Attorney General Eric Holder has been held in contempt of Congress by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The vote, 23 to 17 along party lines, was expected after an eleventh hour meeting between Holder and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) Tuesday evening failed to produce documents relating to the controversial gun-walking operation, known as Fast and Furious — Issa noted that “We waited all night for the documents to arrive.” Speaking before the vote to the Fox News Channel, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, “We subpoenaed documents; we didn‚??t subpoena an offer, a meeting like we had.”
Chairman Issa used his opening statement at the hearing to highlight the tragedy of¬† Holder’s “stonewalling,” particularly in relation to the murder of BAFTE Agent Brian Terry, saying that “The Terry family is still looking for answers.”
Rep. Carloyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), however, took offense at what she perceived as hyper-partisan politics, stating to Issa, “I am horrified that you are going forward with this contempt charge.” Conversely, Maloney urged the committee to instead pursue stricter gun control legislation.
The contempt citation will now most likely continue on to the House of Representatives for an official vote by the full chamber. President Obama, however, has exerted executive privilege over the documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, which keeps them out of Congress’s hands — Sen. Grassley in a statement noted that executive privilege ought to be only exercised by the president if he is involved in some way, “How can the President exert executive privilege over documents he’s supposedly never seen?¬† Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme?” The president’s executive privilege assertion has raised eyebrows from committee members, particularly Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who questioned Obama’s motives, asking, “How much did the president know about this?”
If the vote passes the House, the charges will then be referred to U.S. District Attorney of the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen Jr. who has, according to the 1857 law regarding contempt of Congress, a statutory duty to form a grand jury to investigate.