Republican House leadership joined Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) today in sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, pushing him to comply fully with a House Oversight Committee subpoena for Fast and Furious documents, but stopping short of threatening contempt.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have all asked Holder to answer their questions about Fast and Furious, which they said were not accurately addressed in a recent letter to Issa from Deputy Attorney General James Cole nor through previous disclosures.
“Two key questions remain unanswered: first, who on your leadership team was informed of the reckless tactics used in Fast & Furious prior to Agent [Brian A.] Terry’s murder; and, second, did your leadership team mislead or misinform Congress in response to a Congressional subpoena?” the letter states.
In his Wednesday letter, Cole said the department had already complied with the “core questions” of the committee’s subpoena compelling the department to hand over documents related to the failed gun-tracing investigation. The department has released more than 7,600 documents and cannot reveal more without damaging ongoing investigations, Cole wrote.
“They have cited some areas where they believe they have responded in some areas,” Issa told Main Justice Thursday. “Much of what they’ve said either in some cases erroneous, but in some cases they omit answering questions that were in our [contempt] draft.”
The Republicans’ response, however, makes no mention of the contempt citation draft circulated by Issa as attempt to force Holder’s compliance. Asked whether the contempt citation was on hold, Issa said: ”We feel that we have to respond to that to let them know their response in this letter is inaccurate. We owe it to them to have that dialogue.”
The committee would work on “the next step” over and after the coming congressional recess, Issa said, which may include further action on the Holder contempt citation.
“We don’t want to have anything leave here that is broader, or more significant or even occur unless it has to,” Issa said. “We want to have legitimate discovery where we the Congress believe we have the requirement to have it. The Attorney General says he wants us to have discovery where he thinks we should have. That’s not within his executive power.”
Fast and Furious was a failed gun-tracing program overseen by the Justice Department and run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that aimed to track some 2,000 guns sold to straw buyers in the United States and ultimately funneled to Mexico. The ATF was attempting to trace members of Mexican cartel as the weapons’ buyers, but they lost track of hundreds of the guns. Two of the guns from the investigation were recovered at the scene of a shootout between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits in December 2010, where Terry was killed.
Six freshmen Republican House members - Reps. Ben Quayle (Ariz.), Trey Gowdy (S.C.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Rep. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Rep. Tom Marino (Pa.) and Dennis Ross (Fla.) sent a letter to Republican House leadership Friday asking for a floor vote on the contempt citation.
“Attorney General Holder has continually failed to produce thousands of valuable documents that have been requested by both the Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee,” the letter states. “When documents are produced, many are redacted beyond recognition.”
Gowdy said Tuesday he supported the contempt citation if Holder continued to not comply.
“I don’t know how else to get the attention of the nation’s top law enforcement official,” Gowdy said. “Either comply with the subpoena or cite the legal privilege that you say keeps you from complying. Until you’ve done one of those and he hasn’t done either, then yes, I would proceed with contempt.”
Cole said that Congress had never held an Attorney General in contempt for failing to provide documents in “open criminal investigations and prosecutions.” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said on The O’Reilly Factor Wednesday that subpoena and contempt efforts by Congress are part of an “age-old struggle” with the executive branch.