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Posts tagged "Fast And Furious"

h/t: Mark Gongloff at HuffPost Politics 

A Republican Congressman derided President Obama as a vengeful liar who lacks the “moral compass” during a scathing speech on the House floor on Monday, just as some party leaders are cautioning the GOP against overreaching in their response to the controversies surrounding the administration.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) referenced the Fast and Furious operation, Obama’s response to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Justice Department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records, the Internal Revenue Services’ (IRS) targeting of conservative groups, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ efforts to promote enrollment in the Affordable Care Act to argue that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are “not fit to lead.”

Mr. Speaker, the President’s dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness and lack of moral compass lead many to suggest that he is not fit to lead.

The only problem is that his vice president is equally unfit and even more embarrassing.

Appearing on The Mark Levin Show on Tuesday, Bridenstine said he has “gotten great encouragement” for his remarks from fellow Republicans.

h/t: ThinkProgress

A few weeks ago, we started listening to Rick Wiles’ “Trunews” radio program because we discovered that he regularly interviews a variety of Religious Right activists that we monitor here.  But since then, we’ve begun listening just because his show - “the only newscast reporting the countdown to the second coming of Jesus Christ” - is also a cavalcade of insanity.

And yesterday’s program was no exception, as Wiles’ grew increasingly worked up about North Korea’s latest threat against the United States, which he blamed on “gay rights fanatics.”

Elsewhere in the program, Wiles declared that the “Fast and the Furious” scandal is part of an effort by the Obama administration to arm Mexican gangs who will then wage war on Texas and Arizona while the administration stockpiles ammunition to supply “Obama’s commie army.”

Wiles is definitely THE craziest religious right broadcaster in existence, beating out Bryan Fischer AND Buster Wilson for the title (so far).

H/T: Right Wing Watch

While the White House, governors, Congress and other public officials grapple with policy responses to last month’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, many Americans wonder whether the massacre of young children will provide momentum for more effective laws that previous killing sprees – even one that gravely wounded a member of Congress – have not. 

Some assume, wrongly, that nothing can be done.  Politicians’ fear of the $200+ million National Rifle Association (NRA) is generally cited as the reason for weak gun laws that undermine law enforcement and put citizens at higher risk from gun crimes.  The power of the NRA to determine the outcome of elections may well be more myth than reality, but even the perception of such power can give the group tremendous political muscle, along with its aggressive lobbying and strong-arm political tactics.

The NRA is not alone in attempting to prevent effective regulation of guns and promoting reckless policies that leave Americans vulnerable to crime.  Its efforts are supported by the same kind of coalition that undermines the nation’s ability to solve a wide range of problems.  Corporations, right-wing ideologues, and Religious Right leaders work together to misinform Americans, generate unfounded fears, and prevent passage of broadly supported solutions.

Understanding the extremism and dishonesty at the heart of right-wing obstructionism is crucial to overcoming it.  

Who’s Extreme?

Opponents of stronger gun laws portray any effort to regulate the sale of even military-style weapons as radical assaults on American freedom.  For instance, Matt Barber of the Liberty Counsel, a Religious Right legal group, called President Obama a “slime ball,” claiming falsely that Obama used his remarks at a memorial service for the Connecticut shooting victims to push “radical” gun control and saying of Obama, “His extremism knows no lows.”

But it is Barber and NRA officials who are staking out an extreme position. They emphatically do not speak for the American people.  More strikingly, the NRA leadership and its allies do not speak for the group’s own members.  Huge majorities of NRA members support sensible policies that the group opposes. For example, 82 percent of the public, and 74 percent of NRA members, support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun.  NRA leaders strongly oppose requiring background checks for gun sales.  And a recent poll taken after the Newtown shooting found that a majority of people who live in gun-owning households support a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

At the urging of NRA officials, Congress has even passed laws that undermine law enforcement officials’ ability to fight gun crimes, forcing the Justice Department to destroy within 24 hours records about the buyer in approved purchases and making it harder for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to track sales of certain guns used in crimes.  How do anti-gun-regulation activists prevent action in the face of broad public support?  They deploy a range of strategies and tactics that right-wing activists use on a variety of issues:

