The “reckless” and “morally reprehensible” contempt charge lobbied against Attorney General Eric Holder is an effort by Republican lawmakers to stifle the enforcement of civil rights laws in this country, said Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday.
Sharpton and several other civil rights leaders held a press conference early Tuesday afternoon to offer their support to the battered Attorney General, who faces a vote on contempt of Congress charges by the full House on Thursday. (A video of the news conference can be viewed here.)
Echoing remarks made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, Sharpton asked on Tuesday: “If he [Holder] is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights?”
“This Attorney General has fought for voter rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and immigration rights, and it is our firm belief that that is why he is being targeted by this type of humiliation,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton said, too, that the race of the Attorney General is irrelevant to the contested issues.
“We would take this position if he was white, if he was black, or if he was polka-dot,” he said.
He is a man of “personal integrity,” she said to reporters. “I think the attorney general is handling himself extremely well under the circumstances.”
Lead by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted 23-17 along party lines last week to advance the contempt citation against Holder, despite President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over a number of documents at issue. The contempt resolution centers on thousands of department documents related to failed Operation Fast and Furious that remain under subpoena. The committee went forward with the resolution after Holder refused to hand over certain documents he said could harm the integrity of ongoing investigations if disclosed publicly.
Pelosi called the attempt to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress a way for Republican lawmakers to busy the Justice Department as it wades through challenges of voter identification laws across the country.
The department’s Civil Rights Division has initiated a number of high-profile challenges to state voter identification laws, including in Texas and South Carolina. Recently, the department sued Florida over its controversial purge of its voter rolls. Supporters of state voter identification laws say they help prevent voter fraud while critics say they have the potential to keep eligible voters from casting ballots.