AG Eric Holder charged with contempt
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress despite a last-minute intervention by President Obama.
By a vote of 23 to 17 after nearly six hours of tense discussion, the bipartisan committee voted for contempt over the Justice Department's decision to withhold documents related to Operation Fast and Furious that were subpoenaed by the committee in their investigation of the failed gunwalking operation.
The votes were sharply divided along partisan lines with all Republicans voting for and all Democrats voting against contempt. The measure now moves to the full House for a vote.
Moments before the hearing, Holder, who was not present at the hearing, delivered a letter to committee chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) informing the committee that Obama exerted executive privilege to withhold the documents in question.
"Although we are deeply disappointed that the Committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the Department remains willing to work with the Committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues," Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote in a letter to Issa.
But the president's intervention did not stop Issa from proceeding with Wednesday's vote.
"This untimely assertion by the Justice Department falls short of any reason to delay today's proceedings," Issa said prior to the vote.
Many committee members Wednesday invoked the name of Brian Terry, a border patrol agent killed in Dec. 2010. At the scene of that crime, guns sold in the Fast and Furious operation were recovered. The operation overall was designed to track firearm sales from the United States to Mexican drug cartels, but the government lost track of a majority of the guns sold in the operation.
"Remember the promises that were made in this room to Terry's family. We would not rest until we got to the bottom of this," Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) said Wednesday.
"Have the guts, I hope we have the guts and the perseverance to get to the bottom of this," Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said, encouraging the government to help get to the bottom of why Fast and Furious failed. "It's not about Attorney General Eric Holder, it's about the Justice Department and justice in America," he added, invoking Terry's name.
Just prior to the vote, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) read a statement released by Terry's family, which read, in part:
For more than 18 months we have been asking our federal government for justice and accountability. The documents sought by the House Oversight Committee and associated with Operation Fast and Furious should be produced and turned over to the committee. Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious.
Republicans in Congress have been leading the push to find out what the government knew about the operation and when and why the effort failed.
Issa and Holder met Tuesday night under the auspices of reaching an agreement that would potentially delay the contempt vote. But following the meeting, Issa said Holder merely confirmed the Justice Department would not be delivering the documents and that the vote would proceed as scheduled.
Holder accused Issa of playing politics.
"Given the extraordinary nature of the offer that we made and given the extraordinary way in which we have shared materials to date that I think we are actually involved more in political gamesmanship as opposed to trying to get the information they say they want," Holder said.
Discussion of Holder's contempt vote was sharply divided along partisan lines on the bipartisan committee Wednesday. Ranking Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland (D), defended Holder prior to the vote and accused Issa of refusing to compromise. "It seems to me you had no interest of resolving this issue," Cummings said to Issa.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she was "offended personally" by Issa calling Holder a liar. "It's disrespectful," Maloney said. "Where have we degenerated to?" Maloney defended Holder, saying he is "prohibited by law from producing" the documents in question.
"I want to apologize to the American people for yet another show of 'gotcha politics' in this body," Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) stated.
But Republicans strongly disagreed.
"Thus far, the cooperation has not been forthcoming," Issa said of the Justice Department. "We and the American people need answers sooner, not later."
"Mr. Holder is either not telling the truth or he's grossly incompetent," Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said Wednesday. Labrador once again called for Holder's resignation.
I was so upset when I read this earlier. For one, I agree with Maloney. He cannot give up those documents; and what is he supposed to do especially since the President decided to exert his right to Executive Privilege? "Cooperation has not been forthcoming" - So, what? Holding him in contempt is supposed to make him give up the documents sooner?
They're just being petty, like children. What does a child do after they realize their parents won't buy them that toy after all? They strike out in a tantrum, so they can feel like they have some control over the situation. They hope to embarrass their parents into getting them what they want and they don't realize all the while that they're the ones looking foolish.
Farenthold needs to sit down somewhere (I mean, really. When have we ever asked for his opinion?), and, the statement released by the family, while made out of grief, is so... Ugh.
Contrary to popular belief, Americans cannot and do not need to know everything that's going on in politics. We get so upset about under-the-table deals and secrets and we wouldn't know what to do with the information if we knew it. We elected to officials to lead. We need to let them lead. (And I'm not saying blind faith - But I am saying some measure of faith. Everything is not for everyone to know.)
I think it depends on the nature of the subject in question. If it deals with national security, as this allegedly does, a certain amount of secrecy is appropriate. I highly doubt that the previous administration, upon withholding information, would have incurred similar wrath.
I generally like Eric Holder. He is very upfront about most matters. And I hope people protest if he's actually charged.
This just in:
Members voted 254-173 in favor of a rule governing floor debate for the two resolutions, setting up more debate and votes later in the day. The rule was approved by every Republican, and 15 Democrats, a sign that the resolutions might win the support of about a dozen or more Democrats later in the day.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Does this spell trouble to anyone else?
Well, trouble or stalling, I'm not sure.
I don't know.
It makes me feel anxious, in a nervous way.
I'm sure you've read already, but, at least there won't be any criminal prosecution.
Not a big surprise, really. He can't give up the documents, so, criminal prosecution, while not totally negated, seems pretty unreasonable. No criminal prosecution of Holder for contempt - CNN.com
Though, the Republicans are already griping:
"A spokesman for Issa's committee and another top congressional Republican, veteran Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, complained Friday that the refusal to prosecute showed a lack of independence by the U.S. attorney who would handle the case.
"It is regrettable that the political leadership of the Justice Department is trying to intervene in an effort to prevent the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from making an independent decision about whether to prosecute this case," said Frederick Hill, the panel's director of communications."
And so goes Executive Privilege.
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