US Justice Department Scrambles To Protect Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder From Criminal Contempt Charges

June 29, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Justice Department moved Friday to shield Attorney General Eric Holder from prosecution after the House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.

The contempt vote technically opened the door for the House to call on the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the case before a grand jury. But because U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen works for Holder and because President Obama has already asserted executive privilege over the documents in question, some expected Holder’s Justice Department to balk.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole confirmed in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that the department in fact would not pursue prosecution. The attorney general’s withholding of documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, he wrote, “does not constitute a crime.”

“Therefore the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general,” Cole wrote, in the letter obtained by Fox News.

A department official told Fox News the letter was “pro forma” — or a formality — considering that ex-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in 2008 also refused to refer two Bush White House aides to a grand jury after they were held in contempt.

Republicans nevertheless blasted the Justice Department for the move. Frederick Hill, spokesman for House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, said “it is regrettable that the political leadership of the Justice Department is trying to intervene in an effort to prevent the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from making an independent decision about whether to prosecute this case.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, also wrote in a letter to Machen that the Cole letter “has put the cart before the horse.” He suggested the U.S. attorney has not yet had a chance to make an informed decision on whether to move forward with the case.

The move by the Holder Justice Department, though, means Republicans are likely to take their case to civil court as they seek documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious — which was already the unofficial plan. Along with the criminal contempt resolution, Republicans also passed a civil contempt measure Thursday allowing them to go to civil court to try and get an order that would compel the Obama administration to release the documents.

Issa, R-Calif., had acknowledged Thursday night that it was “very possible” the president would instruct the U.S. attorney not to prosecute Holder. He indicated Republicans would use the civil courts to get what they want.

“The House has authorized me to hire staff and legal staff who can pursue civilly through the courts to try to get a federal judge to order, separately, this discovery,” he said.

Hill also told FoxNews.com that the next stop probably would be civil court, but he suggested the threat of criminal prosecution still looms. For now, the Obama administration can argue that its executive privilege claim over the documents protects Holder from the possibility of prosecution.

But if a civil court rules that claim invalid, Hill said, “then basically Justice has lost that shield.”

If the administration still refused to turn over the documents the Republicans want, then they could start looking at prosecution more seriously.

Republicans technically have a handful of other options if the Justice Department still refused to take the case to a grand jury.

Republicans could move to appoint a special prosecutor or even move to impeach. The last time that happened with a Cabinet member, though, was in 1876 — with the impeachment trial of war secretary William Belknap.

Hill said lawmakers are not looking at that option for Holder. They remain focused on the civil court route.

Machen and Holder also have spoken fondly of one another in public, further casting doubt on the possibility that the U.S. attorney would ever bring the case before a grand jury.

Machen is one of the two U.S. attorneys Holder tapped to lead an investigation into the recent rash of security leaks. In early June, Holder praised Machen and the other attorney as “great U.S. attorneys who have shown a willingness to take on difficult cases.”

Meanwhile, Issa continued to add fuel to the debate over Fast and Furious when he entered into the Congressional Record a letter detailing a secret wiretap application pertaining to the operation.

In the letter, Issa claimed the affidavit contained “clear information that agents were willfully allowing known straw buyers to acquire firearms for drug cartels and failing to interdict them — in some cases even allowing them to walk to Mexico.”

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Nixon 2.0: House Oversight Committee Investigates White House Involvement In Eric Holder’s Botched “Fast And Furious” Operations After President Claims Executive Privilage To Hide Incriminating Documents Linking Holder And/Or President To Scandal

June 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The chairman of the House oversight committee investigating White House involvement in the botched “gun-walking” program that led to the 2010 death of U.S. Border Patrol agent accused President Obama on Monday of downplaying his involvement in the program or intentionally obstructing the Congress’ inquiry.

Rep. Darrel Issa’s letter to Obama questioned the legal basis of the White House move to withhold subpoenaed documents from the Government Reform and Oversight Committee under protections afforded Obama by executive privilege. The Justice Department denied Issa’s committee the subpoenaed documents last week, prompting the GOP-led committee to vote along party lines to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

The full House is scheduled to consider the contempt citation this week. The White House contends it’s legally entitled to withhold documents related to internal deliberations on policy and advisory discussions among Obama’s senior advisers. It was the first time Obama, who pledged a new era of government transparency, has exerted executive privilege.

Issa said the assertion of executive privilege, which occurred after 16-months of negotiations between his committee and Justice officials over documents related to the gun-walking program called Fast and Furious, raised two troubling questions.

