CBS News has learned the House Oversight Committee will vote next week on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. It's the fourth time in 30 years that Congress has launched a contempt action against an executive branch member.
This time, the dispute stems from Holder failing to turn over documents subpoenaed on October 12, 2011 in the Fast and Furious "gunwalking" investigation.
The Justice Department has maintained it has cooperated fully with the congressional investigation, turning over tens of thousands of documents and having Holder testify to Congress on the topic at least eight times.
However, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., says the Justice Department has refused to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents. Those include materials created after Feb. 4, 2011, when the Justice Department wrote a letter to Congress saying no gunwalking had occurred. The Justice Department later retracted the denial.
"The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics," Issa wrote in an announcement of the vote to be released shortly. It will reveal the vote is scheduled for Wednesday, June 20.
Issa goes on to say that by releasing these documents, he'll stand down. But on a party line, the vote would pass and then go to the full House, and after that would pass and go to the US Attorney's office in DC where presumably, Holder would be served with the Contempt of Congress charge officially. The GOP is clearly thinking that if things get that far and this being an election year, Holder would have to step aside.
Not that I think he should. "Nakedly and brazenly political" doesn't begin to describe things here. If we're seriously getting to the point where Issa will hold the AG in contempt for the answers he's getting not being the ones he wants to hear, Congress is broken far beyond the 9% approval rating failure. Should the House pass a contempt resolution, they would have to sue Holder. It would be a disaster across the board.
We'll see how this shakes out, but this seems like extortion to me. Issa's playing hardball here and he's risking serious "partisan witch hunt" blowback. Then again, they despise Obama so much it doesn't matter to them.