Justice Dept. won't prosecute Holder for contempt

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 12, 2012. In email exchanges with subordinates in February and March 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and the department's second-highest official expressed growing concern that something might have gone wrong in a federal gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 12, 2012. In email exchanges with subordinates in February and March 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and the department's second-highest official expressed growing concern that something might have gone wrong in a federal gun-smuggling probe called Operation Fast and Furious. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won't be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.

The House voted Thursday afternoon to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over the documents. President Barack Obama invoked his executive privilege authority and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department said that it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general. Dated Thursday, the letter was released Friday.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the decision is in line with long-standing Justice Department practice across administrations of both political parties.

"We will not prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege," Cole wrote.

In its letter, the department relied in large part on a Justice Department legal opinion crafted during Republican Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Frederick Hill, the spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, said it is regrettable that "the political leadership of the Justice Department" is taking that position. Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, is leading the effort to get the material related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Although the House voted Thursday to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt, Republicans probably are still a long way from obtaining documents they want for their inquiry into Operation Fast and Furious, a flawed gun-tracking investigation focused on Phoenix-area gun shops by Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The criminal path is now closed and the civil route through the courts would not be resolved anytime soon.

"This is pure politics," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"Remarkably the chairman of the committee involved here has asserted that he has no evidence that the attorney general knew of Operation Fast and Furious or did anything but take the right action when he learned of it.

"No evidence, so if you have no evidence as he has stated now about the White House and the attorney general, what else could this be but politics?"

More than 100 Democrats walked out of the House chamber to boycott the first of two contempt votes, saying Republicans were more interested in shameful election-year politics than documents.

Republicans demanded the documents for an ongoing investigation, but their arguments focused more on the need for closure for the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Two guns identified by the Fast and Furious tracking operation were found near his body after a shootout in Arizona.

Democrats promised closure as well, but said a less-partisan Republican investigation was the only way to get it.

Adding to the emotion of the day, the family of the slain agent issued a statement backing the Republicans.

"The Terry family takes no pleasure in the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. Such a vote should not have been necessary. The Justice Department should have released the documents related to Fast and Furious months ago," the statement said.

The contempt votes happened on the day that Obama's health care law survived in the Supreme Court, prompting some Democrats to speculate that the votes were scheduled to be overwhelmed by news stories about the ruling.

About five hours after the court ruled, with news sites flooded with information about the health care ruling, the House voted 255-67 to declare Holder in criminal contempt.

A second vote of 258-95 held Holder in civil contempt and authorized the House to file a lawsuit.

In past cases, courts have been reluctant to settle disputes between the executive and legislative branches of government.

The issue became more complicated when Obama invoked a broad form of executive privilege, a legal doctrine designed to keep private certain communications of executive branch agencies.

Issa's committee will consult with the House counsel's office about a court challenge to the administration's decision not to cooperate, spokesman Frederick Hill said.

The documents were written after Fast and Furious was shut down. The subpoena covered a 10-month period from February 2011, as the Justice Department expressed growing concern that the Fast and Furious operation had employed a risky investigative tactic known as "gun-walking." In early December 2011, the department finally acknowledged that the initial denial of gun-walking was in error.

Republicans said the contempt citations were necessary because Holder refused to hand over documents that could explain why the Obama administration took 10 months to acknowledge the gun-walking.

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents abandoned the agency's usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased, often as soon as they were taken out of gun shops. Instead, the goal of the tactic known as "gun-walking" was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers, who had long eluded prosecution, and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking long has been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Operation Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level "straw purchaser" was failing to stop tens of thousands of guns from reaching Mexico, more than 68,000 in the last five years. A straw purchaser conceals that he is buying guns for others.

Fast and Furious identified more than 2,000 weapons suspected of being illicitly purchased. But agents lost track of many of the guns. Some 1,400 of them have yet to be recovered.

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Comments » 37

KennyR (Inactive) writes:

This is transparency at its best. Hopefully Republicans can get back in office this year. They may be just as corrupt, but as least they are held accountable.

