Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder draws House panel's rebuke over Fast and Furious

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 |

More on the congressional contempt charge against the US Attorney General.

After President Obama asserts executive privilege in the Fast and Furious investigation, a House committee votes along party lines to recommend that Atty. Gen. Eric Holder be held in contempt of Congress.

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), right, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) during proceedings on whether to recommend that Atty. Gen. Eric Holder be held in contempt of Congress. (Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency / June 20, 2012)

A House committee voted along party lines to find Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for failing to provide subpoenaed documents in the flawed Fast and Furious gun-tracking case, just hours after President Obama for the first time asserted executive privilege and backed the attorney general's refusal to release the material.
The developments Wednesday set up a political standoff going into the November election and a significant constitutional clash between the White House and Congress that may not be resolved until after a lengthy journey through the courts.



The legal conflict was quickly subsumed by the intense partisanship that has characterized relations between the Obama White House and the Republican-controlled House.

Republicans asserted that Obama was covering up White House involvement in Fast and Furious, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives surveillance operation that lost track of guns that ultimately were used in crimes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Democrats said Republicans were engaged in a "witch hunt."

Deputy Atty. Gen. James Cole said the Justice Department had already "substantially complied" with the subpoena.

He said the additional documents requested "pertain to sensitive law enforcement activities, including ongoing criminal investigations and prosecutions, or were generated by department officials in the course of responding to congressional investigations or media inquiries about this matter that are generally not appropriate for disclosure."



But Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said it had "uncovered serious wrongdoing by the Justice Department. That wrongdoing has cost lives on both sides of the border."

If the full House votes next week to hold Holder in contempt, it would be only the fifth time since 1980 that the House has taken such a step against a current or former administration official.

Political analysts said they thought the issue would have limited effect on the presidential campaign.

"This is the kind of thing that reinforces rather than changes existing views," said Q. Whitfield Ayres, a Republican pollster and strategist. "The people who dislike the president will find his decision obdurate and defensive. The people who like the president will find his decision perfectly well justified."

Most, however, will probably be focused elsewhere. "There will be nothing that we can possibly see on the horizon at this point that is going to supplant the economy as the overriding issue in this election," Ayres said.

Even some Republicans conceded that they needed to keep the focus on the economy in the campaign and not get distracted.

"Do I think that's going to be the major issue of the campaign or that we should shift focus as that should be our major message? Absolutely not," Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) told a television interviewer.

All 23 Republicans on the committee voted for finding Holder in contempt, and all 17 Democrats voted against the resolution.

Rep.Carolyn B. Maloney(D-N.Y.) said she was "extremely disgusted" with the committee's action.

"I am horrified you are going through with this contempt charge," she said. "This shouldn't be a witch hunt."

Holder, in a statement, called the vote "extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary" and said it was designed "to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the executive branch."

The attorney general added: "This divisive action does not help us fix the problems" with illegal gun trafficking or protecting the public and law enforcement on the border.

According to the Obama White House, PresidentGeorge W. Bushasserted executive privilege six times during his two terms, and President Clinton 14 times during his eight years in Washington.

Michael Steel, spokesman for House SpeakerJohn A. Boehner(R-Ohio), said Obama's decision to insert himself in the matter "implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the coverup that followed."

"The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?" he added.

At the White House on Wednesday, communications director Dan Pfeiffer sharply criticized House Republicans for taking up time with Fast and Furious. "Instead of creating jobs or strengthening the middle class, congressional Republicans are spending their time on a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition," he said.

But the Mitt Romney presidential campaign replied that Obama's executive privilege claim showed he never intended for his administration to be transparent. "Just another broken promise," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

Stanley Brand, a former House counsel for Democrats, said the Republicans might have better luck obtaining the documents by filing a lawsuit. Contempt votes, he said, tend to "evaporate" and are "not legally enforceable in a practical way."

To enforce the contempt holding, the Republicans would normally have to turn to the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, who works for Holder.

At issue are 1,300 pages of Justice Department documents from February of last year, when the department first claimed no one in Washington was aware of the Fast and Furious tactics, and from December, when it admitted there was some knowledge.

