After voting Thursday, June 28, to hold the first African American Attorney General Eric Holder, in contempt of Congress, the Justice Department announced Friday that Holder’s actions do not constitute a crime and that he will not be prosecuted.
By a vote of 255 to 67 — with 108 democrats walking off the House floor in protest, Congress voted to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over documents Republican lawmakers demanded as part of an investigation into a flawed gun-running operation.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the Justice Department declared it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general. Dated Thursday, June 28, the letter was released Friday, June 29.
President Barack Obama invoked executive privilege and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.
Dozens of congressmen denounced the vote as a politically motivated plot to stain President Obama. Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the decision was in line with longstanding Justice Department practice across administrations of both political parties.
“We will not prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” Cole wrote.
Holder is the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of court in U.S. history, and the first sitting Cabinet member to ever have been held in contempt of Congress.
Justice officials said they have cooperated with the investigation, turning over 7,600 documents relating to the weapons operation and making available several senior officials to testify. Holder has already testified nine times in the past 14 months on the matter.
“This is pure politics,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.