House to vote Thursday on Holder contempt charge

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 25, 2012 10:51 PM
House to vote Thursday on Holder contempt charge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House will decide on Thursday whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over all documents demanded by lawmakers investigating a botched U.S.-Mexico gun running sting.

A senior Republican aide confirmed the date for the unprecedented vote against a sitting attorney general following the recommendation of a House of Representatives committee for the full chamber to take that step.

The Republican-led Oversight panel voted along party lines last week to cite Holder for contempt of Congress for not fully complying with a subpoena to turn over documents related to the "Fast and Furious" gun-running sting.

The 2009-11 operation was meant to help federal agents follow the flow of weapons from Arizona into Mexico, where they were thought to fall into the hands of drug cartels.

U.S. agents lost track of many of the guns, which later were involved in crimes, including the killing of a Border Patrol agent.

Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa said documents now withheld by the Obama administration under the presidential prerogative of executive privilege would shed more light on the case.

Issa and other Republicans have said the Justice Department is stonewalling and trying to protect political appointees from potentially embarrassing revelations. Democrats have said the investigation is an election-year inspired witch hunt.

Republican leaders have said if the requested documents were submitted before the vote, it would provide an opportunity to resolve the issue.

Holder has said the Justice Department has been responsive to congressional demands for information.

In theory, an official charged with contempt could be punished with a fine or jail, but no one expects it to come to that in this case.

(Reporting By John Crawley; Editing by Philip Barbara)