Washington (CNN) — An extraordinary House committee hearing began considering a contempt measure against Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday even though President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over documents sought by the panel investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun running sting.
Darrell Issa (R Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he would not postpone contempt hearings scheduled for Wednesday until the Department of Justice handed over documents relating to the “Fast and Furious” program.
Washington (CNN) — A showdown meeting Tuesday between US Attorney General Eric Holder and the House Oversight Committee chairman failed to resolve their dispute, which could result in a contempt vote against the nation’s top prosecutor.
Issa said committee staff are evaluating the letter but described the move as too little, too late as he and other GOP lawmakers questioned the basis for the assertion.
However, the meeting amounted to little more than a reiteration of the positions the two staked out in an exchange of letters the previous week, and Issa said afterward the committee would proceed with its contempt vote if Holder failed to turn over the documents in question.
Holder told reporters he would not turn over documents on the gun smuggling probe unless Issa agreed to another congressional briefing on the Justice Department material.
Holder said he offered to provide the documents to Issa on the condition that Issa provided his assurance that doing so would satisfy two committee subpoenas and resolve the dispute.
Elijah Cummings of Maryland, accused Issa of setting an “impossible standard” for Holder by demanding documents the attorney general was legally prohibited from providing.
The likelihood of a contempt vote rose after Holder and Issa failed to reach agreement Tuesday in a 20 minute meeting at the Capitol.
“For the past year, you’ve been holding the Attorney General to an impossible standard,” he said, addressing Issa.
Added that she was “horrified” by the panel’s looming vote, calling it a “political witch hunt” and accusing Republicans of “overruling” the president.
If the vote proceeds, Republicans have more than enough votes on committee to pass the contempt resolution.
Unless at least some of the documents are handed over before the committee meets Wednesday morning, it will proceed in considering a contempt measure, Issa said.
However, Holder would not be considered held in contempt of Congress unless and until the full House approves the measure.
The hearing started 20 minutes late as panel members digested Cole’s letter, and Issa immediately made clear he intended to hold a vote on the contempt measure.
The move by Holder and Obama to lock down some requested documents only complicates the fight over the botched anti gunrunning operation between the legislative and executive branches.
Asked about whether Issa was open to resolving the issue before the committee meets Wednesday, Holder said: “we think we actually are involved more in political gamesmanship” instead of a sincere effort to get the requested documents.
After Holder made the request to Obama via letter on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to Rep.
In Operation Fast and Furious, the Justice Department’s initial incorrect denials are seen as providing justification for the additional demands.
“Although we are deeply disappointed that the committee appears intent on proceeding with a contempt vote, the department remains willing to work with the committee to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues.”.
Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight panel, said he after the meeting he is confident that Justice officials are not attempting a cover up by withholding documents.
Holder, in his letter to Obama, said those documents pertain to the “deliberative process” on how to respond to congressional and media inquiries.
Wednesday’s developments follow a flurry of activity Tuesday, as Holder tried to negotiate a way to avert the contempt proceedings.
Issa had earlier indicated a willingness to postpone the vote after Holder indicated a willingness to make compromises and supply some documents in response to House Republicans’ subpoena.
But Issa told reporters after a roughly 20 minute meeting with Holder Tuesday that the attorney general instead briefed them on the documents in lieu of delivering them.
However, it lost track of more than 1,000 firearms that the agency had allowed straw buyers to carry across the border, and two of the lost weapons turned up at the scene of the 2010 killing of US Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“We want the documents. Brian Terry’s family would like the documents that are responsive to how in fact their son was gunned down with weapons that came from lawful dealers but at the … behest of the Justice Department,” Issa told Fox News.
However, because Justice initially told the committee falsely the operation did not use a risky investigative technique known as gun walking, the panel has turned its attention from the details of the operation and is now seeking documents that would show how the department headquarters responded to the committee’s investigation.
Issa further said during the committee meeting Wednesday that the purpose of the probe “has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt.
The failed Fast and Furious operation attempted selling thousands of guns to arms dealers along the US Mexico border to trace them to leaders of drug cartels.
“Holder called for the Capitol Hill meeting late Monday in a possible attempt to make a deal with Issa and avoid the contempt vote.”.
Alexandra Zucchi is a fashion journalist based in Hobart, Australia. Alexandra has a passion for fashion stories and loves writing about fashion news and fashion opinions that matters most to its audience. Alexandra spends a lot of time discovering and researching latest fashion industry news stories in order to make sure the latest and greatest stories are brought to you first on Stylerchic.com.