Under the mounting pressure of Congressional investigators and the looming possibility of a contempt-of-Congress charge, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to make what he has dubbed “an extraordinary accommodation” to the committee investigating the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious by releasing internal DOJ emails he has long sought to protect.
In the announcement, which was made on Thursday, Holder not only agreed to turn over emails, but also offered to personally meet with the point man of the probe, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), in the next few days.
“We believe that this briefing, and the documents we are prepared to provide … will fully address the remaining concerns identified in the recent letters to me from you and House leadership,” Holder wrote in a letter to Issa.
“The department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution,” he added.
In its response, Issa’s office stated that Holder’s latest correspondence “only seems to indicate a willingness to offer a selective telling” of key events and that the chairman still wants the DOJ to explain “how it is prepared to alter its opposition to producing subpoenaed documents.”
So far, the DOJ has only released 7,600 of the 80,000 documents the investigative committee subpoenaed, many of which were heavily redacted.
But the DOJ claims that those unreleased documents include traditionally protected deliberative material, legally protected grand jury material and other investigative material relating to ongoing cases.
Looking at the situation objectively, it appears that Holder wants to cut a deal and Issa is, at least ostensibly, playing hardball.
If nothing changes, the House committee will vote on whether to hold the Attorney General in contempt on June 20. If the committee cites Holder for contempt, then the matter is referred to the full chamber for action.
If the full House passes a resolution to issue a contempt citation, Holder could be arrested and imprisoned until he fully satisfies the subpoena.
However, Holder won’t be held in contempt. He is too slick for that. Right now he is doing everything he can to appear as though he is acting ‘reasonably,’ i.e. his willingness to turn over more emails and his eagerness to sit down with Issa (the meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Monday).
Should it come to a vote on the House floor, Holder knows he can point to these efforts of feigned cooperation and argue that he did everything in his power to resolve the issue.
Following that, he can then continue with his narrative that the investigation is nothing more than a political witchhunt, a play that was highlighted in a memo circulated by Democrats on Thursday.
“Rather than conducting this investigation in an even-handed manner, the committee has politicized this inquiry by systematically refusing to investigate gunwalking operations during the Bush administration and by disregarding clear evidence that contradicts (their) political narrative,” the Democrats’ memo stated.
And if he is attacked by lawmakers for not turning over more documents, he’ll just iterate the line about the docs being pertinent to ongoing investigations, which was also mentioned in the Democrats’ memo, “Holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress for protecting these documents is an extreme and blatant abuse of the congressional contempt power and undermines the credibility of the committee.”
But in the end, Holder will make a deal.
Near the end of the letter, Holder told Issa that “as the chairman only you have the authority to bind the committee,” and therefore a meeting between the two “is required both to assure that there are no misunderstandings about this matter and to confirm that the elements of the proposal we are making will be deemed sufficient to render the process of contempt unnecessary.”
We can only hope that the deal includes the resignation of the top DOJ officials who knew about the flawed tactics of Fast and Furious.