By Blaine Smith, America's 1st Freedom Associate Editor
On June 28, the nation's top law enforcement officer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, was found in contempt of Congress. The House voted 255-67 for criminal contempt charges, and 258-95 to pursue civil enforcement of the subpoenas at the heart of those charges.
This was a long time coming for Holder; the result of more than a year and a half of blowing off and feeding false testimony to those in Congress investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Operation Fast and Furious,” a secretive scheme the Obama administration had hoped would instigate political and popular support for new gun control, but that instead resulted in the death of a federal agent.
When the agent’s death brought a halt to “Fast and Furious” and details of the botched operation were revealed, public outrage convinced Congress to investigate. Rather than aid investigators, however, Holder, President Obama and their Department of Justice have attempted to stanch Congress’ inquiry, and persisted in deflecting attention back upon investigators by labeling the inquiry “politically motivated.” Until charges of contempt were leveled, Holder and others under suspicion in the DOJ were shielded by the Democratic leadership in Congress and by the national media, who echoed these claims of political motivation.
Of course, it’s irresponsible to claim that politics have driven Congress’ attempts to find out who is responsible for a program that armed violent drug cartels with thousands of firearms that the BATFE did not track, and that resulted in the deaths of a federal agent and hundreds of Mexican nationals.
Nevertheless, rather than insist Holder and the DOJ cease their stonewalling and turn over the more than 70,000 pages of documents congressional investigators have requested from the department, many Democrats took part in a coordinated walkout of the Holder contempt proceedings.
Are these Democrats fearful that the documents the Obama administration is withholding would reveal the true motivation behind “Fast and Furious?” Was it a plan to flood Mexico with firearms that could be readily traced back to the U.S., lending credence to the “90 percent” sound-bite Obama’s office manufactured as a reason to reinstate the “assault weapons” ban, or to enact new restrictions such as the administration’s current rifle sales reporting scheme?
It’s hard to say. But the fact that these congressmen and women have chosen to lend support to Holder’s continuing charade by perpetuating claims that such a pursuit is a political witch hunt, rather than demand answers to why a federal agent was murdered, proves they are the ones to place politics before the investigation of “Fast and Furious” and Brian Terry’s murder.
That December night in 2010 as he lay in the desert bleeding to death, having been ambushed and shot in the back by a gang of Mexican criminals, it’s safe to say that politics were far from Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s mind.
We can also assume that partisan philosophy didn’t preoccupy the mind of the agent who cradled Terry in his arms that night, waiting for help to arrive, as his wounded colleague whispered “I can’t feel my legs” shortly before he bled out and died.
More likely, Terry simply wondered: “Why?”
Today, millions of Americans are still asking “why?” though not only because senseless violence struck down an upstanding, brave and patriotic man. Soon after Terry’s death, two rifles found at the scene of his murder were revealed to be among the thousands that the Department of Justice had encouraged lawful U.S. gun dealers to sell to Mexican drug cartel suppliers, without the guns being tracked.
Why didn’t BATFE track the guns and interdict them before they could be used in crimes? That’s the question that outraged millions when news of “Fast and Furious” broke soon after Terry’s murder. In its own way, however, the Bureau did track the firearms, since its strategy for keeping tabs on the guns they allowed to disappear into Mexico was to eventually find them at crime scenes.
Soon, it was congressional investigators asking the highest ranks of the DOJ “Why?” Why are a Border Patrol agent and a growing roster of Mexican nationals dead by guns the BATFE allowed to walk into Mexico? Why was such a program approved and executed?
But rather than answer why, Obama, Holder and most others in DOJ leadership chose to propagate a cover-up.
After becoming the first attorney general in U.S. history to be found in contempt of Congress, Holder issued a statement deflecting all responsibility back to those seeking answers about “Fast and Furious.”
“Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided—and politically motivated—investigation during an election year,” Holder said. “By advancing it over the past year and a half, [House Oversight Committee Chairman] Congressman [Darrell]Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety. … When concerns about ‘Operation Fast and Furious’ first came to light, I took action—and ordered an independent investigation into what happened. … I had hoped that congressional leaders would be good-faith partners in this work. …”
In truth, since the beginning DOJ had initiated and perpetuated falsehoods and persisted in hiding facts pertaining to “Fast and Furious,” shrouding their actions and motivations in a pall of suspicion from the outset.
In a February 2011 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department insisted that no guns had been “walked” to Mexico under its purview. Ten months later, DOJ retracted the letter and its claim, admitting that allowing guns to walk into cartel hands unchecked and unwatched had indeed been a practice during “Fast and Furious”— a practice that, in hindsight, DOJ supposed was a mistake.
In answer to congressional investigators’ frequent requests for documents, the DOJ made many midnight deliveries of heavily redacted pages—sometimes fully redacted (i.e., totally blacked out)—slipped under doorways minutes before deadlines, if they turned over any documents at all.
But the disinformation emanating from the DOJ didn’t come only from lower-level employees; the investigation found that prevarication was the default posture even for those at the top. Holder himself led by example, outdoing all other DOJ employees when it came to proffering disinformation with a sheen of thinly veiled contempt. During each of Holder’s nine appearances testifying before Congress, his disdain for the proceedings was palpable.
As for the “independent investigation” that Holder ordered, the Department of Justice is said to be conducting an internal investigation into “Fast and Furious,” but so far has been slow to take any action in the case—aside from reassigning several of those who oversaw the disastrous operation from the BATFE’s field office in Phoenix, Ariz., to positions in Washington, d.c.
