Issa submits facts into Congressional Record

By Scott W. Winchell

Be careful what you ask for Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Dingle, Mr. Cummings, et al – you want a “thorough bipartisan investigation”? America just got one, and now you say it wasn’t? Well check out just how disingenuous the left are. Watch out – bomb fragments are flying.

Look at what Mr. Issa entered into the Congressional Record. No matter how the left tried to change the aim, focus, and discourse, those pesky facts always tear their sails down. They cannot rely on the evidence or the law to support their man, so they attack the prosecutor.

The display we witnessed on the floor of the House yesterday showed exactly how disingenuous the left is. They are not interested in the truth, they only want to paint the prosecutor as conducting a witch hunt.

The trouble is, it appears Holder just may be a ‘witch’. The manner in which they avoided the facts, tried to accuse the other side of lying, and made up things out of whole-cloth only demonstrated what they were up to – obfuscation.

Each accusation was soundly shot down by facts, yet they kept repeating the same tripe, over, and over, and over.

The Democrats were all marching to the same tune, chapter and verse, as distributed by their caucus, not one of them deviated. Then in the end, they walked out, and walked out of seeking the truth over a murder.

Mrs. Pelosi, as the former Speaker-of-the-House, how dare you demean that office so! Mr. Dingle, what were you trying to intimate? How dare you! You never once spoke to the Terry Family.

There must be some really damning stuff yet to be found if they are so willing to put on such an unprofessional display. The White House and Mr. Holder have a lot of explaining to do.

America deserves the truth – the TERRY FAMILY deserves the truth. Mr. Holder – resign now!

Darrell Issa Puts Details of Secret Wiretap Applications in Congressional Record

By Jonathan Strong – Roll Call Staff

In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.

The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.

The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.

According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.

Holder and Cummings have both maintained that the wiretap applications did not contain such details and that the applications were reviewed narrowly for probable cause, not for whether any investigatory tactics contained followed Justice Department policy.

The wiretap applications were signed by senior DOJ officials in the department’s criminal division, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco and another official who is now deceased.

In Fast and Furious, agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed assault guns bought by “straw purchasers” to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.

The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.

Straw purchasers are individuals who buy guns on behalf of criminals, obscuring who is buying the weapons.

While Issa has since said he has obtained a number of wiretap applications, the letter only refers to one, from March 15, 2010. The full application is not included in what Issa entered into the Congressional Record, and names are obscured in Issa’s letter.

In the application, ATF agents included transcripts from a wiretap intercept from a previous Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that demonstrated the suspects were part of a gun-smuggling ring.

“The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” the letter says.

The application included details such as how many guns specific suspects had purchased via straw purchasers and how many of those guns had been recovered in Mexico.

It also described how ATF officials watched guns bought by suspected straw purchasers but then ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.

In at least one instance, the guns were recovered at a police stop at the U.S.-Mexico border the next day.

The application included financial details for four suspected straw purchasers showing they had purchased $373,000 worth of guns in cash but reported almost no income for the previous year, the letter says.

“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter says.

Holder declined to discuss the contents of the applications at a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 7 but said the applications were narrowly reviewed for whether there was probable cause to obtain a wiretap application.

Thousands of wiretap applications are reviewed each year by the DOJ’s criminal division. The applications are designed to obtain approval, so they tend to focus on the most suspicious information available.

A line attorney first creates a summary of the application, which is then usually reviewed by a deputy to Lanny Breuer, the head of the division, on his behalf. It is then reviewed and approved or denied by a judge.

Cummings has sided with the DOJ in the debate over the secret applications, but the full substance of his argument is unknown.

A June 5 letter from Cummings responding to Issa’s May 24 letter said Issa “omits the critical fact that [redacted].” The entire first section of the letter’s body is likewise blacked out.

“Sadly, it looks like Mr. Issa is continuing his string of desperate and unsubstantiated claims, while hiding key information from the very same documents,” a Democratic committee staffer said. “His actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the facts, as well as a reckless disregard for our nation’s courts and federal prosecutors who are trying to bring criminals to justice. We’re not going to stoop to his level. Obviously, we are going to honor the court’s seal and the prosecutors’ requests. But if Mr. Issa won’t tell you what he is hiding from the wiretaps, you should ask him why.”

