The Department of Justice will not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder after the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt of Congress, the White House said Friday.
"Prosecutions will not take place in this circumstance," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Barack Obama headed to wildfire-ravaged Colorado. Carney dismissed the contempt vote, which grew out of Holder's refusal to turn over Justice Department documents tied to the Fast and Furious operation, as "pure politics."
The operation aimed to track how firearms sold in America end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in Arizona observed suspected straw buyers purchasing weapons, but lost track of many of the guns involved. Two of the weapons were later recovered at the scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry's fatal shooting. Republicans have accused the ATF of "gun-walking," in which guns are deliberately allowed to flow to suspected criminals. The tactic has come to be associated with Fast and Furious, though a recent Fortune Magazine investigation cast doubt on whether it was ever part of that operation, and suggested that the ATF's inability to curtail weapons flows stemmed from lax gun laws.
Carney noted that Obama had invoked executive privilege over the documents sought by Republicans in Congress.
"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 when the president has asserted executive privilege. The assertion of executive privilege makes the contempt matter moot, if you will," he said.
So what's next for Eric Holder? "He's going to continue his excellent work as attorney general of the United States," Carney said.