Attorney General

Holder Contempt Vote Scheduled for Today; DOJ Could Cite Ted Olson Opinion


U.S. Attorney General
Eric Holder. Rena Schild

The U.S. House is scheduled to vote today on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents in the flawed gun-walking probe known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The vote is expected to be held this afternoon, unless a last-minute deal is reached, the Associated Press reports. If the House approves the contempt citation, it would be the first against a sitting attorney general, according to AP and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

President Obama has asserted executive privilege to withhold the documents about the Justice Department’s response to questions about Fast and Furious. Federal agents in the flawed operation tracked guns carried across the border in hopes of tracing them to drug cartels. The agency lost track of 1,000 weapons, including two firearms used in a shootout that killed a border patrol agent.

If the contempt citation is approved, it would be sent to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, who would be responsible for bringing the matter to a grand jury, according to the Wall Street Journal. But is he required to do so?

Not according to a 1984 opinion written by former Solicitor General Ted Olson during a prior stint in the Office of Legal Counsel. Olson wrote that a U.S. attorney “is not required to refer a congressional contempt citation to a grand jury or otherwise to prosecute an executive branch official who carries out the president’s instruction to invoke the president’s claim of executive privilege before a committee of Congress.”

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey cited the opinion in 2008 after the House approved contempt citations for then-White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, the Wall Street Journal says.

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