House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) continues to threaten Attorney General Eric Holder with a contempt of Congress citation should he not comply with Issa’s request for a wide-range of documents relating to the Bush-administration-initiated “Fast and Furious” program. The Department of Justice has said releasing some of the documents Issa is demanding could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.
But, Issa has not always favored executive branch compliance with Congressional records requests. In 2007, Issa complained to the Press Enterprise of Riverside, CA that scrutiny into Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the firings of numerous U.S. Attorneys amounted to a “political witch hunt” by Democrats:
“I see no evidence it (the attorneys’ firing) was political,” Issa, R-Vista, said by telephone between votes on the House floor. “They want to imply there was criminal behavior when there isn’t even a criminal allegation.” …
Justice Department officials said the firings were based largely on performance issues, and released thousands of pages of e-mails and other documents to substantiate the claim. Issa said releasing the documents was a mistake on the part of the administration. U.S. attorneys are “at will” employees and can be let go without reason or public explanation.
An Issa spokeswoman attempted to explain away the discrepancy to ABC News claiming that the Bush administration used executive privilege in Gonzales’s case, while Holder has not done. She refused to provide any additional explanation.
Of course, the Bush administration had already released the documents in question — making it bizarre that Issa’s office now claims they were somehow protected by executive privilege.
And unlike “Fast and Furious” — a relatively low-level screw-up — the “fundamentally flawed” firing of U.S. attorneys for purely political reasons was a senior-level scandal as it involved actions by officials at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. Attorney General Gonzales ultimately resigned his position, in large part due to the scandal and a report by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found Gonzales and his deputy for “abdicated their responsibility to adequately oversee the process and to ensure that the reasons for removal of each U.S. Attorney were supportable and not improper.” Issa dismissed the real political scandal and now attempts to make political hay from an inflated one.
The Huffington Post notes that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), head of the GOP senate campaign arm, demonstrated similar hypocrisy this week, calling for Holder’s resignation. In 2007, Cornyn called a Senate Judiciary investigation into the U.S. attorney’s scandal a “witch hunt,” arguing “When the leader of the effort on the Judiciary Committee is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Chuck Schumer, I think it undermines the apparent legitimacy of what is a legitimate inquiry.”