Constitutional Law

House Cites Attorney General Eric Holder for Contempt of Congress; AG Calls Vote 'Grave Disservice'


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U.S. Attorney General
Eric Holder. Rena Schild
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Updated: The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt concerning documents sought by a committee reviewing the botched Fast and Furious federal gun-trafficking probe overseen by the Department of Justice.

This is a historic first—Congress has never imposed that sanction on a sitting member of a president’s cabinet, according to Fox News, the New York Times (reg. req.) and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

The Thursday vote was 255-67 with one lawmaker voting not present. A number of Democrats walked out without voting, in protest of what they have called a politically motivated witch-hunt in an election year. Holder, they say, has already provided the committee with all it needs.

But the December 2010 slaying of a border patrol agent, Brian Terry, near two firearms bought by a gun-running suspect, provided ammunition for the Republicans.

“These contempt charges aren’t about politics,” said Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., during debate earlier in the day about a rule concerning today’s vote. “They aren’t about Attorney General Holder or President Obama or anything else but this: A man died serving his country and we have a right to know what the federal government’s hand was in that. It’s clear this country somehow played a role in his death. We need to root it out, find the cause, and make sure this never, ever happens again.”

Holder himself blasted the contempt citation in a written statement, calling it “a grave disservice to the American people,” reports Politico’s Politico 44 page.

“Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided—and politically motivated—investigation during an election year,” he contended. “By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety. Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers, like Agent Brian Terry, who keep us safe—they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome.”

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “House Committee Votes to Charge AG Holder with Contempt, Says He Didn’t Fully Cooperate in Gun Probe”

ABAJournal.com: “Holder Contempt Vote Scheduled for Today; DOJ Could Cite Ted Olson Opinion”

Christian Science Monitor: “Is Eric Holder contempt vote over Fast and Furious about race?”

Fox News: “Contempt vote would put Eric Holder, US Attorney in uncharted territory”

Updated at 4:20 p.m. to include additional information about vote and arguments on both sides and at 4:38 p.m. to include Holder statement and link to Christian Science Monitor article.

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