Congressional Republicans are planning to file a civil suit in district court in the “next several weeks” over Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to withhold Fast and Furious documents under subpoena.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in the “next several weeks” Republicans in Congress will file a lawsuit in district court challenging President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege over the documents under subpoena. An eventual court battle will likely take years to resolve.
“We got no information that helped in our investigation from the Justice Department at any point in this investigation,” Boehner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” over the weekend. “We’re going to file, in district court, a civil suit, over the issue of executive privilege.”
Boehner’s announcement follows the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal contempt charges last week. As expected, the department’s leadership has not appeared keen on prosecuting their boss criminally.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the Justice Department will not bring any criminal contempt charges against the Attorney General. The department will not pursue the criminal contempt citation, which the House approved with a 255-67 vote last week, because the Attorney General’s actions do not constitute a crime, given the president’s assertion of executive privilege, Cole said.
The Attorney General has said on multiple occasions he cannot release the documents in question because their disclosure would compromise the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations.
The contempt vote was the culmination of a year-and-a-half long probe by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the Justice Department’s handling of the controversial gun-tracing investigation.
Last week Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been involved in investigating Operation Fast and Furious from the beginning, sent a letter to District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen pushing him to pursue the criminal contempt charges.
“The law clearly assigns that duty to you and no one else,” Grassley wrote.
The full House voted 255-67 last week to advance criminal and and civil contempt charges against the Attorney General. The vote marks the first time a sitting cabinet member has ever been found in contempt of Congress.
Congressional Democrats, some of whom walked out on on the vote in protest, dismissed the vote as an embarassment to the House of Representatives and characterized the contempt proceedings as purely partisan. Republican lawmakers lauded “judgment day” and pointed to Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death as their motivation for pursuing the “truth” of the matter. Terry was killed in a shootout between Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits. Found at the scene of his death were two guns U.S. officials in the Arizona U.S. Attorneys office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had been tracking.