By Chad Pergram
The House of Representatives formally launches its effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder
in contempt of Congress Wednesday. While the vote won't come until
Thursday, the mechanics begin Wednesday at 2 pm ET in the House Rules
Garden variety contempt of Congress resolutions are usually
"privileged." That means they come to the House floor automatically and
get an hour of debate. They can't be amended and then the House votes,
yea or nay, to hold whomever in contempt.
However, on this occasion, the floor process will start in the Rules Committee.
Here's why: The House will actually consider two contempt resolutions against Holder.
First of all, the House has the actual "criminal" contempt resolution
that was voted on last week by the House Oversight Committee. If the
House votes for that contempt resolution, the citation is then sent to
the Justice Department
and subsequently to a U.S. Attorney who is asked to look at the case
and try to get an indictment of Holder for not responding to Congress.
But, there's also a "civil" contempt resolution.
This citation was not approved by the Oversight Committee. This second
resolution is interesting because, if adopted, it grants the House to go
to court and ask for an order that the Department of Justice be
compelled to fork over the Fast and Furious documents in question.
The House will then have to vote on both resolutions. It is
conceivable, but not likely, that the House could approve one contempt
resolution and not the other.
Here's what this all means: There will be separate sets of debate on both resolutions, followed by separate votes.
Also, by going to the Rules Committee, the House is able to build
into the "rule" (which manages how the body handles the resolutions on
the floor) a provision which prevents the reading of the Oversight and
Government Reform Committee report on Fast and Furious. This is a
time-saver because doing so, according to one senior aide, "would take
Also, by going to the Rules Committee, the House crafts the
guidelines for debate and if any amendments will be in order. They are
unlikely and could be blocked in the Rules Committee tomorrow.
So what does Thursday look like?
It's doubtful that the House will start any of this until 12:30 pm ET at the earliest (at least two hours after the Supreme Court health care ruling...so there's a bit of a reprieve...but not necessarily by design).
The House will have to first debate the "rule." That takes an hour...and then the House votes on the rule.
If they don't adopt the rule, the entire process comes to a screeching halt and Eric Holder is the happiest person in Washington.
If they adopt the rule, debate then starts on the two resolutions.
Again, these will be separate debates. Each debate could take up to two
hours. But we won't know for sure until the Rules Committee crafts its
Then, the House will vote on the two resolutions.
If the House votes yea on either resolution, it is fair to say that Holder has been held in contempt.
Keep in mind that this is a similar process that House Democrats used when the House voted to hold Bush White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and White House
Counsel Harriet Miers in contempt in 2008. There are slight
differences. The Democrats velcroed the two resolutions together and
there was only one debate and one vote. Here the Republicans have
separated the two issues, which means there will probably be more debate
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Friday, June 22, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
(Reuters) - An investigation by two federal prosecutors into recent alleged leaks of classified information is likely to include scrutiny of White House officials, three people familiar with the probe said.
The sources said that when Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the chief federal prosecutors in Washington and Maryland would pursue "all appropriate investigative leads within the executive and legislative branches of government," he signaled that examining the actions of White House officials would be within bounds.
In an appearance on Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder said: "Let me be very clear.
Our investigation will follow leads wherever they take us." The U.S. Attorneys on the case, he said, have "the ability, they independence, they have the moxie."
Holder, pushing back against Republican demands for an outside special counsel to investigate the national security leaks, said the two prosecutors would conduct a nonpartisan, independent investigation.
One of the people familiar with the investigation said that because some of the media reports containing alleged leaks included information attributed to Obama administration officials, no investigation by the prosecutors "would be taken seriously if it didn't include" scrutiny of White House officials' actions.
This individual and others requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak for the record.
Holder, facing sharp questioning by senators, said that both he and FBI director Robert Mueller had already been interviewed by investigators about their knowledge of an intelligence operation targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which some officials allege was disrupted as a result of leaks to the media.
He also said that the two prosecutors involved in leak investigations would each be investigating "separate matters."
While Holder declined to identify what these were, one avenue of inquiry is believed to be sensitive information about U.S. involvement in cyberwarfare against Iran's nuclear program, which was contained in a recent New York Times article.
