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Minority Views to Contempt Report 06-22-12 Final

Minority Views to Contempt Report 06-22-12 Final

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Published by: OversightDems on Jun 23, 2012
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12/21/2012

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MINORITYVIEWSReportoftheCommitteeonOversightandGovernmentReformResolutionRecommendingthattheHouseofRepresentativesFindEricH.Holder,Jr.,AttorneyGeneral,U.S.DepartmentofJustice,inContemptofCongressforRefusaltoComplywithaSubpoenaDulyIssuedbytheCommitteeonOversightandGovernmentReform
OnJune20,2012,theCommitteeadoptedonastrictlyparty-linevoteareportandresolution(hereinafter"ContemptCitation")concludingthatAttorneyGeneralEricH.Holder,Jr.,thechieflawenforcementofficeroftheUnitedStates,shouldbeheldincontemptofCongressfordecliningtoproducecertaindocumentspursuanttotheCommittee'sinvestigationof"gunwalking"duringOperationFastandFuriousandpreviousoperations.CommitteeDemocratswereunanimousintheiroppositiontotheContemptCitation.ThesedissentingviewsconcludethatCongresshasaConstitutionalresponsibilitytoconductvigorousoversightoftheexecutivebranch,butthatholdingtheAttorneyGeneralincontemptwouldbeanextreme,unprecedentedactionbasedonpartisanelection-yearpoliticsratherthanthefactsuncoveredduringtheinvestigation.TheseviewsfindthattheCommitteefailedtohonoritsConstitutionalresponsibilitytoavoidunnecessaryconflictwiththeexecutivebranchbyseekingreasonableaccommodationswhenpossible.TheCommitteeflatlyrejectedafairandreasonableoffermadebytheAttorneyGeneraltoprovideadditionalinternaldeliberativedocumentssoughtbytheCommitteeinexchangeforagoodfaithcommitmenttowardresolvingthecontemptdispute.Instead,theCommitteehasrepeatedlyshiftedthegoalpostsinthisinvestigationafterfailingtofindevidencetosupportitsunsubstantiatedallegations.TheContemptCitationadoptedbytheCommitteecontainsseriousandsignificanterrors,omissions,andmisrepresentations.Toaddresstheseinaccuracies,theseviewsherebyincorporateandattachthe95-pagestaffreportissuedbyRankingMemberElijahCummingsinJanuary2012,whichprovidesacomprehensiveanalysisoftheevidenceobtainedduringtheCommittee'sinvestigation.
I.TheCommittee'sActionsHaveBeenHighlyPartisan
TheCommittee'scontemptvoteonJune20,2012,wastheculminationofoneofthemosthighlypoliticizedcongressionalinvestigationsindecades.ItwasbasedonnumerousunsubstantiatedallegationsthattargetedtheObamaAdministrationforpoliticalpurposes,anditignoreddocumentedevidenceofgunwalkingoperationsduringthepreviousadministration.DuringtheCommittee's16-monthinvestigation,theCommitteerefusedallDemocraticrequestsforwitnessesandhearings.Inoneofthemostsignificantflawsoftheinvestigation,theChairmanrefusedmultiplerequeststoholdapublichearingwithKennethMelson,theformerheadofATF,theagencyresponsibleforconductingtheseoperations.'TheChairman'srefusal
 
