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Issa/Holder Meeting Ends With No Resolution, Contempt Proceedings Still Loom

Today’s meeting between Attorney General Holder and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa does not seem to have been very productive:

A House panel is expected to vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress after a last-ditch effort to reach a deal over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious appeared to fail.

After a Tuesday evening meeting with Holder and other lawmakers in the Capitol, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he was “disappointed” that the attorney general had not come with the documents demanded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Issa, Holder’s chief interlocutor in a saga that has lasted more than a year, said unless Holder provides the paperwork, the contempt vote would proceed Wednesday morning.

Issa also called on President Obama to press Holder “to be more cooperative.”

Holder emerged from the meeting considerably later, and accused Issa of being consumed with “political gamesmanship.”

Holder said he offered to make documents Issa has requested available to the chairman on the condition that the powerful Republican drop the two outstanding subpoenas he has issued to the department. The documents Issa wants are related to the panel’s 16-month investigation of the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.

Holder said Issa rejected that offer and demanded that Holder fork over the documents to his committee, while offering no assurances that he would drop the contempt vote scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday or consider the subpoenas satisfied.

“I think the ball’s in their court,” said Holder. “They rejected what I thought was an extraordinary offer on our part.”

Or, you know, you could just give them the documents they asked for.

I’m guessing there are backroom talks going on even now, so we’l see how this plays out, but we may well see a House Committee hold the Attorney General in contempt tomorrow morning.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    Yes, Doug, Issa isn’t playing politics with this. He’s a bold crusader after the truth, and the fact that he never gave a damn about this issue when a president from his party was doing exactly the same thing shouldn’t make us think this is a partisan witchhunt.

    We can’t possibly think such a thing, because then we don’t care about dead federal agents. Also, baby Jesus gets his feelings hurt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  2. al-Ameda says:

    The documents Issa wants are related to the panel’s 16-month investigation of the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.

    Issa’s committee investigates for 16 months and the contempt issue comes up during the campaign season? Wow, what a coincidence.

    In an unrelated matter, Congressman Darrell Issa, in 2003, contributed over $2M toward the recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: If Holder had done his legal duty and given over the documents that Congress legally subpoenaed, then there would be no contempt proceedings going on right now. Or should all Congressional oversight be put on hold until after the election?

    If so, then when should they be allowed?

    I said in another thread (probably too late for anyone to see it) that there is a legal, principled argument as to why Issa’s committee is perfectly justified in demanding the documents. What I haven’t heard is a legal, principled argument as to why Holder can pick and choose how much he complies with the subpoenas. Instead, it’s all, essentially, “it’s Republicans asking for it and Issa’s a big old meanie, and it’s all partisan games, so they should just shut up and go away.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  4. walt moffett says:

    fireworks for the 4th of July? Seems likely. As an Asst AG, Holder held the Justice Department can do no wrong so, this is not surprising.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  5. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: ” If Holder had done his legal duty and given over the documents that Congress legally subpoenaed, then there would be no contempt proceedings going on right now. ”

    When Issa took the chairmanship, he announced he would have seven investigations a week, 40 weeks a year. You really think he couldn’t dig up some kind of contempt subpoena out of all that? I’m sure someone in the Democratic party forgot to pay a parking ticket at some time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Thanks for proving my point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  7. Phillip says:

    I cannot imagine a single reason I’d cooperate with Darrell Issa on anything. My integrity is too valuable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. al-Ameda says:

    @Phillip:
    Cooperating with Darrell Issa is somewhat analogous to cooperating with Al Sharpton on investigating the Tawana Brawley Case – you know that there can only be one end result, the books are cooked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Phillip:How’s this for a reason: you are legally obligated, under penalty of arrest and imprisonment, to cooperate with Chairman Issa and his committee.

    Congress has both the legal right and duty to oversee the actions of the departments of the Executive branch. That is especially true when there is compelling evidence of wrongdoing within a department. In the case of Fast and Furious, that is simply not disputable.

    And the Justice Department has shown that it does NOT intend to seriously investigate itself. So far, exactly one ATF official has been punished for Fast and Furious — the agent who blew the whistle on the case. So they use their legal authority to demand documents to advance its investigation into what the hell happened.

    Holder has absolutely NO legal authority to decide which parts of a Congressional subpoena are valid and what are not. The “pending investigation” defense is a red herring — the documents in question can be kept out of the public eye, as has been done numerous times in the past.

    Agents of the Justice Department are directly responsible for a plot that has caused the deaths of hundreds of Mexicans and two American law enforcement officials (Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata) — so far.

    And, it must be noted, that it wasn’t a plot that was “botched” or somehow went wrong. The original plan went off exactly as planned.

    Holder was given a perfectly legal subpoena that was binding upon him, and decided that he only needed to turn over 5% of the documents covered — picking and choosing what would be in that 5%. Sorry, not good enough.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Holder was given a perfectly legal subpoena that was binding upon him, and decided that he only needed to turn over 5% of the documents covered — picking and choosing what would be in that 5%. Sorry, not good enough.

    Wow, I had no idea that Congress has unlimited authority with respect to the other branches of government? Where in the Constitution is that spelled out?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Article I, Section 8. The same authority that let Congress investigate Iran-Contra and Watergate.

    I understand that, to you, only Democratic Congresses have the right to investigate Republican scandals, but the real world don’t work like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Also, Holder isn’t invoking Executive Privilege. He’s just saying “here’s 5%, that’s all I have to give you.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    @al-Ameda: Article I, Section 8. The same authority that let Congress investigate Iran-Contra and Watergate.

    You mean this part:
    “To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court; ”

    Nowhere in Article 1 Section 8 does it say “unlimited”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Moosebreath says:

    “Also, Holder isn’t invoking Executive Privilege.”

    He has now

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Why is it that every time I look at Holder I get a sense that he’s trying to sell me a used car, as is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: You gotta keep reading, son.

    To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

    Congress is a co-equal branch of government, and is tasked with passing the laws that the bureaucracy is to carry out (along with funding said bureaucracy). Making certain that those bureaucrats actually follow the law is “necessary and proper.”

    But maybe you’re right. Maybe Nixon should have had sole responsibility for investigating Watergate, and determining if he had broken any laws. I’m sure that would have worked out just fine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Crap. Can someone release my comment from the moderation queue?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  18. llama says:

    Republican Doug Mataconis believes the DOJ should just give over the documents with no assurances that the contempt proceedings will halt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1