Grassley: Holder owes lawmakers who backed contempt measure an apology

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday that he should apologize for saying he doesn't respect the House lawmakers who voted to place him in contempt of Congress.

“It seems to me that your recent comments suggest a level of partisanship and disregard for those with whom you disagree that is quite shocking,” said Grassley at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Justice Department (DOJ).

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“I don't think you should have said it, and I think you owe the people an apology,” he added.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) led two successful votes in the House last year to place Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena that required him to turn over internal DOJ documents relating to the department’s handling of the failed gun-walking operation “Fast and Furious.”

In a recent interview with ABC News, Holder said he did not have respect for the lawmakers who voted for the contempt measures and had not been deeply affected by their decision.

“It’s something that I think was unfortunate,” Holder said. “I think it’s a result of this kind of partisan sport that I think we engage in here in Washington far too often.

“But I have to tell you that for me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way,” he continued. “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.”

On Wednesday, Holder sought to clarify those remarks.

“Let me just say that what I don't respect was the process,” he said.

In the final days before the contempt votes, which garnered the support of more than a dozen Democrats, Holder met with Issa in unsuccessful attempts to reach an agreement about which documents the committee could have access to.

Finally, President Obama invoked executive privilege over the documents, saying that they contained communications between the White House and the Justice Department that were not subject to congressional oversight.  

“It was an effort that had a predetermined result,” said Holder on Wednesday. “Whatever we did in good faith was met by, I think, political determinations, and that is a process that I don't respect, to be honest with you.”

“And the people who pushed it are people who, as I said before — I'll stand by that — the people who pushed that, I don't respect because I don't think it was consistent with the way in which other Cabinet members who had similar kinds of issues with Congress were treated.”

The contempt votes, which have led to an ongoing lawsuit between the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Holder, were tracked by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which sought to gain support for the measure by threatening to punish lawmakers’ records on voting in favor of gun rights.

Holder told the Senate panel on Wednesday that the NRA’s move made it apparent to him that the issue was no longer about appropriate congressional oversight, but about political gamesmanship.

“When the gun lobby decided to score that vote, then it was clear how the vote was going to turn out and it became something other than what it was portrayed to be,” he said. “And that is a process that I simply do not respect.”