A year-and-a-half long investigation into a botched gun trafficking program culminated Wednesday with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines to pass a resolution holding the attorney general in contempt for withholding documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious.
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The vote went forward despite intervention by President Obama, who invoked executive privilege, which protects the Justice Department from handing over documents, even though a subpoena has been issued.
For Holder to be held in contempt, the full House of Representatives must approve the committee’s resolution, though punishment could be hard to hand down. A 2007 Congressional Research Service report notes if “information is protected under executive privilege, past practice suggests that the Department of Justice will not pursue a prosecution.”
At issue are documents over the Arizona gunwalking program that put guns in the hands of illicit gun purchasers as a way to track Mexican smuggling cartels. As a result of the program, hundreds of guns showed up in Mexico and one was found where a U.S. border agent was killed. Issa and his counterpart in the Senate, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., opened an investigation into the case more than a year ago.
Speaker John Boehner will hold a vote next week in the House of Representatives.