Thursday, June 28, 2012

Holder held in contempt. What happens next?

The Republicans in the House have passed a resolution holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for following President Obama’s claim of executive privilege having to do with turning over documents the House wanted.

What happens next?  This from the Washington Post:

Under federal law, the House contempt citation goes next to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who would be responsible for bringing the matter to a grand jury and beginning possible criminal prosecution of his boss, Mr. Holder.

The Justice Department’s chief precedent on the issue is a 1984 opinion issued by Office of Legal Counsel. The opinion by Ted Olson, highly regarded among conservatives, says a U.S. attorney “is not required to refer a congressional contempt citation to a grand jury or otherwise to prosecute an executive branch official who carries out the President’s instruction to invoke the President’s claim of executive privilege before a committee of Congress.”

People familiar with the matter said that precedent is expected to help form the Justice Department response.

The last time Mr. Olson’s opinion came into play was in February 2008, when the Democratic-controlled House voted to hold two senior aides to President George W. Bush, Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers, in contempt of Congress over another documents dispute. On Feb. 29, 2008, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote to then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Justice wouldn’t take any action against the two aides.

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