This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published December 9, 2011 on The Washington Examiner website.
Official Obama administration explanations for Operation Fast and Furious keep changing with each new wave of revelations. If Attorney General Eric Holder won’t appoint a special prosecutor, this scandal could end in his impeachment.
Republican congressmen put Holder in a vice-grip Thursday during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, interrogating him over the notorious gun-running scandal into Mexico.
This latest round of questions came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dumped another 1,000 pages of Fast and Furious documents requested months ago by Congress. As usual, the release came late on a Friday afternoon at a time calculated to minimize news coverage of the contents.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer–chief of DOJ’s Criminal Division–previously claimed he had not seen drafts of a letter sent to Congress containing false information about the program. Now we know from new documents that he not only saw multiple drafts, he even forwarded one of them to his personal email account.
In other words, Breuer lied to Congress. He should be fired immediately. But Congress must not let Breuer be the fall guy.
Newly disclosed documents also reveal that the FBI, DEA, and other federal agencies were involved with illegal guns falling into the hands of Mexican drug cartels–and that at least one person in the White House knew. It’s inconceivable that so much manpower was overseen by a lower-level DOJ political appointee.
Especially since an alarming pattern has now emerged. Congress asks for documents. DOJ fights against document disclosures. (And this resistance could still result in a court fight over executive privilege that Congress would probably win.) After months of delays, DOJ finally releases some of the requested documents on a Friday night.
Each new round of disclosures proves DOJ’s previous explanations false. First, the official DOJ line was that no weapons fell into criminal hands, but then they show up at American crime scenes.
Similarly, Holder had only heard of Fast and Furious recently, but then he knew of it months earlier. Again, no one around Holder was involved, but then Holder’s chief of staff was briefed on this illegal program.
It goes on: One of Holder’s lieutenants claims to not know about false documents that mislead and deceived Congress, but then he saw multiple versions and sent copies to his private email.
All this is against the backdrop of the most anti-gun administration in history. President Obama has avoided frontal assaults on gun rights through major legislation, a mistake that cost Bill Clinton dearly in 1994.
So, instead he’s pursued anti-gun regulations, treaties, and other measures less likely to attract attention.
But “personnel is policy.” Holder is an inveterate foe of gun rights. He pushed the Clinton-Reno gun control agenda. He urged that the Supreme Court in 2008 should hold that the Second Amendment does not secure any right to private citizens to own firearms. His DOJ overflows with likeminded appointees.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas noted with irony that Obama promised us “open and transparent government.” With each false statement, it becomes more important for Congress to uncover how high this scandal goes, and hold accountable everyone involved.
Assuring that outcome almost certainly requires appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate. Yet, it’s almost inconceivable that this “open and transparent government” will make such an appointment.
Scandal investigations have a habit of taking on a life of their own. Even straight-as-an-arrow administrations would be nervous. With this administration, it’s a no-brainer that they don’t want a special prosecutor.
But there are serious allegations of illegal behavior by government officials at the highest levels, which triggers Holder’s legal responsibility to appoint a special prosecutor.
If he refuses to do so, then these credible suspicions that Holder or his people may have lied to Congress could justifiably lead to impeachment hearings.
While impeachment of a cabinet officer is extremely rare and the Constitution provides it should only be for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” this situation could lead to such extreme measures.
Laws were broken. A federal agent has been murdered. Top DOJ officials have deceived Congress, which is a federal felony if it was intentional. The truth must come out.
Holder either knew of Fast and Furious or he’s asleep at the switch. He’s either disingenuous or incompetent. Either way, Holder must go. If he does not, then Congress should consider its ultimate option.