Here is the Congressional Record entry:

CREC-2012-06-28-pt1-PgH4177-2

Contempt vote on, talks fail, some Dems to vote yea

Editor’s Note – Today, the table is set, tomorrow is the big vote. Last minute talks with the White House have failed and we also learned that many Democrats are planning to vote FOR contempt. That is a sign of two things; one, Obama has no coat tails to help congressmen to get re-elected, and two, Holder and the White House are guilty as sin.

Thursday is going to be a busy news day – contempt vote, and the SCOTUS decision on Obama Care – we hope neither is over-shadowed by the other. Stay tuned.

Boehner: House will go ahead with contempt vote

By LAURIE KELLMAN | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker John Boehner (BAY’-nur) says the House will move forward with a contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder over the botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.

The Ohio Republican told reporters Wednesday that last-minute talks with the White House about releasing documents had failed to avert the vote. President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege to keep the documents secret, but Republicans say there’s no basis for that.

The issue has political implications this election year. The National Rifle Association is keeping score, prompting some Democrats to join Republicans in voting for contempt. Such a citation would not cause the release of more documents on the operation, in which guns were allowed to “walk” from Arizona to Mexico in hopes they could be tracked.

__________________________________________

Hoyer: Some Dems Will Vote To Hold Holder In Contempt For Fast And Furious

CBS News Local – DC

WASHINGTON (AP) — Now that the politically potent National Rifle Association is keeping score, some Democrats may join House Republicans if there’s a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in a dispute over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation.

House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks to the media December 21, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The chief Democratic House head counter, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, declined to tell reporters how many defections he expected, but acknowledged that some in his party would consider heeding the NRA’s call for a “yes” vote.

The gun owners association injected itself last week into the stalemate over Justice Department documents demanded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The NRA said it supports the contempt resolution and will keep a record of how members vote.

An NRA letter to House members contended that the Obama administration “actively sought information” from Operation Fast and Furious to support its program to require dealers to report multiple rifle sales.

The program, which began last August, imposed the requirement for sales of specifically identified long guns in four border states: Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. A federal judge upheld the requirement.

Republicans want Eric Holder to become the first attorney general to be cited by the House for contempt, because he has refused to give the Oversight and Government Reform Committee all the documents it wants related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Unless a last-minute deal is worked out, always a possibility in Congress, the contempt vote is scheduled for Thursday — the same day the Supreme Court is to announce its ruling on the legality of the nation’s health care law.

A vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress wouldn’t send any documents to the Oversight committee and its chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell of California. President Barack Obama has claimed executive privilege, a legal step that presidents have used to maintain secrecy of internal administration documents.

Obama invoked what is known as “deliberative process privilege,” a claim designed to broadly cover executive branch documents. However Issa, in a letter to the president, said Obama was misusing the narrower “presidential communications privilege,” which is reserved for documents to and from the president and his most senior advisers.

White House Spokesman Eric Schultz said Tuesday that Issa’s analysis “has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control. Our position is consistent with executive branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning administrations of both parties.”

Ironically, the documents at the heart of the current argument are not directly related to the workings of Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to “walk” from Arizona to Mexico in hopes they could be tracked. The department has given Issa 7,600 documents on the operation.

Rather, Issa wants internal communications from February 2011, when the administration denied knowledge of gun-walking, to the end of that year, when officials acknowledged the denial was erroneous. Those documents covered a period after Fast and Furious had been shut down.

In Fast and Furious, agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency’s usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers who long had eluded prosecution and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking long has been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level “straw purchaser” was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Operation Fast and Furious. The low point of the operation came in Arizona in 2010, when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with a group of armed Mexican bandits and two guns traced to the operation were found at the scene.

Issa, in his letter to the president, wrote, “Courts have consistently held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege … is only applicable … to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the president’s decision-making process.”

