The Daily Caller reported Thursday that Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) suggested that impeachment of Obama administration officials involved with Fast and Furious might be the only way to effectively end the scandal.
The Daily Caller adds:
In a heated exchange between Sensenbrenner and Holder during Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, Sensenbrenner said impeachment is one option on the table if Holder and the Justice Department continue to withhold information from congressional investigators.
Sensenbrenner didn’t specify which administration officials he thinks could face impeachment proceedings, or if Holder is among them. But he did say the drastic measure would be a last resort.
“There is really no responsibility within the Justice Department,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
“The thing is, if we don’t get to the bottom of this — and that requires your assistance on that — there is only alternative that Congress has and it is called impeachment, where our subpoena powers are plenary and there can‘t be any type of legal immunity or privilege that can be asserted on that.”
Holder broadly asserted that no officials had intentionally deceived Congress, but Politico adds that the Attorney General conceded “that some assurances about Fast and Furious and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives policy that the department provided to Congress in February were not true.”
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh had a partial transcript of the exchange:
HOLDER: Lemme make something very clear and in response to an assertion that you made — or hinted at — nobody in the Justice Department has lied.
SENSENBRENNER: Why was the letter withdrawn?
HOLDER: The letter was withdrawn because information in th-there that was inaccurate. The Justice Department letter of February —
SENSENBRENNER: Okay, tell me what’s the difference between “lying” and “misleading” Congress in this context?
HOLDER: Well, it — uh — eh — um — i-i-if you want to have this legal arg — uh, conversation it all has to with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent.
“Riiiight, right. You can’t lie unless you intend to. It’s all about your state of mind!” Limbaugh exclaimed.
Holder acknowledged that as Attorney General, he is ultimately responsible for what happens in the Justice Department, while Sensenbrenner reminded him that misleading Congress is a felony.
“I don’t want to say that you have committed a felony, Mr. Attorney General, but obviously there have been statements so misleading that a letter had to be withdrawn,” Sensenbrenner said. “I think some heads should roll. … The assistant attorney general for the criminal division, Lanny Breuer, should be fired.”
“We have to find out where those mistakes were made, and then I’m going to hold people accountable in that regard,” Holder said during later questioning.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), however, said impeachment is unmerited.
“This has no basis in law for any impeachment proceeding, whether it’s for you or the president of the United States,” she said.
But Politico noted that under the Constitution, Congress can impeach a civilian government official.
Ed Morrissey of Hot Air compared Holder’s testimony to statements made by George W. Bush on WMD’s in Iraq, but noted two key differences:
Now, there are a couple of key differences between the two instances. Fast & Furious didn’t take place around the world in a nearly-impenetrable Arab dictatorship — it got conducted by ATF personnel that report in the same chain of command as Holder himself. The data that Congress demanded wasn’t an assessment of intel on a program run in the Middle East, but the actual information on a program run by Holder’s team. And the inability to produce accurate data on this would indicate that either Holder and his team are a group of incompetents who don’t have any real management control over the ATF and DoJ, or that people intentionally misled Congress by feeding the House committees with false and misleading information.
Considering that the latest memo has ATF and DoJ officials plotting how to use Operation Fast and Furious as a political tool to push for more restrictive gun-control legislation, I’m pretty sure I know which way I’m betting on the question. If Holder wants to argue mens rea, then I’m just as satisfied by the alternative of total incompetence — and await his resignation.
Over 50 members of Congress have called on Holder to resign over the scandal since it broke. Regardless of how it ends, the scandal will not bode well for an administration that is in re-election mode.
More on Attorney General Eric Holder at lodeplus.com here.
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