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|Alexander Bolton||June 24th 2012|
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) predicted Sunday that Republicans and Democrats would vote to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress this week.
“I believe they will, both Republicans and Democrats will vote that,” Issa said on Fox News Sunday. “There are a number of Democrats, 31, who wrote to the administration asking them to be forthcoming. Many of them will stay with us now that the administration has not been.”
Issa has previously said as many as 31 Democrats could vote to place Holder in contempt, but no Democrats on his committee last week voted with Republicans. Issa said it was still possible for Holder to avoid a contempt charge. He said if President Obama and Holder “would simply start producing the documents they know they could produce to us that are not by any means going to be covered by executive privilege, this could be delayed or even eliminated.”
Issa said House Republicans would have to see the documents before delaying or cancelling a contempt vote. “We can’t have a promise that we’re going to be satisfied and dismiss this contempt,” he said.
His committee is looking for deliberations within the department after it told Congress in February of 2011 that its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not knowingly allow assault weapon sales to organized crime elements in Mexico.
In a separate appearance on ABC, Issa said that if the documents say what Holder says they say, the contempt vote could even be dismissed. “If those documents say what Eric Holder says they say, we might, in fact, dismiss contempt in — in either case," Issa said on ABC's "This Week."
"But I can tell you one thing here. If we get documents that do show — cast some doubt or allow us to understand this, we'll at least delay contempt and continue the process,” Issa said. Issa made appearances on three Sunday morning talk show to discuss the upcoming contempt vote, which poses opportunities and challenges for his party.
Conservatives have pressed for House leaders to allow the contempt vote to go forward, but some Republicans think the focus on the issue could end up helping Obama by turning the political discussion away from the economy. Issa conceded Sunday that he does not have evidence White House officials had prior knowledge of a cover-up of mistakes in the Fast and Furious gun-tracking program.
Issa's statement undercut House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) declaration last week that President Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege during a congressional investigation showed White House officials were at fault. Boehner said “the decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that mislead the Congress and have covered-up the truth”.
Issa said on Fox News Sunday that he had no evidence that White House officials were involved in Fast and Furious decisions or a subsequent cover-up. Issa said his committee is seeking documents related to the death of U.S. border agent Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with drug traffickers in December 2010.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23 to 17 along party lines to recommend the House cite Holder for contempt. Republicans voted for contempt while Democrats on the panel opposed it. The charges of a federal cover-up stem from a letter the administration sent to Congress early last year stating that it never allowed Mexican drug cartels to obtain guns in an effort to build a larger gun-running case. The administration later retracted the claim.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said a deal could be struck quickly to avert a contempt vote.“I think that we have a duty, a duty to the American public, a duty to the Congress of the United States, at this critical moment to get the documents. I know we can get them. It’s just a matter of sitting down and talking to Holder. We can get those documents and get this matter resolved,” he said.
Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.