For the first time in recent memory, Attorney General Eric Holder seems to be genuinely eager to meet with Republican lawmakers to discuss the ongoing investigation into operation Fast and Furious and has offered to meet with GOP investigators to make an "extraordinary accommodation."
For that, Holder may deserve some credit – even if it took the threat of contempt charges to earn his cooperation.
In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Holder said he would turn over briefings and documents – based on internal U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) communications – to congressional investigators that had previously been withheld.
Further, Holder wants to meet with Issa on Monday to make sure the two sides can find common ground, but more importantly the attorney general wants to make sure the contempt charges are taken off the table.
The letter was in response to one sent by Issa to Holder on Wednesday.
From Holder's letter to Issa:
The Department is prepared to offer an extraordinary accommodation of the Committee's interest in those issues by providing a briefing, based on documents that the Committee could retain, explaining how the Department's understanding of the facts of Fast and Furious evolved during the post-February 4 period.
We believe this briefing... will fully address the remaining concerns identified in the recent letters to me from you and House leadership.
The Department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution.
However, because as the Chairman only you have the authority to bind the committee, I continue to believe that a meeting is required both to assure that there are no misunderstandings about this matter and to confirm that the elements of the proposal we are making will be deemed sufficient to render the process of contempt unnecessary. I seek your direct engagement for precisely that reason, and I propose that the meeting occur by Monday, June 18, 2012.
The House had scheduled a vote for next week on whether to charge Holder with contempt, hence the attorney general's eagerness.
In the letter, Holder maintains that senior DOJ officials were not aware of the "inappropriate tactics" of Fast and Furious until the scandal was made public. Read the whole letter here.
Politico has more on the response from Republicans:
Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that the contempt vote was a looming “constitutional crisis” between the executive and legislative branches of government and needs to be resolved quickly.
Aides to Issa, though, were unwilling to say whether Holder’s offer was enough to postpone Wednesday’s contempt vote until they have time to go through the materials provided by DOJ.
“We’ll look at those documents and the committee’s response to the Department of Justice will be based on [what we find] after reviewing the documents the Department of Justice’s chooses to have there,” said a committee source.
This source noted that Holder and the Justice Department have now “altered their opposition” to turning over the internal deliberative documents. “Hopefully, he’ll be willing and will continue to waive that objection that he has articulated on other concerns about Operation Fast and Furious, including items related to the treatment of whistleblowers,” the source said.
Fast and Furious, a failed federal gun-walking operation, has been under investigation by Republicans for more than a year. The operation was launched in Arizona in late 2009 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney's office located there. For reasons that are still fuzzy, the guns were lost and eventually started turning up at crime scenes in Mexico, including at the murder scene of U.S. Border agent Brian Terry in December, 2010.
Despite conflicting testimony and various evidence that senior DOJ officials were aware of the operation, Holder and his department continue to deny any involvement.