House Republicans Wednesday subpoenaed a huge number of documents from the Justice Department relating to the troubled gun operation known as Fast and Furious.
“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said, in announcing the subpoena. “The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”
The subpoenas follow a war of words between Attorney General Eric Holder and Issa. Holder has said that he did not know the details of the gun operation until April 2011 and has accused Republicans of inflammatory rhetoric. Issa has accused Holder and other DOJ officials of lying and attempting to cover up their knowledge of the probe.
Following the announcement of the subpoenas, DOJ officials accused Issa of showboating. “We’ve made clear from the beginning that the Department intends to work with the Committee to answer legitimate questions,” a department official said in a statement. “However, this subpoena shows that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating headlines than in real oversight important to the American people.”
Fast and Furious allegedly resulted in the selling of at least 2,000 firearms to drug cartel members in Arizona via straw buyers. The ATF then allegedly permitted the guns to be trafficked to Mexico, where the bureau lost track of them. Two guns from the operation were recovered in December at the scene of a shootout between Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits near Rio Rico, Ariz., that resulted in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry. Other guns sold during the operation have been linked to violent crime scenes in Mexico. In recent days, memos also have made it clear that gunwalking was permitted during the George W. Bush administration. The Justice Department’s Inspector General is investigating the operation. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is assisting Issa in his probe.
The subpoena demands that Holder produce all communications regarding the gun probe, as well as any communications DOJ officials had with the White House about the operation and any messages traded with Mexican officials about the probe.
Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, criticized the subpoena, describing it as “a deep-sea fishing expedition and a gross abuse of the Committee’s authority”.
“As I have said all along, Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences,” Cummings said. “The Committee is right to investigate what went wrong and why, but we must do so in a fair and responsible manner.”
Cummings alleged that House Republicans are overstepping their mandate to investigate the operation by requesting the production of “highly sensitive…reports to the Attorney General that are completely unrelated to Operation Fast and Furious”, communications between the DOJ and the White House about White House press events, and information about Mexican drug cartel informants “which could put the lives of those informants and their families in grave dangers.”
He did, however, encourage the DOJ to cooperate fully with the investigation.