Issa Demands Justice Dept. Answer Project Gunrunner Subpoenas
To date he's received no response, outside of a claim that responding would compromise an ongoing investigation – an assertion Issa said was absurd in an April 20 letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson:
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a subpoena to you on March 31, 2011. The subpoena instructed you to produce documents pertaining to Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). I wrote to you on April 11, 2011, to reiterate that, "[a]bsent a valid assertion of executive privilege over the materials sought, I expect you to produce the things identified in the March 31, 2011, subpoena's schedule by the return date." The April 13, 2011 deadline for compliance has passed without production of any documents ...
Let me be clear. The Committee is not seeking these documents from the Department of Justice in furtherance of the prosecution of pending suits. Rather, we are seeking these documents in furtherance of the proper use of our constitutional authority. Sometimes, we may take a deferential approach to the Department when we are both investigating a third-party's wrongdoing. Here, however, we are not conducting a concurrent investigation with the Department of Justice, but rather an independent investigation o/the Department of Justice specifically, of allegations that the reckless and inappropriate decisions of Department officials have created a serious public safety hazard. We are asking for documents that relate to decisions such officials made. Congress is legally entitled to all of these documents.
Issa told Hedgecock:
We're not investigating the sale of guns across the border. We're investigating the lack of judgment at the highest levels.
In the letter, Issa also stated that he would ask Congress to hold Melson in contempt if necessary, something he made clear in the radio interview he hoped would not need to happen:
Having contempt for what they're doing and asking for contempt from Congress are two different things. We may not need it.
Issa also made clear he believed the lapses of judgment went further than just one office in Phoenix:
This goes all the way to the top. ... If you made a decision this felony stupid you shouldn't be making decisions any longer on behalf of the American people.