cameafterMr.MelsontoldCommitteeinvestigatorsprivatelyinJuly2011thatheneverinformedseniorofficialsattheJusticeDepartmentaboutgunwalkingduringOperationFastandFuriousbecausehewasunawareofithimself?Mr.Melson'sstatementsdirectlycontradicttheclaimintheContemptCitationthatseniorJusticeDepartmentofficialswereawareofgunwalkingbecauseMr.MelsonbriefedGaryGrindler,then-ActingDeputyAttorneyGeneral,inMarch2010.
3
Despitepromisingthathewouldbe"investigatingapresidentofmyownpartybecausemanyoftheissueswe'reworkingonbeganon[sic]PresidentBush,"theChairmanalsorefusedmultiplerequestsforformerAttorneyGeneralMichaelMukaseytotestifybeforetheCommitteeortomeetwithCommitteeMembersinformallytodiscusstheoriginationandevolutionofgunwalkingoperationssince2006.4DocumentsobtainedduringtheinvestigationindicatethatMr.MukaseywasbriefedpersonallyonbotchedeffortstocoordinatefirearminterdictionswithMexicanlawenforcementofficialsin2007andwasinformeddirectlythatsucheffortswouldbeexpandedduringhistenure.
5
TheCommitteealsofailedtoconductinterviewsofotherkeyfigures.Forexample,theCommitteedidnotrespondtoarequesttointerviewAliceFisher,whoservedasAssistantAttorneyGeneralinchargeoftheCriminalDivisionfrom2005to2008,aboutherroleinauthorizingwiretapsinOperationWideReceiver,ortoarequesttointerviewDeputyAssistantAttorneyGeneralKennethBlanco,whoalsoauthorizedwiretapsinOperationFastandFuriousandstillworksattheDepartment,butwhowasplacedinhispositionundertheBushAdministrationinApril2008.
6
Noexplanationfortheserefusalshasbeengiven.DuringtheCommitteebusinessmeetingonJune20,2012,everyDemocraticamendmenttocorrecttheContemptCitationbynotingthesefactswasdefeatedonstrictlyparty-linevotes.
II.Holding
theAttorneyGeneral
in
Contempt
Would
BeUnprecedented
TheHouseofRepresentativeshasneverinitshistoryheldanAttorneyGeneralincontemptofCongress.TheonlyprecedentreferencedintheContemptCitationforholdingasittingAttorneyGeneralincontemptforrefusingtoprovidedocumentsisthisCommittee'svotein1998toholdthen-AttorneyGeneralJanetRenoincontemptduringthecampaignfinanceinvestigationconductedbythen-ChairmanDanBurton.
7
ChairmanBurton'sinvestigationwaswidelydiscredited;andthedecisiontoholdtheAttorneyGeneralincontemptwascriticizedbyeditorialboardsacrossthecountryas"agrossabuseofhispowersaschairmanofthecommittee.t"a"fishingexpedition/'""lacedwithpalpablepoliticalmotives.t''"and"showboating."!'ThatactionwassopartisanandsowidelydiscreditedthatNewtGingrich,whowasthenSpeaker,didnotbringittotheHouseFloorforavote.
12
Similarly,numerouscommentatorsandeditorialboardshavecriticizedChairmanIssa'srecentactionsas"amonstrouswitchhunt,,,l3"apointlesspartisanfight,,,14and"dysfunctionalWashingtonasusual."
15
2
 
III.
TheCommitteeHasHeldtheAttorneyGeneraltoanImpossibleStandard
Formorethanayear,theCommitteehasheldtheAttorneyGeneraltoanimpossiblestandardbydemandingdocumentsheisprohibitedbylawfromproducing.Oneofthekeysetsofdocumentsdemandedduringthisinvestigationhasbeenfederalwiretapapplicationssubmittedbylawenforcementagentsinordertoobtainafederalcourt'sapprovaltosecretlymonitorthetelephonecallsofindividualssuspectedofguntrafficking.Thefederalwiretappingstatute,whichwaspassedbyCongressandsignedbyPresidentLyndonB.JohnsononJune19,1968,providesforapenaltyofuptofiveyearsinprisonfortheunauthorizeddisclosureofwiretapcommunicationsandprohibitstheunauthorizeddisclosureofwiretapapplicationsapprovedbyfederaljudges,whomustsealthemtoprotectagainsttheirdisclosure.l"Thestatutestates:Eachapplicationforanorderauthorizingorapprovingtheinterceptionofawire,oral,orelectroniccommunicationunderthischaptershallbemadeinwritinguponoathoraffirmationtoajudgeofcompetentjurisdiction....Applicationsmadeandordersgrantedunderthischaptershallbesealedbythejudge.
17
Similarly,in1940,CongresspassedastatutegivingtheSupremeCourtthepowertoprescriberulesofpleading,practice,andprocedureincriminalcases.
IS
In1946,themoderngrandjurysecrecyrulewascodifiedasRule6(e)oftheFederalRulesofCriminalProcedure,whichprovidesforcriminalpenaltiesfordisclosinggrandjuryinformation.
19
TheDepartmenthasexplainedthistotheCommitteerepeatedly,includinginaletteronMay15,2012:OurdisclosuretothisoversightCommitteeofsomematerialsoughtbytheOctober11subpoena,suchasrecordscoveredbygrandjurysecrecyrulesandfederalwiretapapplicationsandrelatedinformation,isprohibitedbylaworcourtorders.2oDespitetheselegalprohibitions,theChairmancontinuedtothreatentoholdtheAttorneyGeneralincontemptfor~rotectingthesedocuments.HealsopubliclyaccusedtheAttorneyGeneralofa"cover-up,"
1
claimedhewas"obstructing"theCommittee'sinvestigation.Passertedthatheiswillingto
II
deceivethepublic/,23andstatedonnationaltelevisionthathe"lied.
,,24
IV.TheDocumentsatIssueintheContemptCitationareNotAboutGunwalldng
ThedocumentsatissueintheContemptCitationarenotrelatedtotheCommittee'sinvestigationintohowgunwalkingwasinitiatedandutilizedinOperationFastandFurious.Overthepastyear,theDepartmentofJusticehasproducedthousandsofpagesofdocuments,theCommitteehasinterviewedtwodozenofficials,andtheAttorneyGeneralhastestifiedbeforeCongressninetimes.3

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