The Obama Scandal That Republicans Won't Let Fade Away
With Republicans in control of the Senate, expect new investigations into old scandals, like Fast and Furious.
More than four years after border patrol agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in 2010, after the Justice Department turned over more than 64,000 documents in November and witnesses delivered endless hours of testimony, Republicans continue to believe that the Fast and Furious scandal is ripe for investigation.
A program that had its roots in the George W. Bush administration, Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms operation that placed U.S. guns in the hands of drug cartels with the hopes that ATF could track them.
Reaching back to investigate Fast and Furious is emerging as a top priority now that Republicans control the House and Senate. On Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, renewed subpoenas related to the gun-walking scandal. In a tweet, Chaffetz described it as his "first action" as the committee's chairman. Subpoenas expire at the end of every Congress, so Chaffetz's action is not as much the start of a new investigation as it is the continuation of one in progress.
In the Senate, however, the new Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, has pledged to also crack back open the Fast and Furious files. While Democrats had been in control of the Senate over the first six years of the Obama administration, Grassley said there was a "reluctance to do oversight on the Democratic administration."
"So I will start out with oversight, oversight, oversight," Grassley told National Journal. "I started on Fast and Furious three years ago. How far have we gotten? We are going to get to the bottom of that. It is just one example."
There is just one problem. Attorney General Eric Holder, the man who has testified repeatedly about the controversy, is on his way out of the Obama administration. Holder's contempt for the Fast and Furious probes are well documented, as is his combative relationship with the House's Oversight Committee.
The Justice Department's refusal to turn over some key documents related to Fast and Furious under the assertion of executive privilege caused the House to vote Holder in contempt of Congress in 2012. Under a judge's orders, in November, the Justice Department finally turned over nearly 65,000 pages of new documents. While some of the documents painted a picture of a defiant Holder, none of them was the smoking gun linking Holder to the gun-walking scandal that some had been looking for. In one email, Holder accused House Oversight's then-chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., of political motivations in his dogged pursuit of Fast and Furious documents.
"Issa and his idiot cronies never gave a damn about this when all that was happening was that thousands of Mexicans were being killed with guns from our country," Holder wrote in memo to staff. "All they want to do—in reality—is cripple ATF and suck up to the gun lobby."
Still, Republicans say there are still more documents they want to see and more questions to be answered. Fast and Furious is just one of many scandals that will remain in the GOP's crosshairs heading into the 2016 presidential cycle.
This week, the House also reauthorized the Select Committee on Benghazi, a panel whose sole job is investigating the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Libya in 2012.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., has hinted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not off-limits to testify before the committee. It could be unfortunate timing for her if she is simultaneously running for president.
In the Senate, however, Grassley has vowed that he has a strategy for deciding what Obama administration fumbles are worth reexamining. He says he looks to whistle-blowers, his staff, and independent news investigations.
"I don't wake up in the morning and say we are going to investigate the FBI today and the FDA tomorrow," Grassley said.
(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)