WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder is proposing to meet with Rep. Darrell Issa by Monday to settle a dispute over Justice Department documents the congressman is demanding on a flawed gun-smuggling probe.
Holder said Thursday the department is prepared to turn over documents detailing how Justice Department officials came to the realization that federal agents in Arizona had used a controversial investigative tactic that resulted in hundreds of illicitly purchased guns winding up in Mexico, many of them at crime scenes. Two of the weapons were recovered at the scene of the slaying of a U.S. border agent, Brian Terry.
In a letter to Issa, the attorney general said the information he is prepared to provide will fully address concerns of the congressman and House Republican leaders. Issa, California Republican, has scheduled a committee vote for next Wednesday on a contempt citation against Holder for failing to turn over relevant documents on the operation and its aftermath.
Along with the documents, the attorney general said the department is prepared to provide a briefing "explaining how the department's understanding of the facts of Fast and Furious evolved."
When problems with Operation Fast and Furious came to light in early 2011, the Justice Department denied to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, that agents in the operation had relied on gun-walking — letting illicitly purchased guns be transported instead of intercepted in an effort to track them to major arms-traffickers. The tactic has long been barred by Justice Department policy, although Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents in Arizona experimented with it during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
Holder said that over a period of months in 2011, the Justice Department backed off its initial denials as documents to be provided to Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were collected and reviewed and as witness testimony before the committee was evaluated.
"Evidence came to light that was inconsistent with the initial denials provided to department personnel," Holder's letter stated.