SALT LAKE CITY, June 27, 2012—Attorney General Eric Holder is forcing a constitutional crisis, in his words.
That is because, as Politico reports it, the contempt vote facing Holder is “unprecedented.” What is also unprecedented is the AG’s withholding of vast amounts of information from legislators engaged in a legitimate oversight investigation.
Last week, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members voted to draft a contempt report against Holder. The full House will likely vote him in contempt of Congress this week.
The attorney general should be held in contempt of the American people.
And President Obama has waded into the mess too.
To many voters, and that larger US public, the entire melodrama unfolding between the committee and the AG is a regrettable manifestation of political brinksmanship. But the affair comes down to one issue: does the Justice Department have the prerogative of ignoring a congressional subpoena regarding documents pertaining to a possible criminal cover up by an executive agency?
Holder insists there was no cover up, and says that the committee doesn’t even have the right to see the documents that might shed light on the situation. House members are skeptical, given Holder’s many contradictions in testimony.
It all stems from the fiasco formerly known as Operation Fast and Furious, under which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (part of Holder’s Justice Department) allowed guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels.
It was all part of a brilliant plan, whereby drug dealers simply bought guns in the United States and simply carried them unimpeded across the Mexican border where mayhem predictably ensued. The escalating violence south of the border, a dead border Patrol agent, and common sense demanded that Congress at least begin to ask some questions.
Fortunately for the common sense faction of the government, there is just such a committee in the House of Representatives tasked to look into such taxpayer-subsidized debacles.
And naturally, there is a nonsense faction that opposes such investigations.
Eric Holder belongs to the latter group. The president recently joined him. Since the investigation began, Holder has dragged his heels and stonewalled. Why? The president’s entry into the controversy begs the question, has Holder obstructed, obfuscated, and stalled at White House direction?
There are, for the lay person, three main scenarios that might explain the AG’s stance.
Possibility one is that there is nothing in the documents pertinent the House investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. This strains credulity, since the House committee has requested specific files, memoranda, and email communication as they relate to the operation in a narrow date range. The documents were identified by the Justice Department’s own Inspector General.
Of course, Holder hasn’t disputed the existence of those documents, nor has he indicated why the committee I not entitled to them. He hasn’t even said there is nothing there. He simply wants Congress to take him at his word when he says that they are unimportant.
A second possibility is that there is quite a bit of information contained on the documents that would embarrass or incriminate Justice Department officials.
The attorney general has, of course, offered to “brief” the House committee on the contents of a portion of the documents in exchange for the committee to drop its investigation. Not surprisingly, the committee declined.
President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over the documents raises a third contemptible possibility: Perhaps there is something in the documents that is deeply embarrassing to the president himself.
Of course Attorney General Holder insists, as does the president, that the White House knew nothing of the program. Obama said that neither he nor the AG authorized the program. If there is any documentation that disputes those initial claims, then they could be politically fatal.
But Holder maintains that the documents he is willing to be held in contempt over rather than to turn over contain nothing of interest.
The House is supposed to take his word for it. Ironically, Obama’s position is that the documents contain information so important and sensitive, that the House can’t be trusted with it.
They both hope that the voting public will not bother to wonder about how a monumentally stupid program was allowed to go forward for so long, why the AG pretended to not know about when he in fact did, and why nobody in the administration wants to talk about it.
Since the House would prefer to perform its constitutional duty and act as a check against unfettered executive power, the contempt vote is imminent.
Fortunately for us, the president and his cabinet face a contempt vote against the people in November.
Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.
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