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House Panel Holds AG Holder in Contempt on Fast and Furious

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by California Republican Darrell Issa, approved a resolution on Wednesday to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The measure came as a result of Holder’s refusal to fully comply with a subpoena in the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.”

The vote came after the Justice Department announced that the Obama administration had asserted executive privilege over certain documents in the gunwalking scandal. House Republicans were not going to be deterred by this. It didn’t take long for accusations of a cover-up to surface.

"The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed,” Brendan Buck, spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?”

White House Communications Director, Dan Pfeiffer, responded by saying the House GOP is more concerned with putting on political theater than addressing the needs of the American people and the middle class, adding we are less than two weeks away from transportation funding expiring and student loan rates doubling if Congress doesn’t act on either issue.

Many people don’t understand why the President invoked executive privilege over information pertaining to the investigation of the botched ATF gunrunning operation known as “Fast and Furious.” Both Attorney General Holder and the White House have already stated the administration was not directly involved in “Fast and Furious” and has no previous knowledge of these documents.

The information in question could help shed some light on how the Justice Department lost track of roughly 2,000 registered guns allowed across the Mexican border and into the possession of drug cartels. Dozens of Mexican nationals have been killed with these weapons. U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona by suspected cartel members and guns which were allowed to be smuggled into Mexico were found near him. The bullet that killed him was too damaged to determine which weapon it came from.

While the White House has not offered a real explanation on why executive privilege was asserted, some political analysts suggest that the Obama administration wants a legal battle with House Republicans. It is an opportunity to portray congressional GOP as extremists more interested in winning elections than creating jobs and helping the economy.

The measure to cite the highest law enforcement officer in the United States with contempt was pushed through the Oversight Committee with a party-lined vote of 23-17 after Republicans easily defeated several Democratic amendments.

Democrats accused Chairman Issa and his Republican colleagues of orchestrating a “witch hunt” with the sole purpose of scoring political points in an election year. Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of ignoring the facts and distracting from the investigation.

The approval of the contempt citation sets up a major legal battle between Congress and the President. Speaker Boehner was quick to announce that the measure will be brought before the House floor next week. The resolution is likely to pass under the Republican majority.

The actions taken by the White House have raised many eyebrows, and forced the investigation into the national spotlight. Republicans point their fingers and cry, “Coverup!” Democrats return the gesture and accuse the GOP of playing partisan politics. Some Americans are finding out about “Fast and Furious” for the first time this week and still don’t fully know what the investigation is about.

In an election year, partisan lines have never looked thicker and the investigation into “Fast and Furious” has become a partisan issue that both sides see as a winning opportunity for November. Meanwhile, the family of Brian Terry wants more answers than they are getting, but they are far from getting such closure.

This is political theater, but both sides have made it so. The White House set the stage by asserting executive privilege, House Republicans raised the curtain, and “Act One” is in progress.

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