News & Politics

Fast and Furious Might Land Ron Machen Another Political Hot Potato

The ATF’s gun-smuggling operation may be the latest issue helping to turn the DC US Attorney into arguably the city’s most powerful leader.

DC US Attorney Ron Machen, with Attorney General Eric Holder in the background. Photograph by Lonnie Tague/Department of Justice.

Ron Machen better be a good juggler: He’s being handed hot potatoes faster than anyone in politics this spring.

Last week began with Machen, the DC US Attorney, taking his second City Council scalp of the year—chair
Kwame Brown resigned Wednesday night and
pleaded guilty to financial charges Friday in both local and federal

just weeks after former council member
Harry Thomas Jr. was sentenced to three years
in prison for public corruption

The week ended with Attorney General
Eric Holder handing Machen and
Rod Rosenstein, the US attorney for the District of Maryland, the sensitive task of investigating national security leaks to the
New York Times
—leaks which almost assuredly appear to
involve White House and/or national security

While the DC US Attorney is normally one of the most
high-profile prosecutors in the country, Machen’s tenaciousness and the
unique political circumstances of DC politics at the moment
have taken his role to a whole new level—turning him into arguably
the city’s most powerful leader.

Now he looks like he might be given the task of investigating his own boss.

Yesterday, US House Speaker
John Boehner and Republican Majority Leader
Eric Cantor announced their support for House Oversight Committee Chair
Darrell Issa to consider criminal contempt of
Congress charges against Holder, stemming from the ATF’s controversial
gun-smuggling investigation
Operation Fast and Furious. Issa’s committee says Holder is in
contempt because the Justice Department has failed to turn
over documents pursuant to an October 2011 subpoena.

Issa has been pursuing the contempt charges quietly for weeks, and the leadership’s support means he’s now formally scheduled
a committee vote for next Wednesday.

“Despite what the investigation has uncovered through
whistleblowers and documents the Justice Department had tried to hide,
the Committee’s work is not yet complete,” Issa said yesterday
in a statement

If Issa’s committee supports the contempt charge, the
measure would go to the full House of Representatives. If passed there,
it would be referred formally to the US Attorney for the
District of Columbia—launching Machen into the midst of another hot
election-year topic. The GOP has made Fast and Furious a
cornerstone of its attacks on Holder’s leadership, even though much
of the investigation began under the Bush administration.

For his part, Holder—a former DC US Attorney himself—will be on the Hill today to testify in a previously scheduled Senate
judiciary oversight hearing