Next stop: The House floor for a vote by the full chamber. The Hill seems unsure about how many GOP votes it’ll get, but c’mon. Even recalcitrant Republicans who think a court battle with The One is a needless distraction have no choice but to go to the mat for Issa now that O’s pulled his power play with executive privilege.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Republican Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.), approved a resolution along party lines to place Holder in contempt after battling him for months over access to internal agency documents about the gun-tracking operation Fast and Furious…
Even with 242 Republicans in the House majority, it remains unclear whether the contempt measure would have the backing of the full caucus. Many GOP members have resisted action on the Fast and Furious issue out of a desire to keep the 2012 election focus on the economy and jobs…
If the measure against Holder passes the House, it would be sent to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who would convene a grand jury that would decide whether to indict Holder. The U.S. Attorney’s office would be the designated prosecutor for the committee if Holder were to be indicted. The attorney general would face a maximum sentence of one year in prison if convicted by a jury.
Boehner just announced that the House will vote next week — unless, of course, O decides to play ball and turn over the documents Issa requested. Which, given that this is now a partisan death struggle in the middle of a campaign, I’m guessing he won’t do. What happens if the House votes yes? Three possibilities, according to CQ. One: The House could, er, have Holder arrested. Doubtful. Two, as noted in the Hill piece: Boehner and Issa could ask the DOJ to prosecute Holder. Since Holder runs the DOJ, let’s call that one doubtful too. Three: The House could file a civil lawsuit against Holder demanding the documents, at which point he and O would assert executive privilege and off we’d go to federal court for a constitutional battle over separation of powers. I would guess that you’ll see some sort of deal at that point since both sides will be leery of an adverse outcome. Obama doesn’t want a court ruling dropped on him in the last few months before the election compelling him to turn over damaging documents and the GOP doesn’t want to hand O a talking point about that damned obstructionist do-nothing Republican Congress sabotaging his progressive gunrunning scheme, etc, especially while Romney’s trying to get a word in edgewise about the misery of Obamanomics.
Multiple updates coming. Stand by.
Update: I saw chatter on Twitter this morning to the effect that Obama’s invocation of executive privilege proves that he must have been personally involved in Fast & Furious. Not so, apparently. At Breitbart, Ken Klukowski clarifies:
As I’ve written before, there are two types of executive privilege. One is a strong form rooted in the Constitution, called the presidential communication privilege. But there is another type, much weaker and rooted in common law instead of the Constitution, called the deliberative process privilege. That second, weaker variety is what President Obama invoked today regarding Holder.
It’s still the White House asserting the privilege, because only the president can assert executive privilege for his entire administration.
Shannen Coffin made the same point over at the Corner. The point of the “deliberative process privilege” is that you don’t want executive-branch officials afraid to be candid with each other in day to day operations for fear that their communications will later be subpoenaed by Congress and aired on the evening news. So Obama has an argument there; the counterargument is that, er, a privilege shouldn’t be abused as cover for hugely damaging and possibly illegal DOJ activity. Coffin thinks a court ruling on whether the privilege will be allowed here will turn on whether the documents are necessary to aid Congress in performing its lawmaking function. Granted, there’s no bill currently under consideration regarding gunrunning (I think), but there might well be in the future depending upon how bad this gets. As such, both Coffin and Klukowski think a court would rule to quash the privilege and make Obama turn over the documents — assuming we actually get that far.
Update: Needless to say, Brian Terry’s parents have had enough stalling on finding out how their son ended up being gunned down:
Terry family attorney Pat McGroder on Wednesday released the following statement from Terry’s parents Josephine Terry and Kent Terry Sr.: “Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to fully disclose the documents associated with Operation Fast and Furious and President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege serves to compound this tragedy. It denies the Terry family and the American people the truth.”
The Terrys said that their son “was killed by members of a Mexican drug cartel armed with weapons from this failed Justice Department gun trafficking investigation. For more than 18 months we have been asking our federal government for justice and accountability. The documents sought by the House Oversight Committee and associated with Operation Fast and Furious should be produced and turned over to the committee. Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious.”
The family of ICE agent Jaime Zapata, who was also killed with a gun involved in Fast & Furious, announced today that they’re filing a wrongful death suit against the DOJ and other federal agencies.
Update: Video fun via the Examiner of The One declaring in 2005 that the Attorney General is the people’s attorney, not the president’s. Huh. Are the people clamoring not to know how the rolling, murderous clusterfark known as Fast & Furious came to be?
Update: On a similar note, Mediaite dug up this nugget of Holder doing his “above politics” shtick in 2009:
I understand that the attorney general is different from every other cabinet officer. Though I am a part of the president’s team, I am not a part of the president’s team in the way that any other cabinet officer is. I have a special and unique responsibility.
There has to be a distance between me and the president. The president-elect said when he nominated me that he recognized that, that the attorney general was different from other cabinet officers.
Three years later, he’s running to Obama for an ass-covering assertion of privilege. Which O, fearing yet another major election-year headache, was only too happy to grant.
Update: Right on cue, via Newsbusters, there’s an MSNBC contributor insisting that the GOP is the loser in all this, not Obama and Holder. I do think there are misgivings among the leadership about pursuing this (Fox News is hearing that too), not only because it’ll push Romney off center stage but because I think Republicans in Congress are still shellshocked by the political beating they took when they went after Clinton in the late 1990s. But this train has now left the station: They’re going to proceed at least to the point of challenging his assertion of the privilege. Besides, how exactly does O spin this? “Can you believe these Republicans wasting America’s time by demanding to know about my gunrunning operation?”