Attorney General Holder has been cited for contempt of Congress by one committee, and the full House of Representatives will vote next week.  But what does it all mean?

Absolutely nothing.

Some history:  Holder has turned over 8,000 documents, and has refused or neglected to turn over roughly 132,000.  The ones already submitted show that the agency knew about problems with operation Fast and Furious, but didn’t want Congress to know that they knew.  Many of the withheld memos etc. are believed to hold clues as to the discussions that went on within the agency concerning how they ought to address Congress–what they should say, and when they should say it.  In crude agricultural terms, they realized that they had a manure pile on their hands, and they had some discussions about who should man the shovels (or if they could get by with just using a few air fresheners).  The President has declared that the strategy discussions fall under the general confidentiality of the executive branch, and are therefore privileged information and need not/may not be released.

The claim of executive privilege is probably justified, unless the strategy discussions in question constitute conspiracy to commit a crime.  More likely, they consist of discussions on how to justify a misguided and horribly failed program.  Courts historically will not get involved in questions of executive privilege unless an impeachable crime is in question, and I have not heard anyone suggest that there is such in this situation.

So what if the House of Representatives votes the Attorney General in contempt?  They turn the issue over to the US Attorney to take it to a grand jury to seek an indictment.  The US Attorney works for the Justice Department, under the leadership of the Attorney General, appointed by a President who is known for choosing when and if to enforce the laws.  So absolutely nothing will happen.

Oh, it may be uncomfortable for AG Holder to testify in the House again, because they have the technical authority to have the Sergeant-at-Arms detain him and hold him in jail for not less than 30 days, nor more than one year–but that procedure has not been followed for decades, and is not under consideration here.

So what’s the upshot?  The Executive Branch is and has been in contempt of the current House of Representatives since the Republicans took the majority after the 2010 elections.  The only difference is that after next week’s vote, it will be official.

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