Issa: Holder misled Congress on Fast & Furious to cover for staff

Jon Corzine isn’t the only Democrat heading down Pennsylvania Avenue for a Congressional grilling today.  Attorney General Eric Holder will also appear today to answer questions about Operation Fast and Furious in the House at 10 am ET today.  Politico reports that the pressure has been getting to Holder lately:

Holder will be back on the firing line Thursday, testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing just 10 days after the normally unflappable former judge betrayed more than a little irritation at being a constant target.

“You guys need to — you guys need to stop this,” Holder told a reporter for the conservative Daily Caller website, which has been gathering calls for the attorney general’s resignation from lawmakers, presidential candidates and even governors. “This is not an organic thing that’s just happening. … You guys are behind this,” the attorney general complained, pointing his finger at reporter Neil Munro.

A former spokesman for Holder, Matt Miller, said the attorney general was simply expressing his frustration at Fast and Furious becoming a political football. “He obviously recognizes that there are legitimate questions to be answered and he’s been at the forefront of that, but there are some on the Hill and in the right-wing press who care a lot more about playing politics,” Miller said.

Playing politics?  Funny, that’s exactly what the House thinks that the White House did with its gun-running program, and yesterday’s CBS report on a memo that demonstrated the desire to use the program to argue for tighter gun-control laws looks like a smoking gun, pun most definitely intended.  That opens up a whole new line of questioning for Holder about what the actual purpose of OF&F was, and why the DoJ and ATF allowed it to get out of control.

House Oversight chair Rep. Darrell Issa increased the pressure on Holder, too.  In a USA Today column, Issa accuses Holder of deliberately misleading Congress in an attempt to cover up OF&F to protect his staff:

•On March 12, 2010, then-acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler received a detailed briefing on Fast and Furious. His handwritten notes show that the briefing included details on tactics and the fact that named individuals were buying hundreds of weapons for Mexican cartels. Since then, he has become Holder’s chief of staff.

•On Oct. 31 of this year, Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general in charge of the Criminal Division, apologized for failing to “draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics” used in Fast and Furious and another program that employed similar tactics. He has retained his job.

•Last week, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich took the extraordinarily rare step of withdrawing a letter he sent to Congress because it contained false information. He has retained his job.

In the view of former acting ATF director Ken Melson, the department has been trying to manage its response in a way designed to protect its political appointees. That appears to be true.

Surprisingly, no one at Justice Department headquarters has faced any meaningful consequences. While replacing the entire ATF leadership structure and causing the U.S. attorney for Arizona to tender his resignation, Holder has consistently used a concurrent investigation by the inspector general to prevent him from acting against senior officials close to him.

This should set the stage for a lively hearing today.  The House Oversight Committee has a new website dedicated to the OF&F investigation, which includes a portal through which the live hearing can be viewed.   Don’t miss it.