Justice Dept. Won't Prosecute Holder for Contempt

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Although the House found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, the Justice Department announced Friday he would not be prosecuted.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department said the contempt charge won't go before a federal grand jury and that no further action would be taken.

Some experts suggest the vote to find Holder in contempt for his refusal to hand over documents in the "Fast and Furious" gun probe could still hurt President Obama's re-election bid.

"I think that it's the biggest non-economic story [in 2012]," Fox News quoted GOP pollster Adam Geller said. "You can bet that it's going to certainly get some mention, as it should, as a political issue."

Following the vote, Holder called the decision the "regrettable culmination" of a "misguided and politically motivated" investigation by his opponents.

"Instead of trying to correct the problems that led to a series of flawed law enforcement operations, and instead of helping us find ways to better protect the brave law enforcement officers ... they have led us to this unnecessary and unwarranted outcome," Holder said.

Thursday's 255-67 vote was mostly down party lines.

While 17 Democrats crossed party lines to hold the attorney general in contempt, a number of Democrats boycotted the vote, walking off the House floor.

The White House echoed Holder's belief that the vote was made with ulterior motives.

"Eric Holder has been an excellent attorney general and just yesterday the chairman of the House Oversight Committee acknowledged that he had no evidence -- or even the suspicion -- that the attorney general knew of the misguided tactics used in this operation," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.

"Yet, Republicans pushed for political theater rather than legitimate congressional oversight (with this vote)," he added.

Last week, President Barack Obama used executive privilege to prevent the House Oversight Committee from obtaining papers on the "Fast and Furious" ordeal.

"We'd really rather have the attorney general and the president work with us to get to the bottom of a very serious issue," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "Unfortunately, they're not willing to show the American people the truth about what happened. It's an unfortunate place where we are."

Fast and Furious started off as a government investigation meant to stop gun smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, marked guns used for the probe were lost and later linked to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Some of the guns were also found at other crime scenes.

"There should be a full and fair exchange of information so we can get to the bottom of it," Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said prior to the vote.

"Mr. Terry's family needs to know, and American citizens need to know, what happened and why," he added.

This is the first time in American history that a leader of the Justice Department has been held in contempt of Congress.

The House is also expected to hold the attorney general in civil contempt with a separate vote. That allows allows the matter to be taken to court to force Holder to hand over the documents. The criminal contempt vote sends the matter to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who is under Holder.

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