Report: Issa Staffer Offered To Stop Holder Contempt Vote For DOJ Scalp

June 22, 2012 10:06 a.m.

Rep. Darrell Issa’s chief investigative counsel offered to stop the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder in exchange for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Newsweek’s Dan Klaidman is reporting.

Issa staffer Stephen Castor brought up the issue of “accountability” during a phone call with a senior DOJ official last week, according to the report. Castor reportedly said they could head off the contempt vote if Breuer stepped down.

Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, apologized in October for not telling other Justice Department officials that guns were allowed to “walk” during the Bush administration when Congress first raised questions about Operation Fast And Furious in early 2011.Breuer said in a statement last that he “did not draw a connection between the unacceptable tactics used by the ATF years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver and the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious, and therefore did not, at that time, alert others within Department leadership of any similarities between the two. That was a mistake, and I regret not having done so.”

Emails show that Breuer was aware that the tactics were used during the Bush administration and met with ATF officials to discuss the matter.

“At the time, I thought that dealing with the leadership of ATF was sufficient and reasonable, and frankly given the amount of work I do, at the time I thought that was the appropriate way of dealing with it,” Breuer testified last year. “I thought we had dealt with it by talking to the ATF leadership.”

DOJ officials think the offer to drop the contempt vote in exchange for Breuer’s scalp was further evidence that Issa’s investigation was more about making headlines than determining facts.

“The reason that this contempt motion happened is that Issa didn’t come up with any evidence and didn’t get a scalp,” Matthew Miller, DOJ’s former communications director, told Klaidman. “When you set expectations that high and you don’t deliver, you have to explain why.”

Late update: Issa spokesman Frederick Hill sends along a statement:

While we are aware that Sen. Chuck Grassley has called for Lanny Breuer to resign, neither Chairman Issa nor any member of his staff has done so. The report in the Daily Beast is full of insinuation and deeply misleading. While Breuer’s conduct has certainly been troubling, and this has been discussed with Justice Department officials, his firing would not be sufficient to halt contempt proceedings. Chairman Issa and his staff have been clear with the Justice Department that documents must be produced to warrant any delay.

Asked by TPM if the committee was specifically denying that Castor told a DOJ official that Breuer’s resignation could either delay or cancel the contempt vote, Hill said he was.

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