You have to be “exceedingly naive” to think the contempt of Congress citation lobbied against Attorney General Eric Holder was about mere documents, Holder said in an interview with the Washington Post.
The embattled Attorney General says he has become a symbol of what Republican lawmakers dislike about the Justice Department, and that he is a “proxy” for Republican attacks against the Obama administration in an election year.
“I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” he told the Post. “I am also a proxy for the president in an election year. You have to be exceedingly naive to think that vote was about . . . documents.”
But, as has been the norm throughout the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was quick to dismiss Holder’s comments.
“As often as [Holder] has tried to cast himself and his other controversies as the reason for the investigation, he still doesn’t acknowledge the simple truth,” Issa said Monday. “The citation for contempt had his name on it because the lawfully issued subpoena for documents issued nine months ago, that his department didn’t comply with, also had his name on it.”
Last year, Issa issued a subpoena for a number of Justice Department documents relating to the botched gun-walking operation. Earlier this month a frustrated Issa, tired of what he called the department’s “stonewalling,” began pursuing contempt charges. The Attorney General has said the documents Issa seeks are related to ongoing criminal investigations and cannot be released. Minutes before the Oversight Committee began discussing the contempt charges two weeks ago, President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents.
Holder and Issa, along with other House Republicans, have routinely clashed throughout the Oversight Committee’s 18-month investigation.
“I’ve been doing all of these things all the time Darrell Issa and his band have been nipping at my heels,” Holder said. “They’ve been nipping, but I’ve been walking.”
The Attorney General also reflected on the changes he’s seen in the nation’s capital. He said the episode is a “sad indication of where Washington has come.”
“Where policy differences almost necessarily become questions of integrity,” Holder told the Post. “I came to Washington in the late ’70s, and people had the ability in the past to have intense policy differences but didn’t feel the need to question the other person’s character. And that’s where we are now in Washington with at least one part of the Republican Party. That’s what they do, almost as a matter of course.”
The full House voted 255-67 to find Holder in criminal contempt of Congress last week. Democrats criticized the contempt proceedings, accusing the Republicans of politicizing the contempt of Congress power and diminishing the integrity of the House. Many walked out on the vote in protest. Republicans, pointing to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, lauded the contempt proceedings as a way to find the “truth” surrounding Terry’s death. Terry was slain in a gunfight between Mexican bandits and Border Patrol agents. Two of the guns found at the scene of his death were found to have originated in Fast and Furious.