House Holds Attorney General Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress

Posted June 28th, 2012 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents about a failed gun running scheme between the United States and Mexico.

The vote was along party lines, with 255 House members voting in favor and 67 opposing it.

But most Democratic House members walked out of the Capitol building, refusing to participate in the vote. They said the vote was a stunt that takes attention away from what they call much more important matters.

The White House also condemned the vote as political theater and defended Holder as an excellent attorney general. A statement noted that the Justice Department has already turned over 7,600 pages to congressional investigators and says there is no evidence Holder was involved in the gun running scheme.

Many Republicans say they believe the White House is withholding important information about the gun running and say top Justice Department officials may have lied about what they know.

Holder is the first sitting Cabinet member ever to be held in contempt of Congress. He calls Thursday's vote regrettable and misguided. Holder said the gun running began under the previous administration of President George W. Bush and that he, Holder, put a stop to it when he found out about it.

Under the failed program known as “Fast and Furious,” federal agents based in Arizona allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico hoping it would lead them directly to arms traffickers.

But U.S. agents lost track of the weapons once they crossed the border. The scheme backfired when two of the guns were used in the murder of a U.S. border agent.

Despite Thursday's vote, Holder is unlikely to face criminal prosecution because he heads the Justice Department. A second vote on civil contempt would let the House go to court to try and force Holder to turn over the additional documents.