Perhaps as a contingency in anticipation of President Obama’s victory at the Supreme Court this morning, the Republicans are planning a party pooper: to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. I admit that I haven’t been paying enough attention to the story, seeing it merely as another bitter but inconsequential partisan battle, however, my interest has changed dramatically in light of an article a friend shared with me that represents a lengthy investigation of the matter.
Essentially, the current story, as reported in both the conservative and mainstream media, is, according to Fortune, incorrect. Briefly summarized, the story — before this new interpretation — supposes that there was a secret DOJ operation that ran guns to Mexican drug lords in a misguided attempt to track them and stem this deadly commerce. When a federal agent was killed — supposedly by one of these guns — the story exploded. At first the Justice Department denied any knowledge of the operation, but then under pressure from ATF agent John Dodson, the DOJ “admitted” its existence. They have admitted that the ATF purposefully chose not to interdict guns it lawfully could have seized and in December, Holder testified that “the use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable, and it must never happen again.”
Last week, the story intensified as the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, under the leadership of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over some subpoenaed documents. This will be the first time in U.S. history an attorney general has been held in contempt.
And so, that’s basically how the story has been reported, but according to this exhaustive investigation by Fortune, it’s not true because it leaves out an incredibly important fact: There was no such operation within the Justice Department. How could this be? How could the Justice Department admit to something that wasn’t, in fact, occurring? Could this be an example of the Obama administration seeking to avoid a drawn out partisan argument that would play into the Republicans campaign narrative? A desire to avoid a “debate” about gun control laws that would activate part of the GOP base?
But there’s another question that — before this morning — had troubled me. Why were Congressional Republicans scheduling the Fast and Furious contempt vote on the afternoon of the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling? If they thought the Supreme Court was going to rule against Obamacare, why would they want to step on that story?
In retrospect, perhaps it was a “tell.” But for that to be true, Republicans in Congress would have had to know in advance how the court was going to rule. And we all know that’s not possible.