Conventional wisdom says that Fast and Furious ran its course when the House voted to find Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on both criminal and civil grounds. After all, Holder's subordinates are responsible for prosecuting him but as Deputy Attorney General James Cole - a man who's possibly more intimately involved with Fast and Furious than is his boss - wrote in a letter to John Boehner (h/t Fox News):
Across administrations of both political parties, the longstanding position of the Department of Justice has been and remains that we will not prosecuted an Executive Branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege.Boehner's potential desire to let this all end right there notwithstanding, Oversight Committee member, Rep. Trey Gowdy, explains that there are only three kinds of Executive Privilege and one doesn't even apply to Congress. The other two implicate either Obama or his immediate advisers directly in the Fast and Furious coverup, at minimum:
So, the President has implicated himself in the coverup of a mass murder plot by asserting Executive Privilege; Holder has committed perjury and is likely directing the coverup; and Holder's immediate subordinates are saying they won't prosecute Holder - who was essentially convicted of two serious crimes - because Obama asserted Executive Privilege. Boehner and Company could either throw up their hands and say, 'that's it, we've gone as far as we can go' or they can play hardball. Playing hardball doesn't seem to be in Boehner's DNA (see Washington Times link below) but there are members of the Oversight Committee, including Chairman Darrell Issa who appear to be swinging for the fences.
There have already been several developments that have taken place since the contempt vote that should cause continued interest in Fast and Furious. First among them is talk that Eric Holder can legally be arrested for being found in contempt of Congress.
Committee member, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News with Megyn Kelly and while responding to the aforementioned letter sent by James Cole, admitted that having the Sergeant at Arms arrest Eric Holder is an option that the House is not taking off the table, saying, "We're serious about this."
The Washington Times addressed the legality of arresting Holder as well:
Despite voting to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, there’s little House Republicans can do in the short term to compel him to turn over documents — unless it wanted to revisit a long-dormant power and arrest him.The second development involves Chairman Issa placing a letter he wrote to Ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on May 24th, into the Congressional Record. That letter involved details of the wiretap applications that came into Issa's possession courtesy of a whistleblower (mole?) inside the Justice Department. Those wiretap applications were under seal and implicated high ranking DOJ officials in the authorizing of gun-walking. When Issa received them, it was a major flashpoint in this investigation. I received a link to a story from Issa's Communications Department via mass email yesterday that reports on this move by Issa.
The thought is shocking, and conjures up a Hollywood-ready standoff scene between House police and the FBI agents who protect the attorney general. It’s a dramatic and unlikely possibility not least because Congress doesn’t even have a jail any longer. But in theory it could happen.
Republicans say it’s not even under consideration, with House Speaker John A. Boehner’s spokesman flatly ruling it out.
But the process, known as inherent contempt, is well-established by precedent, has been confirmed by multiple Supreme Court rulings, and is available to any Congress willing to force such a confrontation.
Via Roll Call:
In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.Sipsey Street has actually transcribed the entire May 24th letter from Issa to Cummings that is now in the Congressional record and it is not only incredibly - and I mean INCREDIBLY - damaging to Holder and the Justice Department but it makes Elijah Cummings look like an absolutely despicable human being for not pursuing the investigation fully. Not only was Cummings one of the Congressional Black Caucus members who walked out during the vote to find Holder in contempt but on June 15, 2011 he looked the Brian Terry family in the eyes and said this:
The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.
The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.
According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.
It's important to point out that by putting his letter to Cummings in the Congressional Record, Issa not only took it public but he delivered an uppercut to the legacy of Cummings in so doing. These wiretap applications go into excruciating detail about how the Justice Department worked with the ATF to allow these guns to walk. If Cummings continues siding with Holder, historians will know exactly how wicked he was.
Additionally, remember, Issa has six wiretap applications in his possession, not just the one he referenced in his letter to Cummings. What's to say that Issa hasn't made it clear to Cummings that details about the other wiretap applications won't be placed into the public record in the future? Are they more damning than the one referenced in the May 24th letter? If so, Cummings knows it.
Future revelations courtesy of any whistleblower should not be discounted either. If that person on persons was able to get his / her hands on sealed wiretap applications, what else might be presented to Issa? The longer this goes on, the more damaging it will be to Cummings, who could just find himself the victim of a reverse-Alinsky tactic:
Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.And, of course, Cummings is leading the charge to blame Bush for Operation Wide Receiver.
The third significant development is news that ATF whistleblowers John Dodson and Peter Forcelli have been placed directly under a supervisor - Scot Thomasson - who allegedly expressed a fervent desire for retaliation against those agents.
Check out this excerpt from a May 29th letter from Issa and Grassley to - you guessed it - The DOJ's Inspector General:
We just learned that ATF senior management placed two of the main wistleblowers who have testified before Congress about Fast and Furious under the supervision of someone who vowed to retaliate against them.I've said it before and I'll say it again. There are indications that House Speaker John Boehner doesn't want to confront this issue head-on. Scheduling the contempt vote on the same day that SCOTUS ruled on Obamacare is one such example. If Boehner and Company want this to go away because they think it's a political loser for the presidential election, aren't they saying that the ends justify the means, with the means being no justice for the Terry family and continued whistleblower retaliation and the ends being electing Mitt Romney president?
...According to a direct eyewitness account, shortly after the allegations (of gun-walking) became public, he (Thomasson) stated: "We need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys [the whistleblowers] and take them down."...Thomasson was also allegedly heard to have said: "All these whistleblowers have axes to grind. ATF needs to f--k these guys." When asked if the whistleblower allegations were true, Thomasson purportedly said he didn't know and didn't care.
Besides, if Boehner is not doing all he can to get justice, it implicates him in the coverup. There's simply too much evidence of wrongdoing at the highest levels of our government for him to have plausible deniability at this point.
Conservatives are supposed to stand for doing what's right; isn't it the left that believes ends justify means?