- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A respected senator says the American people deserve a better attorney general than Eric H. Holder Jr.Mr. Holder’s position is no, they don’t.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, asked Mr. Holder to resign from his office. Mr. Cornyn said Mr. Holder “violated the public trust … by failing and refusing to perform the duties of [his] office.” The attorney general is enmeshed by a number of scandals, among them contesting Arizona’s illegal-alien law, trying to stop Florida from clearing its voter rolls of illegitimate registrants, and the ongoing investigation into the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting.

On Monday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee scheduled a June 20 vote on whether to hold Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to subpoenas for documents related to Fast and Furious. Given the impending contempt vote, it is premature to expect Mr. Holder to resign. However, his actions have clearly shaken the confidence of many in Congress and impaired his ability to discharge the duties of his office.

Mr. Holder is attempting to reach out to the House leadership to broker some type of deal to avoid the contempt charge. He claimed the country was facing a “constitutional crisis,” which he later downgraded to “constitutional conflict,” over the type of documents Congress requested. Internal executive-branch deliberative communiques have traditionally been outside the purview of legislative investigators. Yet in the Fast and Furious case, the central question is how involved Mr. Holder was in decision-making regarding the operation. He says he played a minor role, if any. The only way to resolve the question is to have access to records indicating who made the critical calls regarding the scheme, and how damage control was handled when it failed. This isn’t a crisis over separation of powers but of basic accountability.

Mr. Holder insists disclosed information shouldn’t “have an impact on ongoing investigations.” Certainly, he was less concerned with “impacting” the ongoing war on terrorism in August 2009 when he appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the George W. Bush administration’s use of enhanced-interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects, something the Obama administration classified as torture. This part of Mr. Holder’s defense must be weighed against the fact that he is the object of an ongoing investigation; the continued suppression of information has its own serious consequences, including the cover-up of government abuse.

When the smoke clears, it has to be determined which is more important for the public good: an ongoing investigation into Mexican drug gangs that are doing an efficient job of killing themselves off; or a probe into possible perjury by America’s highest law-enforcement official. The former is expendable; the latter is not.

Congressional investigators and Justice Department lawyers are haggling over ways to avoid the contempt vote and the purported constitutional conflict over the executive-legislative showdown. Ideally, negotiators would cut a deal to settle the issue in a way that allows Congress to fulfill its oversight and investigative roles while not fatally compromising ongoing law-enforcement activity. This level of compromise probably isn’t possible with an attorney general who is more focused on skirting the law than enforcing it.

The Washington Times