Denying and Masking Reality

On issues from gay rights to climate change, right-wing activists stick stubbornly to their ideology even when it is clearly controverted by scientific consensus and other reality.  On gun violence, NRA officials  and their allies refuse to acknowledge that the availability of assault weapons and high-volume ammunition clips, or the lack of background checks for private sales of guns, are problems that make it easier for a shooter to kill more innocent people quickly.  They ignore evidence that stronger gun laws can and do reduce gun crimes. According to an October 2012 report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, “When states expand firearm prohibitions to high-risk groups, and adopt comprehensive measures to prevent diversion of guns to prohibited persons, fewer guns are diverted to criminals, and there is less violence. ”

One way to mask reality is through rhetoric that distorts or hides the truth.  Tea Party leaders and their allies rallied opposition to federal health care reform by portraying “ObamaCare” in lurid end-of-freedom, America-destroying rhetoric. They were successful in building public opposition to the generic “ObamaCare” – even though there was strong majority support for most of the substantive elements of the plan.  By portraying advocates for stronger gun regulation as government thugs who want to take guns from hunters’ hands, NRA leaders and their allies have been able to generate some poll numbers indicating opposition to “gun control,” but the more relevant fact for policymakers is that huge majorities of Americans, and of NRA members themselves, back many of the most commonly discussed approaches to reducing gun violence.  Stronger efforts to keep dangerous guns out of the hands of dangerous people are simply not attacks on the right recognized by the Supreme Court under the Second Amendment of law-abiding citizens to have guns for hunting or self-defense.

Shifting Blame

The speech by the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre a week after the Connecticut shootings was a memorable display of blame shifting.  He attempted to cast blame for the killings on everyone but his own group’s resistance to stronger controls on assault weapons and the firearms or ammunition themselves.

Religious Right leaders and right-wing pundits played their usual parts in the spin. Religious broadcaster James Dobson said the shooting was God’s judgment for the country turning its back on scripture and on God.  Franklin Graham said much the same: “This is what happens when a society turns its back on God.”  Radio host Steve Deace blamed public schools for promoting a “culture of death” and teaching students “there is no God and thus no real purpose to their lives.”  American Family Association spokesperson Bryan Fischer said God wasn’t there to protect students because schools were not starting the day with prayer.  Newt Gingrich blamed “an anti-religious secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary seeking to drive God out of public life,” along with video games.  Culture warriors Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder wrote in Movieguide:

By removing God, the Bible, God’s Law, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit from society, including the mass media and the schools, we are raising generations of people with no faith in God or Jesus and, hence, no moral conscience, and no self-control.  If so many people have no faith, no moral conscience and no self-control, then it’s no wonder our society is suffering from all these mass murders by evil lone gunmen.

Tea Party Nation blamed teachers’ unions, liberals, and an “over-bureaucratized society.”  The Oathkeepers, a Tea Party offshoot for military and law enforcement officials, argued that the federal government was “complicit in the deaths of these children, and in fact an accessory to their mass murder, by forcibly disarming (with the very real threat of prison) all the teachers, all the staff, and any parent who may have been on school property.”

The consequence of such blame-spreading is that it creates distractions from addressing the real problems.  One Religious Right leader appearing on American Family Radio called the shooting a “gracious” act of divine punishment designed to “bring us to our senses and bring us back to Him.” 

Hostility to Compromise

The absolute refusal to compromise – indeed, the vilification of the very idea of compromise – is at the heart of the right-wing movement and much of the modern Republican Party.  That has been the story of GOP obstructionism on tax policy, judicial nominations, and more.  Just as the Tea Party and its corporate backers have gone out of their way to punish Republicans they see as insufficiently “conservative” – even when it meant nominating extremists who could not win a general election – leaders of the NRA and other groups like the Gun Owners of America react with fierce hostility to talk of compromise.  Their political power comes largely from the fear they have created among elected leaders that the group will spend lavishly to punish even the tiniest dissent from its ideological dogma.  The NRA’s leaders loudly pulled out of current conversations convened by the White House, denouncing the effort to find policy solutions to gun violence as “demonizing” the Second Amendment, and they launched a “Stand and Fight” campaign even before the details of the White House proposals had been announced.  Rep. Steve Stockman from Texas even threatened to file articles of impeachment.

