Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

House Holds Holder in Contempt

Thursday, June 28, 2012 |

By Alan Silverleib,
CNN Congressional Producer



The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents tied to the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting -- a discredited operation that has become a sharp point of contention between Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

The House approved a pair of criminal and civil measures against the attorney general, marking the first time in American history that the head of the Justice Department has been held in contempt by Congress.

House members approved the criminal contempt measure in a 255-67 vote. Almost every House Republican backed the measure, along with 17 Democrats. Shortly thereafter, the civil measure passed in a sharply polarized 258-95 vote.

A large number of Democrats -- including members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- walked off the House floor in protest and refused to participate in the criminal contempt vote. A slightly smaller number of Democrats appeared to boycott the vote on the civil measure as well.


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." In a written statement, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer blasted congressional Republicans for pushing "political theater rather than legitimate congressional oversight."

The criminal contempt charge refers the dispute to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who will decide whether to file charges against Holder. Most legal analysts do not expect Machen -- an Obama appointee who ultimately answers to Holder -- to take any action.

The civil measure allows the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to file a lawsuit asking the courts to examine the Justice Department's failure to produce certain subpoenaed documents, as well as the validity of the administration's recent assertion of executive privilege over the documents in question.

Legal experts contacted by CNN have said, based on recent precedent, that it could take years for the courts to reach any final decision in the civil case.

Fast and Furious, a so-called "gun-walking" operation, allowed roughly 2,000 guns into Mexico with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels. Two guns found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's fatal shooting were linked to the operation. Guns from the operation have also been linked to an unknown number of Mexican civilians' deaths.

GOP leaders say the documents they seek are needed to get to the circumstances surrounding Terry's death. Democrats insist the Republican-led probe is all about politics. Thursday's vote came two days after House Republicans rejected the latest offer by the White House and Justice Department to turn over some of the documents sought by congressional investigators in exchange for dropping the contempt measures.

A senior House Republican aide told CNN the offer was insufficient.

In the hours leading up to the criminal contempt vote, Republicans repeatedly insisted that they were exercising proper legislative oversight of the executive branch and seeking answers for Terry's family.


"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."

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, warned 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."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the "House needs to know how this happened, and it's our constitutional duty to find out. ... No Justice Department is above the law, and no Justice Department is above the Constitution."

Democrats accused Republicans of playing political games with an operation that leaders on both sides of the aisle concede was a mistake.

"What the Republicans are doing with this motion ... is contemptible," Pelosi declared. "This is something that makes a witch hunt look like a day at the beach. It is (the) railroading of a resolution that is unsubstantiated by the facts, based on a false premise."

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, complained that "every single attempt for even-handed investigation has been thwarted by the Republican majority." Holder is "a good, decent, honorable man. He's doing an excellent job as attorney general. He does not deserve this."

Among other things, Democrats contend that California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has refused to let witnesses proposed by Democrats give public testimony. They also claim he has been demanding documents outside the scope of the subpoenas Holder is accused of violating.

Specifically, Issa and other Republicans are seeking documents showing why the Justice Department decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that denied any major flaws in Operation Fast and Furious.

Holder has repeatedly refused to turn over materials containing internal deliberations, and asked Obama last week to assert executive privilege over such documents.

A video released Tuesday by Democrats on Issa's panel showed the chairman making past allegations of White House links to Fast and Furious, juxtaposed with Issa saying Sunday there was no evidence of a White House cover-up.

Some gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, maintain that the program allowed hundreds of weapons, including assault rifles, to end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels in order for the Obama administration to press for new gun control laws. The NRA heavily pressured House members -- most notably moderate and conservative Democrats -- to back the contempt measures.

The contempt vote in Issa's committee last week fell along strict party lines, with Republicans supporting a contempt recommendation and Democrats opposing it. The vote occurred before the gun lobby formally registered its support for the contempt resolution.

Rarely has any pro-gun-rights Democrat representing a rural and Southern district broken with the NRA's position on key votes, especially in an election year.

Meanwhile, Pelosi argued last week that Republicans were targeting Holder because he is fighting their efforts to suppress voter turnout in November. Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, chastised Republicans earlier this week for pushing ahead on the contempt vote as part of a strategy to prevent economic progress and harm Obama's re-election chances in November.

"This is just all part of a continuing plan, and whether it's suppressing the vote or suppressing the economy -- this obstructionist regime that we see that continues to block because they think they would rather see President Obama fail than the nation succeed," Larson said.

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20 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

This is VERY bad for the Obama administration. For Obama to say he had no knowledge of what was going on, but then comes out and uses the executive privilege it seems he knew more than he let on. I hope this goes all the way to the top and exposes the corrupt politicians and their agenda regardless of if it comes back on the republicans or democrats. I think Obama is in some trouble with this one.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Holder, You are being Held In Comptent, because YOU LIED to Congress when Asked if Guns were Allowed to WALK into Mexico.

The Straw purchases by ATF Informants,and ATFs inability to Track them once they went to Mexico Lead to the DIRECT Death of TWO FEDERAL AGENTS and Hundreds of other Innnocent Mexican Citizens.

