Justice Department: Don’t look at us to prosecute Holder

posted at 4:41 pm on June 29, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

We already pretty much knew this was going to happen — Eric Holder is the chief of the Justice Department, for goodness’ sake, it definitely would’ve qualified as a conflict of interest. But, the DOJ went ahead and made it official today, saying that they will not move to prosecute Holder after the House of Reps voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress on Thursday:

The contempt vote technically opens the door for the House to call on the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the case against Holder before a grand jury. But because U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen works for Holder and because President Obama has already asserted executive privilege over the documents in question, it was expected Holder’s Justice Department would not take that step.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole confirmed in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner that the department in fact would not pursue prosecution. The attorney general’s withholding of documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, he wrote, “does not constitute a crime.”

“Therefore the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general,” Cole wrote, in the letter obtained by Fox News.

Good thing the House also voted yesterday to hold the attorney general in civil contempt, which allows them to hire their own counsel and take the case to civil court to seek an order that would require the Obama administration to release the long sought-after documents. If the civil court invalidates Obama’s executive privilege order, criminal proceedings could still be on the table. And if the Obama administration still refused to comply, that’s when impeachment would become a possibility — although I’m convinced that the Oversight Committee would really just rather that they hand over the darn documents already before things get that far. Once again — what are those Justice officials working so hard to hide?

If the House had really wanted to throw some serious weight around, they could’ve exercised their Constitutional option to actually arrest the attorney general, but it’s become kind of a tradition that everybody restrain themselves. Bit of a shame that’s not in Congressional fashion anymore. …Er, cough, I mean… That would be unseemly. Yes.

Despite voting to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress, there’s little House Republicans can do in the short term to compel him to turn over documents — unless it wanted to revisit a long-dormant power and arrest him. …

“The House is scared to death to use the inherent contempt power,” said Mort Rosenberg, a fellow at the Constitution Project and author of “When Congress Comes Calling.” “They’re scared to death because the courts have said … the way the contempt power is used is unseemly. It’s not that it’s unconstitutional, because it’s been upheld by four Supreme Court decisions, but unseemly to have somebody go arrest the attorney general.”

That’s why it’s been more than 75 years since either chamber has used the option though it used to be somewhat common.

 


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