The other probe apparently involves the joint U.S.-British-Saudi operation against AQAP, al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.
Last month, a prominent Republican Senator explicitly asked the FBI to investigate a possible leak related to the AQAP operation involving John Brennan, chief counter-terrorism advisor at the White House.
In a letter to Mueller, Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Saxby Chambliss asked the FBI about a Reuters story last month which disclosed that a briefing by Brennan may have inadvertently tipped the media to sensitive information about an undercover informant who played a central role in the case.
The FBI wrote back that it shared Chambliss' concerns and would investigate all leads, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Still, it remains unclear how large a role Brennan's actions will play in the investigation into leaks regarding AQAP.
The briefing by Brennan, came after an Associated Press report disclosed that U.S. counter-terrorism officials had disrupted a plot by the al Qaeda affiliate to plant an underwear bomber on a U.S. flight.
ON-AIR TV ANALYSTS BRIEFED
In a subsequent conference call, Brennan told former counter-terrorism officials who appear as on-air TV analysts that the bomb plot was never a real threat because the U.S. had "inside control" over it. Within hours, one of the former officials who was on the call with Brennan speculated on the air that the U.S. "had somebody on the inside" of the plot.
By the next day, news outlets were reporting that the U.S. had planted a double-agent inside al Qaeda affiliate.
Because of the leaks, U.S. and allied officials said they were forced to prematurely end the operation.
White House officials and some of the former officials who participated in the call with Brennan all said that he did not disclose classified information.
Asked whether the White House had been contacted by the FBI or any other investigative authority in relation to leak inquiries, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said he had no comment beyond those on Friday in which President Barack Obama decried leaks.
The Democratic president brushed off Republican allegations that some of the leaks appeared calculated to boost his re-election prospects, calling such charges "offensive."
Chambliss joined a group of Republican senators led by John McCain and Lindsey Graham in sponsoring a Congressional resolution calling on Holder to replace the U.S. Attorneys he assigned to the leak investigations with an "outside special counsel" who could operate independently of Obama's Justice Department.
Graham noted that a special counsel had been appointed in the case of Valerie Plame, a undercover CIA operative whose identity was disclosed to a journalist. That leak eventually led to criminal charges against a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
"Why wouldn't you need one here? Is this less serious? The allegations we are talking about here are breathtaking," Graham said.
However, a Republican motion to have the Senate pass their resolution by "unanimous consent" failed when a Democrat, Senator Ron Wyden, objected.
Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence committee, said she also opposed the Republican plan, and defended the independence and scrupulousness of U.S. Attorneys Rod Rosenstein of Maryland and Ronald Machen of the District of Columbia, whom Holder assigned to the leak probes.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Warren Strobel and Christopher Wilson)
Sunday, June 3, 2012
A few years ago it would have seemed really strange to discover that our Department of Justice was protecting the ability of illegal aliens to vote in our elections. It might not have been surprising in Chicago, but it would have been surprising for most of the rest of us. According to the Saturday edition of The Miami Herald, The Justice Department told Florida election officials that they must stop their non-citizen voters purge. Florida argues it is not violating any law. The Justice Department ordered Florida’s elections division to halt a systematic effort to find and purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizen voters. Florida’s effort appears to violate both the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities, and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act – which governs voter purges – T. Christian Herren Jr., the Justice Department’s lead civil rights lawyer, wrote in a detailed two-page letter sent late Thursday night. State officials said they were reviewing the letter. But they indicated they might fight DOJ over its interpretation of federal law and expressed frustration that President Barack Obama’s administration has stonewalled the state’s noncitizen voter hunt for nine months. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot,” said Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to conduct the search for potentially ineligible voters. The key comment in the article is, Independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely. It becomes a concern when the Department of Justice demands that ineligible voters, including those who are dead, cannot be removed from the rolls of registered eligible voters. Democrats do not want elections to be clean, fair, and honest. Florida’s laws appear to discriminate against no one and to break no laws. As The Miami Herald article continued, Florida elections officials have repeatedly said that their efforts comply with all federal laws, which aren’t clearly written. The[y] also say there’s nothing discriminatory or partisan about the effort. It’s simply trying to remove ineligible voters: felons, dead people and noncitizens. One would think Eric Holder and The United States Department of Justice would want the states to uphold the laws? It appears voting is an exception to the law during the time of the Obama Administration.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Washington (CNN) -- The White House defended the Secret Service and its director Tuesday amid an embarrassing investigation into whether several agents brought prostitutes back to their hotel in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.
