Associated Press J.Scott Applewhite
It's official: the Department of Justice will not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress. In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote, "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."
The letter comes less than 24 hours after members of the House of Representatives voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt over his refusal to turn over documents related to the "Fast and Furious" gun running operation. Cole's letter goes on to cite two other instances (first in the Reagan and later the George W. Bush administrations) in which the DOJ took a similar position, arguing that the contempt statue doesn't apply to the president's claim of executive privilege.
In refusing to prosecute his boss, Cole states Holder's action, "does not constitute a crime." While the Justice Department won't be sending this case to the grand jury, Republicans (and a few Democrats) in the House have the opportunity to file a civil suit against Holder.
All of this comes on the heels of President Obama's Supreme Court victory on healthcare. The timing of Holder's contempt vote leads some to argue that this was a political move spearheaded by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. This also comes two days after Fortune Magazine published a blistering article on the Fast and Furious operation, claiming that members of the GOP are blowing the gun running operation out of proportion.
In either case, it's not surprising that the DOJ will not prosecute Holder. There's obvious precedent and, really, who wants to make their boss angry by taking them to court?