostile environment for witnesses, and his lawyer has acknowledged that last week’s indictment refers to him as an unnamed co-conspirator.

Gallo, 64, had been suspended as police chief in April 2010 after the FBI launched the criminal investigation, but he was reinstated to the post in November after his friend Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. took office.

“His decision to retire at this time is a selfless act, designed to assist in the healing process,” said Maturo, who described Gallo as a devoted public servant who “performed admirably in both his personal and professional life.”

The four officers, who were arrested Jan. 24 by the FBI, are accused of waging a campaign against Latino residents that included beatings, false arrests and harassment of those who threatened to report misconduct. They face charges including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice; all of them have pleaded not guilty.

Maturo is also facing heavy criticism for saying last week that he “might have tacos” as a way to do something for the Latino community in the wake of the arrests. He later apologized for the remark.

Frederick Brow, chairman of the town’s police commission, said Monday that the commission is preparing to vote Tuesday night on whether to recommend to the mayor that Gallo be fired. He said he believes Gallo should not be allowed to retire.

“It’s been a general breakdown in control in that department for quite a while and it’s time for Gallo to be terminated,” Brow said.

He estimated that in retirement, Gallo would receive a severance lump sum of $130,000 to $150,000, plus an annual pension of $27,000 to $28,000. Brow said Gallo should not be rewarded for his conduct.

If the commission voted to recommend that Gallo be fired and Maturo agreed to fire him, Gallo would still get the pension but lose the severance pay, Brow said.

The FBI also is targeting additional suspects, and state officials say they are preparing for the possibility of widespread arrests that could cripple the town’s police department.

An investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division, which was separate from the criminal probe, noted concerns in a December report that Gallo had helped created a hostile environment for people who cooperated with federal investigators. It said Gallo had warned staff that the Justice Department had agreed to provide him with the names of individuals who cooperated with the investigation, even though that was not the case.

The federal indictment refers to Gallo as co-conspirator 1, accusing him of blocking efforts by the police commission to investigate misconduct. Gallo’s attorney, Jon Einhorn, has denied those allegations.

Einhorn said Gallo is retiring because he does not want to be a distraction for the town, and his departure is not an admission of guilt. He said Gallo is the target of a lawsuit and could face charges in the criminal probe. He said his client will be vindicated and he does not believe criminal charges would be justified.

He said waiting until the end of the week will give the town time to settle on a retirement package for Gallo. Maturo said the retirement takes effect Friday, and a search for a new chief will begin immediately. Until a new chief is selected, Deputy Chief John Mannion will assume the duties.

More than 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Maturo to replace Gallo. The petition was started by Reform Immigration for America, the same group that sent hundreds of tacos to Maturo’s office to protest his remark.

State Rep. Andres Ayala Jr., D-Bridgeport, said he and members of the state Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission met with Maturo on Monday morning, but he declined to elaborate. Ayala and commission members are calling for the resignations of Maturo and Gallo.

“I think it’s the mayor’s responsibility that the police department represent everyone in the community,” Ayala said.

Maturo was mayor from 1997 to 2007 and was re-elected in the fall. After taking office in November, he reinstated Gallo, saying at the time that he did not believe the abuse allegations were true. The previous mayor, April Capone Almon, placed Gallo on administrative leave in April 2010.

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