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Since Republicans began tormenting him almost two years ago over a botched gun-smuggling investigation, Attorney General Eric Holder has wielded it as a shield.
"It" is a forthcoming report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General on exactly what happened in Operation Fast and Furious, in which agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed hundreds of powerful assault guns to "walk" to criminal networks.
When facing down hostile GOP lawmakers in antagonistic Congressional hearings, or refusing to disclose subpoenaed documents, Holder has pointed to the report as evidence he wants to get to the bottom of the scandal.
"I am . the attorney general who called on an inspector general to look into this matter, to investigate this matter," Holder said to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), moments after Cornyn called on Holder to resign in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this summer.
Now, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report will be released imminently, posing a potential danger both to Holder and to his GOP nemesis, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
By putting such emphasis on the report, Holder has elevated its importance, leaving him no room to complain about its findings if they reflect poorly on his or his top subordinates' conduct.
But to the extent the report exonerates, or does not discuss, the role of Holder and key top lieutenants such as Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, it could be used to dismiss any further inquires into their conduct.
When Breuer, whose criminal division approved the Fast and Furious wiretaps, was up for confirmation in the Senate, Horowitz wrote a letter of support saying that based on knowing Breuer for "several years," he would make an "outstanding leader" of the DOJ's criminal division.
The two are said to be friends. A call to Horowitz's office was not returned Friday.
In a Wednesday letter to Issa, Horowitz said a draft version of the report is in the hands of the DOJ officials whose conduct it concerns.