Holder admits Axelrod, White House helped Justice Dept craft Fast and Furious public relations strategy
Attorney General Eric Holder admitted on Thursday that President Barack Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod and the White House are helping the Department of Justice craft its messaging about Operation Fast and Furious.
“We [Holder, Axelrod and the White House] have certainly talked about ways in which we could deal with the interaction between the Justice Department and Congress — about ways in which we would,” Holder said in questioning before the House Judiciary Committee.
Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes pressed Holder further by asking him if Axelrod, Obama’s re-election campaign and the White House were involved in crafting the DOJ’s policy for dealing with press. He said they were. “In terms of trying to get any message out that was consistent with facts and make sure it was done in an appropriate way, I’ve had conversations like that with people in the White House.”
Forbes was pressing Holder on the recent reports that he and Axelrod almost got into a physical altercation in the West Wing in early 2009. Holder said the allegation that he and Axelrod almost fought — before Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett broke it up — was slightly mischaracterized. Axelrod was reportedly trying to get Holder to hire political staff to influence law enforcement. Holder said the conversation was about a communications strategy, “not hiring decisions.”
“We talked about not hiring decisions, but ways we might improve the ability of the Justice Department to respond to political attacks coming my way,” Holder said of the incident, adding that he considers Axelrod a “close friend of mine.”
“We have a great relationship,” Holder said. “He’s a person I respect a great deal. We worked together on the campaign, and at the White House, but he’s never done anything I would consider inappropriate.”
Holder said he’s sought help from Obama’s political advisers, too, when he’s come under criticism.
“There’s a political dimension to the job that I have as attorney general,” Holder said. “The reality is that I don’t sit up in an ivory tower and just do law enforcement. I am the subject of attacks and a person who is seen by some as a person who is controversial. And there are times – at least there was that time – where I was looking for some help in that regard.”
The mainstream media has — for the most part — offered sympathetic coverage of Holder and has hardly covered Fast and Furious in depth. Others haven’t covered it all. For instance, on Thursday morning, Politico’s Morning Score, Huddle and Playbook all made no mention of Holder’s pending appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
Also, New York Times reporter Charlie Savage violated his publication’s own ethics policy this week while offering favorable Fast and Furious coverage to Holder — in an article that was false. Savage has not publicly been held accountable by the Times.