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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Live Blogging Today's Fast and Furious Hearing

For those of you who will not be able to watch the House Judiciary Hearing today, at which Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to be grilled over Operation Fast and Furious, beginning at 9:30am est, I will post relevant developments in real time right here.

If you do have time to catch some of the hearing, you can do so by going to C-SPAN 3.

Once again, the Fast and Furious hearings, which are the most compelling in many years, are relegated to redheaded stepchild status. If you watch, pay particularly close attention when Reps. Issa, Chaffetz, and Gowdy are questioning Holder.

Update at 9:40am EST: Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) issuing opening statement. Looks like the committee will also be grilling Holder over Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's involvement in Obamacare legislation in her role as Solicitor General. This is also a tough spot for Holder.

Update at 9:51am EST: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is on fire in his opening statement. Introduced article written by CBS' Sharyl Attkisson that shows e-mails expressed an interest in using Fast and Furious to push for gun control. Issa has a poster behind him highlighting Holder's exchange with Daily Caller reporter in which Attorney General accused DC of being responsible for generating calls for the former's resignation.

Update at 9:58am EST: Huh? Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is talking about concealed handgun permits in his opening statement, which has NOTHING to do with who authorized Fast and Furious. He wants more gun control legislation and appears disinterested in the government's egregious crimes. Says Holder should be 'praised.'

Update at 10:05am EST: Chairman Smith has declined two requests by Issa. First, at the end of ranking member John Conyers' (D-MI) opening statement, Conyers asked Smith if Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) could sit with committee members. His request was granted. In response to this, Issa asked Rep. Smith if Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) could do the same. Smith told Issa there wasn't enough room. Prior to Holder's opening statement, Issa asked Chairman Smith if Holder could be required to stand to be put under oath. Smith declined, saying that Holder was presumptively already under oath.

Update at 10:10am EST: Holder is saying that anyone who wants to hold him accountable is using a Border Patrol agent's death (Brian Terry) to 'score political points' and 'play gotcha games.' Expect Issa to call him on this. Stay tuned... So far, no mention of the hundreds of dead Mexican nationals.

Update at 10:17am EST: Chairman Smith is getting stonewalled by Holder. Smith is requesting to interview individuals who might have information about whether Justice Kagan was present during meetings about Obamacare while she was being considered as a SCOTUS nominee.

Update at 10:25am EST: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) asks Holder if he thinks the 'buck stops with you.' Holder basically accepted responsibility without accepting accountability. He also referred to the February 4th letter that DOJ ultimately withdrew. Called for Deputy Attorney General Lanny Breuer to be fired. Sensenbrenner is asserting that someone at the DOJ 'lied' and that 'heads should roll.' Holder says no one at the Justice Department 'lied' (that's a lie).

Update at 10:29am EST: Wow. Sensenbrenner is threatening impeachment. In response, Holder whips out the tired 'Inspector General' argument.

Update at 10:31am EST: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-TX) requests a parliamentary inquiry and asks for clarification on who Sensenbrenner was talking about impeaching. Smith told her that's not a parliamentary inquiry and moved on.

Update at 10:33am EST: Another Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman (CA) is up; he says Fast and Furious is 'overblown.'

Update at 10:36am EST: Berman sets the table for Holder to call for increased gun control legislation and Holder chows down. Hubris on steroids.

Update at 10:39am EST: Chairman Smith calls recess. Resuming shortly.

Update at 11:27am EST: looks like members are beginning to stream back into hearing.

Update at 11:33am EST: Here we go...

Update at 11:37am EST: Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) is announcing that he's not going to talk about Fast and Furious. Instead, he's going to highlight the Attorney General's positives (time for a power nap). Before I start dozing, it's interesting to note that Watt is a registered member with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) caucus.

Update at 11:45am EST: Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) is asking Holder about welfare fraud?! Important topic but it would be nice to see him yield his time to an F&F expert. A corrupt Justice Department is on the ropes over gun-walking, not Eastern European gangs who are exploiting our welfare system. This is a welcome breather for Holder courtesy of a Republican. Again, important topic but not the best use of Gallegly's time.

Update at 11:50am EST: Rep. Issa has reiterated his request to have Rep. Blake Farenthold sit with the committee because there is now room. Chairman Smith has again declined the request. Rep. Schiff is still there. Blatant double standard.

Update at 11:52am EST: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) has a bizarre hair-do. Is displaying her ignorance by comparing Fast and Furious with Wide Receiver under Bush administration. Her indignation at a perceived attack on Holder is clear. Anyone seeing a trend with the Democrats?

Update at 11:55am EST: Rep. Lee is now saying Alberto Gonzalez, Attorney General in the Bush administration, covered up 'torture memos' while Holder is being forthcoming about Fast and Furious (yes, that's insane). Holder's Department has stonewalled for nearly a year and recently withdrew a letter it submitted to Congress because it was false.

Update at 12:03pm EST: Ruh Roh. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is up. Yes, she's nuts, she's partisan, and she is a registered member with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) caucus as well.