Eleven Secret Service members have been implicated in the investigation, which began Thursday after one of the women complained that she hadn't been paid. In addition, as many as 10 U.S. military personnel from all branches of the armed forces are being questioned about potential involvement in any misconduct, two military officials told CNN.
The Americans were in Cartagena to prepare for President Barack Obama's weekend visit to the Summit of the Americas, and Obama has said he expects a "rigorous" investigation.
The investigation is being led by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, who has been briefing members of Congress. A leading senator said Tuesday she had been told as many as 21 women had been involved, and questioned whether the incident could have endangered the president.
"Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons, or in any other (ways) jeopardized security of the president or our country?" asked Maine's Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said Obama "has confidence" in Sullivan, who he said "acted quickly in response to this incident," and in the agents around him.
"The work the Secret Service does, the men and women who protect him and his family and those who work with him, is exemplary as a rule," Carney said. "They put their lives on the line, and it is a very difficult job, and he acknowledges that and he appreciates it."
Collins said she believed Sullivan "will fully investigate" the allegations and take "appropriate action" if the allegations bear out. But she questioned whether there was any similar misconduct on previous missions, and whether the issue is a sign of a deeper problem within the agency.
The Secret Service agents and officers involved range in experience from relative newcomers to nearly 20-year veterans, and all have been interviewed at least once, two government officials with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Monday. Their security clearances have been pulled while the investigation is under way and could be reinstated if they are cleared, the officials said.
The agents were offered an opportunity to take a polygraph test, according to a U.S. official.
Some of the agents and military personnel maintain they didn't know the women were prostitutes, the official told CNN.
"Even if they weren't (prostitutes), it was totally wrong to take a foreign national back to a hotel when the president is about to arrive," Rep. Peter King, R-New York and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight."
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said he thinks the agents should take the polygraph tests, if they haven't already done so.
"For these individuals, if they want to have any career at all, they have to decide on telling the entire truth and seeing whether they have something going forward."
Issa said his level of confidence in Sullivan is "high."
The Homeland Security Committee's chairman, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, said his staff is looking into the accusations and he may call hearings on the matter.
"History, unfortunately, is full of cases where people in positions of great responsibility, including security, have been compromised by, well, enemies or spies," Lieberman said. "I'm not saying that happened here, but once you conduct yourself in this way, you open that risk."
California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who leads the chamber's intelligence committee, said she was "profoundly disappointed" by the allegations.
"I've always respected the Secret Service as kind of numero uno of our law enforcement community," she said.
U.S. government sources have said there was a dispute between at least one Secret Service member and a woman demanding payment. At least one of the women brought to the hotel talked with police, and complaints were filed with the U.S. Embassy, the sources said.
While soliciting prostitution is legal in certain areas of Colombia, it is considered a breach of the agency's conduct code, the government sources said. Military law also bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, displaying conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct "prejudicial to good order and discipline."
The military personnel involved were sent to Colombia to support the Secret Service. A military official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation told CNN that two of those being questioned are Marines who handle military working dogs. Air Force and Navy personnel, some of whom are believed to be explosive disposal experts, also are being questioned, the official said.
The alleged misconduct occurred before Obama arrived in Cartagena, and the Secret Service said the personnel involved were relieved of duty and sent home before the president landed. But the news broke while he was there -- and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that the incident distracted attention "from what was a very important regional engagement for our president."
"So we let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident," Dempsey said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said he would consider holding hearings on the conduct of the members of the military involved in the scandal, but wants to learn more first. The committee's top Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, said he is sure "the guilty will be punished," but lamented that a few members of the military and Secret Service "have tarnished the reputations of many."
CNN's Barbara Starr, Jessica Yellin, Deirdre Walsh and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
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