Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Thursday circulated a draft copy of a resolution laying out the case to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his "refusal to cooperate" with the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious.
"This briefing paper and draft contempt report explains the case, to both members of the committee and the American people, for holding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress," Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.
A 17-page memo attached to the measure claims that for more than a year, the Department of Justice "has issued false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents, and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence before acknowledging uncomfortable facts."
"The Justice Department’s failure to respond appropriately to the allegations of whistleblowers and to cooperate with congressional oversight has crossed the line of appropriate conduct for a government agency," the memo states. "Congress now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority to compel an agency refusing to cooperate with congressional oversight or accepting a dangerous expansion of executive branch authority and unilateral action allowing agencies to set their own terms for cooperating with congressional oversight."
The Justice Department has insisted it has cooperated with investigations led by Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- something Issa disputed during a Thursday morning appearance on Fox News.
"We've gotten to the point where it's clear they're not going to give us the documents," Issa said. "They've sort of closed up and covered up the people they want to protect."
According to CBS News, the House has taken contempt action against executive branch officials at least three times in the last 30 years: In 1983 over an EPA administrator's failure to produce subpoenaed documents; in 1998 against then-Attorney General Janet Reno for not complying with a subpoena on campaign finance law violations; and in 2008 against former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton for not cooperating in a probe into whether the firing of federal prosecutors was politically motivated.
Asked about the timeline for pursing action against Holder, Issa said he would work with the Justice Department if officials indicate they will cooperate further.
"If the attorney general's answer is we're giving you all we're going to give you then the drop-dead date is immediate," Issa said.