House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is moving forward on contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder.
Issa distributed a 64-page briefing and draft citation to members of the Oversight Committee detailing Operation Fast and Furious and making the case for a contempt of Congress resolution.
“This briefing paper and draft contempt report explains the case, to both Members of the Committee and the American people, for holding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress,” said Issa. “In describing the results of the Justice Department’s refusal to cooperate – including the hardships the family of a fallen Border Patrol agent have faced in seeking the truth, and retaliation against agents who blew the whistle on gunwalking – this briefing paper provides the facts, on which decisions will be made.”
The memo notes that the committee “has held three hearings, conducted twenty-four transcribed interviews with fact witnesses, sent the Department of Justice over fifty letters, and issued the Department of Justice two subpoenas for documents. The Justice Department, however, continues to withhold documents critical to understanding decision making and responsibility in Operation Fast and Furious.”
The Oversight panel has been probing the gunwalking scandal since February 2011, in conjunction with Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
After this morning’s release, Grassley tweeted, “Thank u Cong Issa for moving contempt agst Holder Thanks for joining me in investigating Fast&Furious. Ur supoena authority made difference”
The memo highlights information-sharing failures and the Justice Department’s failure to cooperate in the investigation.
“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 before acknowledging uncomfortable facts,” it states.
It adds that the “painfully slow process of getting the truth has been a continuing frustration” for the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, killed in December 2010 in Arizona by a bullet from a Fast and Furious gun.
The briefing details retaliation against agents who blew the whistle on the scandal and how the gunwalking operation has helped fuel violence south of the border.
Issa’s report notes the October 2010 slaying of Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, the brother of the attorney general for the Mexican state of Chihuahua. “In a subsequent shootout with cartel members responsible for the murder, police arrested eight and recovered sixteen weapons. Two of these weapons traced back to Operation Fast and Furious. Although the Department of Justice learned that these weapons traced back to Fast and Furious almost immediately, no one informed the Mexican government.”
The memo also outlines the “most damning assessment” of intentional wrongdoing by Justice Department officials. “Kenneth Melson, the former Acting AFT Director during the pendency of Fast and Furious, told Congress that, ‘it appears thoroughly to us that the department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the department.’ Patrick Cunningham, who had been tasked by the Justice Department with investigating ATF whistleblower allegations of gunwalking, would later invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about his work.”
It notes that the number of documents the Justice Department has handed over “pales in comparison” to those made available to the committee in previous investigations, including 31,000 documents pored over in the Patrick Tillman investigation and “access to highly sensitive materials despite the fact that the Justice Department was conducting a parallel criminal investigation” in the Valerie Plame probe.
As of Tuesday, the DoJ had made available more than 7,300 pages of documents. “This small number reflects the Department’s lack of cooperation since the Committee sent its first letter to the Department about Fast and Furious on March 16, 2011,” the memo states.