It took Univision to do it, but President Obama today got asked some tough questions about Fast and Furious, namely, does the buck stop with Attorney General Eric Holder?
He didn’t know nothin’ about it, Obama said. Okay, WHY NOT?
Here was the question from Univision co-host Jorge Ramos:
You told me during an interview that you and Mr. Holder did not authorize the Fast and Furious operation that allowed 2,000 weapons from the United States into Mexico and they were in the drug trafficking [cartels’] hands. I think that up to 100 Mexicans might have died and also American agent Brian Terry. There’s a report that 14 agents were responsible for the operation but shouldn’t the attorney general, Eric Holder, he should have known about that and if he didn’t, should you fire him?
Notice, instead of blaming Holder, Obama rounds up the usual suspect: George W. Bush.
The Department of Justice inspector general issued a report today saying that there was no evidence Attorney General Holder knew of the Fast and Furious operation before being informed of it in a letter in early 2011 from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Holder has long maintained that he knew nothing of the probe.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that four high-ranking DOJ officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, knew enough about the dangers of the operation that they should have raised concerns with their immediate superiors.
The Justice Department announced shortly after the report’s release that former acting director of the ATF Kenneth Melson and Weinstein had both resigned. Melson headed the ATF while “Fast and Furious” was ongoing, stepped down last summer, and was reassigned to a lower level position
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has led Congress’s investigation of Fast and Furious, along with Grassley, called on President Obama to hold the officials named in the IG’s report accountable for their mistakes in the operation.
“It’s time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs,” said Issa in a statement following the report’s release.
Holder asserted in a statement that the conclusions “are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now.”
The House moved for the first time in history this afternoon to hold an Attorney General in contempt, voting by 255-67 in support of a contempt resolution brought about by Holder’s failure to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal.
Belying White House claims that the vote was purely partisan, 17 Democrats joined Republicans in support of the resolution.
Many Democrats walked off the floor rather than vote. In a bad sign of things to come as the presidential election race heats up, the walkout was led by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a clear injection of racial politics into the confrontation between Holder and Congress.
There has been no evidence at all that I’m aware of that race has played a role in the investigation of Holder and the Justice Department by Congressional Republicans.
The White House press corps got a good laugh today following an assertion by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that President Obama’s claim of executive privilege to keep from Congress documents related to Fast and Furious was “entirely about principle.”
Here’s how it went down:
QUESTION: I guess my question is are you declaring that mostly on principle to ensure the separation of power more or…
CARNEY: This is — thank you for phrasing it like that. This is entirely about principle . . .
At that point, the press spontaneously broke out into peals of laughter.
Here’s some video of the moment. The sudden laughter sounded much more voluble and dramatic in the room than the videotape conveys.
Carney earlier had said it was “absolutely” untrue that the withholding of the documents was in any way a “coverup.”
Led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the House Oversight Committee this afternoon voted Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun running operation.
After Republicans defeated several Democratic amendments seeking to water down the contempt resolution, the panel moved through a resolution of contempt on 23-17 Party line vote.
If a deal is not worked out to provide the documents – which President Obama has sealed through a claim of executive privilege – the next step will be a vote of the entire House on the contempt citation.
President Obama asserted executive privilege over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun running operation, preventing their release to the House Oversight Committee.
Nevertheless, the panel, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), continued with its procedure to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt for failing to turn them over.
The presidential determination was formally in response to a request by Holder.
Releasing the documents “would inhibit candor of such Executive Branch deliberations in the future and significantly impair the Executive Branch’s ability to respond independently and effectively to congressional oversight,” Holder wrote.
Republicans and Democrats began manning battle stations. Republicans charged “cover up” and summoned the ghost of Watergate.
“Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding ‘Fast and Furious’ were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed,” said Speaker Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “The Administration has always insisted that wasn’t the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”
Democrats sought to portray the GOP as engaging in an election year politics that distracts from substantive issues.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that “given the economic challenges facing the country, we believe that House Republicans should work with the rest of Congress and the President to create more jobs, not more political theater.”
The House Oversight Committee will vote June 20 on whether to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has been leading the investigation into the administration’s handling of the Fast and Furious gun running operation into Mexico, issued a statement today charging Holder with withholding evidence.
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. The Justice Department’s actions have obstructed the investigation. Congress has an obligation to investigate unanswered questions about attempts to smear whistleblowers, failures by Justice Department officials to be truthful and candid with the congressional investigation, and the reasons for the significant delay in acknowledging reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.
The House Republican leadership, which has appeared wary of charging Holder with contempt during an election year, now appears to have gotten behind Issa. Speaker Boehner issued a supportive statement and suggested he would bring the citation to the floor if the committee passes it.
Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.
Boehner has increasingly been showing backbone this year, threatening just a few weeks ago not to increase the debt ceiling without commensurate spending cuts.
In a rare defiance of House Democratic leaders, a Democratic House member says he supports efforts by House Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to enforce a subpoena of Attorney General Holder demanding information Republicans say he has improperly withheld, The Daily Caller is reporting.
From The Daily Caller piece:
Indiana Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly told The Daily Caller on Tuesday that he supports the House oversight committee’s efforts to enforce the congressional subpoena of Attorney General Eric Holder over Operation Fast and Furious.
“One of the duties of Congress is to provide oversight of the Executive Branch,” Donnelly told TheDC. “There has been a serious allegation of federal law enforcement misconduct and we need to get to the bottom of this issue without playing partisan politics.”
Coming on top of the recent refusal by Democratic Rep. David Boren of Oklahoma to say he supports the attorney general – a growing list of Republicans is demanding Holder’s ouster – Donnelly’s decision could suggest that support for Holder will begin to crumble on a bipartisan basis.
Issa is threatening to enforce the subpoena by seeking a contempt of Congress citation against Holder.
Donnelly is presumptive nominee for the Senate seat currently held by Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, and will face the winner of the runoff between Lugar and conservative challenger Richard Mourdock, who is favored in today’s primary. Running statewide in conservative Indiana, Donnelly has more incentive than some other Democratic to buck his Party’s liberal leadership.
But if more Democrats line up against the attorney general, a cadre within the Party will effectively be in open rebellion against President Obama, who is personally close to Holder.
But he’s not citing Holder for contempt yet. From Fox News: Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has circulated a lengthy pair of documents making 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. Issa, chairman of the House… Continue Reading
Congressional Republicans are set to issue a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, charging he has obstructed the Congressional investigation into the Fast and Furious Mexican gun running operation, according to CBS News. But the Huffington Post is reporting that the citation, which is would be designed to force the Justice Department to release… Continue Reading
A couple of months back, I heard Rush Limbaugh say that the Fast and Furious operation was part of a cynical effort by people in the Obama administration to make the case for more gun control laws. I thought, well, that’s a little far-fetched. I mean, nobody would ever infect a patient with disease in… Continue Reading
Well, now we know one good reason why President campaigned so aggressively to maintain Democratic control of the House. With Republicans running the House and in charge of the committees, the White House now has something it was missing in its first two years: oversight. House Republicans Thursday subpoenaed the White House for internal emails… Continue Reading