Politics & Policy

To Impeach Holder

(Getty Images)
House Republicans are getting more traction with that idea than impeaching the president himself.

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and a group of House lawmakers are building a case for impeaching Attorney General Eric Holder.

“Impeding justice is intolerable and he should not be permitted to refuse the American people a true investigation into the actions of those who used the machinery of government to target, intimate, and silence them for politically driven reasons,” Cruz said during a June 26 floor speech.

Cruz had made such comments before, but this speech was different. He spent 40 minutes laying out the case for Holder’s impeachment — spending the bulk of that time on the IRS scandal, but also citing the Justice Department’s failure to enforce various laws, the department’s Operation Fast and Furious, and Holder’s role in the administration obtaining journalists’ phone records.

Cruz demanded that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal. “If [Holder] refuses, Senator Cruz will support measures to move forward with his impeachment,” a Cruz aide told NRO.

Representative Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) raised the idea during a Republican conference meeting Wednesday.

“[Boehner] gave us no hint one way or the other,” he said, though the speaker publicly opposed the impeachment of Obama on the same day.

Gosar said that he had also spoken with House majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) about moving to impeach Holder.

“They have not said that they oppose it,” Gosar said.

A House leadership aide says that the impeach-Holder caucus has “been picking up a lot recently.” Representative Pete Olson (R., Texas) introduced articles of impeachment against Holder in November. As of last week, he had 27 co-sponsors.

It’s not clear how that process would work, according to the leadership aide. “We’ve already held him in contempt,” the aide said. “I’ve seen a lot of Impeach Holder hashtags, I have not seen a lot of detailed [plans].”

Gosar says the process should begin with the House taking a vote of no confidence in Holder, before the August recess (141 lawmakers have co-sponsored his no-confidence resolution).

If, as is nearly certain, Obama were to ignore such a no-confidence vote and refuse to remove Holder during the August recess, then impeachment proceedings would begin in September, according to Gosar’s plan.

“This is exactly what Pelosi did with Alberto Gonzales,” Gosar said. Gonzales, who served as attorney general under George W. Bush, resigned his post in 2007 after Senate Democrats attempted to pass a no-confidence resolution condemning his tenure. “The president should restore credibility to the office of the attorney general,” then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi said at the time. “Alberto Gonzales must resign.”

Gonzales did resign, and Gosar hopes to achieve a similar outcome one way or another. “We’re at a constitutional crisis,” he said. “This is about getting somebody who enforces the constitutional rule of law, making sure that the president’s getting good legal advice, and it happens today.”

Representative Steve King (R., Iowa), who issued a statement echoing Cruz’s call for an impeachment if Holder doesn’t appoint a special prosecutor for the IRS, says that it will require “a long hard slog of building the case.” House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) will have to sign off on the impeachment, he says.

“That is not going to happen until there are enough Republicans and some Democrats who would be supportive of this if it comes to a vote on the floor,” King said. “And at that point, possibly, John Boehner would, reluctantly, let’s say, give a green light to such an action in the House of Representatives.”

To build that kind of support, King said they would need the help of outside groups rallying the base. Gosar said that he has been organizing phone call campaigns to the speaker’s office, so that Boehner would hear from Republican voters who support the measure.

That’s a process that recalls the effort by Cruz and Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) to defund Obamacare, which began this time last year.

“If Eric Holder continues to refuse to appoint a special prosecutor, I believe the House of Representatives should impeach the attorney general,” Cruz reiterated in a conversation outside his office Wednesday afternoon. The senator wouldn’t say how close he is to giving up on Holder and proceeding with the impeachment plan, which would of course depend on action in the House.

Is Cruz in contact with House members about it? “I am in regular communication with members of both bodies on an ongoing basis,” Cruz said, “about a host of issues.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review Online.

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