The Washington Post

Eric Holder’s contempt vote: He’s hardly the first

Attorney General Eric Holder (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While he would be the first Obama administration official to undergo such a vote, he would be joining a long list of well-known officials from prior administrations who lost committee — or even full House or Senate — contempt votes, including two former attorneys general, according to a list compiled by the Congressional Research Service last month.

The list, since 1980, includes:

Former Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers, chief of staff Josh Bolten and deputy chief of staff Karl Rove over documents and testimony in the investigation into the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Several Clinton White House officials, including White House Counsel Jack Quinn, during the investigation of the firings of White House travel office employees in “Travelgate.”

Former Clinton attorney general Janet Reno, for failing to turn over documents involved in an inquiry into whether Justice failed to investigate or prosecute cases involving Democratic donors.

Former Clinton White House associate counsel William H. Kennedy III during the investigation of the Whitewater scandal.

Reagan attorney general William French Smith for refusing to produce documents on an investigation of General Dynamics Corp.

Reagan Energy Secretary Charles W. Duncan for not giving up documents during an investigation of the imposition of a petroleum import fee.

Reagan interior secretary James Watt for documents during an investigation of the Mineral Lands Leasing Act.

Former Reagan Environmental Protection Agency administrator Anne M. Burford and assistant administrator Rita Lavelle for not handing over documents involving cleanup of hazardous waste sites.

Most often, the CRS review indicates, these contempt actions were voided after further negotiations and usually production of additional documents or testimony.

All in all, it seems to be a pretty distinguished group of folks on that list. Of course, we’re not including non-government officials such as alleged Chicago mob boss Anthony J. Accardo, who was held in contempt by the Senate for not answering questions about labor racketeering.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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