Update at 12:05pm EST: Maxine refers to Wide Receiver, just like Lee. Says she is 'very supportive' of Holder's assertion that gun-walking will never be allowed again. Hey, Maxine. He's only saying that because he got caught. Like practically every other Democrat, Maxine thinks the solution to our government allowing guns to walk into Mexico is to give our government more power.

Update at 12:08pm EST: Maxine is outwardly highly indignant at the prospect that large amounts of guns could be legally purchased by multiple parties. Lost on Maxine is that Holder's ATF is GUILTY of doing JUST THAT.

Update at 12:13pm EST: Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) brings up operation Wide Receiver with Holder. The likes of Lee and Waters like to equate the two when there is no real equivalency. Lungren visibly agitated that Holder still doesn't know who knew what when. Calls on Holder to respond to documents that show ATF employees advocated using Fast and Furious data to push for gun control. Holder points to Inspector General (again).

Update at 12:17pm EST: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) - yes the same guy who was concerned that the island of Guam might 'tip over' if too many people moved to one side - is concerned about guns legally sold at gun shows. Again, the ATF intentionally placing guns into the hands of bad guys is apparently lost on these people. Maybe Johnson is worried that citizens from Guam might purchase too many guns, take them back to the island, and put them all on one side. In short, Johnson was incoherent. He's also registered with the DSA caucus.

Update at 12:24pm EST: Johnson just called the NRA 'radical.' Some might call the DSA radical.

Update at 12:25pm EST: Issa is up. Admonishes Johnson for calling NRA members radical. Issa now asking Holder if he will appear in front of Oversight Committee without subpoena. Issa is having staffers bring out several boxes full of printed e-mails. Issa asking why of these, not one email exists to or from Holder regarding Fast and Furious.

Update at 12:28pm EST: Issa asking Holder about then Deputy Atty General Gary Grindler's knowledge of Fast and Furious. Holder says Grindler didn't know about the tactics of Fast and Furious. Issa took strong exception to this and was interrupted by Rep. Lee. Issa tells Holder he believes DOJ is still withholding documents that have been subpoenaed. This exchange is HIGH DRAMA. Issa taking exception to Holder's assertion that Attorney General is telling committee what someone else didn't know (Grindler). Lee continues to interrupt.

Update at 12:32pm EST: Issa asserts Inspector General is NOT qualified and is treating Attorney General as 'hostile witness.'

Update at 12:33pm EST: Holder's turn. Again says Grindler was not 'intimately familiar' with the details of Fast and Furious. Issa looks furious.

Update at 12:35pm EST: Holder points to the DOJ's withdrawal of the February 4th letter as unprecedented and seems to want to be given credit for doing so. Lost on him apparently, is the fact that the letter consisted of false information. This could be a first. Expecting to be commended for lying.

Update at 12:40pm EST: Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is up. Asks Holder if he has identified the weapon used to kill Agent Brian Terry. Holder says he cannot discuss it. Holder says someone has been indicted but cannot give the name because case is sealed. King asks Holder if he has any figures on the number of Mexicans who have been killed as a result of Fast and Furious. Holder doesn't know.

Update at 12:48pm EST: Registered DSA member Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) is up.

Update at 12:50pm EST: Shamelessly, Cohen implies that Terry could have been murdered regardless of Fast and Furious because there are already a lot of guns in Mexico. That's what we call a non-sequiter. It is also outrageously insensitive to the Terry family.

Update at 12:57pm EST: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) points to memos / directives Holder allegedly gave to the field when he heard about Fast and Furious but says none of those orders have been produced. Gohmert asking for letters / emails to and from Holder. Holder said he didn't issue the directive in writing.

Update at 1:01pm EST: Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) decides to talk about a hiphop web domain and ignores Fast and Furious. Holder says his daughters are probably more informed about this issue than he is.

Update at 1:06pm EST: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) questions the motives of those behind Fast and Furious (gun control). Reads emails from top officials that point to such a scenario. Uh, oh. Holder said he didn't read these emails but said he has read everything sent to him from Grassley or Issa. Franks then pointed out that the emails were attached to letters sent to Holder from Issa and Grassley. Holder then said he didn't read attachments.

Update at 1:15pm EST: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) congratulates Holder for his work prosecuting Rod Blagojevich successfully. Huh? Uses that as a springboard to ask Holder a general question about what is being done about government corruption. Huh? Huh? Huh?

Update at 1:15pm EST: Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) focuses on the hundreds of Mexican nationals that were killed as a result of this operation. Says willing suspension of disbelief is needed to accept Holder's claim that he didn't know about Fast and Furious. Poe demands to know what person was responsible for authorizing the operation. Holder says he doesn't know. Poe asks Holder if it's a violation of international law for one nation to allow guns to be smuggled into another country. Holder equivocates and says if both countries agree - like in Wide Receiver - it may be legal. Poe then asks Holder if Mexico knew about Fast and Furious. Holder had no coherent response. Ostensibly, because Mexico, in fact, did not know.

Update at 1:23pm EST: Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) ignores Fast and Furious. Thanks Holder for all of his work in other areas.

Random thought as I ignore the ponderous musings of Judy Chu... Isn't it noteworthy that none of these Democrats seem to be overly concerned abou a black Attorney General's culpability in the deaths of hundreds of Mexican nationals? Interesting way for Democrats to court the hispanic vote.

