Attorney General Eric Holder, according to the opinion of many conservatives who have watched him glide unscathed through scandal after scandal, views himself as untouchable. And his response to Representative Louie Gohmert’s (R-Texas) line of questioning during a House Judiciary Hearing Tuesday did little to assuage the reputation the AG has earned for himself.
Gohmert questioned Holder about the Justice Department’s failure to hand over documents pertaining to a DOJ case against the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based group whose members were convicted and sentenced for funneling money to Hamas.
The defendants have since blamed the conviction on their lawyers; but the DOJ disputes the claim, saying that there is a “mountain of evidence” that indicates the charity was working with Hamas.
“I was fairly specific to make sure that I got the documents that the Department of Justice handed over to people convicted of supporting terrorism. They’re terrorists. We’ve given them the documents,” Gohmert said during the hearing.
The lawmaker said that, rather than complying with the repeated requests from Congress, DOJ also provided a link to “nearly 500 publicly available exhibits that were admitted into evidence.” Justice officials further instructed the lawmaker’s office “to check the public access to court electronic records.”
“Attorney General, I’ve read in the 5th Circuit opinion, about 9,600 summaries of transcripts of conversations that the Justice Department had that were made available to attorneys for the terrorists,” Gohmert said. “I still do not understand why your department can provide documents to terrorists’ lawyers, and many of them to four out of eight of the terrorists, and not provide them to members of Congress.”
“Sir, I’ve read you what your department promised, and it is inadequate, and I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight,” Gohmert said referring to the House’s 2012 vote to hold the AG in contempt for failing to turn over Fast and Furious documents.
That’s when Holder got upset.
The AG shot back, “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?”
“I don’t want to go there?” Gohmert asked. “About the contempt?”
“You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me,” Holder continued. “I think it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust, but never think that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”
Gohmert went on to note that the contempt vote certainly didn’t seem to be a big deal for the Justice Department, as it has still not made an effort to produce the Fast and Furious documents requested.
“I’m just looking for evidence and normally we’re known by our fruits and there’s been no indications that it was a big deal because your department still has not been forthcoming in producing the documents that were the subject of the contempt,” Gohmert said.
The documents Gohmert was referring to are copies of Justice Department internal emails dated after Feb. 4, 2011. That’s the point at which Justice officials realized they would have to retract a letter to Congress denying that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives put guns into the hands of Mexican criminals.
Holder went on to charge that the Fast and Furious contempt vote “was all about the gun lobby.”
“Sir,” Gohmert cut him off, “We’ve been trying to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious — where people died, where at least a couple hundred Mexicans died — and we can’t get the information to get to the bottom of that.”
“So I don’t need lectures from you about contempt,” the lawmaker continued.
Gohmert went on to note that, as a former judge, he had never before asked questions of someone who has been held in contempt.
As the lawmaker’s time ran out, with no answers about the documents originally in question, Holder jumped in with a last-word insult based on a gaffe Gohmert made during an exchange between the two last year.
“Good luck with your asparagus,” Holder muttered.
Last year, during a heated debate over whether the Justice Department failed to avert the Boston Marathon bombing, Holder told the lawmaker, “You cannot know what I know.”
To which Gohmert famously misspoke, “[Do not] cast aspersions on my asparagus.”