By Douglas J. Hagmann
As U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder frequently testifies before the House Judiciary Committee. He was scheduled to appear before the committee on May 3, 2011, and ultimately provided just over three-and-a-half hours of testimony, available here in its entirety.
During that hearing, Holder was questioned about Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast & Furious on two notable occasions. Holder was asked direct questions by Congressman Darrell Issa (49th District of California) about when he first learned of the operation, and who else knew about the project. This exchange begins about 90 minutes into the hearing, and Holder was elusive with his answers. He ultimately stated to the best of his recollection, he first became aware of the deadly operation within the last few weeks of that hearing.
The day before Holder was scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. White House logs show that Attorney General Eric Holder and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano met with Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House on May 2, 2011. Omitted from the log are the nature and purpose of the visit.
The timing of the meeting is quite suspect based on Holder’s planned testimony the following day, the mounting pressure from Congressman Issa’s committee, and Holder’s stonewalling Issa’s request for documents related to Fast & Furious.
Two years earlier: On March 24, 2009, a 30-minute news conference was held at the White House by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs that included Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, newly appointed Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.
About 13 minutes into the press conference, Ogden, a man already mired in controversy over his opposition to internet filters to block child pornography sites and opposition to requiring parental notification for girls seeking underage abortions, was introduced to discuss joint DOJ and ATF operations.
Ogden, who had been on the job for a mere 12 days, referred to Project Gunrunner and other ancillary ATF programs by name, and stated that he was working directly with the Attorney General on the implementation of these programs that included Project Gunrunner. For reference purposes, the entire news conference is memorialized here.
It should be noted that Ogden resigned from his position in February 2010, less than a year later, after allegedly being at odds with Holder over undisclosed procedural issues.
Each department of government is assigned an Inspector General, or an official to conduct an investigation of the individuals and actions of a particular department, if necessary, to determine whether any improprieties were committed or laws were broken. For the Department of Justice and the Fast & Furious investigation, that Inspector General would be Cynthia A. Schnedar.
As it turns out, however, Katie Pavlich, author of the book “Fast and Furious,” notes that Holder and Schnedar have connections that go back a long way. While Holder worked as a U.S. Attorney in Washington from 1994 through 1997, she was the Assistant U.S. Attorney, reporting to Holder. In other words, Holder was Schnedar’s boss. They also worked on legal briefs together, and filed over a dozen such briefs together during that period.
Now, Schnedar has been running interference for Holder, reportedly obstructing the procurement of documents requested and subpoenaed by Issa.