4 years, 10 months ago
Days before the House of Representatives is scheduled to take an unprecedented vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, Obama administration officials and House Republican aides met today at the White House in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the standoff over documents related to the Fast and Furious gunwalking operation.
Those participating in the meeting included White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Justice Department associate deputy attorney general Steven Reich and staff representing House Speaker John Boehner and Oversight and Government Reform chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, although neither lawmaker was there.
At the meeting, GOP staffers from the speaker’s office and the Oversight and Government Reform committee were permitted to briefly look at about 30 pages of documents, but both sides were unable to strike an agreement to avoid the contempt vote Thursday.
The hour-long meeting was described by a senior Obama administration official and GOP congressional sources as “picking-up on the offer DOJ made last Tuesday to the Committee” and was a product of a previous conversation between the speaker’s office and the White House.
“At the time [last week], Republicans rejected the offer because they claimed to be uncomfortable making a deal without seeing the documents,” the administration official told ABC. “In response, today we reached out and showed them a representative sample of the documents so they could see first-hand the types of communications in contention. This offer would result in the committee getting unprecedented access to documents showing how the Department responded to the Committee’s inquiry and would dispel any notion of an intent to mislead Congress.”
A congressional GOP aide who asked not to be identified also told ABC the offer was essentially the same as what Holder had presented Issa at the Capitol a week ago: A promise to make a compilation of documents available if the committee ends its investigation and takes contempt off the table. That offer was flatly rejected again today.
Republicans also asked the White House today whether it was willing to make a log available of the documents that the president would continue invoking executive privilege over, but the officials made clear that was “off the table,” according to a congressional source.
Fox News calls this a last ditch effort to resolve the contempt issue with Eric Holder. This is one branch of our government holding another branch accountable. At least back when I attended grammar and middle school, Americans were being taught that the branches of government have means to do this, and the practice of it is called balance of power.
There is no reason to attempt to avoid the vote. The fast and furious scandal is the most significant and obscene lawlessness in any administration in recent history, and maybe ever in American history. Congress has a duty to act. As Glen Tschirgi observed:
Congress has an absolute duty to exercise its Constitutional power to oversee and reign in (when necessary) the excesses of the Executive Branch. While there have been calls for the appointment of independent counsel (formerly known as a “special prosecutor”), those calls have been directed at the Obama Administration to make that appointment, presumably under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution known as, “The Appointment Power.” But this power is not the exclusive prerogative of the Executive Branch. According to the case of Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988), Congress has the power to indirectly appoint “inferior officers” such as Independent Counsel by directing the Judiciary to make such an appointment with its approval. This power arises for the very reason that the Executive Branch cannot always be expected to cooperate in appointing an Independent Counsel when Executive wrongdoing is involved.
And recall what I have mentioned before concerning the walking of guns into Mexico for use by criminals and war lords. “The trafficking of weapons in violation of the National Firearms Act and Export Control Act isn’t a “mistake.” It’s an illegality.” As one astute and knowledgeable individual described to David Codrea:
While the ATF, and by extension the USGOV, did not formally sell (or provide) weapons to straw purchases and physically deliver these weapons across the border to into a foreign sovereign nation, the ATF and the USGOV was/were the intellectual author(s) of a comprehensive plan to facilitate the sale and illegal export of weapons to a foreign country. As such, the ATF and the USGOV are the intellectual authors of a conspiracy (I am not an attorney, but use the word “conspiracy” in a broad sense) to illegally export weapons to a foreign country.
Those exports were a clear violation of US weapons export laws, and the USGOV knowingly conspired and allowed those weapons to leave the United States without, (1) A valid US Department of State Export License, (2) a valid End Use statement signed by an appropriate Mexican GOV authority attesting as to the use and end destination of the weapons, and (3) a valid Import License issued by the GOV of Mexico documenting approval for the weapons to enter Mexican sovereign territory. It would not be a stretch to suggest that one could successfully argue that the ATF’s actions, and by extension the USGOV, by facilitating these exports are: (a) complicit in illegal arms trafficking in violation of US weapons export law as codified by ITAR (DOS export regulations), and (b) complicit in a violation of Mexican law by knowingly allowing the weapons to transit into Mexican sovereign territory. Whether the USGOV could be found complicit or guilty of arms trafficking under international law (apart from ITAR and Mexican law) is not something I could speak to. I would, however, offer the following: (1) If any individual or any private group of any national origin had coordinated such an operation, the full legal powers of the Mexican government, the USGOV, and Interpol (not legal powers strictly speaking) would have been brought to bear on that individual or group (witness international arms trafficking prosecutions over the last 20 years), each of those government/other entities would have competed to get the arrest and prosecution headline in their national newspapers, that individual or group would have been immediately detained and incarcerated pending charges, charges would most likely be not in the dozens but in the thousands (as each weapon trafficked can be made to count for several if not dozens of individual violations), and all assets (financial and other, whether or not gained from trafficking) would be seized, and (2) if this were conducted by any number of sovereign countries – in particular any Latin American or African country – perhaps Ecuador facilitating transit/delivery of weapons to the FARC in Colombia, or South Africa providing weapons to a sub-Saharan civil war (create any scenario you wish) – that country facilitating the weapons transit would likely suffer several consequences: (1) The low-level individuals involved, if found by international authorities would be incarcerated (but likely they would never be found), (2) an international court (and perhaps the USGOV under previous administrations) would call for all top level GOV officials (Minister of Defense, Minister of Justice, and perhaps the President – as they are all in the chain of corruption) to be held accountable and tried – and perhaps extradited and (3) the country in question would be labeled as an international pariah, perhaps sanctioned, and certainly black-listed from purchasing and selling weapons and “bellic materiel” from the “civilized nations”.
Thus – the “who knew what when” and the “who told you not to release material that my office requested” etc. is nice to know but gets away from the real issue. The real issue is that the USGOV, through the ATF, was the intellectual author of an illegal arms trafficking operation that violated both US law and Mexican law – and perhaps international law. That is institutional and governmental corruption of the worst kind, above and beyond a few AKs crossing a border.
Far from something to be avoided, holding Eric Holder and the DoJ accountable is a year late. But it’s better late than never.
The NRA must be involved. Now is not the time to avoid confirmation, now is the time to show the leadership it claims, and that its membership expects of it.
Turning to their politically potent candidate rating process, they can and should make it clear that a contempt vote will be scored, as will members of the GOP leadership thinking about going squishy. If they will not play this card, and before it’s too late, gun owners deserve to know why.
UPDATE: NRA promises to score the vote.