Thursday, June 21, 2012

F & F: How High?


Just as a House Committee is expected to vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege over the documents sought by this group. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, raised another question after the president invoked the privilege.

"Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding 'Fast and Furious' were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the 'Fast and Furious' operation or the cover-up that followed," said Boehner's press secretary Brendan Buck. "The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?"

In Fast and Furious, agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency's usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers, who had long eluded prosecution, and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking has long been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level "straw purchaser" was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.
The agents in Arizona lost track of many of the weapons in Operation Fast and Furious. Two of the guns that "walked" in the operation were found at the scene of the slaying of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.


House Oversight Committee votes to send to House floor contempt resolution against Holder over botched Fast and Furious operation, but Rep. Issa says the attorney general can avoid the full vote if he cooperates in releasing documents.

The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to congressional investigators in the course of their probe into the failed Operation Fast and Furious.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced the retraction Wednesday morning just as a House committee meeting considering contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder got underway.

“This is the second time in nearly seven months that the department has gotten its facts wrong about gun walking,” Grassley said in a statement. “Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gun walking in Wide Receiver.

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Under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, DoJ documents involved in an on-going criminal investigation can only lawfully be discussed or reviewed--at the White House or at the DoJ or anywhere else--with persons lawfully involved in the criminal investigation or the administration of the criminal justice system. That leaves very few human beings outside the DoJ and inside the White House with whom Attorney General Holder or his DoJ colleagues may have lawfully discussed these documents. Certainly the president himself would be in this category.

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