House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a staff memo today arguing the House should hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saying the Department of Justice has refused to produce internal documents relating to a botched operation.
The memo outlines Issa’s investigation into the issue and includes a draft resolution of contempt against Holder.
“Congress now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority to compel an agency refusing to cooperate with congressional oversight or accepting a dangerous expansion of Executive Branch authority and unilateral action allowing agencies to set their own terms for cooperating with congressional oversight,” according to the memo.
A DOJ official said the agency is complying with a Congressional subpoena issued for the documents and continues to do so, adding that the department has provided more than 7,600 pages of documents to Issa’s panel.
Issuing the draft resolution marks the most pointed conflict between House Republicans and the Obama administration since the GOP took control of the House in January 2011, obtaining the power of the Congressional subpoena.
In the “Fast and Furious” scandal, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are accused of allowing assault rifles and other high-powered weapons to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels. The operation involved undercover sales of weapons as a way to track illegal gun running, but the ATF has been roundly criticized for having inadequate protocols for tracking the guns after they were sold.
When first asked about the operation by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich broadly denied that ATF officials had allowed assault weapons to “walk.”
“ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico,” Weich wrote in a letter to Grassley.
But the DOJ later admitted the operation was “fundamentally flawed” and rescinded the letter, releasing documents showing how it was drafted.
The memo released today said the DOJ has not released materials in 12 of 22 categories of documents demanded by Issa.
“For over a year, the department has issued false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence,” the memo stated.