- Last Updated: 6:11 AM, June 20, 2012
- Posted: 12:13 AM, June 20, 2012
Bait-and-switch? Or breath-taking chutzpah? Either way, Eric Holder is in big trouble.
The embattled attorney general destroyed what little is left of his credibility yesterday afternoon when he failed to turn over 1,300 subpoenaed and unredacted documents in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal to House investigators led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
How did the Justice Department come to OK an operation that handed massive firepower to Mexico’s drug lords, with no hope of tracing the guns and without a word to the Mexican government? Still no good answers, some 18 months after one of those guns was found at the site of the murder of a US Border Patrol agent, while countless others have been used to kill innocent Mexicans.
Nor has Justice handed over more than a token number of the duly subpoenaed documents that might help explain the disaster.
Instead, in a 20-minute meeting that Holder himself had requested to stave off today’s planned contempt citation vote in Issa’s committee, he merely offered to “brief” Issa on their contents.
Holder’s insulting, 11th-hour offer came after he’d already missed a morning deadline to turn over the documents — a small percentage of the total number that Congress has demanded as it tries to get to the bottom of the scandal.
Issa surely feels like Charlie Brown charging the football, with Holder as Lucy. For over a year, he’s been trying to pin down the slippery AG, issuing one “last chance” after another, dragging Holder in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (on top of Senate appearances) and firing off angry letter after angry letter.
Each time, Holder has scampered off, meeting Issa’s legitimate demands with contempt — for the congressman, the Congress itself and the rule of law.
He tried it again yesterday after his offer was rebuffed, calling Issa’s demands “political gamesmanship” and cracking, “The ball’s in their court.”
Um . . . no, Mr. Attorney General. The ball’s in your court — and has been ever since Justice took the extraordinary step of formally “withdrawing” a Feb. 4, 2011 letter from assistant AG Ron Weich — who announced last week that he’s leaving Justice to become dean of the University of Baltimore law school.
Weich is just the latest F&F figure to jump ship, after ex-US Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke and former acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Ken Melson.
Weich’s letter definitively denied allegations that the ATF, which supervised the F&F operation, “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons” to straw buyers acting on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.
Oops. In December, Holder told Congress that Weich’s letter was now inoperable, then promptly clammed up again, making it clear he has something — something big — to hide from Congress and the American people.
Which is why — unless he produces the documents before 10 a.m. this morning — Holder is looking at a House committee vote on contempt of Congress charges; once the full House goes along, he’ll be only the 11th official to be so cited since 1975.
Then what? Technically, the citation goes to the US attorney for DC to present to a grand jury. Usually, lawyers for the White House and Congress huddle and work out some accommodation — but relations may be too poisonous for that now.
Holder also has the option to simply not prosecute himself — which would surely set off a firestorm, as would any attempt by him or the president to assert executive privilege at this late date.
The last thing President Obama needs heading into the election is even more controversy over his hyper-politicized chief law-enforcement officer — especially with some in Congress already calling for a special prosecutor to investigate intelligence leaks emanating from the administration.
So Holder’s in a pickle, looking at up to a year in jail should he be convicted. And convictions do happen — just ask former EPA official Rita Lavelle, convicted of lying to Congress back in 1983.
Even should the AG finally come across with the documents, Issa must not let up. Holder has thumbed his nose at Congress and the country for too long. It’s time for the truth.Follow @NYPostOpinion