On May 18th, Boehner sent a letter to Holder that demanded compliance with the subpoena. It was nice to see but the impact of it was minimized by the sheer volume of previous letters to Holder expressing similar concerns, sent by various entities, to Holder that went unanswered or weren't complied with. Though it was nice to see Boehner cite United States vs. Nixon in his very first footnote to justify his contention that Holder comply.
After last week's House Judiciary Committee Hearing, at which Holder continued to stonewall requests for the approximately 100,000 documents the subpoena demands he produce, it looks like a date for the Contempt Hearing has been set.
Here is the statement from Boehner's office:
“The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Agent Terry’s family, the whistleblowers who brought this issue to light, and the American people deserve answers. 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.”That statement was released in conjunction with the more pointedly specific statement issued by Darrell Issa, which said, in part:
“…While the Justice Department can still stop the process of contempt, this will only occur through the delivery of the post February 4, 2011, documents related to Operation Fast and Furious and whistleblower accusations subpoenaed by the Committee. If the Attorney General decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary.”For those new to this scandal, February 4, 2011 may be the most significant date in the Fast and Furious investigation. It epitomizes the lesson learned (in some cases, not learned) during Watergate; that lesson is that the coverup is more often worse than the offense. Then again, Watergate didn't leave hundreds of bodies, including that of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in its wake so the offense in this case may ultimately be worse than the coverup.
Nonetheless, on February 4, 2011, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking member, Charles Grassley, in response to a letter to DOJ from Grassley on January 27th, that inquired about gun walking. Here is the most relevant excerpt from the letter Weich signed:
...the allegation described in your January 27 letter - that ATF "sanctioned" or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico - is false.On December 2, 2011 - ten months later - Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent a letter to Issa and Grassley that signified a major flashpoint in this investigation. Here is the relevant portion of that letter:
...facts have come to light during thecourse of this investigation that indicate that the February 4 letter contains inaccuracies. Because of this, the Department now formally withdraws the February 4 letter.On December 8, 2011 - at a House Judiciary Committee Hearing - Rep. Trey Gowdy attempted to get Holder to agree that the February 4, 2011 letter was "demonstrably false." Holder insisted that it contained "inaccuracies" but nothing more.
In that same Hearing, Issa pressed Holder to "turnover communications in the March (2011) timeframe" to his Committee. Holder adamantly stonewalled, saying that his Department would not relinquish any documents that were generated after February 4, 2011. Obviously, Issa wanted them to find out who was responsible for lying to Congress in the letter signed by Weich. Ironically, it was also during this exchange that Issa invoked Watergate and compared Holder to Nixon AG John Mitchell.
We have reached a new marker in this scandal. Holder obviously thought the lesser of two evils relative to a Congressional subpoena that requested documents after February 4, 2011 was to ignore that subpoena. The next step is finding Holder in Contempt of Congress. As Issa said yesterday in his interview with Fox News (below), Holder can still prevent being found in contempt by producing the documents responsive to the subpoena. Odds are better than not that Holder will see stonewalling as the lesser of two evils in this instance too.
Nonetheless, the Contempt Hearing will convene on June 20th.