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GOP 'Sons-A-Bitches' Going Soft On Gunwalking, Says Blogger Who Broke 'Fast And Furious'

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It was Vanderboegh who in late 2010, following the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry, published the first hint that the federal government told gun dealers to sell semi-automatic weapons to suspected "straw purchasers" they believed were buying them for drug cartels.

Donations from readers of his Sipsey Street Irregulars blog helped him fly out to Washington, D.C. this week for the hearing. Sporting a homemade press pass in a badge holder branded with an NRA logo, Vanderboegh watched from behind the press table as Republicans grilled Holder about what he knew when about the flawed operation in which agents lost track of about 2,000 weapons, many of which have been found at crime scenes in Mexico.

Vanderboegh wasn't impressed.

"You know what the Republicans just did? They sold out every mother's son who put their life and career on the line to try to bring this truth out," Vanderboegh told TPM. "Another display like this and people will forget the whole thing."

So why did Republicans, at least as far as Vanderboegh is concerned, back off? He suggested it could be as simple as the FBI blackmailing the speaker of the House.

"I submit to you that it is entirely possible that the fix is in," Vanderboegh told TPM. "It could be as simple as a picture of something like John Boehner with a sheep, you know. Because they've done that before. The FBI blackmails people routinely. They always have."

Few who witnessed Thursday's four-hour hearing would accuse Republicans of going soft. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) asked Holder "how many more Border Patrol agents would have had to die" for him to take responsibility. It was a question Holder said was "beneath" a member of Congress. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) narrated a PowerPoint slideshow of decade-old Holder quotes on President BIll Clinton's controversial pardoning of Marc Rich and questioned his record of being truthful to Congress, a display which Holder said was "among the worst things" he'd ever seen on the Hill. Rep. Mark Walberg (R-MI) compared Holder's handling of Fast and Furious to the way late football legend Joe Paterno handled the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.

But Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) did ease up a bit on the his previous rhetoric about Holder's roll in Fast and Furious, saying he "never accused [Holder] of having personal knowledge" of the "gunwalking" tactics used during the operation, instead focusing his energies on why the DOJ wouldn't turn over certain categories of documents the Justice Department maintains were privileged.

It's not entirely clear where the investigation goes from here. Both sides have taken predicable positions: A Republican report blamed officials at DOJ headquarters while a Democratic report said the local ATF and U.S. Attorney's office were at fault. As for solutions, Republicans are calling for officials, including Holder, to resign or be fired, Democrats are pointing out that there's not even a law that specifically bans gun trafficking.

Issa said that he believed there were "people at Main Justice who ultimately need to go" and spoke about a number of additional reforms he wants in place at DOJ. Oversight Committee Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in response to a question from TPM that he hoped Thursday's hearing would conclude the investigation but also hoped laws could be reformed to create stricter penalties for gun trafficking.

Vanderboegh thinks Republicans have already shifted the focus of their investigation due to political pressure.

"I don't say that Darrell Issa is real happy with how this is going, I don't think he is," Vanderboegh said. "But I think Darrell Issa is a team player, he's a loyal guy to the party, and I think that to the extent he allows the investigation to turn away from evidence because it's inconvenient for somebody, history will probably reflect him pretty poorly."

Vanderboegh, like many House Republicans, buys into the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration deliberately pumped additional weapons into Mexico in an effort to create the political will to pass gun control at home.

"My sources, after this thing broke, told me that the whole thing emerged in the offices of Rahm Emmanuel," Vanderboegh said. "They were frustrated that mass shootings in the United States had not generated the political will for more gun controls, so they were playing around with the idea, 'how do we do this without paying a political price?'"

Such a theory ignores the fact that "gun walking" tactics were used in ATF's Phoenix office during the George W. Bush administration. But the theory has played an important fundraising role for the National Rifle Association (NRA), which due to the Obama administration's relative silence on gun related issues has had to work hard to convince donors that the President is a looming threat to their Second Amendment rights.

For Vanderboegh, the fear isn't just about the Obama administration, it's about the federal government itself. Talking about his belief that government officials involved in Fast and Furious aren't being held to the same standard as citizens would be, Vanderboegh leans forward and his voice raises as he taps a neon green soda bottle cap on the table.

"If you don't quote me on anything in this interview, you quote me on this: if the rule of law does not protect the people from the government, it doesn't protect the government from the people, alright," Vanderboegh said.

"The rule of law has to work both ways, or it's the law of the jungle, and there are people who can see that, and there are people who can interpret that. And there are people who, frankly, have quit listening to me when I tell them to be patient," he continued.

Pending uprisings against the government are a consistent theme for Vanderboegh. He wrote a novel describing the murder of federal law enforcement officials in the course of a raid on an elderly militia man's home that he said was intended to serve as "a cautionary tale" rather than a how-to guide. An attack allegedly plotted by four senior citizens was inspired by Vanderboegh's novel, and the leader of the alleged plot even left comments on his website calling his story "far from fantasy."

"I don't control these people," Vanderboegh told TPM Thursday. "The people in this town are the ones who teach them the lessons that they're learning. God help them. When the legitimacy of this system finally breaks down, God help them all. Everybody, God help us all."