Constitutional Law

House Committee Votes to Charge AG Holder with Contempt, Says He Didn't Fully Cooperate in Gun Probe


U.S. Attorney General
Eric Holder. Rena Schild

Saying that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has not fully cooperated with an investigation of the government’s flawed “Operation Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking sting, a Republican-led House of Representatives committee on Wednesday voted to charge him with contempt of Congress.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, met with Holder on Tuesday, and the attorney general later said he offered to provide documents the committee is seeking if Issa would assure him that would satisfy two subpoenas. Issa said the conditions the attorney general sought to impose weren’t acceptable, USA Today reports.

“Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt,” Issa said. “Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work—that it is not only entitled to, but obligated to do.”

However, the attorney general complained of what he called a political motivation as the nation’s executive and legislative branches brace for a showdown over a claim of executive privilege by President Barack Obama, Politico reports.

“This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer,” said Holder. “It’s an election-year tactic intended to distract attention, and, as a result, has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice—protecting the American people.”

At issue in the probe is the provision of documents showing what the Department of Justice knew and when concerning whistle-blower allegations that the government allowed as many as 2,000 illegally purchased firearms to be taken into Mexico while running the sting operation along the southwest border of the United States. The operation was halted after two weapons linked to Fast and Furious were found at the scene where a Border Patrol agent was murdered in 2010, the article recounts.

The contempt matter now goes to a House floor vote, to determine whether the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., or a special prosecutor should be asked to try to force the executive branch to provide the subpoenaed documents, the Los Angeles Times explains.

ABC News and CNN also have stories.

Related coverage: “US Atty for Ariz. Resigns, Minn. US Atty Promoted in Shake-Up re Botched ATF Gun-Running Probe” “Did Attorney General Fudge Fast and Furious Testimony? DOJ Offers Explanation” “Obama Asserts Executive Privilege in Congressional Probe of Fast and Furious”

In the Loop (Washington Post): “Eric Holder’s contempt vote: He’s hardly the first”

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