U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township, on Thursday voted "no" before voting "yes" to bring contempt charges against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Thing is, says LaTourette, on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives conducted two votes - not one - related to Holder, the controversial Obama Administration’s top cop.
And that distinction makes a big difference when it comes his accountability regarding Holder’s refusal to cooperate with Congress regarding the botched Fast and Furious project, the nine-term congressman says.
Still, at possible risk is the generally reliable gun-owner backing for LaTourette who - at least up until now - possessed a lifetime “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
Holder has long been a lightening rod, his Congressional detractors charging that the Attorney General has failed to deliver all of the electronic and other document goodies the House says it needs to determine who knew what and when as it involves the so-called “Fast and Furious” debacle.
This project was the Obama Administration’s effort to allow perhaps thousands of firearms to “walk” into Mexico.
The government had also instructed U.S. firearms dealers to illegally sell these weapons to known criminals whereupon the firearms would ultimately fall into the hands of Mexico’s dreaded drug cartels.
All of which came to a head after U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010 in a shoot-out with Mexican drug cartel members. Two guns linked to Fast and Furious were found at the scene.
In turn, the entire Fast and Furious episode set off an international fire storm.
Likewise, the operation ignited charges from pro-Second Amendment advocates that the Obama Administration was attempting to use the issue to further its gun-control agenda, offering as evidence documents where government officials said as much.
But on June 20, Obama invoked Executive Privilege and thus refused to release any more documents. That action helped set the stage for the Holder-Congressional showdown on Thursday.
And LaTourette was in the thick of things. He was one of only two Republican House members to vote “no” on the assembly’s criminal contempt petition. The only other GOP House member to join LaTourette was Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia.
By contrast, 17 Democrats voted with Republicans in the 255-to-67 vote against Holder. Meanwhile, 100 Democratic representatives staged a walk-out during the vote.
“There is understandably some concern over the series of votes on whether Attorney General Eric Holder should be held in contempt for his failure to provide ALL documents relating to Fast and Furious,” LaTourette told The News-Herald in an expansion of his House votes on Thursday.
“I say series of votes because some folks posted comments after the first vote, perhaps unaware that there were two votes.”
The first vote was to hold the Attorney General in criminal contempt.
However, the second vote was whether to find Holder in contempt of Congress, and also to authorize the House to seek a judicial order of contempt unless the Attorney General handed over the requested documents, LaTourette says.
“I voted ‘no’ on the first and ‘yes’ on the second. To be clear, I absolutely believe that Attorney General Holder has no justification for withholding properly subpoenaed documents,” LaTourette said. “How to get him to comply is another matter.”
By voting to ask a court to order the documents released, “Congress can achieve its goal of getting to the bottom of Fast and Furious without turning Holder into a martyr for the Left,” LaTourette said.
“There will be plenty of time to prosecute, remove from office or force the (Attorney General) to resign if the facts indicate it is appropriate. My vote of ‘yes’ on the second resolution will ensure that occurs,” he said.
LaTourette also says that by striking a trail along the criminal contempt route it “will simply, in my opinion, allow the Left to repeat their mantra that ‘there go those wacky Republicans again.’”
“Washington has enough political theater and I would rather have a judge compel the Attorney General to hand over the documents and take whatever action those documents indicate is appropriate,” LaTourette said.
Even so, not all firearms owners are comfortable, let alone, happy, with LaTourette’s seeimgly yin and yang Holder-associated votes.
Buckeye Firearms Association chairman Jim Irvine says he “respectively disagrees with the Congressman.”
“Holder is this country’s supreme law enforcement officer, and a criminal,” Irvine said. “We can’t wait; not with this Attorney General.”
Irvine says that Holder is in this particular legal pickle because of his relationship to “the cover-up” that has both riveted and also has been a distraction inside Washington’s Beltway and outside.
“This is an incredibly serious issue and it must be looked at that way,” Irvine said.
As to any possible fall-out from his pro-Second Amendment constituents, LaTourette may very well have to cross that bridge if not sooner than certainly later when he comes up for reelection on Nov. 6, Irvine says.
“Yes, I think the Congressman’s vote will have an impact but it’s too early to tell by how much,” Irvine said.
Bud Conley, a Leroy Township pro-Second Amendment advocate, says that LaTourette fell out of the Republican mainstream with his vote.
Still, says Conley, perhaps LaTourette was “talking like the former county prosecutor he was.”
Maybe he’s looking at all of the facts, but the bottom line is that Holder is stone-walling and playing games with Congress,” Conley said.
“But I’d still like to see a better, more complete explanation from him; does the evidence suggest criminal contempt or is LaTourette more concerned about making Holder a martyr?”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn