How should we say this: we are shocked, shocked, that the DOJ won't prosecute itself.
- BREAKING: DOJ says it won't prosecute Attorney General Holder after the GOP-led House voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress - Fox
The White House and the Justice Department made clear Friday what had been expected all along: Attorney General Eric Holder will not face criminal prosecution under the contempt of Congress citation passed by the U.S. House.
Legal experts noted this week in the runup to Thursday's House vote that President Barack Obama's assertion of executive privilege in the case would prevent a criminal prosecution under a practice dating to the Reagan administration.
The House also cited Holder for civil contempt to give it the option of filing a lawsuit compelling Holder to turn over documents sought by Oversight Committee investigators linked to the failed Operation Fast and Furious weapons crackdown. Such a case was expected to take years to complete.
A letter Friday from the Justice Department to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who led the investigation that brought the contempt charge against Holder, explained that "across administrations of both political parties, the longstanding position of the Department of Justice has been and remains that we will not prosecute" in such a circumstance.
"The department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General," concluded the letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the same thing Friday, saying "it is an established principle, dating back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan, that the Justice Department does not pursue prosecution in a contempt case
hen the president has asserted executive privilege."
A spokesman for Issa's committee and another top congressional Republican, veteran Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, complained Friday that the refusal to prosecute showed a lack of independence by the U.S. attorney who would handle the case.
"It is regrettable that the political leadership of the Justice Department is trying to intervene in an effort to prevent the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from making an independent decision about whether to prosecute this case," said Frederick Hill, the panel's director of communications.
Obama asserted executive privilege on some documents sought by Issa's committee in its investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. The executive privilege assertion prevented the documents from being turned over on the grounds that they include internal deliberations traditionally protected from outside eyes.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched Operation Fast and Furious out of Arizona to track weapons purchases by Mexican drug cartels. It followed similar programs started in the Bush administration.
However, Fast and Furious lost track of more than 1,000 firearms it was tracking, and two of the lost weapons turned up at the scene of the 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
And now, back to the far more important news of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorcing.