Panel Votes to Hold Eric Holder in Contempt

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House lawmakers voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide requested Justice Department documents related to the failed Fast and Furious gun operation.

The committee's 23-17 vote was made late Tuesday, the same day that President Obama also refused to turn over documents to the House panel, citing executive privilege.

The botched "Fast and Furious" operation resulted in illicitly purchased guns ending up at crime scenes in Mexico.

House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said there would be no need for a hearing if his committee could just see the documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal, documents Holder refuses to give them.

"Our purpose has never been to hold the attorney general in contempt," he said at Wednesday's hearing. "Our purpose has always been to get the information the committee needs to complete its work, that it is not only entitled to, but obligated to do."

Republicans say the nation needs to know why the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms allowed guns to be transferred across the U.S.-Mexican border, resulting in the death of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.

Is this a political witch hunt? Why would Obama choose to withhold these documents?

CBN News spoke with Gerson Moreno Riano, associate professor of government at Regent University. Click play for his comments on the Fast and Furious investigation and what's next for Congress.

"I hope we have the guts and the perseverance to get to the bottom of this," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said.

"We have nearly 2,000 weapons purposely-purposely- given to drug cartels," he continued. "We have hundreds of dead people in Mexico."

"We have a government that's withholding information so that not only can we not get to the bottom of this, but so that we can't fix it and make sure that it never, ever happens again," he said.

Democrats say the committee is on a witch hunt and complained about their treatment of Holder.

"In all my 30 years of being in the United States Congress, the way that he was treated when he was here, testifying before this committee, I must admit I've never seen anybody treated in that fashion," Rep. Edolphus Towns, N.Y., said.

Meanwhile, the president's decision to use executive privilege on Holder's behalf raises questions for some committee members concerning what the president knew about the gun-running scandal - specifically regarding the February 4, 2011 letter in which Justice Department

officials claimed the U.S. did not knowingly smuggle guns into Mexico.

"If he was not in on the drafting of the February 4 letter, if he did not know about Fast and Furious before Brian Terry was murdered, if he did not approve of the wiretap applications, then what in the world is he asserting executive privilege for?" Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. said.

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.