GANAK1 writes:

Just typical of this Administration. Hide and deception, and of course, Socialism

GANAK1 writes:

can you say,,,,,"good ole boy network"???

grouper25 writes:

This was expected thats why their taking it to civil court to get their hands on the documents to see who and how many have Brian Terry's Blood on them.

gotero writes:

Nixon would have been so proud. Cover up to a new level.

sailing writes:

He should be in jail along with all the other politicians! they all do whatever they want like ganaki1 says good ole boy network!

profiler writes:

Government of the government, by the government, for the government. Is there a reason why every one of these crook basturds isn't hung on the white house steps?

staghorn writes:

hey that whining republican 'party of no' has to have SOMETHING to whine about.

popiels writes:

in response to GANAK1:

can you say,,,,,"good ole boy network"???

It is more than the good ole boy network. It's the Brothers network!

BHS20 writes:

<sarcasm> I am shocked. <sarcasm>

romneygate writes:

in response to KennyR:

This is transparency at its best. Hopefully Republicans can get back in office this year. They may be just as corrupt, but as least they are held accountable.

You mean like Karl Rove, right?

staghorn writes:

here is what john boehner and eric cantor had to say about this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_8YTa...

sailing writes:

Republican or Democrat there ALL screwing us!! They all scream and yell at each other on c-span and then they all go out and play golf together and laugh about how there screwing us!

cozyboy writes:

As the race hustlers like Al Sharptoon and his gang would say it's all because of his color. Let's hope the civil case brings out the real evidence and Brian Terry's family gets the truth whatever it may be. I think they deserve that much.

romneygate writes:

in response to staghorn:

here is what john boehner and eric cantor had to say about this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_8YTa...

PRICELESS!

nemar4 writes:

do you honestly think a politician would be found guilty of anything? swept under the rug

rtsspeaks writes:

If the other party did something s----- this party can do it also. Every President is entitled to a girl in the oval office!!!!

dixielee writes:

in response to staghorn:

here is what john boehner and eric cantor had to say about this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_8YTa...

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Chester writes:

So much for, "nobody is above the law." What a joke! Roger Clemens gets prosecuted for "lying to congress" about steroids but the AG of the US can refuse to obey a congressional subpeona! What is Stedman and Obumbles hiding?

staghorn writes:

in response to dixielee:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

wrong there stars and bars. how do you know what my family has not lost. we have lost a nephew in george bush's war in iraq "fighting for your freedom." but what do you care. all you can do is name call .... typical as a typical republican. i never called you any names nor would i ever.

KR writes:

A Disgrace! To America! Lock him up and throw away the key and don't forget to vote obama and all his left wing liberal socialists out in November!

naples759 writes:

in response to sailing:

Republican or Democrat there ALL screwing us!! They all scream and yell at each other on c-span and then they all go out and play golf together and laugh about how there screwing us!

kind of like opposing divorce lawyers...

naples759 writes:

in response to KR:

A Disgrace! To America! Lock him up and throw away the key and don't forget to vote obama and all his left wing liberal socialists out in November!

deport them all!!! after all, didn't they all enter this country illegally 200 or so years ago?

i'll even bet their earliest relatives didn't even have 'papers' to prove they were born here.

Colorado (Inactive) writes:

in response to SoldierStrong:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You really don't have a life, do you?

drolds writes:

in response to staghorn:

hey that whining republican 'party of no' has to have SOMETHING to whine about.

Tell me, what is it about capital letters and the placement there of, you do not understand?

unfatcat writes:

in response to staghorn:

hey that whining republican 'party of no' has to have SOMETHING to whine about.

This immoral operation not only produced Terry's death, but 200 and counting Mexican deaths. And the game is still on; because 1,200 guns have yet to be accounted for. How do you justify that?

This progressive movement has promoted nothing but immoral behavior from every branch of the Federal Govt. to Executive Orders to paid protesters, who have done physical damage to many city's citizens' property to politicians who leave town (Wisconsin) because they can't win, to stealing the savings of most Americans and in some cases property to support a corrupt agenda that only benefits the super wealthy....and finally Eric Holder, who has not upheld justice for all in several circumstances and deserves to be out of his job.

Still, yesterday, Mrs. Obama had the in-site to describe this country as operating under Jesus. Lies to man is one thing; but lies to God are quite another.

drolds writes:

in response to staghorn:

wrong there stars and bars. how do you know what my family has not lost. we have lost a nephew in george bush's war in iraq "fighting for your freedom." but what do you care. all you can do is name call .... typical as a typical republican. i never called you any names nor would i ever.

