- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2012

Justice has waited long enough. It’s time to pull the trigger on contempt charges against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for withholding documents from Congress in the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal. Allowing further delay would only confirm what many Americans suspect: There is one set of laws for bureaucrats and another for the rest of us.

Congress has been waiting since October 2011 for Mr. Holder to comply fully with a subpoena seeking records in 22 categories of information about the federal firearms-smuggling operation. The attorney general has provided some material in 10 requested categories but nothing in the remaining 12. Try pulling a stunt like that as a private citizen. Mr. Holder has been able to dodge sanction so far only because he ostensibly is President Obama’s chief law enforcement officer.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, who has spearheaded the Fast and Furious investigation, has indicated he intends to seek a contempt citation if Mr. Holder doesn’t produce the requested files by Memorial Day, just two weeks away. The California Republican upped the ante recently when he circulated a 17-page draft of the charges to committee members, for which House Speaker John A. Boehner signaled support at a press conference last week.

According to the Justice Department, Fast and Furious was a sting operation in which Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agents recruited “straw purchasers” to buy weapons in the United States and smuggle them to Mexican drug cartels. The feds failed to track the guns, which were then used to commit hundreds of crimes in Mexico and on our side of the border - including the December 2010 killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Congressional Republicans have demanded accountability for the botched scheme, and whistleblowers have alleged that responsibility lies with top Justice officials.

The embattled attorney general is losing support. On Wednesday, 142 Democrats joined with 239 Republicans in approving an amendment to the Justice Department budget prohibiting the use of funds for the purpose of lying to Congress. The vote could be Democrats’ way of signaling they, too, are tired of Team Obama’s stonewalling over Fast and Furious.

If anyone thought the threat of contempt charges would persuade Mr. Holder to play nice, they had better think again. Last week, Justice sued Arizona’s no-nonsense Sheriff Joe Arpaio for purported racial profiling. Added to Mr. Holder’s exoneration of the New Black Panthers for voting rights violations, efforts to grant legal rights to accused foreign terrorists and lawsuits against states attempting to enforce federal immigration laws, his message is clear: He has no intention of letting the Fast and Furious debacle obstruct his left-wing strategy of using Justice to exact payback for the perceived injustice of the nation’s past.

If Americans are to believe that no one is above the law, there cannot be an exemption for the attorney general. Congress should hold Mr. Holder in contempt.

The Washington Times