Reality Check: Could the US Attorney General be held in contempt?

(FOX19) - The ATF operation Fast and Furious is creating big waves in Washington.  This week, Congress may issue a citation of contempt to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Operation Fast and Furious was designed to curb to flow of guns from the United States into Mexico.  Keeping those guns from being used by Mexican drug cartels.

Here's where the operation fell apart.  According to ATF whistleblowers, the department encouraged gun store owners to sell weapons to straw buyers suspected of working on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.  ATF's own documents show it allowed just 15 men, who were known criminals, to buy 1,725 guns.

Arizona gun store owners say they were explicitly told by the ATF to sell the guns, sometimes 20, 30, even up to 40 in a single day to single person. which is against the law.  Operation Fast and Furious has now been linked to deaths and other crimes in both the U.S.. and Mexico, including the December 2010 killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

According to members of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, Attorney General Eric Holder has not been co-operating with their investigation into the operation.  In the past two months, the Department of Justice, on behalf of ATF, has ignored subpoenas and seven letters demanding details of the program.

Among what has not been provided, reports explaining how the operation was initiated in the first place.  Communication between the FBI and the ATF over the death of agent Brian Terry and documents and communications relating to "Fast and Furious" between the ATF and the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona.

The Justice Department has taken the position that House and Senate investigators are not entitled to the documents because it may jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

Here's what you need to know.

If Attorney General Eric Holder and the acting director of the ATF Kenneth Melson are found in contempt, it would be only the 12th time since Watergate, Congress has held top U.S. government officials in contempt for failure to produce subpoenaed documents.

So what does that mean?  If the contempt citation is criminal one, it would be referred to the Attorney General's Office for prosecution before a grand jury.  So how it all shakes down when the subject of the citation is the Attorney General, remains to seen.  In U.S. history, that has never happened before.

And that is Reality Check.

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