Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) opened this morning’s hearings by providing a timeline for Fast and Furious: a timeline that briefly described the role of every law enforcement agency involved. He spoke about the debt we owe Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and agent Terry’s family. And he announced that ATF whistleblower John Dodson was present in the room for the hearings today. (Dodson is the Phoenix agent who risked his career and his life to inform Congress about details of Fast and Furious as they were visible to him on the street.)
Then Issa dug in deeper:
On Oct 11, 2011, after months and months and months of this committee trying to get further documents, we issued subpoenas for documents and were told they’re hard to get. Yet, ten times as many documents have been provided to the Inspector General. Mr. Attorney General, when is the primary investigative committee of congress going to be allowed the same access that the IG has? That the twelve thousand members of the IG have? We ask very little of government by contrast, …but we believe we deserve those answers in at least as timely a fashion as your own IG gets.
We’re going to ask you many things today, hopefully you came prepared to know [the answers to questions] on Fast and Furious. Questions like: What can you do to bring this to a close? What can you do to help the American people know this is no longer going on and will not happen again in the future?
Issa then went on to talk in detail of how frustrating it’s been to try to get information to date. In doing this he referenced former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, the attorney who covered up the connection between Fast and Furious and Brian Terry’s death. And he suggested that Burke “clearly didn’t do his job in a way that anyone can be proud of.” Issa then pointed to more stonewalling on the part of the DOJ, and specifically drew attention to Patrick J. Cunningham, who, when subpoenaed, invoked the 5th to keep from telling what he knew about Fast and Furious.
After Issa set the stage thus, it was time for the ranking Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings (MD), to provide his opening statement. And Cummings used the statement to let Holder know the Democrats were on his side. He then talked of how cooperative Holder has been and gave the A.G. credit for discovering that the roots of gun-running lie with George W. Bush, not the current administration. (Who knew?)
We’ve interviewed 22 witnesses and reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Because of our extensive work we’ve had concrete results. The committee has uncovered a 5 year practice of gun-walking out of the Phoenix ATF office.
Cummings then referenced Operation Wide Receiver again and compared it to Fast and Furious, which is like comparing a toddler’s fastball pitch to that of Nolan Ryan, and added: “But the committee found no evidence that the AG authorized gun walking. None of the agents described talking to the AG about gun walking.” Cummings then directed the closing portion of his comments to Chairman Issa, instead of Holder, and said this was the 6th time the Attorney General had testified about these issues, and he criticized Issa for holding what Cummings described as “more of a political campaign than a real hearing.”
Bottom line: The opening salvo showed that Issa is all business and intends to get to the bottom of this today. However, the Democrats, for whom Cummings spoke, have let Holder know they’ve got his back, regardless of the facts.