“Either you or your most senior advisers were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it…or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation,” Issa wrote. “To date, the White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the Department with respect to the congressional investigation. The surprising assertion of executive privilege raised the question of whether that is still the case.”

Issa’s committee has subpoenaed documents it believes relevant to Justice and White House deliberations that led to a false Justice Department submission—in Holder’s name—in February 2011 that Fast and Furious was not a gun walking operation. The committee had been told by whistle-blowers that Fast and Furious allowed large quantities of AK-47 firearms and variants to “walk” into Mexico. Two of those firearms were discovered at the scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed near Rio Rico, Az., on Dec. 14, 2010.

The White House dismissed Issa’s letter.

“The Congressman’s analysis has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “Our position is consistent with Executive Branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning Administrations of both parties, and dating back to President Reagan’s Department of Justice. The Courts have routinely considered deliberative process privilege claims and affirmed the right of the executive branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved.”

Issa has at times suggested Fast and Furious might have been initiated as part of a larger push for tighter U.S. gun control laws. The chairman largely abandoned that theory on the Sunday talk shows.

The Bush administration in its second term initiated the gun-walking program in an attempt to prosecute gun-runners and drug traffickers in Mexico. Under a larger program called Operation Gun Runner, an ill-fated program called Operation Wide Receiver was conducted from 2006-2007. It was riddled with inefficiency and poor inter-agency cooperation and communication. It yielded no arrests or indictments on Bush’s watch. The Obama administration reviewed the dormant Bush-era cases and brought charges against nine people accused of low-level gun trafficking offenses. In October 2009, the Obama administration expanded efforts to pursue high-level Mexican drug and arms traffickers. Building on Wide Receiver, efforts at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives greatly expanded the use of surveillance of firearms purchases. These efforts grew into Fast and Furious.

At the heart of Issa’s inquiry is how much Justice and the White House knew about the origins of Fast and Furious, its scope and its operational ambitions.

As he did on the Sunday talk shows, Issa held out hope for a compromise over the disputed documents. The full House has never before voted to hold an attorney general in contempt of Congress.

“I remain hopeful that the Attorney General will produce the specified documents,” Issa said. Short of that, the chairman urged Obama to “define the universe of documents over which you asserted executive privilege and provide the Committee with the legal justification from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).”

Issa acknowledged Justice has provided in excess of 7,600 documents, but said the high-stakes dispute is now over those related to Justice’s initial denial—nearly three months after agent Terry’s death—that that Fast and Furious was a gun-walking operation.

“These key documents would help the Committee understand how and why the Justice Department moved from denying whistle blower allegations to understanding they were true; the identities of officials who attempted to retaliate against whistle blowers,” Issa wrote, adding the committee also want to learn “whether senior (Justice) Department officials are being held to the same standard as lower-level employees who have been blamed for Fast and Furious by their politically-appointed bosses in Washington.”

Issa also asked Obama to explain “what extent were you or your most senior advisers involved in Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it” and sought documents related to “any communications, meetings, and teleconferences between the White House and the Justice Department between February 4, 2011 and June 18, 2012, the day before the Attorney General requested that you assert executive privilege.”

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House Oversight Committee To Vote On Holding Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder In Contempt Of Congress – Still Hiding Documents And Information On His Department Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels

June 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned the House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It’s the fourth time in 30 years that Congress has launched a contempt action against an executive branch member.

This time, the dispute stems from Holder failing to turn over documents subpoenaed on October 12, 2011 in the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” investigation.

The Justice Department has maintained it has cooperated fully with the congressional investigation, turning over tens of thousands of documents and having Holder testify to Congress on the topic at least eight times.

However, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Justice Department has refused to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents. Those include materials created after Feb. 4, 2011, when the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress saying no gunwalking had occurred. The Justice Department later retracted the denial.

“The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics,” Issa wrote in an announcement of the vote to be released shortly. It will reveal the vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20.

Issa says the Justice Department can still put a stop to the contempt process at any time by turning over the subpoenaed documents.

If the House Oversight Committee approves the contempt citation, the matter would likely be scheduled for a full House vote.

For several weeks, there has been closed-door discussions and debate among House Republicans as to whether to move forward with contempt. Some have expressed concern that it could distract from the Republican’s focus on the economy in this election year.

Led by Republicans Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Issa, Congress’ investigation into Fast and Furious is now in its second year. In the ATF operation, agents allowed thousands of weapons to “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in the hope it would somehow help ATF take down a major cartel. Some of the weapons were used in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry at the hands of illegal immigrants crossing into Arizona. Mexican press reports say hundreds of Mexicans have died at the hands of the trafficked weapons. The story was exposed nationally for the first time by CBS News in February 2011.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have called the Republicans’ move to find Holder in contempt a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”

In 1983, Congress found EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford in contempt for failing to produce subpoenaed documents.

