Attorney General Eric Holder today offered to produce a key category of internal Justice Department documents related to House Republicans’ “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe and to negotiate the details with House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
“The Department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution,” Holder wrote in a letter to Issa dated today.
An Issa spokeswoman threw some cold water on the letter, however, saying there is still uncertainty about what the attorney general intends to offer.
The documents at issue are internal communications from after the DOJ sent a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) broadly denying that the tactics at the heart of the Fast and Furious operation were ever used.
In December 2011, the DOJ conceded that the operation was “fundamentally flawed” and rescinded the letter, as well as provided internal communications from the period during which the letter was drafted.
Issa has said that internal communications from after the letter was drafted and sent are key to understanding how senior DOJ officials realized the February 2011 letter was false, including whether officials were surprised to learn the tactics had been used.
Holder is offering to produce documents “explaining how the Department’s understanding of the facts of Fast and Furious evolved during the post-February 4 period, and the process that led to the withdrawal of the February 4 letter” and provide a briefing about how the top levels of the DOJ came to understand that the operation was “fundamentally flawed.”
Issa spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins said: "The DOJ letter only seems to indicate a willingness to offer a selective telling rather than full disclosure of key events that occurred after Feb. 4, 2011. We expect the Justice Department to quickly provide necessary details about how it is prepared to alter its opposition to producing subpoenaed documents."
Issa has said that if Holder produces the post-Feb. 4 documents a committee vote on holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress, scheduled for next week, will likely be unnecessary.
“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,” Issa said in a Monday release announcing the scheduling of the committee’s contempt vote.
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 Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.