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House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has set June 20 as the date when his committee will vote on a report related to whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide some documents related to the panel’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking inquiry.
The move comes with the blessing of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who issued a statement this morning indicating that Holder is obstructing a Congressional probe.
“The Justice Department is out of excuses. Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. Agent Terry’s family, the whistleblowers who brought this issue to light and the American people deserve answers,” Boehner said in the statement. “Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the Attorney General in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”
In his release, Issa said the contempt charges stem from Holder’s failure to fully comply with the panel’s Oct. 12, 2011, subpoena.
“Despite what the investigation has uncovered through whistleblowers and documents the Justice Department had tried to hide, the Committee’s work is not yet complete,” Issa said. “Attorney General Holder has failed to meet his legal obligations pursuant to the October 12 subpoena. House leaders reiterated this failure in a May 18, 2012, letter. Specifically, the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical documents on the grounds that they show internal Department deliberations and were created after February 4, 2011 — the date Justice issued a false denial to Congress. Contempt will focus on the failure to provide these post February 4th documents.”
Issa continued, “The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials and it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice refuses to produce them. These documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, the claims of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics. The Justice Department’s actions have obstructed the investigation. Congress has an obligation to investigate unanswered questions about attempts to smear whistleblowers, failures by Justice Department officials to be truthful and candid with the congressional investigation, and the reasons for the significant delay in acknowledging reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.
Issa said the contempt proceedings can be stopped if the DOJ provides the materials sought.
“If the Attorney General decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary,” he said.
The DOJ has said some documents requested by the panel are sensitive and related ongoing investigations.
In Fast and Furious, agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed assault guns to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.
The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at Terry’s murder scene.