“When a person dies in service to his country, and his own government may have contributed to his death, covered up evidence about the circumstances, or both, the survivors’ families and the American people have a right to know the truth,” Grassley wrote in a statement released in early July. “In December 2010, Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered and two of the weapons found at the scene were linked to ‘Operation Fast and Furious.’ … Since then, despite numerous requests from Congress—made in letters, meetings and hearings and by subpoena—the Department of Justice, which is in charge of the ATF, has stonewalled and resisted providing documents about the operation. Along the way, the Department of Justice has insisted there was no gun walking, then retracted that statement and reversed itself.
“Clearly, the only way to try to get an accurate, complete account of what happened and why is to obtain every record and account of the facts,” Grassley said. “Without the complete set of facts, fair and informed conclusions can’t be drawn, and we might never know what happened to Agent Terry. That can’t stand.”
Still, Holder and his supporters maintain with a straight face that the investigation into “Fast and Furious” is “politically motivated.”
Though several major media outlets would cover the unfolding saga of “Fast and Furious” once its existence was revealed—CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson broke much of the news concerning the operation—the majority of national media remained overwhelmingly mum on the issue. What little coverage most major media did offer was skewed toward painting the Obama administration in a favorable light.
In fact, Attkisson’s pursuit of the truth surrounding “Fast and Furious” landed her at odds with the White House. As Attkisson told Laura Ingraham, “The guy from the White House … literally screamed at me and cussed at me.”
That “guy” was Eric Schultz, who was hired by the White House primarily to deal with questions surrounding the congressional investigation into the gun-walking operation.
“[Schultz] said the Washington Post, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable,” Attkisson said. “I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”
On June 20, the issue came to a head when Holder passed along President Obama’s claims of executive privilege over internal Justice Department documents that the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed, thus denying the request.
In response, the committee recommended the full House of Representatives find Holder in contempt of Congress.
“Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt,” committee chairman Issa said. “Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work—that it is not only entitled to, but obligated to do.”
Finally, the story of “Fast and Furious” was all over the national media, but with the taint of the administration’s charge that the investigation—and the Holder contempt vote—were politically motivated.
To many in the national media, the fact that NRA announced it would score the votes of House members on the contempt vote proved the “Fast and Furious” investigation was political theater, regardless of the fact that at the root of this entire conflict is a scheme by the Obama administration to surreptitiously forfeit the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.
Oversight Committee Chairman Issa concurred that anti-gun motivations had driven the operation, yet most national media, instead of looking into the veracity of the claims, simply shrugged them off as a “wacky theory.”
But it was a theory advanced by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and echoed by Holder and others in the Department of Justice, that would take the prize for being “wacky.”
Before leading the Democrats’ walkout of the contempt proceedings in protest of Congress’ investigation, Pelosi claimed the hearings were merely Republican retaliation against the Department of Justice for its legal attack on state voter id laws—a theory that was given little validity even in the “mainstream” media.
When the votes were tallied, 21 Democrats found Holder to be in contempt, proving the investigation wasn’t based on ideology but intended to find out why the blood of a federal agent stained the hands of those at the highest levels of the Obama administration.
“The idea that the republicans have to bring this contempt of Congress against the attorney general, the first time in history that the contempt of Congress has been brought against a Cabinet officer, the Republicans are contemptuous in what they’re doing today,” Pelosi said shortly before joining hands with other Democrats and walking out of the House chamber in a show of support for Holder and Obama’s equivocation. “The evidence does not support any of this, the rush that they are putting on it is just inexplicable.”
Pelosi and her cohorts’ opinion that the contempt vote itself was contemptuous, however, isn’t a view shared by most Americans. A poll conducted by CNN in the days following Holder’s contempt conviction revealed that a majority of Americans approve of the actions taken by the House. Further, the same poll also found that a full 69 percent of Americans believe President Obama should “drop the claim of executive privilege and answer all questions being investigated.”
Family and friends of Brian Terry also disagreed with Pelosi’s statement regarding both the lack of evidence to bring contempt charges, and the supposed “rush” that investigators have placed on having their inquiries addressed.
“The contempt proceedings have taken our family one step closer toward obtaining the truth we’ve been searching for since Brian’s death more than 18 months ago,” the Brian Terry Foundation said in a statement released the day after the contempt vote. “But it was still disheartening for us to see those who could help us find that truth engage in an organized political stunt [i.e., the walkout by many Democrats] rather than honor the memory of a man who dedicated his life to our country and preserving its national security. … Brian’s memory deserves better treatment than what it received.”
Sadly, it seems the contempt vote has had little effect on the Department of Justice. In a June 28 letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Deputy Attorney General James Cole stated, “the Department [of Justice] has determined that the Attorney General’s response to the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government reform does not constitute a crime, and therefore the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General.”
As for the civil contempt enforcement, it will no doubt be years before any sort of resolution can be found in federal court.
In the days following the contempt proceedings, the Department of Justice chose to unseal records revealing the details surrounding the murder of Agent Terry, announcing the indictment of five individuals charged in connection with his murder. The department also announced a reward of up to $1 million for the arrest of four of the suspects, who remain at large.
While this move drew praise, the timing of the announcement is, to many, suspect.
“I applaud what they’re doing, but I condemn the timing,” Rep. Issa told Fox News. “It’s very clear that the timing has everything to do with the House of Representatives holding Eric Holder in contempt.”
Where the investigation into “Fast and Furious” goes from here is a matter of speculation, but we do know that a majority of Americans support the contempt charges against the nation’s chief of law enforcement, and that President Obama’s claims of executive privilege have heightened suspicions around the nation’s commander in chief.
Now is the time for all NRA members, gun owners and freedom lovers—for the memory of Brian Terry and for the sake of the Second Amendment—to ensure that, come Election Day, they and everyone they know go “All In” and elect a new leader—a leader whose administration truly knows the meaning of “transparent” and has nothing to hide.