The GOP-led House voted Thursday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide key information pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, making Holder the first sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt.
The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats breaking ranks to side with Republicans in favor of contempt.
The vote follows a roughly 16-month investigation by the chamber’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into the failed gun-running sting known as Fast and Furious — run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department led by Holder.
Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., filed two subpoenas over that period requesting additional information. But he has more recently focused on information related to a February 2011 letter to Congress that falsely claimed the ATF was unaware the operation involved the underground sale of the assault weapons.
“Today, a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for his continued refusal to produce relevant documents,” Issa said after the vote. “This was not the outcome I had sought and it could have been avoided had Attorney General Holder actually produced the subpoenaed documents he said he could provide.”
Congressional sources tell Fox News that House GOP leaders will now meet to decide the next steps, but the investigation is expected to go forward with more subpoenas being issued.
“Today’s vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided and politically motivated investigation during an election year,” Holder said afterward. “By advancing it over the past year and a half, Congressman Issa and others have focused on politics over public safety.”
The vote, which holds the attorney general in criminal contempt, was followed by a second vote that held Holder in civil contempt of Congress. The civil contempt vote allows Congress to go to court to seek additional documents.
The criminal-contempt vote is supposed to direct a U.S. attorney to convene a grand jury to review the case and decide whether to indict Holder.
However, considering Holder would be investigated by his own employees, some analysts have said it’s unlikely that would happen. If the case proceeds, though, Holder could face a maximum one year in jail if convicted.
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