Justice Department won't prosecute Holder
A letter released Friday has informed House leaders that U.S. attorneys aren't required to act on congressional contempt findings against an official "who carries out the President's instruction to invoke the President's claim of executive privilege before a committee."
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department told House leaders that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to withhold certain documents about a flawed gun operation from Congress is not a crime and he will not be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained the decision, which was expected, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. The letter was released publicly Friday, just over a week after President Obama invoked executive privilege to withhold the documents.
In his letter, Cole said the decision not to prosecute Holder conforms to long-standing Justice Department practice in Democratic and Republican administrations.
In May 1984, Theodore Olson, then assistant attorney general, wrote that U.S. attorneys are not required to refer congressional contempt charges to a grand jury or prosecute an executive-branch official "who carries out the President's instruction to invoke the President's claim of executive privilege before a committee."
In July 2007 and February 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey cited the Olson analysis in letters to House Democratic leaders, informing them that Justice would decline to press charges against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and White House counsel Harriet Miers, who were held in contempt after failing to appear before the House Judiciary Committee.
On Thursday, Holder became the first attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress after he withheld internal deliberative documents that Republican lawmakers demanded as part of an investigation into the botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation.
House Republicans passed a second, civil-contempt citation that allows them to hire their own attorney and legal staff to file a civil lawsuit asking a judge to force Holder to turn over 1,500 pages of documents related to the "Fast and Furious" case. It is his refusal to do so that brought the two contempt citations passed by the House.
Republicans dismissed Cole's decision and said the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — who technically has the authority to prosecute Holder — should be able to do so, noting that he is already leading an investigation into the possible leak of classified information by Obama administration officials to reporters.
Material from the Tribune Washington bureau is included in this report.