House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and House Speaker John Boehner claim reports they are moving to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress soon — and reports claiming they are working together to do so — are inaccurate.
CBS News and the Los Angeles Times reported Friday morning that Boehner had green-lighted Issa’s plans to hold Holder in contempt of Congress over Operation Fast and Furious. Holder’s Department of Justice has provided only about 7,000 of the more than 70,000 pages of documents Issa has subpoenaed related to Operation Fast and Furious.
Issa and many others on Capitol Hill have threatened for months that they will hold Holder in contempt without actually doing it. This contempt citation — whose existence was confirmed on Fox News Friday afternoon by Issa — is the first official step in moving forward with contempt proceedings.
After the initial reports, a House Republican leadership aide told The Daily Caller that the LA Times and CBS reports were inaccurate. The GOP leadership aide said that “while there are very legitimate arguments to be made in favor of such an action [holding Holder in contempt], no decision has been made to move forward with one by the Speaker or by House Republican leaders.”
Initially, a spokesperson for Issa refused TheDC’s request for comment. But just hours after TheDC published a story detailing the appearance of infighting between Issa and Boehner, a House oversight committee spokesperson backed off and said the LA Times and CBS reports were inaccurate as well.
“The Justice Department has not fully cooperated with the investigation into gunwalking that occurred in Operation Fast and Furious,” the committee spokesperson told TheDC. “The House Oversight Committee continues to make necessary preparations to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt if the Justice Department refuses to change course and stop blocking access to critical documents.”
“While the committee continues to move toward consideration of contempt, it is important to note that the next step in the process of contempt must be made by the Oversight Committee,” the spokesperson added. “Reports, based on anonymous sources, that decisions for consideration of contempt on the House floor have already been made are inaccurate.”
To actually effectively hold Holder in contempt, Issa would need House GOP leadership to play ball. At this point, it appears as though Boehner is only partially in his court.
If Issa does get the green light, it appears as though he’s going to make his moves around Memorial Day or shortly thereafter. During an appearance on Fox News Thursday night, South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy — a member of the House oversight committee who’s been close to this investigation — said Memorial Day is Holder’s deadline.
“Before Memorial Day, Eric Holder will either comply or he will suffer consequences,” Gowdy said. “When I say consequences, I mean contempt of Congress.”
Not one government official has been held accountable for Operation Fast and Furious. Scores of elected officials — 125 House members, three U.S. senators, two governors — and many major political figures, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have demanded Holder’s resignation or firing over Fast and Furious.
Boehner has not called for Holder’s resignation, nor has he been vocal about Fast and Furious with the exception of a few statements that he backed Issa’s push for accountability. Some have speculated that Boehner put the brakes on Fast and Furious accountability momentum building late last year into early this year but Boehner’s staff vehemently denies those accusations.
Update 3:44 PM: Ranking Democratic Oversight committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings accused Issa of political motivations with the contempt proceedings and called for him to release the contempt citation draft to all Oversight committee members.
“Holding someone in contempt of Congress is one of the most serious and formal actions our Committee can take, and it should not be used as a political tool to generate press as part of an election-year witch hunt against the Obama Administration,
Cummings has claimed he supports the investigation into gunwalking but has continually refused to say whether he thinks Holder should provide the tens of thousands of pages of subpoenaed documents he’s thus far failed to supply to Congress.
There is an ongoing document production currently taking place.
This article was updated after publication.