(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder shrugged off the House’s move to hold him in contempt last year because he didn’t respect the votes by those who chose to do so.
In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview on Wednesday, ABC News’ Pierre Thomas asked Holder how he reacted when House Republicans voted with 17 Democrats to hold him in contempt of Congress last June over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.
“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.”
Holder said the votes didn’t bother him, considering who cast them.
“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 told ABC News. “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.”
All but three House Republicans voted to hold Holder in contempt. Two of them, Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., have since left Congress — meaning Holder does (or did) not respect most of the current Republican House delegation.
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., voted against holding Holder in contempt, and House Speaker John Boehner didn’t vote, meaning Holder’s blanket statement does not apply to those two.
At issue was Holder’s compliance with a House subpoena to turn over documents related to the ATF’s Fast and Furious program to disseminate and track guns in Mexico.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., spearheaded the crusade against Holder and the Fast and Furious program, repeatedly accusing the attorney general of obscuring facts and refusing to comply with his investigation, and insinuating that top officials at the department, including Holder, likely knew about the program before terminating it.
The Justice Department maintained that it had consistently complied with Issa’s requests and that it had produced every kind of document typically handed over under such circumstances.
Holder took another jab at Republicans when asked about the current partisan stalemate over deficit reduction and the looming automatic budget cuts, which Holder says will interfere with vital law-enforcement missions and endanger U.S. security.
When asked about how much of the blame Obama’s administration deserves, Holder said he wasn’t sure “it’s an awful lot.”
“I mean, I think this president came into office with the notion that he wanted to change how Washington does business. I think this president has extended his hand on any number of occasions,” he said.
“And I think we’ve seen too often the opposition not being what I would call a responsible opposition party, but a part that simply is opposed to anything the president has wanted to do,” Holder said. “And I think that has led to partisan gridlock that the American people are not satisfied with and that frankly does not serve the interests of this nation.”
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