One way Religious Right leaders justify their opposition to compromise is claiming a biblical mandate for their favored policies, something Religious Right leaders do on issues like taxes as well as issues involving privacy and sexuality.  Discredited Religious Right “historian” David Barton calls the Second Amendment “the biblical right of self-defense” and says it requires that individual Americans have access to any weapon the federal government has.

Smearing Opponents

Just as Religious Right groups smear political opponents as hostile to religious liberty, anti-gun-regulation groups smear as enemies of liberty anyone who advocates for stronger oversight on the purchase of weapons capable of mass violence.  Even though polls show that NRA members believe support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with preventing gun crimes, the group’s leaders falsely equate any effort to strengthen gun laws to advance public safety with a desire to confiscate Americans’ handguns and hunting rifles.

Religious Right leaders are prone to make claims that only fellow believers are capable of moral action and decision making.  Snyder and Baehr, in their post-shooting column, wrote, “Without God, without faith and values, we are just soulless meat machines who can kill without mercy.”

Promoting Conspiracy Theories

The right-wing base of the Republican Party is fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories about liberals and other perceived enemies.  That’s why so many Republicans believe President Obama is a secret Muslim bent on the destruction of the US, or that he was not born in the United States. During the Obama administration, right-wing websites have circulated conspiracy theories about the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security administration stockpiling ammunition intended to be used against Americans and building concentration camps for conservatives.

National Rifle Association leaders claimed during the 2012 election that President Obama’s lack of action on gun issues during his first term was an elaborate ruse to mask his radical intentions to disarm gun owners.  Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America insisted that the federal health care reform law was meant to “take away your guns.”

Some went even further: Christian radio host Bradlee Dean, a close ally of Rep. Michele Bachmann, suggested that the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, like earlier murders at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, were actually orchestrated by the government to create a pretext to ban guns.

Extremist Interpretations of the Constitution

A Wyoming legislator has introduced legislation that would make it a felony to enforce a federal ban on assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition.  The idea that a state could imprison federal agents for enforcing a federal law may excite right-wing activists, but it doesn’t reflect a reality-based view of our constitutional system of government.  And that’s a widespread problem.  David Barton insists that the founding fathers’ view of the constitutional right to bear arms means that any weapon the government possesses must also be available to the population at large: “…whatever the government’s got, we’ve gotta have the same thing, because if they’ve got an AK-47 and come through and we’ve only got a BB gun on the inside, this is not a deterrent.  So the whole purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure you have equal power with whatever comes against you illegally.”  If Barton is really saying that citizens have a Second Amendment right to anything that is in the U.S. military arsenal – chemical weapons, fully automated machine guns, bombs, and more – that is emphatically not a view endorsed by the Supreme Court.

Ted Cruz, a new U.S. senator from Texas elected with major support from Tea Party activists said recently that efforts to restrict the sales of assault weapons and ammunition are unconstitutional.  In fact, even the conservative Supreme Court has said clearly that regulating the sale of dangerous guns is not prohibited by the Second Amendment.  According to Justice Antonin Scalia, “the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.”

Harnessing Corporate Money

Right-wing causes, including the Tea Party, anti-unionism, and anti-environmentalism, have benefitted from a flood of corporate money in the wake of Supreme Court decisions gutting the nation’s campaign finance laws.  In addition, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group that acts as matchmaker between corporate interests and lawmakers eager to do their bidding, has produced literally hundreds of model bills that right-wing legislators have enacted into law – attacking unions and public education and otherwise supporting the predatory privatization of public assets and government services.  Among the model bills ALEC has previously promoted is the so-called “stand your ground” law originally adopted in Florida.  ALEC deemed it a national “model” law, and it was enacted in more than two dozen states.  The Florida law was cited initially to prevent the prosecution of the man who killed Trayvon Martin.

