Rep. Darrell Issa says he expects to pursue a contempt case against Attorney General Eric Holder in federal court within a few weeks and is gearing up to hire a legal staff for that purpose.
“The House has authorized me to hire staff and legal staff who then can pursue civilly in the courts to try to get a federal judge to order separately this discovery,” the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Monday following a vote in the House to hold the attorney general in contempt for failing to disclose subpoenaed Justice Department documents.
The politically charged vote marked the first time Congress had ever cited a sitting Cabinet member with a contempt charge. Issa said it was necessary because Holder was attempting to cover up the botched Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation by hiding emails and other information from committee investigators.
In response to the vote, Holder said he had tried to resolve the matter by offering more documents to Issa, even though President Barack Obama had asserted a claim of executive privilege. Holder accused Republicans of using the vote to advance “absurd conspiracy theories.”
But Issa defended the vote and the committee investigation, telling Van Susteren, “The facts we have point to the cover-up . . . It’s rather self-serving to say we don’t have all the proof of what we are trying to discover, even though we have testimony that indicates high ranking individuals in Justice are ultimately responsible for Fast and Furious.”
Issa said he expects the contempt citation approved by the House, which is sent to the Justice Department, will not be pursued as a criminal matter.
In fact, the New York Times reported Friday that a letter was being prepared to inform House Speaker John Boehner that the department does not consider it a crime to withhold information when a president invokes executive privilege.
As a result, Issa said a civil case against Holder would be the next step in an attempt to finally get the documents the committee has requested. But that process could take months or even longer and Holder, who had already announced that he intends to leave his post at the end of the year, is expected to be long gone before the case is resolved.
Asked if he had any final words for Holder, Issa said, “I have no statement for the attorney general.”
But no matter how the contempt process turns out, Issa promised to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious to determine, if nothing else, who was responsible for allowing guns used in the operation to turn up at the scene of a confrontation between Mexican drug runners and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed.
“My statement is to the Terry family that in fact we will continue with the investigation to try to get to the people responsible for their son, their family members’ death, and we will let the court and the rest of the process play out for the attorney general,” Issa said.
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