The Justice Department is prepared to offer additional documents regarding Fast and Furious to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as a vote on contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Eric Holder nears.
“The department is prepared to offer an extraordinary accommodation of the committee’s interest in those issues by providing a briefing, based on documents that the committee could retain, explaining how the department’s understanding of the facts of Fast and Furious evolved during the post-February 4 period,” Holder wrote to Issa.
The department drew ire from congressional Republicans after it withdrew a letter that incorrectly stated the department’s involvement in the botched gun-tracing operation. On Wednesday, Issa wrote to Holder saying he would be willing to reconsider a scheduled contempt vote if the department offered a “serious proposal” to hand over additional documents to the committee.
Earlier on Thursday, the committee’s Democrats showed support for Holder, distributing a memo highlighting what they view to be serious issues with the Republican-led congressional inquiry.
The contempt of Congress citation levied against Holder is “irresponsible, unprecedented, and contrary to the rule of law,”Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking member, wrote.
It would be an “extreme” and “blatant” abuse of power to hold the Attorney General in contempt for protecting documents relating to ongoing criminal investigations, Cummings said in his letter. The department has said that it cannot provide all of the documents requested by the committee because their disclosure could harm the integrity of ongoing prosecutions and investigations.
“[Documents related to ongoing criminal investigations] have been consistently protected by Republicans and Democrats administrations to safeguard the lives of informants and ensure the integrity of active criminal investigations,” the memo contends.
Cummings wrote that Republicans have “needlessly politicized” the issue by refusing to investigate previous gun-walking investigations initiated under the George W. Bush administration.
But Cummings wrote that he is “guardedly optimistic that a path forward exists that will serve the legitimate interests of the Committee in conducting rigorous oversight, protect the legitimate interests of the Department in its ongoing investigations and prosecutions, and avoid the needless politicization of this very serious issue.”
Fast and Furious was a gunwalking operation headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF allowed roughly 2,000 guns to be sold to straw-buyers in the U.S. in an attempt to track the guns to Mexican cartels. After the operation backfired and hundreds of guns were lost, two weapons were found at the scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death. Agent Terry was killed in a shootout between Mexican bandits and Border Patrol agents.