Attorney General Eric Holder said that House Republicans revealed more about their own party problems than any errors at the Justice Department when they held him in contempt for obstructing an investigation — a move he said was designed to hurt President Obama’s reelection campaign.
“I’ve become a symbol of what they don’t like about the positions this Justice Department has taken,” Holder told The Washington 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.”
House investigators want Holder to hand over documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious, which saw law enforcement allow drug cartels to smuggle weapons from the United States into Mexico until a U.S. border patrol agent was killed. In February 2011, the Justice Department denied that the gun-walking operation ever took place; it retracted that claim ten months later.
Holder has testified that senior Justice Department officials did not know about the operation, but a wiretap affidavit made public during contempt proceedings shows that deputy assistant attorney generals did know. House Republicans have subpoenaed documents pertaining to that false February denial, but the Justice Department will not release them. President Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents as the contempt vote neared.
In December 2011, Holder first argued that the investigation was politically-motivated, but he coupled it with a racial charge. “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him. Both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American,” he told the New York Times.
“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,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in the Post. “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.”
Holder is “angry about the vote but not surprised,” according to the Post.