WaPo: Two Pinocchios for Holder over contempt citation claim

posted at 1:21 pm on May 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Remember this moment at the Eric Holder hearing earlier this week?  This came right before the Attorney General accused Darrell Issa of acting in a “shameful” manner as a Congressman, and in the middle of a blizzard of I-dunnos about what happens in Holder’s organization.  But there is one thing Holder knew — no one told the man Holder himself appointed to decline to prosecute Issa’s contempt charge against him:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.):“In the AP [Associated Press] case you have appointed Ronald Machen, and I’m sure he is a fine U.S. attorney, but can he be considered to be independent when in fact when this Congress held you in contempt he was the individual who refused, on your orders, to prosecute the case? If he will obey your orders in not living up to a contempt of Congress, can we believe that he is in fact independent?”

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.:“I did not order Mr. Machen not to do anything with regard to — I won’t characterize it — the contempt finding from this Congress. He made the determination about what he was going to do on his own.”

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler says that Holder should have stuck with the I-dunno defense.  In fact, Machen did not make that determination for himself, as Kessler documents:

The notice of the DOJ decision, however, came in a June 28, 2012, letter from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “Consistent with the uniform position and practice, the Department has determined that the Attorney General’s response to the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform does not constitute a crime, and therefore the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury,” Cole wrote.

Here’s the rub: The decision on whether to empanel a grand jury rested with Machen. But the letter from Cole came even before the House had transmitted the contempt resolution to Machen.

A June 29 letter (embedded below) sent by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) makes clear how angry Republicans were that Machen appeared not to make his own determination. Grassley noted that under the statute, Machen’s “duty… shall be to bring the matter before a grand jury for its action.”

Grassley added:

This language is quite clear and simple to comprehend. It is not optional. Moreover, the law clearly assigns that duty to you and to no one else. It could have assigned the duty to the Attorney General or to the Deputy Attorney General or some other official. But, it does not. As for the ultimate decision to proceed with a prosecution after you have exercised your duty to present the matter to a grand jury, that decision is for the citizens empaneled in the grand jury, not for you or for the Deputy Attorney General or for “the Department” generally to make.

And here’s another reason this matters.  Machen will be investigating the seizure of AP’s phone records from three offices over a period of two months, in violation of practically every aspect of the Watergate-era statute governing the seizure of such records.  Who approved that raid?  Why, the very same James Cole, Deputy AG under Holder.

Don’t worry, though …. Cole told Senator Chuck Grassley that Machen concurred with Cole’s decision after the fact.  Whew.  I guess he really will be independent!

Kessler wraps up by noting that the Department of Justice later retracted Holder’s claim, thus earning a reduction to two Pinocchios:

If Holder had not been involved in the discussions on how to handle the contempt citation, he should have made that clear. One can understand his irritation at what he clearly regards as empty political theater, but he should have said that he had no idea how Machen made his decision because he, as the subject of the contempt vote, decided to remove himself from the process. Instead, he asserted something that was incorrect.

Ultimately, Machen wrote to Congress that he concurred in the decision, but we have no idea, at this point, whether he felt any pressure to conform to the department’s policy. Holder certainly should not have left the obviously incorrect impression that he knew otherwise. But, by admitting error, he just skates by with Two Pinocchios.

They’ve been doing a lot of “skating by” at Justice, right up to Holder’s I-dunno-fest this week.  With Justice attacking the AP and who knows how many other news agencies, will they be able to keep that up?  I dunno.


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I don’t need the WaPo to tell me that Eric Holder lied thoughout his testimony to Issa’s committee and many times before that…We have thugs at the helm of our govenment and they are in bed with the American media.

d1carter on May 17, 2013 at 1:24 PM

i wasn’t even there that day, i calle din sick. That would have been a better line to use.

phatfawzi on May 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM

Carnac the Magnificent holds the envelope to his head:

“What will phatfawzi write in his comment?”

i wasn’t even there that day, i calle din sick. That would have been a better line to use.

phatfawzi on May 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM

The Rogue Tomato on May 17, 2013 at 1:31 PM

Well, shoot, they fixed it.

The Rogue Tomato on May 17, 2013 at 1:32 PM

with all the shaking of my head that I did this week, just can’t wait to see what Friday’s document dump is going to be!!

CoffeeLover on May 17, 2013 at 1:33 PM

Is it still America?

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Is it still America?