Update at 1:29pm EST: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) asks Holder if he's spoken to Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the Mexican president, or the Mexican Attorney General. Holder says he's spoken with none of them about Fast and Furious. Says Holder was 'oblivious.' Holder takes exception. Chaffetz wants to know why Holder takes a trip to Caribbean for five days but doesn't take five minutes to pick up the phone and call Napolitano. Chaffetz asks Holder about Obama's assertion that Holder never knew about Fast and Furious but a conversation between the two about Fast and Furious never took place. Holder's response was that someone else must have told Obama.

Update at 1:35pm EST: Chairman Smith calls one hour recess...

Update at 2:44pm EST: Still not back yet....

Update at 2:58pm EST: They're filing in....

Update at 3:01pm EST: Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) is asking Holder about medical marijuana (yawn)

So far, more Democrats have asked Holder about hiphop and dope than have challenged him on Fast and Furious. Those who've brought up the operation with Holder have only done so to defend him.

Update at 3:06pm EST: Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is up and he's going after the February 4th letter being falsified. Gowdy asks Holder if he thinks the letter contains 'demonstrably false' information. Holder insists that's incorrect. He says the letter contained 'inaccurate' information. Gowdy looks fed up.

Update at 3:09pm EST: Gowdy's argument is that the DOJ withdrew the February 4th letter TEN MONTHS after it was written. In that letter to Senator Chuck Grassley, AAG Ronald Weich said it was 'false' that the ATF allowed guns to 'walk' into Mexico. Gowdy rightfully asserts that this is a very serious offense. Oh brother, Holder again refers to Inspector General when Gowdy presses him about how serious it is for lawyers at DOJ to lie to congress. Then Holder actually says the reason the letter was false included the assertion that the DOJ was 'rushed' and pressured to issue it quickly.

Update at 3:14pm EST: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is up. Count him among the Democrats who are willing to talk about Fast and Furious but only in an attempt to bolster Holder's credibility. Deutch also cites the demonstrably false statistic that 95% of weapons recovered in Mexico come from the US. This whacko is pushing for gun control when our government is out of control when it comes to guns.

Update at 3:20pm EST: Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) is up and started by asking Holder if the AG considers himself to be 'under oath.' Holder is agitated with the question and says he is 'here to tell the truth.' Holder pressed on whether he apologized to Terry family. Wouldn't answer. Ross called Holder on the latter's comments that House members want to score political points. Good exchange.

Update at 3:26pm EST: Rep. Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico) is sucking up to Holder. He has thanked him and commended him for his patience in answering what he thinks are the same questions being asked. Astoundingly, Pierluisi is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and doesn't appear interested in holding Holder accountable to the deaths of hundreds of hispanics in Mexico. Like other Democrats, Pierluisi points the fingers at gun shows. Laughably, Pierluisi also asserts that the IG at DOJ doesn't report to Holder. That's the way it's supposed to work but that's not at all the way it DOES work. Someone should fill this clown in on Gerald Walpin. Democrats on CHC don't defend hispanics when it involves confronting Democrats. Hmmmm.

Update at 3:35pm EST: Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) is fired up. She has a husband that is a police officer. She used to be one. She takes great exception to Holder thinking the investigation is political. Asks Holder if there is an operation that would require his sign-off since Fast and Furious apparently did not require his signature. Adams asks Holder about his personal email account and whether he used that personal email account to correspond with Lanny Breuer. Said he doesn't know but that he doesn't plan on providing any access to his emails. Adams persisted, asking Holder to deliver a 'yes' or 'no' answer to her question about turning over emails.

Update at 3:42pm EST: Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) is up. No new ground broken. Rather uneventful exchange until the end. At the end, however, Quayle asked Holder if he will resign over Fast and Furious. Holder gets defensive and starts listing all of his accomplishments. Quayle then asks Holder if Breuer, Grindler, or Weinstein should resign. Holder says no.

Update at 3:49pm EST: Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) picks up on something Rep. Adams said. Asks at what point Holder's close deputies had an obligation to bring these issues to Holder. Holder's response was a lame attempt at an example in which that didn't happen; he referred to Lanny Breuer's admission that he knew about gun walking and didn't bring it to Holder's attention.

Update at 3:56pm EST: Rep. Gowdy is up again. Brings up the fact that there were 'several' wiretap applications, known as T3's. Holder concedes that he hasn't read the wiretap applications. Tells Holder that he can't understand the Attorney General's defense of Lanny Breuer while saying that Breuer was intimately involved in the crafting of the falsified February 4th letter. Gowdy also underscores the point that Breuer forwarded drafts to his personal email. Gowdy yields to Issa.

Update at 4:01pm EST: Issa asks Holder to turn over emails between Breuer and Weinstein from March of 2011. Holder says he will not. Issa then tells Holder the AG is standing in contempt of Congress if he does not turn over those emails. Asst Attorney General Ronald Weich is grinning over Holder's shoulder. Parting shot from Issa involved a comparison between Holder and John Mitchell, Nixon's Attorney General who was found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury.

Hearing adjourned.

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