The Department of Justice will not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress. The House of Representatives had voted Thursday to hold the Attorney General in contempt over his refusal to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking program.
In a letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Cole said the decision not to prosecute was “the longstanding position of the Department of Justice” regardless of which party controlled the White House.
Cole cited an analysis written by Solicitor General Theodore Olson, written he was serving in the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan. In the opinion, Olson said contempt of Congress “was not intended to apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an Executive Branch official who asserts the President’s claim of executive privilege.”
President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege with regard to the documents the House has asked Holder to produce.
Cole concluded that Holder’s response to the House subpoena “does not constitute a crime.”
The move was widely expected. The Department of Justice refused to prosecute George W. Bush administration officials who were held in contempt of Congress, and few analysts expected that this would change, especially as Holder is the head of the Department of Justice.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has been leading the investigation into Fast and Furious, expressed disappointment in the decision. In a statement given to Fox News, Issa said, “it is regrettable that the political leadership of the Justice Department is trying to intervene in an effort to prevent the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from making an independent decision about whether to prosecute this case.”
Republicans will next try their luck in civil court. Republicans had voted to hold the Attorney General in civil contempt, and can go to civil court in an effort to compel Holder to produce the documents they want.
Image Credit: Ryan J. Reilly