House Republican leaders on Friday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. demanding he comply with the GOP’s official investigation into Obama administration gun-running operation Fast & Furious, which allowed hundreds of guns to be sneaked across the border to Mexican cartels.
In the letter, Speaker John A. Boehner and his top lieutenants warn that the House will be prepared to “act to fulfill our constitutional obligations” — which could include holding Mr. Holder in contempt of Congress — and said he cannot hide behind separation of powers arguments.
The letter says Americans have lost confidence in the Justice Department’s leaders to be able to straighten the situation out themselves — though it does not call for Mr. Holder to step down.
“The American people deserve to know how such a fundamentally flawed operation could have continued for so long and have a full accounting of who knew of and approved an operation that placed weapons in the hands of drug cartels,” Mr. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and investigative committee Chairman Darrel E. Issa said in the letter.
Fast & Furious was the name of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation run out of Arizona, in which guns were knowingly sold to straw purchasers who then trafficked them across the border. Both Mr. Holder and President Obama have said the operation, designed to track arms-smuggling networks in Mexico, was a mistake.
Hundreds of guns from the operation are still not accounted for, but at least two guns turned up at the scene of a gun battle between U.S. Border Patrol agents and smugglers in December 2010 that left Agent Brian Terry dead.
“It is our hope that, in finding the truth, we can both provide closure to the Terry family, begin to repair our relationship with Mexico, and take steps to make necessary changes at the department,” the leaders said in their letter.
Mr. Issa’s committee has been investigating Fast & Furious for more than a year and has repeatedly tussled with the Justice Department over information.
The Justice Department has already had to officially renounce a Feb. 4, 2011, letter that provided false information to Congress.
The Justice Department didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Mr. Holder has said that once he became aware of the operation he took steps to shut it down. And he has vehemently defended his department’s top leadership, saying they were not aware of the details of the operation and should not be fired over it.
Mr. Boehner personally raised the issue of Mr. Holder’s cooperation with Mr. Obama this week when congressional leaders met with the president earlier this week.