The effort to slap Attorney General Eric Holder with a contempt citation is moving forward, with a June 20 Oversight and Government Reform Committee vote scheduled on the report.
“For over a year and a half, the House Oversight Committee, with Senator Chuck Grassley, has conducted a joint investigation of reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious,” Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement. “…Attorney General Holder has failed to meet his legal obligations pursuant to the October 12 subpoena. House leaders reiterated this failure in a May 18, 2012, letter. Specifically, the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical documents on the grounds that they show internal Department deliberations and were created after February 4, 2011 – the date Justice issued a false denial to Congress. Contempt will focus on the failure to provide these post February 4th documents.”
Adding that the Justice Department has “obstructed the investigation,” Issa stressed that no executive privilege has been used to keep the materials in question secret.
“While the Justice Department can still stop the process of contempt, this will only occur through the delivery of the post February 4, 2011, documents related to Operation Fast and Furious and whistleblower accusations subpoenaed by the Committee,” Issa said. “If the Attorney General decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary.”
There are 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats on the committee. A majority vote is needed to pass the contempt citation. The House is in recess this week.
While not a measure to levy blame in Fast and Furious, the purpose of the contempt citation is to force compliance with a congressional subpoena.
Last week, Issa confronted Holder with wiretap applications that indicate his department was aware of tactics being used in the gun-running operation that resulted in the death of a Border Patrol agent and countless Mexicans. Issa also unloaded on the attorney general at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
UPDATE: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued a statement in support of Issa’s move:
“The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Agent Terry’s family, the whistleblowers who brought this issue to light, and the American people deserve answers. Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”