Imagine an infinite amount of Monkeys, with an infinite amount of time, typing on an infinite amount of keyboards. The odds are still very high that one or two of s----- Monkeys would type your comment exactly as you posted. It is of my opinion that an infinitely larger portion of monkeys would have placed (capital letters)in the appropate places.

BillyBob1 writes:

It is so hard to believe Holders Assistant decides whether or not to Prosecute? Is it me or is something really wrong with that approach?

Cherieo3 writes:

in response to unfatcat:

This immoral operation not only produced Terry's death, but 200 and counting Mexican deaths. And the game is still on; because 1,200 guns have yet to be accounted for. How do you justify that?

This progressive movement has promoted nothing but immoral behavior from every branch of the Federal Govt. to Executive Orders to paid protesters, who have done physical damage to many city's citizens' property to politicians who leave town (Wisconsin) because they can't win, to stealing the savings of most Americans and in some cases property to support a corrupt agenda that only benefits the super wealthy....and finally Eric Holder, who has not upheld justice for all in several circumstances and deserves to be out of his job.

Still, yesterday, Mrs. Obama had the in-site to describe this country as operating under Jesus. Lies to man is one thing; but lies to God are quite another.

Excellent post, unfatcat!!!
This is the MOST corrupt administration of all time.

OP writes:

I wish to live in a country where the representatives get treated just like the people they serve. The same rights, the same health care, the same influence, the same penalties. Is that so much to ask?

keekee writes:

Really, did anyone, anywhere, of any party affiliation have any doubts of this outcome at all?

rags123 writes:

Guns missing? What a surprise.
Issa is a phony. He has wanted to use his power from the beginning. I wonder if he is as concerned about the "missing" money from Wall St in the multi-billions.
At the hearing about the loss from JP Morgan, he practically asked Mr. Dimon to dance. He and the Repubs covered that up in a hurry.
What a bunch of phonies.
If you want to stop the flow of guns, then put controls on the Gun Shows that are letting thousands of guns go acorss the border by straw buyers. That is why Fast and Furious got re-started from Bush years, and that is why the NRA is pushing these phonies behind the scenes.
It is all show biz.

jkalvin writes:

in response to rags123:

Guns missing? What a surprise.
Issa is a phony. He has wanted to use his power from the beginning. I wonder if he is as concerned about the "missing" money from Wall St in the multi-billions.
At the hearing about the loss from JP Morgan, he practically asked Mr. Dimon to dance. He and the Repubs covered that up in a hurry.
What a bunch of phonies.
If you want to stop the flow of guns, then put controls on the Gun Shows that are letting thousands of guns go acorss the border by straw buyers. That is why Fast and Furious got re-started from Bush years, and that is why the NRA is pushing these phonies behind the scenes.
It is all show biz.

Scuse me rags - the Obama administration was, and is, in charge of the banks now - including JP Morgan. Their rules, their oversight, their fault. Where is their outrage?

Program with the guns during Bush's term was done in conjunction with the Mexican Government, and was devised to solve a problem.

Fast & Furious, on the other hand, was done without the Mexican Government's knowledge, and was done - by all accounts - to inflame public opinion about our 2nd amendment rights.

One thing is clearer than ever - the 2nd amendment is going to be the ultimate undoing of this hostile take-over of the last free nation on Earth.

HAL9000 writes:

It was easier for an Eli redneck like Dubya to get rid of a Mexican-American AG (Alberto Gonzalez) than it is for Obama to dump his African-American AG.

Ruger writes:

in response to keekee:

Really, did anyone, anywhere, of any party affiliation have any doubts of this outcome at all?

obama gun control under the radar

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=o...

Ruger writes:

in response to KR:

A Disgrace! To America! Lock him up and throw away the key and don't forget to vote obama and all his left wing liberal socialists out in November!

Obama 2012

America’s biggest tax increase and America’s biggest scandal.

Unprecedented Transparency!.

Watasha writes:

Not to worry, Holder will one day be in prison. Hopefully his orange jump suit will have an opening in the back held together by velcro for easy access to all the mens.

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