House Considers Contempt Charge Against Holder in Fast and Furious Case

By Fred Lucas | February 2, 2012 | 10:56am EST

Attorney General Eric Holder being sworn in before he testifies in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/J.Scott Applewhite)

( – House Republicans Thursday suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder could be held in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department is not more forthcoming in producing documents related to the botched gun sting program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The major sticking point between the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Justice Department are documents related to information on how the department responded to Congress.

A Feb. 4, 2011 letter from the Justice Department to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) denied that the department ever allowed guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels. Operation Fast and Furious allowed about 2,000 guns from the DOJ to flow to Mexico. But federal law enforcement lost track of the weapons. The program was halted after two of the guns in the program were recovered at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

“Prior administrations have recognized that robust internal communications would be chilled, and the executive branch’s ability to respond to oversight requests thereby impeded, if our internal communications concerning our responses to congressional oversight were disclosed to Congress,” Holder said during his opening remarks to the committee. “For both Branches, this would be an undesirable outcome.”

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Oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said “every effort” would be made to secure the documents from the Justice Department.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) later said, “I would urge the chairman to move on a contempt citation against you,” if Holder doesn’t provide more documents.

According to the committee, the Justice Department has only made public eight percent of the documents that have been identified as related to Fast and Furious, or about 6,000 of a total 80,000 documents. Meanwhile, out of the 22 categories of documents subpoenaed by the committee, the department has withheld two-thirds.

This is the first time Holder testified to the oversight panel exclusively on Operation Fast and Furious. Holder and Democrats on the panel repeated several times that the attorney general testified on the matter to Congress six times, but those include limited testimony during House and Senate Judiciary hearings on various other matters.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) called the investigation “an election year witch hunt.”

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