Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. (Gerardo Mora / Getty Images )
The decision by the House of Representatives to hold Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt of Congress for not turning over documents related to the controversial Fast and Furious program, though ridden with accusations of partisanship, nonetheless is popular with Americans according to a new CNN/ORC poll.
Fifty-three percent approve of the House’s actions, which included two separate votes to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt that were split largely across party lines. Thirty-three percent of Americans disapprove of the House votes.
At the same time, 61% of Americans said they think congressional Republicans were pushing the contempt vote because they “want to gain political advantage” compared with 34% who think they have “real ethical concerns about the way the matter was handled.”
Roughly four in 10 of those polled said they had no opinion about Holder, and 31% said they did not know who he is, a number that has not changed from polls taken before the debate over the Fast and Furious operation began.
The Fast and Furious operation was an attempt to monitor gun sales in the U.S. to straw buyers who were purchasing the firearms on behalf of drug cartels in Mexico. Agents running the operation lost track of many of the weapons. Several appeared at the scene of a shootout in which Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in 2010.
As the story became public, Republicans, led by House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), accused Holder of withholding documents that, Issa said, would help Congress determine what would happen. Holder and the White House argue that the Justice Department has given Congress thousands of documents and the remaining ones involve internal deliberations and continuing investigations that should be kept confidential.
The poll results closely mirror the findings of surveys during the last confrontation between Congress and an attorney general. In that case, Democrats sought documents from the George W. Bush administration regarding the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. In that case, too, a majority sided with Congress and opposed the idea of the administration withholding information.
The latest poll was conducted between June 28 and July 1 among a sample of 1,517 Americans, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
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