The House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his continued failure to turn over documents discussing the Fast and Furious operation. More than 18 months into the investigation, AG Holder and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has frustrated Congress' attempt to find who was responsible for Fast and Furious, which has been tied to the death of Customs and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Last week, President Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents even though he and AG Holder have both claimed the president was never informed of the operation and that the two have never discussed the operation.
"It's about time we held this man accountable," stated Westmoreland. "Officials of the United States of America were putting dangerous weapons in the hands of drug dealers and murderers in Mexico. And for the past year, he and staffers at his department have thrown up every road block they can to frustrate Congress' investigation into this botched gun-running operation. The operation resulted in the death of at least one American and 200 Mexicans, that we know of. But today's vote is not a victory for anyone. Instead, it is a harsh reminder of the steps House Republicans have had to take in order to shed light on this failed operation."
The documents at issue are internal communications regarding a February 4, 2011 letter sent by the DOJ to Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) broadly denying that the tactics at the heart of the Fast and Furious operation were ever used. After the letter was sent, more information came forward disputing this claim and in December 2011 DOJ rescinded the letter. The documents, according to Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, would show how much the DOJ knew about Fast and Furious and would establish whether or not they lied to Congress purposefully in their February 4th letter and whether or not there was a cover-up after the February 4th letter.
"Don't be fooled by ridiculous claims by some of my colleagues on the other side," stated Westmoreland. "The only underlying motivation for today's vote was finding who is responsible for the death of Brian Terry and hold them accountable. The baseless and slanderous claims that many Congressional Democrats have made about Chairman Issa and House Republicans just show that they have no actual excuse for the attorney general's refusal to comply with the subpoena. But you don't just have to believe me. Seventeen members of their own caucus joined House Republicans and voted in favor of this resolution. That's because this isn't a Republican versus Democrat issue. It's a right versus wrong issue. What happened with Fast and Furious was absolutely wrong. And the Attorney General was absolutely wrong in refusing to turn over documents so Congress can investigate Fast and Furious. It's that simple."
The House held two votes today. The first held the attorney general in criminal contempt of Congress and the second allowed Congress to pursue civil contempt charges. This now opens up two alleys for moving forward. First, the criminal contempt resolution instructs the DOJ to enforce the subpoena. However, it is expected that President Obama will instruct the DOJ to disregard the contempt. Second, the civil contempt resolution allows Congress to hire legal counsel to pursue civil contempt in a federal court. Most likely, this will be the avenue Congress is forced to take, although there is still hope the president will stop hiding behind executive privilege and demand his attorney general turn over the requested documents.