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House holds Eric Holder in contempt: What happens to him now? (+video)

Republicans say Attorney General Eric Holder is withholding documents that could show a coverup. Democrats say the investigation is a witch hunt. The outcome? Likely, more delay.

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The House could then file a civil contempt suit in federal court, asking a judge to compel Holder to deliver the documents in question. If the 2008 saga is any barometer, a legal fight in the courts will likely take years.

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The day’s vote capped a contentious, year-long showdown between congressional Republicans, led by House Government Oversight Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California and Holder, who has appeared before Congress nine times and delivered thousands of pages of documents relating to Fast and Furious, an operation that began in 2009 when federal agents allowed guns to “walk” into Mexico in order to trace where they ended up and that came to a head when guns from the scheme were linked to the death of an American border agent.

Holder was being held in contempt for failing to provide documents to the House Oversight panel, after President Obama claimed executive privilege to shield the documents, which stem from a period after Fast and Furious was shut down. 

Republicans claim that the documents could show a Justice Department coverup. Democrats say that the conduct of the House Oversight Committee, especially the shift to the period after the operation was complete, show that the entire investigation is a political witch hunt.

As ever with Fast and Furious, the day’s debate was enveloped in a rush of charged discussion on Thursday.
 
“We have a dead United States Agent. We have 200 dead people in Mexico. We have more than 2,000 weapons that were knowingly, willfully given to the drug cartels, more than 1,000 of those weapons are still missing,” boomed Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah on the House floor. “We have a duly issued subpoena has not been responded to. This is not about Eric Holder, this is about the Department of Justice and justice in the United States of America.” 

Democrats were equally sharp in their critique of the other side.
 
“To say that this is a terrible use of Congress's power and time is an understatement,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of Colorado at a press conference Wednesday. “I'm disgusted and disappointed, as a member of Congress and a former federal prosecutor, that what began as a legitimate investigation into flawed gun-trafficking operations under two administrations has now morphed into a partisan hunt for the scalp of a senior administration official.”

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