CNN Legal Analyst Pooh-Poohs GOP Accusations Against Holder

Dismissing Republican accusations against Eric Holder as "politics," CNN legal analyst Jeff Toobin claimed that allegations of corruption against the Attorney General have "not been proven at all, at least as far as I can tell."

Exasperated anchor Carol Costello teed him up by wondering why Republicans in Congress won't believe the Attorney General's admitted ignorance of tactics used in the infamous "Fast and Furious" operation. "Eric Holder has testified before the House Judiciary Committee nine times. Each time he has admitted 'Fast and Furious' was a dreadful mistake, and each time Holder says he was unaware of the tactics of the operation," she insisted.

Has Holder really acknowledged the scandal and admitted ignorance during all nine testimonies before Congress? In February, when Holder was asked if the operation was a "mistake," he did not say that it was, but rather that he would have "modified" it.

And when offered a chance to apologize to the family of murdered border patrol agent Brian Terry, at whose scene of death the guns appeared that were involved in the operation, Holder would not apologize. He expressed "regret" and insisted that the operation may not have led directly to Terry's death.

"I think this is mostly show business one way or another," Toobin said of Republican threats to hold the Attorney General in contempt.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 13 on CNN Newsroom at 10:09 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

CAROL COSTELLO: So what I'd like you to do is douse us with reality, because this has become very partisan, this argument over Eric Holder. Eric Holder has testified before the House Judiciary Committee nine times. Each time he has admitted "Fast and Furious" was a dreadful mistake, and each time Holder says he was unaware of the tactics of the operation. Why don't Republicans believe him?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN senior legal analyst: Well, this is really much more to be filed in the category of politics than law. I think, you know, this was a terribly conceived plan. It is worth pointing out, as you just did, it started in 2006 in the Bush administration, but it was continued in the Obama administration, and it was a bad idea. The heart of the complaint by the Republicans against Holder is that he is somehow covering up his role in it and there's a big dispute over documents. Has the Justice Department produced all the documents that the congressional Republicans want?

Now, this is really a traditional fight between the legislative branch and the executive branch. They are often fighting over which documents can be made available to Congress. But the idea that there is some sort of corruption here that there is something sinister has not been proven at all, at least as far as I can tell.

COSTELLO: So then why doesn't Holder just turn over the documents?

TOOBIN: Well, he has turned over a great many documents. One of the ways that the Justice Department and the Congress always fights is, Justice Department says, look, there are certain internal documents that are not Congress' business. That are not subject to congressional investigation. That came up in the Bush administration. It's coming up now. That is the heart of the dispute that's going on now.

COSTELLO: So Republican lawmakers are threatening to hold Holder in contempt. Holder says that would create a constitutional crisis. So would it?

TOOBIN: I don't think so. I think this is mostly show business one way or another. I think it would be embarrassing for Holder. It would be unpleasant. And I think that's really the goal of what's going on here. Eric Holder, despite the wishes of apparently some in Congress is not going to be hauled off in handcuffs. This is likely to peter along until the end of President Obama's term, or his first term. And then presumably Eric Holder will leave at the end of this term. He has more or less given a signal he's not going to stay on, but I don't think there's going to be any sort of constitutional crisis, or for better or worse any resolution, until the election.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center