Home  »  2012 presidential campaign  »  Holder In Last Chance Meeting Today To Talk Issa Out Of Holding Him In Contempt Of Congress

Jun 19, 2012 Comments Off Pat Dollard

Excerpted from Politico: GOP Rep. Darrell Issa warned Attorney General Eric Holder late Monday that if the Justice Department failed to turn over documents he is seeking, the California Republican will go ahead with a contempt vote against Holder as planned later this week.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been battling with DOJ since last year over documents related to the failed Fast and Furious program. The two sides had seemed close to making a deal late last week, but Issa cautioned Holder that he will only delay the contempt vote — set for his panel on Wednesday — if DOJ makes the Fast and Furious material available by Tuesday.

Issa and Holder are scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s offices in the Rayburn House Office Building.

“As the department has not yet produced these documents — and unless it does so tomorrow morning — I will not be able to offer you the committee’s assessment of them at tomorrow’s meeting,” Issa said in his letter to Holder, the latest in a flurry of public missives between the two sides.

Issa wants information related to a Feb. 4, 2011, letter from DOJ downplaying top officials knowledge of what occurred during the Fast and Furious operation. That letter was later withdrawn by DOJ as inaccurate, and Hill Republicans have been trying to determine how the incident occurred.

Issa also dismissed what Holder has called the “extraordinary accommodation” made by DOJ in deciding to turn over “internal deliberative documents” to congressional investigators. DOJ had previously said such documents were not subject to congressional subpoenas.

“There is nothing extraordinary about an offer from a federal agency to fully or partially respond to a subpoena,” Issa told Holder. “I do, however, hope the department will decide to produce the documents that would justify a postponement [of Wednesday’s vote] and will use tomorrow’s discussion to better understand what steps it can take if it sincerely seeks an outcome other than continuation of contempt proceedings.”

DOJ officials met with Issa’s investigators last week to turn over some materials, and discussions between the two sides were ongoing throughout the weekend, GOP insiders said.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, will be part of the session with Holder.

Issa — backed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other House GOP leaders — has subpoenaed thousands of pages of DOJ documents related to the Fast and Furious “gun walking” program.

That operation, run jointly by DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, allowed thousands of guns purchased in the United States to reach Mexican drug cartels as federal agents attempted to track them.

But the effort failed and two U.S. law-enforcement officers were killed using Fast and Furious weapons, leading to outrage on Capitol Hill.

Issa’s panel issued a subpoena last October for the Fast and Furious materials, particularly information related to the Feb. 2011 letter. Holder and other DOJ officials have refused for months to turn over those documents, arguing that previous administrations withheld similar “internal deliberative” information.

Yet with what Holder called a “constitutional crisis” looming over Fast and Furious, Issa and Holder appeared close to a deal to postpone the contempt vote late last week. Holder offered to turn over some — but not all — of the documents Issa has been seeking. In return, Holder sought a face-to-face meeting with Issa to resolve their dispute. Holder called the move an “extraordinary accommodation” to the demands of congressional investigators.

The battle with DOJ over Fast and Furious has become a test of strength for Issa and the House GOP leadership. Boehner and other top party leaders initially did not want to get into a showdown with Holder and the White House, fearing it would distract Republicans from the economic-based message that they have been pushing all year. Congress faces deadlines this month on highway and student loan funding, issues with far broader impact than the Fast and Furious debate, despite the seriousness of the DOJ-House fight.

Yet Issa refused to let the issue go away. With support from conservatives angered by the Obama administration’s refusal to comply with Issa’s subpoena, the California Republican continued to press his case. Issa argued that Congress had a right to the documents and that the House must enforce its demands on DOJ, even if this meant moving a contempt resolution against Holder.

Following consultations with leadership, Issa narrowed his document request for DOJ, making it more difficult politically for department officials to refuse to comply with his subpoena. Following further delays by DOJ, Issa set a contempt vote for June 20. That move seemed to shake loose the negotiations, as Holder and Issa exchanged a flurry of public letters designed to show who was the more reasonable in defusing the showdown.

Holder, though, insisted on a face-to-face meeting with Issa to hash out the dispute, even as he offered to turn over some documents that DOJ said were not subject to Issa’s subpoena.

”The department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution,” Holder said in a June 14 letter to Issa. “However, because as the chairman only you have the authority to bind the committee, I continue to believe that a meeting 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.”

White House officials have been closely monitoring the back and forth between Holder and Hill Republicans , and they have also paid strict attention to signs of a split between Boehner and Issa over the issue. With no sign of that occurring, the Obama administration privately admitted it must seek to resolve the dispute or face a contempt vote against a sitting attorney general.