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News Wrap: Attorney General Holder Held in Contempt by Congress

June 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives, stemming from his refusal to turn over additional documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. Also, several bombings in Iraq killed more than 20 people, and wildfires continued to burn though Colorado.
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HARI SREENIVASAN:  The confrontation between House Republicans and the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, came to a head in a pair of contempt of Congress votes.  

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.  

MAN:  On this vote, the yeas are 255, the nays are 67, one member voting present.  The resolution is agreed to.  

KWAME HOLMAN:  With that, Attorney General Holder became the first Cabinet member to be held in criminal contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives.  

In a separate vote, lawmakers also held the attorney general in civil contempt.  It stemmed from his refusal to turn over additional documents related to Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gun-smuggling investigation that contributed to the death of a U.S. border agent.  

Holder argued the 7,600 pages of material the Justice Department already turned over should be enough.  Republicans, however, such as South Carolina’s Trey Gowdy, demanded more, since some details of what they were told initially turned out to be inaccurate.  

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), South Carolina:  For those who want to plea-bargain, my question to you is simply this.  Will you settle for 75 percent of truth?  Is 50 percent of the truth enough for you?  Is a third?  Or do you want it all?  Because if you want all the truth, then you want all the documents.  

KWAME HOLMAN:  But New York’s Carolyn Maloney other House Democrats charged, Republicans merely are on a political witch-hunt.  

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), New York:  This is not about discovering the truth.  This is about politics.  This has become an obsessive political vendetta, pursuing a political agenda in a season of unusually ugly politics.  

KWAME HOLMAN:  In the end, more than half of the Democrats walked out in protest, refusing to vote on the measures.  The criminal contempt resolution approved today sends the matter to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who, under the law, actually reports to Holder.  

The civil contempt finding allows the House to take Holder to court to get what it wants.  

Shortly after the votes, the attorney general spoke in New Orleans and voiced regret that it’s come to this.  

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. Attorney General:  Today’s vote may make for good political theater in the minds of some, but it is at base both a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people.  They expect and they deserve far more.  

KWAME HOLMAN:  But the House is unlikely to see more documents soon, because President Obama invoked executive privilege last week to justify withholding them.  

HARI SREENIVASAN:  On Wall Street today, stocks spent much of the day in doldrums, after the Supreme Court’s health care ruling.  But a late rally erased much of those losses.  In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average shed less than 25 points to close at 12602.  The Nasdaq fell nearly 26 points to close at 2849.  

Shares of J.P. Morgan Chase fell another 2.5 percent on word that its trading losses could be far worse than expected.  The New York Times reported the red ink could reach $9 billion, more than four times the bank’s original estimate.  The losses stem from a bungled strategy to hedge against financial risk.  

Officials in Colorado today reported nearly 350 homes destroyed in a major wildfire blazing outside Colorado Springs.  It’s one of more than 40 major blazes burning.  Some of the largest are in Colorado, and many of them near population centers.  

The mountain town of Colorado Springs was blanketed again with thick smoke, obscuring the devastation.  But the mayor announced the Waldo Canyon fire had burned hundreds of homes to the ground since it doubled in size on Tuesday. 

STEVE BACH, Mayor of Colorado Springs:  We are working through the process, which is very painstaking, of assessing every address to make sure that we have absolutely accurate information on each address.  

The worst thing we could do would be to put out information that’s inaccurate.  The people impacted by this are already going through enough pain and anguish.  We have got to make sure we get this right.  

HARI SREENIVASAN:  This aerial photo showed one neighborhood before the fire, and after, total destruction.  

WOMAN:  You could feel the heat.  It was just — it was.  It was really intense.  And then we had cops yelling at us to get out, get out.  And they’re running around the neighborhood.  And it was — it was just — it was insane.  

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The blaze still burned out of control today, and fire officials warned it was too dangerous for investigators to get in just yet.  

MAN:  I’m a veteran of the Denver Fire Department for 20 years, and, to me, it was like a movie scene.  The whole side of the mountain is on fire.  That’s the only way I could describe it to you.  

HARI SREENIVASAN:  But fire managers were more optimistic about making progress aided by slightly better weather.  

JERRI MARR, U.S. Forest Service Supervisor:  We have been standing out here in the wind has been hammering us, just even standing here at this news briefing.  It’s been doing also up in the forest.  But, today, we aren’t going to have that.  And the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate with us.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  For now, many people are living in shelters, at school gyms, hotel banquet rooms or tents in open fields.  All told, more than 32,000 people have been forced to flee.  

WOMAN:  We barely got anything.  We just got like a few backpacks with some clothes and all of our important papers, and that was it.  

HARI SREENIVASAN:  To the north, near Fort Collins, more evacuees from the massive High Park fire were allowed to return home today, as firefighters contained more of that blaze.  

In Iraq today, a wave of bombings and shootings across the country killed 22 people and wounded more than 50.  The deadliest strike came in western Baghdad.  Eyewitnesses said a taxi exploded outside a market in a Shiite neighborhood.  Eight people died in that blast.  More than 200 Iraqis have died in attacks during June, making this the deadliest month there since January.  

A U.S. law passed at the height of the war in Iraq has been thrown out.  The Supreme Court today rejected a statute that made it a crime to lie about receiving top military medals.  In a 6-3 decision, the court found it violated the right to free speech.  The Stolen Valor Act went into effect in 2006.  It imposed fines and up to a one-year prison sentence.  

Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate, News Corp., will divide into two companies.  The announcement today said one new company will operate as a newspaper and book publisher.  The other will focus on entertainment.  The plan is subject to final approval by the News Corp. board and regulatory agencies.  

Those are some of the day’s major headlines.