Some analysts believe the NRA has morphed from a grassroots group teaching marksmanship to a trade association for gun manufacturers – a “lobbying, merchandising and marketing machine.”  Business Week reported in January 2012 that more than 50 firearms-related companies had given at least $14.8 million to the group.  The NRA has boosted gun makers several ways: its rhetoric about gun confiscation has spurred binge buying by gun enthusiasts; it has pushed a federal law that limits liability against gunmakers as well as state laws that bar cities from suing gun manufacturers (in conjunction with ALEC); and the NRA’s legislative arm has also “helped ensure the end of the federal assault weapons ban” in 2004 (which the NRA and ALEC opposed in 1994).  Business Week quotes the former NRA President Sandy Froman claiming that it “saved the American gun industry from bankruptcy.”

Anything Goes

A hallmark of right-wing activism over the past four years has been a willingness to say and do anything to try to undermine the effectiveness of the Obama presidency and to try to prevent the president’s re-election (as well as his initial election).  Rhetorically, that has meant equating health care reform and other initiatives with tyranny.  In response to recent reports that some aspects of gun regulation could be strengthened by executive order, the right-wing Drudge Report posted photos of Hitler and Stalin. 

Before the 2012 election, NRA leaders portrayed President Obama as conspiring to abolish Americans’ Second Amendment rights.  But NRA efforts to bring down the Obama administration went well beyond political rhetoric and campaign spending.  The NRA leadership played a significant role in the failed effort by congressional Republicans to turn the ATF’s botched “Fast and Furious” operation into an administration-destroying scandal.  NRA officials even announced that the group would “score” a House vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, getting votes from Republicans and some Democrats eager to preserve a 100-percent NRA rating.

Money, Power, and Perception

Back in August, Daniel Webster, co-director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said, “Democrats have decided, I think wrongly politically and morally, that it’s only an issue they can lose on.”  Indeed, even though the group’s recent political spending is heavily weighted toward Republicans, the lack of desire to cross the NRA’s lobbyists and activists is bipartisan.  In 2009, a Democratic Congress complied with demands for federal laws allowing people to bring guns onto Amtrak trains and into national parks; in 2010 the group demanded, and got, a special exemption from identifying its donors in the DISCLOSE Act under consideration.

h/t: People For The American Way

With days–perhaps hours–to go before President Obama announces recommendations from Vice President Biden’s gun violence task force, battles lines have already been drawn.

Most dramatically, with the heartrending burials of 20 innocent first-graders and six of their heroic educators as a backdrop, NRA top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre issued a belligerent and self-pitying demand for yet more weaponry, and the posting of armed guards at every school in America. But as the nation debates Obama’s proposals—and LaPierre’s—it will be important to reexamine the NRA’s greatest PR victory of the last few years: the greatly overworked, shamefully distorted Fast and Furious scandal. 

As Fortune reporter Katherine Eban revealed in an outstanding investigation published last summer, much of what Republicans have claimed about the scandal—including the headline-grabbing assertion that the US government intentionally provided guns to Mexican drug cartels—is false. The real story is of an agency sabotaged by the same pro-gun mania which led to the Newtown tragedy.

The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) opened up the Fast and Furious case to monitor American teenagers, who had been tapped by Mexican drug cartels to help arm the war in Mexico by becoming straw purchasers or front buyers. Our laws permit a teenager with no prior criminal record to pay cash and buy an unlimited number of military assault rifles. Their favorites included AR-15 variants like the Bushmaster .223 rifle used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Were Lanza in Arizona, he could have walked into nearly any federally licensed firearms dealer, plunked down $10,000 in cash, and left with 20 AK-47s in his hands—as do so many straw purchasers.

