Contempt of Congress vote scheduled for Holder over Fast and Furious

The House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to comply with a congressional subpoena over Operation Fast and Furious.

According to a release House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa sent out Monday morning — first reported by CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson — the committee will vote to hold Holder in contempt next Wednesday, June 20.

“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,” Issa said in the vote’s announcement. “With the support of House leadership, the Republican Conference, and even some Democratic Members who have expressed concern to the White House over the Justice Department’s failure to cooperate, this investigation has yielded significant results. The Attorney General has acknowledged that the operation was fundamentally flawed and he has committed to take steps to ensure that it does not occur again. Evidence found in applications for wiretaps shows that although senior officials were given information about reckless tactics, they still signed affirmations that they had reviewed the investigation and determined that electronic surveillance of phones was necessary.”

Issa added that the Obama administration “has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them.”

“These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics,” Issa said.

Holder has demonstrably failed to comply with all 22 parts of a congressional subpoena that Issa served him last October. With respect to 13 of the subpoena’s categories, Holder has provided no documents. He remains far from compliant with regard to the other subpoena categories as well.

Because of Holder’s failure to comply, Issa and others have threatened contempt of Congress proceedings against him. Since Holder again failed to offer any legal reasoning for his continued defiance of the subpoena last Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, it appears House leaders are getting to move with those contempt proceedings.

After the Oversight Committee would vote to hold him in contempt �“ which it appears as though it would �“ a full House floor vote would likely be scheduled. When recently asked whether he supports contempt against Holder, House Speaker John Boehner said he thinks “all options are on the table.”

In a Monday morning statement, Boehner said he’ll push the contempt proceedings as well.

“The Justice Department is out of excuses,” Boehner said on Monday. “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.”

Issa said Holder can still stop the contempt of Congress proceedings: If he complies with the subpoena and gives up the documents, contempt will stop.

“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.”

The announcement of the contempt vote in the committee comes on the heels of Holder’s latest appearance before Congress on the issue �“ where he again stonewalled on the Fast and Furious subpoena. Holder also admitted President Barack Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod and the White House are helping the Department of Justice craft its messaging about Operation Fast and Furious.

“We [Holder, Axelrod and the White House] have certainly talked about ways in which we could deal with the interaction between the Justice Department and Congress — about ways in which we would,” Holder said under oath before Congress.

Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes pressed Holder further by asking him if Axelrod, Obama’s re-election campaign and the White House were involved in crafting the DOJ’s policy for dealing with press. He said they were. “In terms of trying to get any message out that was consistent with facts and make sure it was done in an appropriate way, I’ve had conversations like that with people in the White House.”

On Sunday, Axelrod denied helping Holder with such issues �“ directly contradicting Holder’s testimony before Congress.

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