In a stunning clash of two branches of the U.S. federal government, a Texas congressman told Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday that he should be ‘in jail’ instead of answering questions in a Capitol Hill hearing.
Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold refused to ask Holder – the hearing’s sole witness – any questions, instead slamming him for defying congressional document subpoenas and ignoring a criminal contempt citation the House of Representatives lodged against him nearly two years ago.
‘I’m committed to maintaining the constitutional balance of power and the authority that this legislative branch has,’ Farenthold said, ‘and I just don’t think it’s appropriate that Mr. Holder be here.’
‘If an American citizen had not complied with one of the Justice Department’s subpoenas, they would be in jail and not sitting here in front of me testifying.’
His point made, Farenthold gave the balance of his allotted five minutes to South Carolina GOp Rep. Trey Gowdy.
That program was a scandal-plagued gun-running exercise that put illicit weapons in the hands of hundreds of Mexican nationals tied to drug cartels, beginning in 2009. The government has said it intended to track the guns, but it couldnt recover more than 1,300 of them.
Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was killed in December 2010 with one of those weapons. Other Fast and Furious guns have been tied to the deaths of about 200 Mexican citizens.
Earlier in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder snapped at another Texas congressman, Louie Gohmert, who upbraided him over his failure to produce everything Congress had subpoenaed.
‘Sir, I’ve read you what your department promised, and it is inadequate,’ Gohmert lectured. ‘And I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight.’