There is something charmingly futile about House Republicans’ move to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
Even if the full House follows the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s vote Wednesday to hold him in contempt, the decision about whether to prosecute him will be left to a Justice Department run by . . . Eric Holder.
In deciding whether to prosecute himself, Holder would have to consider whether there are enough prison cells to incarcerate all the other people who are contemptuous of Congress in a country where only 15 percent of the public has a favorable view of the body. And Wednesday’s contemptible antics won’t help that statistic.
Republicans didn’t have much on Holder — it’s one of those perennial disputes about how much the executive branch needs to divulge to the legislature — so they did what sensible people usually do when they have an honest disagreement: They accused the attorney general of being an accessory to murder.
“On the night of December 14, 2010, in a canyon,” Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) began dramatically, border agent Brian Terry was in a firefight with Mexican bandits. “A bullet pierced agent Terry’s aorta, and he died in that canyon.” The chairman went on to say that “the committee has uncovered serious wrongdoing by the Justice Department” in the matter and that “the Terry family is still searching for answers.”
Rep. John Mica (Fla.) had the answer. The committee had an obligation to hold the attorney general “responsible for what turned into a horrible death of one of our agents,” he said. “This is the highest judicial prosecutorial position in the United States, involved in creating a situation in which an agent of the United States was murdered.”
One after the other, Republicans on the panel waved the bloody shirt. “Here’s the proof!” hollered Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), claiming he had evidence that President Obama knew about a botched federal program that contributed to Terry’s death. Gowdy’s proof: that Obama cited executive privilege in denying the committee all the documents it sought. “If he’s not part of it, then he’s got no business asserting executive privilege,” Gowdy concluded.
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