(Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
The Justice Department said Friday it will not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the "Fast and Furious" investigation.
"The department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General," The Associated Press quoted Deputy Attorney General James Cole as saying in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
Cole said the decision was based on the "longstanding position" of the Department across both political parties. "We will not prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege."
It was expected that President Barack Obama would assert executive privilege to prevent a criminal prosecution.
The House voted 255-67 on Thursday to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over documents relating to the period when the Justice Department misinformed the committee about the "Fast and Furious" program, an undercover operation that sold weapons to drug dealers and other criminals. The weapons were not tracked and some were found at the scene of a shootout in which Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed.
Seventeen Democrats joined 238 Republicans in passing the measure. Only two Republicans voted against it.
In February 2011, the Justice Department sent a letter to a member of Congress claiming no weapons were sold that were not tracked. In December 2011, the Justice Department admitted weapons were sold under the program that were not tracked.