In a sane country, the inquiry into Brian Terry’s death would have examined all the tools that the ATF agents lacked in trying to build a case against the straw purchasers in Fast and Furious. There is no firearms trafficking statute, which would have allowed the ATF to build a swifter case that targeted the straw purchasers and their recruiters as a group. There is no comprehensive database of firearms purchases, which would have given the agents a much-needed real-time look at their suspects’ activities. In fact, the laws are so lax that the buyers didn’t even need to resort to a favored avenue for shady purchases: our totally unregulated gun shows, which require no background checks at all. (A sane country also would not have left the ATF to languish without a permanent head for fully six years—an unacceptable situation that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has rightly called on the president to address with a recess appointment.)

The Republican-led House, acting in lockstep with the NRA, twisted the facts of the ill-fated gun trafficking investigation in Phoenix to complete almost every item on its political To Do list. It used the scandal to bludgeon and destabilize the ATF, the agency charged with enforcing the nation’s gun laws. It diverted attention from the ineffective gun laws that made the ATF’s job in Fast and Furious nearly impossible. And it emerged with a cherished talking point: that the gun laws on the books right now are more than adequate, and it’s only their enforcement that has flaws.

The effort by the NRA and its friends in Congress to stymie any discussion of our permissive guns laws during its Fast and Furious investigation was made plain by the lead sled dog, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who at multiple hearings openly silenced Democratic members from even asking questions about the strength of the laws or potential legislative solutions.

If the NRA and Republican congressmen really cared about Brian Terry or his tragic death, they would have probed the actual causes underlying it, instead of proliferating a lot of phony conspiracy theories so wild, they almost left Stephen Colbert at a loss for words.

Early on in the investigation, the few reality-based ideas came from Representative Elijah Cummings, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s ranking Democrat. Cummings held a hearing on the state of the gun laws and issued a report with recommendations including the enactment of a federal firearms trafficking statute. But the 36-month Republican-led investigation into Fast and Furious yielded not a single suggestion for strengthening the laws or empowering the ATF. Instead, it was a blueprint for reducing what passes as gun enforcement to rubble. As we’re tragically reminded over and over, that comes at a tragic price.

h/t: Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation

Wayne LaPierre, who has been with the organization (NRA) since 1991, has been one of the nation’s most visible and vocal opponents of gun control laws. Over his tenure, he has drawn bipartisan criticism for a wide array of extreme public statements — in addition to his most recent comments following the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Here are some of LaPierre’s more stunning statements:

1. Law enforcement are “Jack-Booted Thugs.” In March 1995, LaPierre sent a fundraising letter to 3.5 million NRA members calling federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” and arguing that “in Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.” President George H.W. Bush resigned his membership in protest and LaPierre was forced to apologize.

2. Bill Clinton purposely tolerated violence in order to ban guns. In March 2000, the New York Times reported LaPierre “said President Clinton tolerated a certain amount of violence and killing to strengthen the case for gun control and to score points for his party. Mr. Clinton called the comments ‘smear tactics.’ Then Mr. LaPierre said Mr. Clinton had blood ‘on his hands’ because he had not enforced existing gun laws.”

3. Gun-Free zones are killing people. After the January 2011 Tucson shootings, LaPierre claimed “gun-free zones and anti-self defense laws that protected the safety of no one except the killers,” and said that “by its lies and laws and lack of enforcement, government polices are getting us killed, and imprisoning us in a society of terrifying violence.” This, despite the fact that the shooting had not taken place in a gun-free zone. He added, “These clowns want to ban magazines. Are you kidding me? But that’s their response to the blizzard of violence and mayhem affecting our nation. One more gun law on top of all of the laws already on the books.”

4. Obama spent a lifetime destroying the Second Amendment. LaPierre refused to take part in discussions with President Obama’s administration after Tucson shootings to discuss possible ways to avoid future mass shootings. “Why should I or the N.R.A. go sit down with a group of people that have spent a lifetime trying to destroy the Second Amendment in the United States,” he asked.

5. Fast and Furious was engineered for “political advantage.” In March 2011, LaPierre said on a Fox News program he hosted that “someone in the government” engineered the failed Operation Fast and Furious “to seek political advantage.”

