Policy

House GOP Presses Court on 'Fast and Furious' Documents

Committee argues Justice lied about botched gun-tracking initiative

House Oversight Committee under Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., probed failed gun-tracking program. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Republicans accused the Obama administration of “generally making a mockery” of the congressional oversight process, as they fight in a federal appeals court for documents related to a flawed gun-tracking initiative known as Operation Fast and Furious.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a brief filed Thursday at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argued that a lower court judge did not fully correct the Justice Department’s “executive abuses” as it responded to a congressional subpoena.

“DOJ responded by lying to Congress; engaging in concerted resistance, delay and gamesmanship; refusing to produce a privilege log for more than three years; belatedly raising new purported grounds for withholding documents long after the fact; and generally making a mockery of the process of negotiation and accommodation that is supposed to facilitate the exercise of Congress’s oversight and investigative powers,” the brief stated.

The lower courts allowed the Justice Department to benefit from that response, the committee argued, preventing the House from completing its obstruction of Congress investigation.

“This court should restore balance to the congressional oversight process by correcting the errors of the district court and compelling DOJ to produce in full, at long last, the entirety of the documents sought in the complaint,” the brief stated.

The appeal challenged rulings in the case, including U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s order Jan. 19 for the administration to turn over internal documents related to the Justice Department’s response to the congressional inquiry. President Barack Obama had asserted executive privilege over those documents on the grounds that disclosure would reveal the agency’s deliberative process.

Jackson’s order applied to documents responsive to the committee's subpoena in October 2011 as part of the investigation spearheaded by then-Chairman Darrell Issa.

The California Republican has said the records will show that the Justice Department covered up the Fast and Furious program launched in 2009 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which the government lost track of guns it was trying to trace to Mexican drug cartels. The weapons have been traced to crimes such as the 2010 murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The program was halted in 2011.

The order also applied to nine documents for which no justification for the invocation of privilege had been provided, however the order denied all other requests from the committee for documents from the administration.

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