“If the committee was truly interested in accountability ... since this started in the Bush administration, you’d be looking to find out what happened at the origin of this,” Welch said.
Although fierce in his denunciations of GOP tactics in their investigation, Welch was less adamant when defending the Justice Department’s legal authority to withhold documents under Congressional subpoena.
“The Congress can subpoena documents and does and should have liberal access to information. I strongly support the oversight ability of Congress. And in order to exercise that, we have to have access to a substantial range of documents. On the other hand, the oversight responsibility has to be done in a responsible way where it’s not just a fishing expedition,” Welch said.
Cummings issued a staff memo last week arguing that “holding the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for protecting these documents is an extreme and blatant abuse of the Congressional contempt power that undermines the credibility of the Committee.”
However, a report by the Congressional Research Service on Congressional oversight of the DOJ offers a broad view of Congress’ legal authority to demand internal documents.
The report says that from 1920 to 2007, Congress has “consistently sought and obtained” internal DOJ documents and successfully demanded information “from the Attorney General down to subordinate personnel,” adding that court precedents have affirmed broad Congressional investigative authority in nearly every instance, regardless of whether the documents relate to ongoing criminal investigations.
On Friday, Issa said he would delay contempt proceedings if Holder produced a key category of documents.
In a letter to Issa dated Monday, Holder proposed meeting with Issa at 11 a.m. today, saying that “we expect that this extraordinary accommodation will fully address the remaining concerns that you and House Leadership have identified in your written and oral communications to the Department over the last few weeks.” Holder also requested that the meeting include Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and Cummings, “in keeping with the protocols of this investigation,” and cited Issa’s “inclusion” of Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the meeting.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.