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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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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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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Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder – Full Of It – Questioned About His Department’s Operation That Supplied Guns To Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartel

June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC  – Attorney General Eric Holder claimed during congressional testimony today that internal Justice Department emails that use the phrase “Fast and Furious” do not refer to the controversial gun-walking operation Fast and Furious.

Under questioning from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who read excerpts of the emails at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department oversight, Holder claimed that the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Fast and Furious but instead referred to another gun-walking operation known as “Wide Receiver.”

However, the emails refer to both programs — “Fast and Furious” and the “Tucson case,” from where Wide Receiver was launched — and reveal Justice Department officials discussing how to handle media scrutiny when both operations become public.

Among three of the emails, the second, dated “October 17, 2010 11:07 PM,” was sent by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein to James Trusty and it states: “Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed? It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked, but it is a significant set of prosecutions.”

In the third email, dated Oct. 18, 2010, James Trusty writes back to Weinstein: “I think so, but the timing will be tricky, too. Looks like we’ll be able to unseal the Tucson case sooner than the Fast and Furious (although this may be just the difference between Nov. and Dec).”

“It’s not clear how much we’re involved in the main F and F [Fast and Furious] case,” reads the email, “but we have Tucson [Wide Receiver] and now a new unrelated case with [redacted] targets. It’s not any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX [Mexico], so I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like ‘Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.’”

Operation Wide Receiver was run out of Tucson, Ariz., between 2006 and 2007 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department.

In his testimony, Holder said that the emails only referred to Operation Wide Receiver.

Holder told the committee: “That refers to Wide Receiver, not to Fast and Furious. The e-mail that you [Rep. Chaffetz] just read [between Trusty and Weinstein] – now this is important – that email referred to Wide Receiver, it did not refer to Fast and Furious. That has to be noted for the record.”

Chaffetz, after a long pause, said, “No, it doesn’t. It says Fast and Furious. ‘Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?’ It’s specific to Fast and Furious. That is not true, Mr. Attorney General. I’m happy to share it with you.”

Brian Terry, border agent

U.S. Border Agent Brian A. Terry, shot and killed on Dec. 14, 2010, near Rio Rico, Arizona, while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants. (AP Photo)

Operation Fast and Furious was carried out by the ATF. It began in the fall of 2009 and continued into early 2011, during which time the federal government purposefully allowed known or suspected gun smugglers to purchase guns at federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona. The government did not seek to abort these gun purchases, intercept the smugglers after the purchases, or recover the guns they had purchased.

In some cases, as the government expected they would, the smugglers delivered the guns to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Two rifles sold to a smuggler in the course of Operation Fast and Furious in January 2010 ended up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

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Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder Briefing Hundreds Of Black Pastors In Effort To Help Obama’s Campaign

May 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder, the IRS, and the liberal lawyers at the ACLU will brief several hundred pastors in the African American community on how to participate in the presidential election — which the Congressional Black Caucus chair expects will help President Obama’s campaign.

“We will have representatives from nine denominations who actually pastor somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 million people, and we’re going to first of all equip them with the information they need to know about what they can say and what they cannot say in the church that would violate their 501c3 status with the IRS,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told MSNBC today.

“In fact, we’re going to have the IRS administrator there, we’re going to have the Attorney General Eric Holder there, we’re going to have the lawyers’ organization from around the country, the ACLU — all giving ministers guidance about what they can and cannot do,” he noted.

Cleaver said they would not tell pastors which candidate to support. They will let them know who to regard as the bad guys, though (hint: not Democrats). “We’re going to talk about some of the draconian laws that have cropped up around the country as a result of the 17 percent increase in African American votes,” Cleaver said, describing voter ID laws as a form of Jim Crow-style “poll tax” on seniors and black voters.

The CBC chairman is confident that “President Obama is going to get 95 percent of the [African American] vote,” and wants to keep that turnout high. “We want to let them know that there is a theological responsibility to participate in the political process, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition,” he said.

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