The letter said that while the privilege covers only the president and his advisers, it is a qualified privilege that can be overcome by a showing of the committee’s need for the documents.

Issa quoted from a 1997 case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in which the court said the privilege should not extend to staff outside the White House in executive branch agencies.

Rather, the court said, it should apply only to “communications authored or solicited and received by those members of an immediate White House adviser’s staff” with responsibility for formulating advice for the president.

However, the case Issa repeatedly cited in his letter distinguishes carefully between the “presidential communications privilege” and the “deliberative process privilege,” which Obama invoked in the current dispute over Operation Fast and Furious. In the case Issa cited, the court dealt only with the presidential communication privilege but observed that both the communications privilege and the deliberative privilege are executive privileges designed to protect the confidentiality of executive branch decision-making.

Boehner Blog – WH's Irrational Response

Editor’s Note – From the official Blog of the Speaker of the House of the United States of America.

Out of Order: The White House’s Irrational Response on Executive Privilege

Posted by Brendan Buck and Kevin Smith – Boehner’s official  Blog

Yesterday, House Oversight & Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent a letter to the president pressing him to explain the basis for invoking executive privilege over Department of Justice documents requested as part of the Fast and Furious investigation.  The letter states, in part:

Speaker of the House, John Boehner

“Courts have consistently held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege – the only privilege that ever can justify the withholding of documents from a congressional committee by the Executive Branch – is only applicable with respect to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the President’s decision-making process, defined as those documents and communications to and from the President and his most senior advisors.  Even then, it is a qualified privilege that is overcome by a showing of the committee’s need for the documents.  The letters from Messrs. Holder and Cole cited no case law to the contrary.” 

In legal decisions on the scope of executive privilege during the Bush and Clinton administrations, judges consistently ruled that executive privilege does NOT extend to Cabinet level officials or their staffs.  As the DC Circuit Court wrote in 2004 in its Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Department of Justice decision, “communications of staff outside of the White House in executive branch agencies that were not solicited and received by such White House advisors could not [be covered by executive privilege].”  Also, as noted in this CRS report, the DC Circuit Court ruled in 1997, “the presidential communications privilege should never serve as a means of shielding information regarding governmental operations that do not call ultimately for direct decision-making by the President.”

The White House appears to know this. This morning, White House spokesman Eric Schultz responded to Chairman Issa’s letter by saying, “the Courts have routinely considered deliberative process privilege claims and affirmed the right of the executive branch to invoke the privilege even when White House documents are not involved.” [emphasis added]

But the president didn’t assert “deliberative process privilege” – he asserted executive privilege, which is reserved to protect internal White House decision-making. When presidents have asserted it over other executive branch documents and communications, either courts have ruled those claims to be invalid and ordered them overturned OR the White House has relented and provided Congress with the documents that were requested.

So where does that leave its claim of executive privilege?  The White House – through interviews with the president and statements made by White House staff – has consistently denied any knowledge of facts surrounding the Fast & Furious operation or the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  But Republicans never suggested the White House was involved.  That’s why the president’s assertion of executive privilege was so surprising and troubling, and why Speaker Boehner said last week that the decision to invoke executive privilege is “an admission” that White House officials were involved in some way.  After all, if the White House wasn’t involved, why would it assert executive privilege?

There are two – and only two – explanations: either the documents requested will show White House involvement in the fallout and cover-up of the operation – or the president’s executive privilege claim is frivolous. As Issa’s letter explains:

“Accordingly, your privilege assertion means one of two things.  Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.  To date, the White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the Department with respect to the congressional investigation.  The surprising assertion of executive privilege raised the question of whether that is still the case.”

So which is it?

Back in 2007, then-Senator Obama clearly didn’t think that asserting executive privilege was a matter of “principle.”  Something in the documents the White House is now hiding from disclosure seems to have changed his mind.  Unless the administration cooperates before Thursday, a vote of contempt is necessary so the House can continue its efforts to find out the truth and provide answers for the family of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.