WASHINGTON, D.C. | U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who describes himself as an “equal opportunity investigator,” has taken offense at the suggestion he’s playing politics with an investigation of a botched gun-running operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Accusing me of being political? Obviously I can resent that,” the Iowa Republican said in a conference call with reporters.
Grassley was questioned about his post on the social network Twitter early June 27 in which he said:
“I resent recent charges that investigation of Fast/Furious is political motivated I have been leading this for 18 months Why now the charge”
The issue could come to a head today if the Republican-led House votes to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the information Grassley and others are seeking as they investigate an AFT gun tracing operation dubbed “Fast and Furious.” President Obama has invoked executive privilege to block the release of those documents.
The vote is “purely political theater,” according to 1st District Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat.
“I’ll vote against is the same way I did in committee,” Braley said Wednesday.
The matter should be handled by a federal court in an “orderly process that respects existing court orders protecting against the release of classified and sealed documents,” Braley said.
“He can get this into the courts very fast by voting for contempt,” said Grassley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If Congress holds Holder in contempt, Grassley said the issue would go to a grand jury and, eventually, to the court.
Grassley has been conducting an investigation into the connection between a failed “gun walking” operation the ATF was running to track illegal weapons and the murder of a Border Patrol agent who was shot with a gun sold by the ATF.
Grassley told reporters the allegations that he’s politicizing the issue to Democrats and “MSNBC-type people.”
The allegations are an attempt to divert attention from the Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder and “to distract from the constitutional requirements of Congress to do oversight because somehow I think it’s going to hurt them politically.”
Grassley went on to defend his non-partisan record of holding administrations accountable.
“If there’s anything I’ve got a reputation for it’s being an equal opportunity investigator,” Grassley said. “I take on Republicans as well as Democrats.”
He noted that the GOP has controlled the White House 20 years and Democrats 10 years while he’s been in the Senate, so he’s taken on more presidents from his own party than Democratic presidents.
In addition to accusations that he’s politicizing the investigation, Grassley said he’s has more resentment for the “political cover-up that comes from their stonewalling and saying this is a political witch hunt.”
Although Braley will oppose the contempt vote, he has “significant concerns about some ways that this has been handled by the White House.” As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Braley has had the opportunity to review documents sealed by a federal judge.
“I’m all in favor of getting to bottom of how these problems developed and the tragic murder that happened with these guns,” Braley said. “That is what I’ve been pushing for -- to get to the truth. It has to be done in an orderly process that respects existing court orders protecting against the release of classified and sealed documents.”