For the first time in United States history, the House of Representatives cited a member of the President’s cabinet with criminal contempt of Congress.
On Thursday, House members approved a pair of criminal and civil resolutions against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for his refusal to turn over internal Justice Department documents linked to the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious.
With the support of almost every Republican and 17 Democrats, the criminal contempt measure was passed by a vote of 255-67. The civil measure passed by a vote of 258-95, also along party lines.
Speaking in New Orleans, Holder dismissed the House action as “the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided — and politically motivated — investigation during an election year.”
“By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety,” Holder continued. (See video for Holder’s Response).
Not surprisingly, the White House and Democratic leaders followed suit with the ‘political stunt’ argument.
Dan Pfeiffer, the White House Communications Director, lampooned Republicans for pushing “political theater rather than legitimate congressional oversight.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus staged a walk-out protest during the criminal contempt vote, said “What the Republicans are doing with this motion … is contemptible.”
“This is something that makes a witch hunt look like a day at the beach,” Pelosi declared. “It is (the) railroading of a resolution that is unsubstantiated by the facts, based on a false premise.”
Meanwhile, GOP leaders rallied behind the point man of the 18-month probe into Fast and Furious, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA), who pursued contempt proceedings after Holder and his Justice Department failed to satisfy the congressional subpoenas.
“In the real world Americans are expected to comply with subpoenas. Is the attorney general any different? No he is not,” said Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida.
“The attorney general can stonewall all he wants. The attorney general can misremember all he wants. But whether he likes it or not, today responsibility will land on his desk,” Ross added.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, declared that “even the attorney general cannot evade the law. (It’s) time for America to find out the truth. … (It’s) time for a little transparency. Today is judgment day. That’s just the way it is.”
Now that Holder has been somewhat raked over the coals, the real question is what happens next?
As Guns.com pointed out in a previous article, there won’t be any practical results of the contempt charges – at least not for the foreseeable future.
The criminal contempt charge against Holder will be given to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, an Obama appointee who works under the auspices of Holder himself. Will Machen prosecute his own boss? (something about icicles in hell or pigs flying seems an appropriate answer).
Issa’s committee will purse the civil contempt charge. It will file a lawsuit asking federal courts to review the DOJ’s stonewalling with respect to certain documents as well as the President’s invocation of executive privilege to protect those documents.
If the court rules in favor of Issa, then Holder will be compelled to comply with investigators – problem is, it will take years for the lawsuit to make its way through the legal system, according to experts.
In the end, placing Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress will not yield any tangible results with respect to the critical questions surrounding Fast and Furious, i.e. Who really knew what? When did they know it? And if they knew guns were ‘walking’ into Mexico, why did they fail to act on the information?
Also critically important to the investigation (but what’s getting lost in the shuffle) is the simple fact that if DOJ top brass didn’t know (which given the facts is highly doubtful), they should have known. It’s their job to know. Ignorance is no excuse. Consequently, they should be held responsible for failing to do their job.
Heads need to roll. People need to be held accountable if we’re ever going to turn the page on this fatally flawed operation.