Thisa was a FAILED Intell Operation from the Get Go.

SHAME on Holder if he cant Man Up and be forthright with his withholding of pertanant Documents request by BOth Sides of Congress.

The Real Lid on this can will probably opened before the November Elections, and we will see how far into the Intelligence Community this Op really Ran from and who was Pulling the strings.

Anonymous said...

I will be happy once he gets fired and or when some one go to jail.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised this has not been posted yet. Very well written slant on the story that seems at least to me to seem more plausible than the drivel most news puts on this story...

features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/

Anonymous said...

This is great they should find out the truth instead of misleading and portraying like they did when George w. Bush was in office. He should be charged as a war criminal, but he's not.

Anonymous said...

If Congress cared in the least they would be investigating the OTHER 68,000 guns that were sold to Mexican criminals, by American gun dealers on the border, in a 4 year period ending in 2011.

These pathetic politicians are wasting everyone's time in a sad attempt to make the Attorney General look bad, instead of trying to stop the flow of guns to Mexico.

Anonymous said...

In Jessie Ventura's term, the democrips and rebloodicans.

Anonymous said...

The man is 100% innocent because do any of you see Mexican cops military and federal police busting people at the border for gun possession

Anonymous said...

What happened to all the Democrats who complained about the eViLs of Bush? Obama sends assault weapons to arm the Mexican Cartels, which results in the deaths of 300 Mexicans and a Border Patrol agent, and not a peep from ANY Democrat?

Anonymous said...

Well cutting the cartels off suppliers, now we got to.imprison more people. Specially those who play political roles but have a seek n destroy agenda by using their power and exercising it in the wrong way. In such way that only profit makes sense.rather than.using.political power to create better environments nd alternatives for people in poorer countries rather then a backyard full of guns and a house full of addicts. Just dying justice is being.serve in the name of.thwarting thousands of Mexicans and Latin.Americans that have died tnx to people like Eric holder

Anonymous said...

2 U.S. agents died!!! It shouldn't matter weather your a Rep or Dem you should want answers. It amazes me that the Government will let or ever help a crime to be committed and then after people die then they go and arrest them I thought your job was to stop crime from happening? Politics will ruin anyone take Obama all that talk about transparency and everything else he preached and now he is no different then any other politician!!!

Anonymous said...

Wasnt fast and furious started during the bush years and like alot of other crap he just left it for obama to clean up

Anonymous said...

Murricans wont do nothing, George Dumbyah walked free even after lying and killing thousands, Holder wont do time either unless they charge him with the murder of that one cop, but wont do time for his part in the killing of Mexicans. nothing to see here move along.

Anonymous said...

Nobody on here has played the race card yet. Holder did, Obama did, the Black caucus did.

Obama has done more harm to the US in four years than any president since Carter.

Anonymous said...

To June 28, 2012 10:07 PM,

Some of those straw purchasers were prosecuted but why do you think the committee is trying to get the rest of the documents. So far WE KNOW ATF let 2,000+ guns walk. If the committee gets the documents they are looking for and they happen to mention that ATF was involved in sending MORE guns, this will be big.

Anonymous said...

I keep seeing the dead kids, grannies, taco vendors, and other innocents killed by weapons the USA let flow into Mejico.

The Fast and Furious kettle is blowing it lid and the steam of truth cannot be contained by the bloody hands of Holder, Obama, or the Democrats.

This scandal has to many implications in all kinds of directions and is too HUGE to die!

Mexico Watcher

Anonymous said...

Fast and Furious did not start during the Bush Administration. It started in March 2009 after Obama and Holder took office.

Bush Administration had several programs that were designed to uncover gun smugglers but those were cooperative programs between U.S. and Mexico and the guns had GPS trackers in them and the traffickers were under surveillance by U.S. ATF agents or Mexican police.

In Fast and Furious, Mexico was not informed of the operation, there were no trackers and no surveillance.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Nobody on here has played the race card yet. Holder did, Obama did, the Black caucus did.

Obama has done more harm to the US in four years than any president since Carter.
June 29, 2012 12:50 PM

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ANSWER: this site censors any reference to other races and certain religions...but you can say whatever you want about whites and moslems and christians,and buddists, and hindus..etc..just nothing about the chosen tribe..or the africans

lutticres said...

sad story , but what ever happen to all those thousends of mexicans that died , who cares right? this is bull shit , i hope bush pays for what he left

Anonymous said...

Come on, admit it. Some US politicians were trying to discover the truth about F&F and the US Attorney General is doing everything he can to obstruct. Nixon had to resign for the same thing. Nixon's AG went to prison for lying and covering up.

All you commenters who love to trash the US for dishonesty, conspiracies of all kinds, corruption, etc etc etc. Come on, credit where credit is due.

Some US legislators with some balls are taking the US AG to task and they are not taking any of his deals. They are demanding to know the truth.

Come on, be honest, admit it.

I didn't think so - bunch of whiny pussies.

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