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

What’s in a name? Is it still the Constitution? Not according to the liberal liars that abuse it however they see fit. And their voters keep stepping up for more…That’s the problem with America. I no longer blame the Tyrants in charge, I blame everyone that voted for them. Low-Information or not.

kirkill on May 17, 2013 at 1:47 PM

in other words, “They are who we thought they were!”

kirkill on May 17, 2013 at 1:48 PM

On topic, on all threads.

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Of course Eric lied. His lips were moving.

GarandFan on May 17, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Is it still America?

Schadenfreude on May 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

That’s the question isn’t it?

I was in the last years of the cold war.. and while I’m always going to be proud of my tiny microscopic contribution to that struggle.. The question in my mind, did I enlist, then lose half my hearing and an eye injury (which still plaques me) resulting in a Honorable medical discharge,…

for this?

To be considered an enemy of the State by the government I enlisted to protect?

and what of the wounded vets who gave up so very much more and fall into the “thought crime” category? What’s going through their heads right now..

“thank you for your service.. now SHUT UP, up against the wall repuglican”…

Obama has turned any trust left in the fairness of ANY agency to sh*t, and all in one fell swoop…

mark81150 on May 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Holder: I don’t feel like prosecuting myself, so I won’t. And since I’m the Attorney General and deserve respect, I won’t let anyone else prosecute me either! So there!!! (Sticks out tongue, Bronx cheer)

Steve Z on May 17, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Ok. That’s it. Head exploded near last paragraph. Sorry for the mess.

Tsar of Earth on May 17, 2013 at 2:26 PM

mark81150,

I come from a long family of military.

I’m struggling with advice to my son who is entering HS. I really can’t see recommnding serving this regime or the next one Hillary.

I won’t denigrate the service but I sure won’t sugggest or prod him toward that path.

I figure he will serve his country enough paying back the $17,000,000,000,000 bill run up by DC.

acyl72 on May 17, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Ed,

Loudly, clearly, on every occasion: To attack Syria to bump the investigations from headlines = huge flagrant abuse of power.

Must be in advance, repeatedly, where Americans can hear it. That fox channel doesn’t count. Afterward is too late.

kunegetikos on May 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM

I come from a long family of military.

I’m struggling with advice to my son who is entering HS. I really can’t see recommnding serving this regime or the next one Hillary.

I won’t denigrate the service but I sure won’t sugggest or prod him toward that path.

I figure he will serve his country enough paying back the $17,000,000,000,000 bill run up by DC.

acyl72 on May 17, 2013 at 2:27 PM

My son is 11,.. and already asking about my service time a lot, and while I won’t push him either way, let him come to his own choice as you are..

I know exactly what you’re saying..

There isn’t a military family in America that hasn’t known the terrible price of service, My wife’s family sent 4 young men, cousins to Iraq, and Afghansitan, one young man had his head taken off by an RPG.. I’ had three friends, one in the 4th Infantry, met him while he was a recruiter, he made it through his first tour..

and I found out a few weeks ago, he didn’t retire as he told me he would..

He didn’t make it..

and I still feel sick over it.

So what do we tell our sons, daughters?

Serve,.. but expect to return to a two class system, one for the favored THINK, the other,.. those…… people..

I have always have and still love my country.. .

but a national divorce seems less awful than it used to.

mark81150 on May 17, 2013 at 2:36 PM

The repetition of “I dunno” makes me think of this. It’s brain damage!

GWB on May 17, 2013 at 2:38 PM

So… Holder doesn’t know anything and recused himself from an investigation because he “had knowledge”. ‘kay….

ghostwalker1 on May 17, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Give Holder’s deputy, Mr. Machen, a break. After all, who wants to be called a racist for prosecuting a black guy?

BigAlSouth on May 17, 2013 at 3:03 PM

If Holder can’t make a decision for his own Department then what good is he? The direction of delegation is not down unless that is how Congress tells you to do it… it goes in the other direction by the person who had the power to put you in that position. Responsibility flows up via accountability.

Holder is trying to deny both and that is a FAIL.

Attacking the First Amendment rights of citizens, which is the freedom of speech and against unwarranted searches and seizures, is unconstitutional. Not that these fine fuhrers think much of that document to which they swear an oath. Nor about their oath’s, apparently.

Oathbreakers.

Tyrants.

Despots.

Welcome to the Obama Administration.

ajacksonian on May 17, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Race card laminated with Teflon.

hillsoftx on May 17, 2013 at 3:18 PM