In a party-line vote, the House Oversight Committee has passed a Contempt Resolution against Attorney General Eric Holder.
(Clerk) “23 ayes, 17 no’s.”
(Rep. Darrell Issa) “The ‘ayes’ have it, and a contempt report is ordered to…ordered reported to the House.”
The vote comes after the Attorney General used Executive Privilege invoked by President Obama to keep from turning over certain documents Republicans had wanted to investigate the gun-walking operation known as Fast & Furious.
FOX News Radio’s Steve Taylor is in Washington with more on what’s next:
Attorney General Holder says he already has shown the Committee many documents and offered to show more, but President Obama invoked Executive Privilege under the idea that some law enforcement information is too sensitive to share.
So now the full House will vote on whether the Attorney General is in contempt. If the vote is yes, there still must be a Federal indictment, a trial and a conviction before Holder faces any punishment. Maximum penalties would be a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
In Washington, Steve Taylor, FOX News Radio.
Attorney General Holder released the following statement following the vote:
“In recent months, the Justice Department has made unprecedented accommodations to respond to information requests by Chairman Issa about misguided law enforcement tactics that began in the previous administration and allowed illegal guns to be taken into Mexico. Department professionals have spent countless hours compiling and providing thousands of documents — nearly 8,000 — to Chairman Issa and his committee. My staff has had numerous meetings with congressional staff to try and accommodate these requests and yesterday, I met with Chairman Issa to offer additional internal Department documents and information that would satisfy what he identified as the Committee’s single outstanding question.
“Unfortunately, Chairman Issa has rejected all of these efforts to reach a reasonable accommodation. Instead, he has chosen to use his authority to take an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch. 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. 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.
“Simply put, any claims that the Justice Department has been unresponsive to requests for information are untrue. From the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth or address the problems associated with this operation and prior ones dating back to the previous Administration.
“I have spent most of my career in law enforcement and worked closely with brave agents who put their lives on the line every day. I know the sacrifices they make, so as soon as allegations of gunwalking came to my attention – and well before Chairman Issa expressed any interest in this issue — I ordered the practice stopped. I made necessary personnel changes in the Department’s leadership and instituted policy changes to ensure better oversight of significant investigations. And, I directed the Department’s Inspector General to open a comprehensive investigation. That investigation is ongoing, and the American people and Congress can count on it to produce a tough, independent review of the facts.
“When Chairman Issa later began his own investigation, I made it clear that the Department would cooperate with all appropriate oversight requests, while still adhering to our legal obligations to protect information involving ongoing law enforcement investigations, legally-protected grand jury material and other sensitive information whose disclosure would endanger the American people or our agents investigating open cases.
“The American people deserve better. That is why, I will remain focused on, and committed to, the Justice Department’s mission to protect the rights, safety, and best interests of my fellow citizens and to stand by my brave colleagues in law enforcement.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, released the following statement after the vote:
“The Oversight Committee voted to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt for his continued refusal to produce relevant documents in the investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. This was not the outcome I had hoped for and today’s proceeding would not have occurred had Attorney General Eric Holder actually produced the subpoenaed documents he said he could provide.
“The President’s assertion of Executive Privilege this morning took us by surprise but did not alter the Committee’s conclusion that documents had been inappropriately withheld. Executive Privilege only applies to materials that directly pertain to communications with the President and his senior advisors. This assertion indicates that the White House’s role in Operation Fast and Furious and the response to whistleblower accusations has been greater than previously acknowledged. Just yesterday, the Attorney General indicated a willingness to produce a small subset of documents on the condition that the Committee end its investigation before they were described or made available for review. Today, the President asserted Executive Privilege to ensure they are never produced.
“At the heart of the Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious are disastrous consequences: a murdered Border Patrol Agent, his grieving family seeking answers, countless deaths in Mexico, and the souring effect on our relationship with Mexico. Congress has not just a right, but an obligation to do all that it can to uncover exactly what happened and ensure that it never occurs again. After the Justice Department’s earlier false denial of reckless conduct, the Committee has a duty to pursue all options to gather and evaluate key evidence.
“I still believe that a settlement, rendering the process of contempt unnecessary, is in the best interest of the Justice Department, Congress, and those most directly affected by Operation Fast and Furious. I urge Attorney General Holder and President Obama to reconsider their decision to withhold documents that would allow Congress to complete its investigation.”