February 2nd is fast approaching for Attorney General Eric Holder, who is set to appear before the House Oversight Committee for questioning on Fast and Furious. This will put him in the hot seat in front of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other congressional members like Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who have been steady on Holder’s trail since details of Fast and Furious became public.
Holder’s last appearance before a congressional committee was on December 8, when Issa made it clear how irritated he was over the changing timeline, Holder’s perceived arrogance, and the ongoing refusal to turn over subpoenaed DOJ documents. In one of the best exchanges on Dec 8, Issa looked at Holder and asked, “Have you no shame?” That was also the hearing in which Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), expressed his outrage over the fact that Holder’s DOJ had submitted inaccurate testimony then withdrawn it in an attempt to avoid being charged with providing false testimony.
But a lot has changed since that early December hearing. Most recently, the last minute release of subpoenaed documents which show that Holder learned about Border Agent Brian Terry’s death on the day it happened: a point Holder has heretofore denied. (Emails between Dennis Burke, former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, and Holder’s then-deputy chief of staff prove this.) Additionally, other emails in the recently released DOJ documents show that the head of DOJ’s “criminal division, Lanny Breuer, suggested letting some illicit ‘straw’ weapons buyers in the U.S. [to] transport their guns across the border into Mexico where they could be arrested.”
Then there’s Patrick J. Cunningham, Chief of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, who was subpoenaed to appear for testimony on January 24, but pleaded the 5th in order to avoid being “compelled to be a witness against himself.” As a result, a determined Congressman Issa has demanded that Cunningham’s underling, Michael Morrissey, Assistant United States Attorney, “speak with Committee investigators about his role in and knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious.”
All this to say, as I watch the hearings this Thursday I hope to see the committee place Holder under oath and then ask tough, pointed questions about these and other recently revealed matters. For example, in light of the emails, Holder needs to give a clear and binding answer regarding when he found out about Terry’s death. He needs to explain how the DOJ can claim ignorance regarding “gun running” while their own man, Lanny Breuer, was pushing it as a means making arrests. He needs to explain what, if any, interaction he or other DOJ officials/affiliates had with Patrick J. Cunningham between the time Cunningham was subpoenaed and the time his attorney announced he would plead the fifth. And he needs to describe what, if any, interaction he or other DOJ officials/affiliates have had with Michael Morrissey at this time regarding the testimony Morrissey is expected to give when he speaks with investigators.
One more thing: The question on Breuer’s push for gun running could easily be tied to Holder’s April 2, 2009 speech in Mexico wherein he bragged about the implementation of “Project Gunrunner.” Perhaps Issa can ask Holder if he and Breuer worked out the details of that speech together?