90 Miles From Tyranny : As Democrats Threaten Barr, a Look Back at What Happened With Holder’s Contempt Charge

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

As Democrats Threaten Barr, a Look Back at What Happened With Holder’s Contempt Charge

Some Democratic lawmakers threaten to handcuff and lock up Attorney General William Barr, but holding someone in contempt of Congress rarely is more than a censure vote.

The most relevant comparison: In a bipartisan vote, 17 House Democrats joined the Republican majority in 2012 to hold then-Attorney General Eric Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for not providing thousands of pages of documents regarding Operation Fast and Furious, a serious scandal for the Obama administration.

More Democrats, a total of 21, joined Republicans to find Holder in civil contempt. Two Republicans voted against the criminal contempt citation.

Fast and Furious, a Justice Department program, allowed hundreds of American guns to flow to Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

However, the Justice Department lost track of the guns. In late 2010, one was found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder.

The House at the time was under Republican control, and the criminal and civil contempt citations originated in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, under Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

Democrats now control the House, and one of Barr’s harshest critics is Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y.

Democratic lawmakers gave Barr a deadline of Monday to provide a completely unredacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and potential ties to President Donald Trump.

Barr responded that he has provided as much of the report that he is allowed to provide by law because it contains grand jury information and material that potentially could jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

By contrast, the contempt vote on Holder was legitimate, said Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer and co-author with journalist John Fund of the 2014 book “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”

“Here, [Barr] has given Congress complete access to the report except for some parts,” von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “Holder refused to provide information on Fast and Furious.”

“He was trying to cover up the most reckless Department of Justice ever, which led to the death of a Border Patrol agent,” von Spakovsky said of Holder. “The improper thing in the Barr case is that they want to hold him in contempt for following federal law.”

Von Spakovsky said he doubts a contempt citation for Barr would have the same bipartisan backing that the Holder citation drew.

The unredacted Mueller report already is available in a...

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