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“Ultimately, the attorney general is the custodian of the documents we wish to receive, and that’s why the contempt cites him,” he said. “We would hope that the president would ask his attorney general to be more cooperative. Thirty-one Democrats asked for more cooperation than we’ve gotten.”

Mr. Holder had hoped the committee would drop its pending contempt of Congress citation.

In addition to Mr. Holder and Mr. Issa, other participants in the meeting included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat; Mr. Grassley; Mr. Cummings; and Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

Mr. Cummings said Mr. Holder was “quite gracious and very forthright” during the meeting: “Clearly, it appears that the chairman (Issa) had made up his mind before we even walked in the room. It’s unfortunate that things have gotten to this point. I really do believe that we were on the one-foot line. We could have gotten this ball across the goal, but, unfortunately, that did not happen this evening.”

The committee’s subpoena was issued in October but Mr. Issa and the House leadership narrowed the scope of the committee request to Fast and Furious documents created after Feb. 4, 2011, after being told by the Justice Department that the earlier materials could affect pending prosecutions.

In a letter Monday, Mr. Holder told Mr. Issa the Justice Department has offered “a serious, good faith proposal to bring this matter to an amicable resolution in the form of a briefing based on documents that the committee could retain.”

Mr. Holder said he expected that this “extraordinary accommodation” would satisfy the remaining concerns of Mr. Issa and the House Leadership and “avoid an unnecessary Constitutional confrontation.”

If the committee votes to move a criminal contempt citation forward, it would go to the House floor where it would be debated. It would take a majority vote approve it, but once that took place, the House speaker would turn the matter over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to bring it before a grand jury.