Monday, June 11, 2012

Contempt Vote Scheduled For June 20th

A vote on holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress has been scheduled by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for June 20th. I think this indicates that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA)  has the number of votes needed to get the contempt citation out of committee and to the floor of the House of Representatives. You just wouldn't see a committee chair schedule something this serious if he wasn't absolutely certain he had the votes for it to pass. Moreover, as Majority Leader Eric Cantor's statement indicates, Issa has the (tepid) support of the House leadership.

From the committee's release about the vote:
On June 20th, the Oversight Committee will meet to consider a report holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to Operation Fast & Furious.

WASHINGTON— On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will convene to consider a report holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to produce documents specified in the Committee’s October 12, 2011, subpoena. Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement on the scheduling of a Committee vote on contempt:

“For over a year and a half, the House Oversight Committee, with Senator Chuck Grassley, has conducted a joint investigation of reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious. With the support of House leadership, the Republican Conference, and even some Democratic Members who have expressed concern to the White House over the Justice Department’s failure to cooperate, this investigation has yielded significant results. The Attorney General has acknowledged that the operation was fundamentally flawed and he has committed to take steps to ensure that it does not occur again. Evidence found in applications for wiretaps shows that although senior officials were given information about reckless tactics, they still signed affirmations that they had reviewed the investigation and determined that electronic surveillance of phones was necessary.

“Despite what the investigation has uncovered through whistleblowers and documents the Justice Department had tried to hide, the Committee’s work is not yet complete. Attorney General Holder has failed to meet his legal obligations pursuant to the October 12 subpoena. House leaders reiterated this failure in a May 18, 2012, letter. Specifically, the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical documents on the grounds that they show internal Department deliberations and were created after February 4, 2011 – the date Justice issued a false denial to Congress. Contempt will focus on the failure to provide these post February 4th documents.

“The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics. The Justice Department’s actions have obstructed the investigation. Congress has an obligation to investigate unanswered questions about attempts to smear whistleblowers, failures by Justice Department officials to be truthful and candid with the congressional investigation, and the reasons for the significant delay in acknowledging reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.

“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.”

Committee consideration of a contempt citation is a debatable and amendable measure. Committee approval requires a majority vote. Contempt is a process for enforcing compliance with a lawful subpoena and does not assign blame for the flawed and reckless conduct that took place in Operation Fast and Furious.

CBS's Sharyl Attkisson has a video report on the vote including some background on past contempt citations for members of the Executive Branch.

Mike Vanderboegh does disagree with one comment made at the end of the CBS story which claims credit for exposing the scandal nationally. As he notes - and I agree with him - this ignores the work of both he and David Codrea in bringing it to light and bringing the whistleblowers to the media.


  1. The possible Independent Counsel investigation of the classified leaks gave cover for movement on this. That means F&F won't be the only action out there and it'll stay under the radar pending news of the IC. This also suggest momentum is building for the IC, but that's another story.

    The leadership is not fully behind this. We'll see how willing they are to go to mats when Holder does the required dance to offer some things and not others. If they take credit for "forcing DoJ into compliance" but lets them withhold "sensitive documents", it's a sign they all want this to go away. If Issa gets to take these guys to Federal Court, it'll be something else.

    I don't think Boehner will let this go to a Federal Judge's ruling. It's up to us and those freshmen GOP members to make sure Issa has the muscle he needs.

    FWIW, we need new leadership. Desperately.

  2. One more thing: a vote to hold Holder in contempt will require two votes. This first one on the 20th will only bring it to the House floor at a future, unspecified time. It will be enough to cause holder to start dancing.