In 1998, the GOP-controlled House Oversight committee found Attorney General Janet Reno in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena on campaign finance law violations.

In 2008, the Democratic-led House Oversight Committee found former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton in contempt for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors by the Bush administration was politically motivated.

Congress went to federal court to seek enforcement of that contempt action, but a compromise was reached with the Executive Branch before any court decision was final.

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Secret Documents Prove Obama’s Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder Is Full Of Shit – Hid Department’s Documents On Operations That Armed Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartels

June 7, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – With the help of a mole, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has turned the tables on Attorney General Eric Holder.

Issa has long been exasperated with Holder, claiming that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been withholding information on a controversial gun-running operation. But through an anonymous source, Issa has obtained information about the initiative that is under a federal court-ordered seal.

Giving such information out is a federal crime, raising the question of whether the Justice Department will seek to prosecute what Republicans are calling a whistleblower.

Issa has asked the DOJ for the documents — wiretap applications it used in the botched federal gun-tracking Operation Fast and Furious — for months. The California lawmaker has taken preliminary steps to move contempt-of-Congress citations against Holder, but it remains unclear if GOP leaders support that move. This new controversy could help Issa attract more Republican support for a contempt-of-Congress resolution.

If Holder does launch an investigation into where the leak originated, the powerful Republican could paint the move as an attempt by the DOJ to hide the documents’ contents. It would also raise the possibility that DOJ investigators will seek information from Issa, who has been trying to determine who approved the “gun-walking” tactics used in Fast and Furious along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On the other hand, not launching a probe would mean turning a blind eye to a criminal breach and could lead Issa’s source and others to reveal other information sealed by a judge.

Issa told Fox News on Wednesday that he has no intention of shining the light on his source: “We’re not going to make our whistleblower available. That’s been one of the most sensitive areas, because some of the early whistleblowers are already feeling retribution. They’re being treated horribly.”

Asked earlier this week where he got the wiretap applications, Issa told The Hill, “You can ask, but you should have no expectation of an answer. By the way, if I asked you where you got yours, would you give me your sources?”

Of course, there is some political risk for Issa. The Obama administration could point out that he is stonewalling federal authorities after complaining throughout this Congress of being stonewalled by DOJ.

As the lead congressional investigator of Fast and Furious, Issa says the documents show top-ranking DOJ officials signing off on the condemned “gun-walking” tactics used in the failed operation. Senior DOJ officials have repeatedly denied that they approved the botched initiative.

The documents have not been made public, and Issa has apparently broken no laws by being given the information.

Regardless, the DOJ is not pleased.

“Chairman Issa’s letter makes clear that sealed court documents relating to pending federal prosecutions being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California have been disclosed to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in violation of law,” wrote Deputy Attorney General James Cole to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Issa this week.

“This is of great concern to us,” the letter added.

A spokesman for the DOJ declined to comment about whether it was planning to launch an investigation into the leak.

Democrats say that Issa is exaggerating what he has. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on Issa’s panel, reiterated this week that top-ranking DOJ officials didn’t personally review any of the six wiretap applications related to Fast and Furious. Issa sent Cummings the information he received from his source.

In the past, the DOJ has justified not turning over the wiretap applications to Issa by saying that doing so could jeopardize the current criminal cases it is prosecuting.

Two former prosecutors for the DOJ, who were not familiar with the details of this article, independently told The Hill that defense lawyers could use an instance of documents being leaked in violation of a court-ordered seal to justify seeking a mistrial.

It is unlikely that the DOJ, if it does investigate the leak, will have grounds to go after Issa for accepting the documents. In past instances of court-ordered seals being broken, it is the actual breaker of the seal who is held responsible, which in this case could mean criminal contempt proceedings and possible jail time.

The battle between Issa and the DOJ has escalated over the past month, with House Republican leaders writing a letter to Holder asking him to hand over information about who was responsible for Fast and Furious. The letter also asked whether the DOJ misled Congress on when officials, including Holder, became aware of the program.

Issa is set to square off against Holder on Thursday when the attorney general is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee. The Republican lawmaker will appear on a panel to discuss oversight of the DOJ.

Under the now-defunct Fast and Furious initiative, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under the DOJ, authorized the sale of firearms to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels, but lost track of many of the weapons. Some of those guns might have contributed to the December 2010 shooting death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

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