The U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress on Thursday for his role in suppressing and withholding Fast & Furious documents from congressional investigators. The bipartisan vote—255 to 67, with 17 Democrats joining 238 Republicans voting for contempt—marks the first time in history that the U.S. Congress has held an attorney general in contempt.
The lead investigator, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, heads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which last week voted to send the contempt citation to the floor of the full House.
Rep. Issa said that he’s committed to fixing the problems related to Operation Fast & Furious—where the Obama administration helped gun smugglers sneak firearms south of the border in an apparent attempt to create a demand for more gun control laws in the U.S.
The National Rifle Association, which contends the government used the operation to promote stricter gun control laws, warned lawmakers last week that it will use the contempt vote to rate lawmakers. The organization’s decision placed added pressure on House Democrats in gun-friendly districts.
Issa told CNN he was surprised that President Obama exerted executive privilege in an attempt to seal up the requested documents. This move, he says, indicates the White House’s role in Fast & Furious “has been greater than previously acknowledged.” This revelation—that the President himself may have had more intimate knowledge of Fast & Furious—is motivating legislators on both sides of Capitol Hill. The ranking Senator on the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said that he had previously only traced the Fast & Furious program to an assistant attorney general.
But now Grassley says that Obama’s claim of executive privilege “raises the question of what does the president know and when did he know it.” As we reported earlier, the Gun Owners Foundation has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for DC to compel the Justice Department to produce tens of thousands of documents related to Operation Fast & Furious. If Eric Holder were to refuse the court’s demand for producing documents, then a “contempt of court” citation could land the attorney general in jail.