There is no evidence the White House is involved in a cover up of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) over the weekend.
Issa’s statement comes after a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement last week alluding to the White House’s potential involvement. Issa and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss Operation Fast and Furious, the botched gun-walking operation that has entangled the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder in controversy. The House committee voted along party lines to find Holder in contempt of Congress last week.
Issa said in the interview he has an obligation to get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious “cover-up” and also predicted the contempt measure will pass in the full House with bi-partisan support.
“I believe it [the contempt vote] will be bi-partisan,” he said. “Thirty-one Democrats wrote to the administration asking them to be forthcoming, many of them will stay with us now that the administration has not been.”
He said he is interested in a 2011 email exchange between the former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Chief Director Kenneth Melson and his liaison at the department, Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
Cummings, who has defended Holder and the Justice Department, called on Boehner to show “strong leadership” and push for a “good faith” meeting with the Attorney General. He chastised Issa for pursuing Holder, saying the committee has “no evidence he knew about it, and no evidence he authorized or condoned it.” Cummings praised the Attorney General’s willingness to negotiate with the committee and turn over internal deliberative documents.
The Oversight Committee voted along party lines last week to advance the contempt charges against the Attorney General. Boehner said the House will vote on the contempt resolution this week. Last week, President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over a number of internal documents minutes before the Oversight Committee debated the measure.
The department has said releasing some of the documents Issa has requested will compromise the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations. Issa has criticized the Attorney General for refusing to turn over the subpoenaed documents, which allegedly reveal Justice Department officials knew of the use of the controversial gun-walking tactic before Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death.
Terry was killed in a shootout between Mexican bandits and Border Patrol agents.
Operation Fast and Furious was a joint operation run by the ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorneys office. Officials allowed straw-buyers to purchase some-2,000 guns along the Southwest border. The ATF tracked the guns with the hope they would lead to higher-ups in dangerous Mexican drug cartels. The plan backfired and hundreds of guns were lost. Two were found at the scene of Terry’s death.