June 20th, 2012
12:31 PM ET

What happens if panel cites Holder for contempt?

The House Oversight Committee is considering a contempt measure against Attorney General Eric Holder over documents sought by the panel investigating the botched gun-running sting called Operation Fast and Furious. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama entered the dispute by asserting executive privilege over the documents sought by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California.

Here are the issues around the dispute:

Q: What is a contempt citation?

A: Congress can vote to hold a congressional witness in contempt of Congress if it considers the witness to be obstructing its ability to carry out its constitutional powers. For a person to be held in contempt, Congress must vote on a contempt citation in committee.

The process involves a series of legal maneuvers including the president’s ability to assert executive privilege, as he did in this case, which has historically made executive branch officials immune from criminal prosecution.

Q: Why is a contempt citation being considered against Holder?

A: Issa may hold Holder in contempt for failing to hand over all of the documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious, the botched Justice Department sting operation linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and a number of Mexican citizens from some of the 2,000 weapons that fell into the hands of Mexican drug gangs.

Q: When is the last time an executive branch official faced a contempt citation?

A: Although this is the first time an attorney general has faced a potential contempt citation, other executive branch officials have been held in contempt of Congress.

Most recently, George W. Bush White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten were held in contempt of Congress despite Bush asserting executive privilege in their case. During the vote in early 2008, a large number of Republicans walked out in protest of what they saw as a partisan vote.

Miers and Bolten were accused of failing to cooperate in a congressional investigation into the mass firings of U.S. attorneys and allegations that the White House was using the Justice Department for political aims. Their citations marked the first time White House officials had been found in contempt of Congress.

Q: What happens next?

A: If the committee votes to cite Holder for contempt, it will go to the full House for a vote.

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Filed under: Politics
soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. Texas Democrat

    Any country comes for Bush we will go get him "Don't Mess With Texas! Boy!"

    June 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pete clark

    I counted about 8 comments from libs that didn't even touch this cover up..Love to watch them divert out of panic...lol

    June 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LW

    Regardless of who the President, AG, or Committee members are, the Honorable Representative Gowdy from South Carolina was right. Bring everyone to the table and be accountable. The rest of us Americans are held accountable in our jobs, for our decisions. A Border Patrol agent was murdered using guns essentially provided by other members of law enforcement. I think it's sad that over a year later, the person who called attention to this whole thing has a career in shambles, the family doesn't have answers, and politicians in general are playing CYA.

    June 20, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Great article....... except that it doesnt provide any information whatsoever about what a finding of contempt actually means. Sounds to me like a formalistic slap on the wrist, without any real consequences.

    June 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Trigger

    What a stupid article. It failed to say what the punishment is. That is what we wanted to know. Jail, fine, removal? Come on CNN, answer the question the article addresses.

    June 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. harryorielly

    The most CORRUPT administration in history headed bt the most CORRUPT president in history (Obama) must default to executive privilege to get out of the slimy mess- Holder (& Obamas & Axelrod) gave heavy guns to the Zeta Mexicn drug cartel using STIMULUS money-thousands have died & many more will die- Obama & his crooked advisers are only interested in squashing this scandal like they did SOLYNDRA & FAST&FURIOUS & Obama's FORGED birth certificate & FORGED selective service card- and Obama's multiple SSN's he used in real estate scams before he got into politics-

    June 20, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wayne

      harryoreally Is that your wish list? Because it sure is not fact. Do you have meds for your condition?

      June 27, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • drod

      Another Faux-Noise drone babbling about BS trying to rewrite history and hoping the American people will forget about the failed Bush-Republican experiment that caused the Great Recession that brought about the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I will never forget and I will not let Americans forget.
      The failed Bush-Republican experiment was responsible for the Great Recession which caused the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. President Bush is the worst president the United States has ever had. It will be years before the country will ever recover from his and the Republican Party policies.
      America will never forget.

      June 27, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      When read your first line I thought you were talking about the Reagan administration.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Susie Springs

      Your crazy! And the birther comment just proves my point its a shame how blind people can be.

      June 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. drod

    The Republicans are going to loose what little respect they had from the American people. Their leaders know this is going to back fire in November but they can't stop it now. Bring on the House vote. It does not change a thing and they know it. They think this little political theatre will bring them votes but they are sadly mistaken. This is fizzling out so now they will pump up the next bogus accusation...the "Leakgate". Pleeease. Republicans are going to be voted out in November in droves, Obama will be reelected, and the country will once again prosper.
    Republicans...get over it. You'll feel better.
    Obama 2012

    June 27, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. ogates

    LW–very well put–you covered whats important–more than issa has done with his witch hunting committee and millions of dollars latter!

    June 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
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