Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley applauded House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s decision to hold a committee vote next week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, describing the action as “straightforward and necessary.”
Grassley, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has investigated Operation Fast and Furious alongside Issa for over a year and half. Holder has demonstrably failed to comply with all 22 parts of a congressional subpoena that Issa served him last October. With respect to 13 of the subpoena’s categories, Holder has provided no documents. He remains far from compliant on other subpoena categories as well.
“Contempt is the only tool Congress has to enforce a subpoena,” Grassley said in a Monday statement. “The Department of Justice can avoid the action by complying with its legal obligation. It’s not about personalities. It’s a procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances. If Congress is afraid to pursue answers to questions, it’s not doing its job. People deserve transparency from their government. Transparency leads to the truth about what’s going on. It puts people in a position to defend their rights. It protects our freedoms.”
On Monday, Issa announced that he plans to hold a vote in his committee next Wednesday, June 20, on whether to hold Holder in contempt. Since the measure will likely pass in committee, the contempt of Congress citation measure would then go to the full House of Representatives for a vote. Shortly after Issa’s Monday morning announcement, House Speaker John Boehner threw his weight behind it, saying he supports finding Holder in contempt if the administration keeps stonewalling on Fast and Furious.
Grassley also said that the “only constitutionally viable exception to the Department of Justice’s obligation under the subpoena would be executive privilege.”
But, Grassley said, President Barack Obama has not “asserted that privilege, presumably because the vast majority of the documents at issue aren’t related to communications with the White House.” (SCHEDULED: House committee to vote on holding Holder in contempt of Congress)
“Because the documents don’t fit the category of executive privilege, the department is obligated to turn over the documents,” Grassley said. “To date, the Department of Justice has refused even to provide a privileged log describing what it wants to withhold and why. The House committee can’t make a judgment about whether there are valid arguments for withholding documents if the department refuses to provide such a log. That kind of fundamental refusal to even participate in any sort of a process of negotiation is what forced the House committee to move toward contempt to require the Justice Department to respond in a meaningful way.”