House holds Holder in contempt
June 28th, 2012
04:48 PM ET

House holds Holder in contempt

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt for refusing to turn over documents tied to the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting - a discredited operation that has become a sharp point of contention between Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

The 255-67 vote marked the first time in American history that the head of the Justice Department has been held in contempt by Congress. Almost every House Republican backed the measure, along with nearly 20 Democrats.

A large number of Democrats - including members of the Congressional Black Caucus and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - walked off the House floor in protest and refused to participate in the vote.

The criminal contempt charge refers the dispute to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who will decide whether to file charges against Holder. Most legal analysts do not expect Machen - an Obama appointee who ultimately answers to Holder - to take any action.

House members are also expected to pass a civil contempt measure Thursday afternoon. The civil measure would allow the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to file a lawsuit asking the courts to examine the Justice Department's failure to produce certain subpoenaed documents, as well as the validity of the administration's recent assertion of executive privilege over the documents in question.

Legal experts contacted by CNN have said, based on recent precedent, that it could take years for the courts to reach any final decision.

Fast and Furious, a so-called "gun-walking" operation, allowed roughly 2,000 guns into Mexico with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels. Two guns found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's fatal shooting were linked to the operation. Guns from the operation have also been linked to an unknown number of Mexican civilians' deaths.

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