The House Oversight Committee, despite the President’s assertion of Executive Privilege, delivered a Contempt of Congress citation to Attorney General Holder. These hearings are, typically, an exercise in self aggrandizement by members. Not so much the case yesterday.
Democrats argued that the citation should not be forthcoming. The arguments provided a sense that if Committee Democrats just threw enough spaghetti against the wall a piece or two would stick. The arguments?
• Kenneth Melson, former ATF chief should testify again, despite two full days of testimony on the record.
• Mr. Holder should not be expected to know what his direct staff of 21 is actually doing (Rep. Cummings). It was too much to ask.
• That the committee could not ‘prove’ that Mr. Holder had actually read the e-mails relating to Fast and Furious that were directed to him.
• The Citation should be delayed because the only way to understand Fast and Furious is to go back, again, to Operation Wide Receiver from the Bush administration. Despite the critical differences in intent and execution of those two programs. Even Democrats seemed to be tiring of blaming Bush.
• Former Attorney General Michael Murkasey should testify, based on a charge from Mr. Holder that Murkasey knew about Fast and Furious, Mr. Holder later recanted his statement as ‘inaccurate’.
• They should delay the Contempt Citation because there was a deal to be made to avoid the Citation, although no one knows what that deal might be and no one was, seemingly, prepared to pressure Mr. Holder to make such a deal.
• The Citation was political.
• Fast and Furious was a result of the prior three ‘failed programs’. So to understand Fast and Furious we have to stop and go back to those programs.
• And finally, the permanent political rational that makes heads explode; someone, sometime, made a similar assertion or mistake so it’s okay to do it again even if I thought it was wrong at the time. Translation; if I’m in power its okay, if you’re in power it’s not.
It is not difficult to have a bit of empathy for the Democratic members of the committee. Democratic Committee members knew they were being asked to push a very large stone up a very high hill. Republicans on the committee answered the charges, criticisms and amendments with factual representations from the committee’s own records. Republican members who took the lead, Reps Chaffez and Gowdy had their Ducks in a very straight row. All Democratic amendments were, of course, defeated and the amendment to strengthen the language of the committee report was approved. The Speaker has also stepped up promising a vote next week on the Contempt Citation.
As the hearing was about to go to a vote the family of deceased Agent Brian Terry delivered a message to the committee, read to the committee, asking the committee to pursue the facts in the interest of justice for Agent Terry.
Rep Gowdy pointed out that the day the letter from DOJ arrived, denying knowledge of Fast and Furious was exactly the same day Mr. Holder’s 2nd in command, Lannie Brewer, was in Mexico attempting to sell the idea of gunrunning to Mexican authorities.
The story here is that the committee and the Speaker are prepared to face off with Mr. Holder and the President. The benefit to Mr. Holder and the President, potentially, is that the snail’s pace of a contempt procedure could push it past the election in November.
The downside for the President and Mr. Holder is the potential perception that a ‘coverup’ is in full blossom. Various pundits have likened it to “Watergate with a body count”. The application of Executive Privilege in this case will result in a number of questions. Why, if the President knew nothing about it would he move to restrict documents by the application of Executive Privilege? Knowledge of the particulars is not required to arrive at that question. A Black, Liberal Democrat appearing with Sean Hannity, last night described the proceedings as ‘embarrassing’ and lacking any degree of the promised transparency. The downside has in some measure already arrived in the general perception.
Even should Mr. Holder provide documents prior to the vote of the House and delay that vote the stain of Executive Privilege and the aura of a cover up are already in play.
Other questions will accrue quickly; why Executive Privilege so late in the game? What is there to hide? The President is on record as having learned of Fast and Furious in the news media. If the President and Mr. Holder are as close as reported, who exactly is being protected by the application of privilege? Cognizant lying by the DOJ and Mr. Holder is in evidence, is there more of that to come? Why has NBC, CBS and ABC consistently kept the issue off the evening news, with the exception of Sharyl Attkisson at CBS, Ms. Attkisson has been ‘cussed out and screamed at’ by DOJ and White House officials, called unreasonable as compared to other ‘reasonable’ media outlets such as the Washington Post, NY and LA times. She is ‘biased’ for pursuing the story.
Watch out! The possibility exists that the murder of Agent Jamie Zapatta could be linked to Fast and Furious. Agent Zapatta was investigating illegal gun running to Mexico. Should that become the case expect a political mushroom cloud over the White House.