House Republicans are going to call for a special counsel to determine whether Attorney General Holder perjured himself during his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Operation Fast and Furious, Fox News has learned.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is sending a letter to President Obama arguing that Holder cannot investigate himself and will request a probe by a special counsel.
The question is whether Holder committed perjury during a Judiciary Committee hearing in May. At the time, Holder indicated he was not familiar with with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program known as Fast and Furious.
Judiciary’s call for special counsel comes after documentation surfaced yesterday that indicated Holder was getting weekly briefs on Operation Fast and Furious, and that senior Justice Department executives were well aware that these operations were walking guns into Mexico.
So far, Holder’s PR defense is that he didn’t understand the following question: “When did you first hear about Operation Fast and Furious?”
President Barack Obama now finds himself in a complicated predicament at a time which already marks the low point of public opinion regarding his performance, and as his hopes of re-election fade. If Obama opposes the appointment of a special prosecutor for the perjury investigation (and by extension, Operation Fast and Furious and other alleged gunwalking operations), he immediately saddles his campaign with questions of obstructing a lawful and legitimate call for an independent investigation. Operation Fast and Furious will immediately become a key story for the 2012 campaign, though it has so far been largely ignored by the media.
Likewise, President Obama seems to be in danger if he does choose to appoint a special prosecutor. Evidence to date — including direct communications between the ATF special agent running Operation Fast and Furious and White House staffers — seems to indicate that the White House was well aware of these gunwalking operations. If evidence surfaces that directly implicates President Obama himself, then a failed reelection bid may be the least of his worries.
Depending upon the breadth of the investigation, it is quite possible for a special counsel to end up investigating not just the attorney general but other senior DOJ officials, including the directors of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), and responsible U.S. attorneys including U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who recently resigned over his role in Operation Fast and Furious.
The special counsel would likewise need to investigate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including Secretary Janet Napolitano. U.S. Attorney Burke is a close confidant of Napolitano’s, having served as her chief of staff while she was Arizona’s governor. Agencies under her control that may have participated in gunwalking operations — such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol — could also face inquiries.
The State Department and Treasury Department — specifically the IRS Criminal Investigations Division that was part of the task forces — could also face questioning.
The possible charges and the list of those who could face them are extensive. In addition to the perjury case against Attorney General Holder, there exists the possibility of RICO cases (typically reserved for organized crime syndicates), prosecutions for violating the Arms Export Control Act, and the outside chance of prosecutions for international terrorism and treason.
This does not include any criminal charges or civil charges that would likely arise from the deaths of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata, or from the wounding of ICE Agent Victor Avila.
The possibility also exists that Obama administration officials may face prosecution in Mexico for contributing to the deaths of a reported 200 Mexican citizens.
It is a dangerous time to be an Obama administration insider, appointee, or operative.
(Related: CBS Reporter says White House staffer screamed at her for pursuing the Fast and Furious story.)