Holder, Issa set for critical meeting on Fast and Furious documents, contempt vote
by WILLIAM LA JEUNESSE
June 19, 2012
The congressional investigation that began 16 months ago into the botched anti-gunrunning operation Fast and Furious may be heading toward a resolution, as Attorney General Eric Holder attempts to make a deal with Republican Rep. Darrell Issa by offering some key documents in exchange for Issa calling off a contempt vote scheduled for Wednesday.
The latest developments set up a meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday between Holder, Issa and other lawmakers on the documents and the contempt vote.
Holder, in a letter to Issa delivered Monday, said the Justice Department "has offered a serious, good faith proposal to bring this matter to an amicable resolution in the form of a briefing based on documents that the committee could retain."
Until now, Issa, the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has demanded to see a trove of documents on the controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation -- and to know who prepared a now-retracted letter from Feb. 4, 2011, in which the Justice Department claimed the U.S. did not knowingly help smuggle guns to Mexico, including those later found at the murder scene of border agent Brian Terry
Congressional Republicans familiar with the investigation say Issa is under pressure from House Speaker John Boehner to drop the Fast and Furious investigation because Boehner sees it as an election-year distraction that could hurt Republicans at the polls.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said he welcomed a resolution that would avoid a contempt vote.
"Last week, the chairman asked for a 'serious proposal' on these documents, and the attorney general gave us one the next day," Cummings said. "I look forward to our meeting ... to finalize the terms of this proposed agreement, and I see no reason to proceed with contempt given these positive developments."
However, late Monday, Issa wrote Holder back with a strategy of his own. Not only must Holder deliver the roughly 1,300 documents pertaining to the Feb. 4 letter, but he must also produce a description of all the documents he will not produce. Issa says that document log is "essential for the committee to determine whether the department has substantially met its obligations."
Issa rescheduled Tuesday's meeting from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to give his staff and the committee time to review the documents. Either way, it is a high stakes gambit on Holder's part to forestall a contempt vote Republicans are sure to pass in the Oversight Committee, which is composed of 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats.