I knew this would happen eventually:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Tuesday called for a special prosecutor to investigate the growing “Fast and Furious” scandal, in which the Obama administration allowed guns to walk to Mexico, where they fell into the hands of drug lords and were found at the murder scene of at least one U.S. border agent.
Issa complained in a conference call that, “there is ongoing cover up of a pattern of wrongdoing that can’t be explained by any ordinary people (who tried) to do the right thing but made a mistake.”
The Obama administration has been slow to hand over documents to Issa’s committee, and when they have, they’ve been heavily redacted.
“Even though I have subpoena ability, I don’t have the ability to lock people up for contempt until they fess up and give us what we want,” Issa said.
A special prosecutor would have such powers, and would be independent of the government agencies that were responsible for creating and attempting to cover up details of the program.
That last is key: the scandal embraces or at least touches on several government departments involved with law enforcement — Justice, the FBI, one or more US Attorney offices, and the BATF at least. To leave the investigation of what is looking more and more like a criminal matter to the very agencies under investigation would lack any credibility; while special prosecutors (1) have in the past abused their power, it is the only tool we have that is both independent and can compel testimony under threat of punishment. (2)
Expect the calls for a special prosecutor to grow louder as we learn more about Operation Fast and Furious.
(1) Some question the constitutionality of the special prosecutor (or “independent counsel”), but it was upheld in both Morrison v. Olson (1988) and later in US v. “Scooter” Libby. (PDF)
(2) Issa does have the option of seeking a citation for Contempt of Congress against Holder and other relevant officials, but that would require either referral to the US Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, an Obama appointee and hence conflicted, or a trial before the House, which would turn into a circus that would probably work against the Republicans.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)