On Tuesday evening, Holder offered to allow committee members to review some of the material because he said it would answer some of their questions. But Issa said Holder also said that the committee must drop its intention to vote for contempt first. At that point, their talks broke down.

Fast and Furious was run by Arizona agents with the ATF. It began in fall 2009, and ended a month after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010 south of Tucson.

The goal of the operation was to allow illegal gun sales on the border so agents could track the firearms to Mexican drug cartel leaders. Instead, some of the weapons were lost and many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico.

Two of the weapons were recovered after the Terry slaying, and his family said in a statement Wednesday that after 18 months they still did not have answers about his death. Obama's privilege claim, they said, "denies the Terry family and the American people the truth."

Times staff writers Michael A. Memoli, Richard Simon and Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this report.

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21 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Baggage boy's gotta go !!! Time to take the garbage out . Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

This shit is deep. Someone is trying to cover up.

Anonymous said...

Will be interesting to see how Obama manages this. It seems as though he is caught in a lie.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone believe the crap that spews from the mouths of these political pimps. Holder says , this action does not help solve the problem of illegal weapons trafficking and border security. In what way was fast and the furious helping? The atf let a large number of weapons just walk out the door! Countless murders and crimes have been done and continue to happen. Border security, please the border patrol is being imprisoned for chasing illegals thru the desert. After years of investigations and getting head cartel figures extradited the government gives em some plea bargain with minimal time verses all the crimes. Then they make the comment that republicans are wasting tax payer dollars instead of creating jobs. Obama and his wife go on vacations that cost the tax payers millions each time. Obama hasn't created jobs in 4 years. People are dying because of this operation and someone has to be held liable.

Siskiyou_Kid said...

The political points being made are on more example of absolute hypocrisy about the BATF, which was actually trying to enforce laws that have been rendered impotent by the NRA.

This is after BATF has been exposed as incompetent going back to the Reagan administration.

Anonymous said...

Congressman Darrell Issa is on the verge of discovering something huge. Those papers probably implicate not only the White House but Los Pinos as well. The only reason Obama asserted Executive Privledge was to obstruct the committees investigation. I would not be surprised if Obama and Calderon jointly conspired to allow this operation to specifically arm Sinaloa Cartel assassins. Obama gets his excuse for more draconian US gun laws and Calderon gets a US-taxpayer armed proxy army to fight criminal groups it considers more of a threat like Los Zetas. This whole "We were gonna wait for the kingpins to get caught with the guns" is a bunch of nonsense.

Anonymous said...

This whole situation is really messed up, but this has been going on in the ATF long before Holder came into play. This time it just backfired.Operation Wide Receiver was pretty much the same exact thing under the Bush regime

Anonymous said...

Politicians, probably the least effective creatures in this solar system. I dont know how they do it but they have an amazing ability to use 10,000 words when you only need 30.

Anonymous said...

U.S. wants their share of the undeclared monies! It is obvious the arms the cartels receive are not just from border gun shops! Duh!!

Anonymous said...

this will all disappear into the past like it already has almost done. Americans grow tired of scandals that last more than a couple months. Maybe if they got off their fat compliant asses and backed this congressman with their presence and faces something would actually get done. But crooks in gov know they just have to play the waiting game and eventually the mindless sheep americans will focus their couch potato anger somewhere else.

Trialdog said...

You need to be careful when simply reprinting a Los Angeles Times article. Especially on this issue. There are substantial factual errors and ommissions that U.S. reporters continue to promote in order to lessen the impact of the scandal on the Obama administration. Here's a couple.
First, there was no intent to track the illegal firearms in Fast and Furious. In fact, the intent was to simply let the guns go across the border then wait to see at what crime scenes the weapons reappeared. (Those reporters that state the intent of the program was to track the weapons know better and repeat this falsehood which, by the way, was created by Obama's political operatives.)
Second, and as in obvious, it is a major ommission to fail to note the Mexican government was kept in the dark about this. U.S. agents would have needed Mexican help to "track" the weapons to the cartels. That help was not sought. In fact, this was deliberately kept from the Mexican authorities. What Mexican authorities would approve of a scheme to deliver murder weapons to drug cartels in order to increase the violence statistics?
Fast and Furious was sinister and evil. The more facts you know, the more angry you will become. Please be careful simply reprinting articles authored by reporters who view their job as to promote and protect the Obama administration.

