Lawyers for the Justice Department and the House of Representatives are working toward a settlement to resolve the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s civil lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious .
At a hearing this morning in Washington, D.C., the lawyers told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that talks had just begun between the two groups, according to a report by CNN. The judge scheduled a status hearing for Jan. 10 to discuss the progress in the settlement negotiations.
The department was represented by Ian Gershengorn, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division; and the House committee by the chamber’s General Counsel Kerry Kircher. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is chairman of the House Oversight Committee.
Jackson said she would not make any comment about the merits of the lawsuit, nor would she issue any rulings on motions filed by both sides, CNN reported. The department asked the judge in October to dismiss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks Justice Department documents related to the department’s response to the botched gun-walking operation. President Barack Obama asserted executive privilege over the documents that the House committee is seeking. The committee has been exploring why the department initially denied that gun-walking was occurring in the Fast and Furious investigation, an assertion the department later withdrew.
Attorney General Eric Holder was found in criminal contempt of Congress in June for not handing over the documents. He has said the documents pertain to internal deliberative conversations and ongoing investigations.
Holder told CNN that he is hopeful a settlement deal can be reached.
“We are prepared as we indicated many months ago to try to strike a deal to come up with a way which we could try to satisfy the legitimate oversight request that Congress has made understanding that there is the need for a privilege, the ability for us in the executive branch to speak candidly with one another,” Holder told CNN on Tuesday.