On December 8th, the very day Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Oversight Committee to answer questions about Fast and Furious, I had a post on Big Government which highlighted Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-WI) mention of impeachment. You’ll recall Sensenbrenner essentially told Holder he was sick and tired of the way the DOJ was dragging its feet in answering questions, and he was particularly weary of Holder’s habit of answering inquires with, “gees, somebody else did it.” And even if you haven’t followed Fast and Furious closely up till now, if you read the exchanges that took place between Sensenbrenner and Holder on Dec. 8th, it’s easy to see why the Congressman was pushed to his wits end.
But just in case you need a primer, as you read the transcript below, please keep two things in mind. First, on May 3rd, Holder gave testimony to Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) in which he claimed he had only learned of Fast and Furious in the past “few weeks.” This claim by Holder is demonstrably false–has been proven false–and Holder has since changed his answer. And secondly, on Feb. 4th, the DOJ submitted a letter to Congress in which they claimed no gun-walking had taken place in relation to Fast and Furious (in other words, they claimed that none of the 2,500 weapons sold to straw purchasers had been smuggled, or been allowed to “walk,” into Mexico). That letter, like Holder’s prior testimony, was recanted.
That’s the backdrop for the following exchange on December 8:
Sensenbrenner: There have been inconsistent submissions to Congress. You yourself testified that you’d only heard about [Fast and Furious] a few weeks earlier, and then in November you said it probably was a few months. [And] as late as October 7th, in response to allegations that you lied on May 3rd, you wrote to Congress that your statements on Fast and Furious have been “truthful and consistent.” [Yet] one of your underlings, on Feb. 4th, Assistant A.G. Ronald Weich, responded to Senator Grassley denying that the ATF had walked guns and that letter ended up being withdrawn.
Clearly, Sensenbrenner was incensed as he thought of the lies surrounding Fast and Furious. So much so, in fact, that as he spoke he took pains to try to be measured in his speech:
Lying to Congress is a federal 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 Attorney General, but obviously there have been statements so misleading that a letter had to be withdrawn. I think that some heads should roll.
At this point, an exchange took place that literally defies reality:
Holder: “Nobody in the justice department has lied.”
Sensenbrenner: “Then why was the letter withdrawn?”
Holder: “The letter was withdrawn because there was information in there that was inaccurate.”
As Holder continued to fumble in trying to frame his explanation for how the Feb. 4th letter contained “inaccurate” statements that weren’t lies, Sensenbrenner interrupted and asked, “What is difference between lying and misleading Congress in this context?”
Holder: “Well, if you want to have this legal conversation, it all has to do with your state of mind. And whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that can be considered perjury or a lie.”
Holder might as well have said, “it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what Sensenbrenner and Issa heard him say.)