Tatersalad said...

The vote for contempt was on party lines and the Democrats showed America that they have do not care about the laws and Constitution of America. They should be placed in the unemployment lines because they are for this type of totalitarian government, dictatorship tactics and crime. We have taken the names of them and they will be "primaried" in their next re-election bids!

Anonymous said...

sisky been biased long?
"
Siskiyou_Kid said...

The political points being made are on more example of absolute hypocrisy about the BATF, which was actually trying to enforce laws that have been rendered impotent by the NRA.

This is after BATF has been exposed as incompetent going back to the Reagan administration."

let me know when you come up with an answer to the problem.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of people are really focusing on this issue,because it may prove to be a major embarrassment to the US administration,and Mexico in particular will enjoy that scenario.But,i can't help feeling that there are more important issues at hand,like trying to stop precursor chemicals,drug imports,deaths,etc.
We all know EVERY government on this planet gets up to this sort of shit all the time,so this doesn't surprise me in the slightest.
Trialdog,says,
"First, there was no intent to track the illegal firearms in Fast and Furious"
"intent was to simply let the guns go across the border then wait to see at what crime scenes the weapons reappeared"? I know that some of these agency's do idiotic things,but that makes absolutely no sense at all?Who says the perps are going to leave weapons at crime scenes?They paid a lot of money for some of them,they are like prized possessions.The US gives guns away,and then lets see what happens,if anything with them?That could only be lazy work,not even incompetent.I don't get that at all.But nothing surprises me with government shady tricks,and they keep getting away with it through our own apathy.

Trialdog said...

Anonymous at 12:30 makes an interesting suggestion. Did Calderon want this to happen to help the Sinaloa cartel? Certainly Obama could accomodate then use the statistics to argue for tougher gun control in the U.S. There were early reports that the administration was steering the Mexican government to a U.S. law firm for a lawsuit against gun manufacturers, importers, and sellers. Did they expect the evidence for the suit would be created through Fast and Furious? Why isn't Calderon, since the U.S. did not officially notify the Mexican authorities of the operation, raising holy hell with the international courts about U.S. agents arming drug cartels in Mexico? And since we know of hundreds of murders from these guns in Mexico, why doesn't Calderon give U.S. reporters lists of the people killed?
All because the fix is in. Obama and Calderon are ideological soulmates. They consider themselves the elites that can Lord over our lives. So a few hundred people get killed in Mexico. So what, they think. Their deaths will help advance the social controls Obama and Calderon know are best.
So they'll go to a "summit" and smile together, speak platitudes, and the sycophants in the press will enjoy their little vacations while forwarding press releases to their editors as news stories. No questions will be asked.
Meanwhile, today in Mexico, gunfire erupted again....

Anonymous said...

Holder should get sent to prison along with tbe rest of the yuppies involved.Its like didnt a gun shop owner in texas or arizona recently get sent to jail for some years for selling guns to people who might have been tied to a cartel,so basically letting the weapons walk knowing there were going to cartels. Yeh that seems what operation fast and furious was also doing.Those in government need to stop trying to be above the law they need to be charged with the crimes they committed just like the gun shop owners get jail time for doing the same thing.If fact i think one of those owners was in a deal with the ATF to allow those weapons to walk,yet he still got sent to the slammer for doing that.Even though the gun shop owner said he was in agreement with the ATF to let those guns walk.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous at 12:30 makes an interesting suggestion. Did Calderon want this to happen to help the Sinaloa cartel?"

It would be naive to believe this non-sense since most of the weapons ended up going to la linea.

Anonymous said...

Holder and Obama LIED and people died..Send them to a Prison and lock them up for life!

Anonymous said...

I was watching C-Span yesterday. "We need to get to the bottom of this" is all I was hearing. But no one in the congress wants to take on the real issue....the bottom of this is the CARTEL. None of them bothered to take up this issue. It's all about weapons and not the murderers themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how many of these people in office are on someone's payroll in the cartel? Makes you wonder, seriously wonder.

Anonymous said...

Ah good ole ATF back on the spot light every decade so far.

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