A largely overlooked exchange from Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing includes what appears to be an admission from Attorney General Eric Holder that emails to and from him about Operation Fast and Furious may exist, and that he’s refusing to provide them to Congress.
The possibility was first addressed during an exchange with House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, who also sits on the House Judiciary Committee, early in the hearing.
“Most of the 5,000 documents you turned over are emails,” Issa said to Holder. “Mr. Attorney General, I have a question for you. Not one of these emails, in fact, is yours. Aren’t you a prolific emailer?”
Holder responded that, “No,” he is not a “prolific emailer.”
Issa followed up: “Don’t you email?”
Holder responded in the affirmative. “Do you have a personal email account as well as an attorney general email account?” Issa pressed.
“I have an email account at the Justice Department, yes,” Holder equivocated.
“Do you have a personal email?” Issa asked again. Holder replied that, “yes” he has a personal email account.
“Do you regularly email to Lanny Breuer, your former partner, and your criminal division head?” Issa then asked.
“I wouldn’t say regularly,” Holder answered. “But there are only a limited number of people who know my email address in the Justice Department.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
Issa, still not satisfied with Holder’s response, pressed further. “Let’s cut to the chase,” Issa said. “Don’t you think it’s a little conspicuous that there’s not one email to or from you related to Fast and Furious in any way, shape or form?”
Instead of answering whether or not there were any emails to or from him, Holder said the Department of Justice’s document production to the House oversight committee had been “unprecedented.”
“There are a variety of reasons why the emails we have shared with you are there,” Holder said. “We have shared in an unprecedented way emails and information that no Justice Department and no attorney general has ever authorized before. You have deliberative information contained in that.”
Issa has issued subpoenas and made official requests for many of the emails Holder has withheld from Congress. Because Holder isn’t citing any legal or constitutional exemption, Issa said later in the hearing that he “stands in contempt of Congress” if he continues to stonewall.
“But isn’t it true that executive privilege does not flow to the attorney general, only to the office of the president?” Issa asked during that initial exchange. “So, deliberate process within law enforcement, in your department, in fact, doesn’t deserve executive privilege. As the chairman said going on, you haven’t cited any reason why these have not been delivered.”
Holder continued to avoid the line of questioning, and said that he’s provided an “unprecedented” amount of documents to Congress. But, he still wouldn’t cite a legal reason why he’s refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and requests.
“In making production determinations, we have followed what attorneys general in the past have always used — applicable standards, whether these are Republican or Democrat attorneys general,” Holder said. “The information we’ve provided you has been responsive, has been, I think, wholesome and also unprecedented.”