6. The UN is coming for American guns. In July 2012, LaPierre told Fox News Channel’s Megyn Kelly that a proposed United Nations treaty regulating the global arms trade “says to people in the United States, turn over your personal protection and your firearms to the government.”

7. Obama will confiscate “our firearms.” In July 2012 — just three days after the movie theater shootings in Aurora, CO — LaPierre sent a paranoid fundraising letter warning that the group needed to defeat President Obama’s re-election. “The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake,” the letter said. “And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake.” … The solicitation letter says that Obama’s re-election would result in the “confiscation of our firearms.”

8. Obama’s inaction on guns is a conspiracy to win re-election. In September 2012, LaPierre suggested a novel theory as to why President Obama had not opposed gun rights in his first term. He said the administration’s inaction was “part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country…Before the president was even sworn into office, they met and they hatched a conspiracy of public deception to try to guarantee his re-election in 2012.”

9. All will be lost if Obama is re-elected. In February, LaPierre predicted that gun owners will rally en masse to defeat Obama in November. “All of what we know is good and right about America, all of it could be lost if Barack Obama is re-elected,” he said. “It’s all or nothing.”

Kiss my ass, Wayne LaPierre!

h/t: Josh Israel at Think Progress

For nearly two years, House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) has tried to exploit the tragedy of a series of botched gun stings that led to a federal law enforcement agent’s death in order to score political points against Attorney General Eric Holder. The gun stings that are the focus of Issa’s witchhunt against Holder began when George W. Bush was president and Holder was an attorney in private practice. Nevertheless, Issa eventually forced the House Republican leadership to hold a contempt of Congress vote against Holder, although the leaders buried that vote on the same day that the Affordable Care Act was upheld in a likely attempt to prevent Issa’s witchhunt from receiving much media coverage.

This week’s Inspector General report was no whitewash. It recommended discipline against 14 DOJ officials and found “a pattern of serious failures” associated with the gun stings. In other words, it proves that Holder’s Justice Department is fully capable of examining its own dirty laundry and determining which officials need to be disciplined or removed because they performed their job poorly. Issa’s witchhunt does little more than distract from this important effort.

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress


Investigation finds no evidence AG Eric Holder knew of ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running sting

A long-awaited report on the U.S. government’s controversial gun-trafficking operation known as “Fast and Furious” released Wednesday found no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder knew of the botched effort to trace the flow of guns to Mexico’s drug cartels prior to its public unraveling in January 2011. 

(via nbcnews)

Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine has made no secret of his right-of-center political views, but the singer took an ugly conspiratorialist turn last week in Singapore when he said on stage during a concert August 7th that President Obama is behind recent shooting rampages near Denver and Milwaukee, TMZ reports. "My president," Mustaine began, before pausing to pantomime gagging, "is trying to pass a gun ban, so he’s staging all of these murders, like the Fast and Furious thing down at the border, you know, Aurora, Colorado, all the people that were killed there. And now the beautiful people at the Sikh temple."

Mustaine went on to muse about where he was going to live “if America keeps going the way it’s going, because it looks like it’s turning into Nazi America.” His comments in Singapore weren’t the singer’s first foray into right-wing conspiracy theories: Mustaine has also expressed “birther” sentiments about Obama’s citizenship. “I know he was born somewhere else than America,” Mustaine said in March on a Canadian talk show.

h/t: Rolling Stone

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized lawmakers Monday for voting to hold him in contempt of Congress last week, saying Republicans have made him a “proxy” to attack President Obama in an election year.

In his first interview since Thursday’s vote, Holder said lawmakers have used an investigation of a botched gun-tracking operation as a way to seek retribution against the Justice Department for its policies on a host of issues, including immigration, voting rights and gay marriage. He said the chairman of the committee leading the inquiry, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is engaging in political theater as the Justice Department tries to focus on public safety.

The House voted Thursday to make Holder the first sitting attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt, after he withheld certain documents that lawmakers have demanded as part of their investigation of Fast and Furious.

