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Yee enters plea, Holder gets bolder

California State Sen. Leland Yee, arrested and charged with gun trafficking and other crimes, today entered a “not guilty” plea, according to the Sacramento Bee, at about the same time that, on the far side of the country, Attorney General Eric Holder had the audacity to refer to a member of Congress during questioning as “buddy,” and it was not a friendly reference.

California State Sen. Leland Yee today entered a not guilty plea on his corruption charges.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yee, in federal court in San Francisco, pleaded “not guilty” before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. He was arrested in a major Bay Area sweep by federal and local authorities, creating considerable embarrassment for gun control proponents, because Yee is one of the state’s top anti-gunners, and one of the charges was for alleged gun trafficking.

While this was happening, Holder was reportedly engaged in a prickly exchange with Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert, a former judge, who was quizzing him about getting requested files from the Justice Department. Justice had not delivered to Gohmert’s satisfaction and he made that clear when, according to a transcript at CNS News, the congressman noted, “Sir, I’ve read you what your department promised, and it is inadequate, and I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.”

To which Holder appears to reply, “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, okay?”

The C-Span video, available on YouTube, requires careful listening with the volume turned up to pick up the first half of Holder’s remark, but the second half is entirely audible, complete with Holder pointing his index finger at the congressman. Children can get kicked out of elementary school for doing that.

It got better, as the transcript reveals. When Gohmert pressed Holder about requested documents relating to the Operation Fast and Furious investigation, the Texan noted, “Sir, we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious where people died, where at least a couple hundred Mexicans died, and we can’t get the information to get to the bottom of that, so I don’t need lectures from you about contempt, because it is very difficult to deal with asking questions.”

And Holder responded, “And I don’t need lectures from you either.”

Subsequently, Holder insinuated that the contempt citation and the Fast and Furious controversy was “all about the gun lobby.” So, is it Holder’s assertion that the “gun lobby” was responsible for mounting the gun running scandal, and not the Justice Department or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives?

Two questions might be raised in the aftermath of this confrontation. Who does Holder think he is, addressing a member of Congress that way? Who did Holder think he was talking to, some rube from Podunk?

As for Yee, a not guilty plea was anticipated. The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog provided a possible hint about how the defense strategy is shaping up. Tony Serra, attorney for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a reputed Chinatown crime figure who was arrested the same day as Yee, told the newspaper that he will “put the government on trial” in what may shape up as an entrapment defense.

There was also a hint that the race card may be played at some point.

Holder, the first African-American attorney general, is also the first one to be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents in the Fast and Furious scandal.

Yee is a Chinese-American who has pushed tough gun control measures in California, and who allegedly was keen on the gun trafficking plot to raise money to pay off a campaign debt and build a campaign war chest for his effort to become the next California secretary of state.

A third question comes to mind. What does race have to do with any of this? Holder has been holding out on Fast and Furious, and Yee was allegedly involved in what amounts to a criminal conspiracy, according to the arrest affidavit. Anybody can get in a snit with a congressman, same as anybody can run afoul of the law. It apparently just requires a little effort.

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David Codrea

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