Very enlightening moment this afternoon on Fox News. one of the panelists on The Five, read an internal Department of Justice e-mail. Another member of the panel demanded to know how the e-mail was acquired, and he refused to answer. There is only one way that e-mail got into the hands of a Fox host. It was fed to him by a Congressperson or staff member of the House Oversight Committee. It was among the 7,600 documents provided to the Committee by the Department of Justice. The e-mail was a suggestion made from one DoJ employee to another about how to handle the public relations side of the Fast and Furious disclosure. (Sorry, I don’t watch the show often enough to recognize anyone other than Dana Perino.)
There you have the reason the President invoked Executive Privilege to block the Oversight Committee getting their grubby hands on the 100,000 “documents” they have subpoenaed. They can’t be trusted. Well, that and the fact that Rep. Issa scheduled a press conference for after the negotiation meeting with Holder on Tuesday.
According to Rep. Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, among the documents that Chairman Darrell Issa has illegally subpoenaed are Grand Jury testimony and documents relating to ongoing investigations and prosecution. Issa is demanded documents that have nothing to do with the issues that were supposedly under investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder has turned over all the documents that the Committee is legally allowed to demand, and all the documents relating to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Issa has refused to subpoena anyone involved in creating this program, specifically the members of the Bush administration, and has not included the murder of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata. Investigating the death of Agent Zapata would damage the right wing claim that the President and Attorney General don’t care about the death of Agent Brian Terry because they hate whites.
While being interviewed by MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, Florida Republican Representative John Mica (he of the very bad toupee) called reporter Kristen Welker an “apologist” for the White House for factually stating that the committee had received 7,600 documents from the Attorney General’s office. When corrected by Roberts, Mica refused to back off his allegation that Welker was speaking for the White House. That is how purely political this action is.
On a purely partisan line, 23 to 17, the committee voted to issue a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, the first time a citation has been called for against a sitting Cabinet member. The issue must be voted on by the whole House of Representatives, whenever they next bother to go to work. Then, this misdemeanor charge would go to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, an employee of the Department of Justice, for prosecution.
Would you like to know how dumb this whole thing is? According to the Congressional rules, a committee can only issue subpoenas that are “legally sufficient.” The investigation must be authorized by the House, it must pursue a “valid legislative purpose” but does not need to involve legislation or specify the intent of Congress in pursuing it, but the committee must limit itself to the subject matter that has been authorized.
A conviction on a charge of contempt of Congress carries a penalty of not less than one month nore more than twelve months in jail, and a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000.
The first thing necessary for prosecution of Eric Holder is Darrell Issa proving that every single document he has demanded is necessary to an investigation into the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry (still forgetting Agent Zapata). Rep. Issa has to explain to a judge why he is demanding access to sealed Grand Jury proceedings or wants to expose our undercover agents and collaborators or wants access to ongoing investigations. Then, Issa will have to explain why he has told America that “Fast and Furious,” which was started under the Bush administration, was actually a conspiracy to create revulsion over gun violence so that the administration could pass extreme gun control laws and take away everyone’s guns.
The chances that a majority of the House of Representatives will stop long enough this weekend to actually think this whole thing out are somewhere between “snowball’s chance in hell” and “when pigs fly.” We can probably expect the House to pass this contempt citation, out of sheer political stupidity. Then, we get to watch the fun in court.