As part of the gun operation, run by the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, federal agents watched as more than 2,000 guns hit the streets; their goal was to trace them to a Mexican drug cartel. Two guns linked to the operation were later found at the scene where a Border Patrol agent was killed.

The Justice Department has provided Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee with 7,600 documents on Fast and Furious. Republicans, however, have pressed for more records about the department’s internal deliberations, saying they want to determine who knew about the operation and when. They have also questioned why Obama invoked executive privilege to keep the documents from them.

Defending his actions

In the interview, in a stately fifth-floor conference room at the Justice Department, the attorney general defended his handling of the case, saying that when he found out about Fast and Furious, he ordered an internal investigation, stopped the use of certain tactics in gun cases and made personnel changes. He also reiterated his belief that turning over the documents would have a “chilling effect” on department lawyers who prepare materials for cases.

“I’ve been a line lawyer, and I know what it would mean to think that ‘if I write this, it is going to someday come before a congressional committee,’ ” Holder said.

Those arguments have not resonated with Republicans or with some Democrats. Seventeen moderate Democrats who face tough reelection contests joined the vote against Holder; several said they thought the attorney general was thumbing his nose at the House’s oversight responsibility.

h/t: Sari Horwitz at WaPo

The Department of Justice is telling Congress that it won’t prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress over his decision to withhold information about the “Fast and Furious” gun-tracking operation.  

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department says that it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general.   

Yesterday, the full House approved a precedent-setting resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress.  It was the first time a sitting Cabinet member has been held in contempt.

The final vote was 255-67, with only two Republicans voting “no.” 108 Democrats abstained from voting on what they have long argued is a politically motivated stunt.  Many walked out of the Capitol in protest.  

Republican lawmakers can still take Holder to court to enforce their demand for documents.

Teapublicans have been trying to redefine racism into something for Right Wing Republicans can use as a club against Democrats.  Leading the charge is the nuutball from Florida Allen West.

Rep. West charges Black Caucus of supporting Holder because of ‘the color of his skin’

By Alicia M. Cohn     - 06/28/12 05:00 PM ET

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) on Thursday blasted his fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for staging a walkout on a contempt vote by the House against Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Today the Congressional Black Caucus and other liberal Members of Congress judged the Attorney General by the color of his skin, and not by the content of his character,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I am disappointed my colleagues would rather engage in a political stunt to distract the American people from knowing the truth behind the Attorney General’s disregard of the law and disrespect of congressional oversight to provide requested documents.”

H/T: Lefty Coaster at Daily Kos

WASHINGTON — Barring a last-minute deal, House Republicans plan historic votes Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in civil and criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to a bungled gun-tracking operation.

A sitting attorney general never has been held in contempt and Republicans picked an odd day to set a precedent. They scheduled the votes the same day the Supreme Court was deciding the legality of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Passage of the contempt resolutions was not in doubt. Republicans control the House, and are likely to pick up Democrats who support the National Rifle Association. The NRA said it’s keeping score on how members vote, partly because the gun owners’ group believes the Obama administration wanted to use the program – called Operation Fast and Furious – to make the case for more gun control.

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. The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Fast and Furious.

Two of the guns turned up at the scene where border agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona in a shootout with Mexican bandits.

Ironically, the documents at the heart of the current argument are not directly related to the workings of Operation Fast and Furious. Rather, they are internal Justice Department communications after February 2011, when the Obama administration falsely told Congress that guns were not allowed to “walk” to Mexico. The department has given the Oversight Committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., 7,600 documents on the operation itself.

Fast and Furious had been shut down by the time of the false information, but Issa wants documents showing deliberations during the 10 months it took for the administration to acknowledge the error.

h/t: Huffington Post

On Current TV’s The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur discusses Fortune Magazine's report on Fast and Furious:

Cenk digs into Fortune Magazine’s report following a six-month investigation into claims that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sold guns to straw purchasers for Mexican cartels during Operation Fast and Furious. Attorney General Eric Holder may be held in contempt, but Fortune concludes that ATF agents never purposely sold to cartels.