Here, you are urged and encouraged to run your mouths about something important.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Darrell Issa Responds to Eric Holder's Letter with a Smack Down

On October 7th, Attorney General Eric Holder sent a five page letter to House & Senate committee chairs and ranking members, defending his ignorance of Fast and Furious. The letter itself smacked of arrogance and petulance. At one point in that letter, Holder seemed to be channeling Colonel Jessup in a Few Good Men when he said his men should be thanked, not derided or investigated. On Monday, the 10th, Issa responded to Holder's letter with an eviscerating retort.

Here is how Issa's letter begins:
Dear Attorney General Holder:

From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program. These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Grassley and me to defer our oversight responsibilities over its concerns about our purported interference with its ongoing criminal investigations. Additionally, the Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur.

Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the Department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the Department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around DOJ and its political appointees.

To that end, just last month, you claimed that Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department. Documents discovered through the course of the investigation, however, have proved each and every one of these claims advanced by the Department to be untrue. It appears your latest defense has reached a new low. Incredibly, in your letter from Friday you now claim that you were unaware of Fast and Furious because your staff failed to inform you of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to you. At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as Attorney General. At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.
In addition to invoking the spirit of Harry Truman by expressing in no uncertain terms that Holder's effort to pass the buck is falling flat, Issa effectively illustrates how the DOJ stonewall has also been accompanied with changing stories. First, guns were not allowed to walk. When that was proven not to be true, DOJ pointed to ATF in Arizona. When that was proven not to be true, DOJ pointed to US Attorney in Arizona. When that was proven not to be the origin of the operation, Holder pleads ignorance. Not gonna fly. I thought this excerpt from Issa's letter was particularly spot-on:
Your letter dated October 7 is deeply disappointing. Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program. You claim that, after months of silence, you “must now address these issues” over Fast and Furious because of the harmful discourse of the past few days. Yet, the only major development of these past few days has been the release of multiple documents showing that you and your senior staff had been briefed, on numerous occasions, about Fast and Furious.
Issa was referring to Holder's attempt to make his underlings look like unappreciated heroes who deserve thanks, not criticism. Unfortunately for Holder, the real heroes are the whistleblowers his agency has been railroading; those aren't the people Holder was so righteously attempting to defend in his letter. He was attempting to defend those involved. After giving very specific detail about how it was not possible that Fast and Furious didn't reach all the way to Holder, Issa closes a stanza with this very stinging charge:
You (Holder) failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind “[a]ttorneys in [your] office and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General,” who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention. Holder Letter, supra note 1. As a result of your failure to act on these memos sent to you, nearly 500 additional firearms were purchased under Fast and Furious.

The facts simply do not support any claim that Fast and Furious did not reach the highest levels of the Justice Department. Actually, Fast and Furious did reach the ultimate authority in the Department – you.
Then, after all but calling Holder's May 3rd testimony perjury, Issa referred to a February 4th letter in which Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said the ATF did not allow guns to walk as a lie. The Oversight Committee chairman then lowers the proverbial boom in the final two paragraphs:
Mr. Attorney General, you have made numerous statements about Fast and Furious that have eventually been proven to be untrue. Your lack of trustworthiness while speaking about Fast and Furious has called into question your overall credibility as Attorney General. The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over. The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.

Operation Fast and Furious was the Department’s most significant gun trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives – destroying the Mexican cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border. On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.
Throughout this scandal, Holder and every other high ranking official asked about Fast and Furious has deferred to the Inspector General. I think it's safe to say we're rapidly approaching the point where the Inspector General is going to become a non-factor.


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