Four senior House Republicans say Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has not fully cooperated with a congressional subpoena seeking information on the botched “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation and suggested the nation’s top prosecutor comply with a 7-month-old subpoena or face the consequences.
“As co-equal branches of the U.S. government, the relationship between the legislative and executive branches must be predicated on honest communications and cannot be clouded by allegations of obstruction,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa said in a letter Friday to Mr. Holder.
“If necessary, the House will act to fulfill our constitutional obligations in the coming weeks. It is our hope that, with your cooperation, this sad chapter in the history of American law enforcement can be put behind us,” they stated.
The four lawmakers told the attorney general the Justice Department has not sufficiently complied with a congressional subpoena seeking answers on the operation, and questioned whether false information that was provided — and later withdrawn — was “part of a broader effort by your department to obstruct a congressional investigation.”
They said the family of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, killed in December in a gunbattle along the Arizona-Mexico border where one of the Operation Fast and Furious-purchased assault rifles was discovered, deserved to “know the truth about the circumstances that led to Agent Terry’s murder.”
“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,” they said.
Mr. Issa’s committee drafted a contempt of Congress resolution against Mr. Holder earlier this month for not responding to an Oct. 21 subpoena for internal Justice Department documents.
In the letter, the lawmakers said two key questions remained unanswered: Who among the Justice Department leadership was informed of the “reckless tactics” used in Fast and Furious prior to Terry’s death, and did Mr. Holder’s leadership team mislead or misinform Congress in response to a congressional subpoena?
“Fast & Furious was a fundamentally flawed operation. It was taken to an extreme that resulted in at least one death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and unknown other consequences, because U.S. law enforcement agencies allowed thousands of firearms to be illegally ‘walked’ into Mexico and into the hands of drug cartels,” the lawmakers said.
“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,” they said.
The letter also noted that seven wiretaps were approved for the Fast and Furious operation by the department’s leadership between March 2010 and July 2010. It said whether the information used to justify the wiretaps or the information gained from them was used in any ongoing criminal prosecution was “immaterial to the question of who on your leadership team reviewed and approved the wiretaps and was therefore privy to the details of the Fast and Furious operation.”
The lawmakers said Mr. Holder’s assertion that his leadership team could approve wiretaps in 2010 and yet not have any knowledge of the tactics used in Fast and Furious until 2011 “simply cannot be accurate and furthers the perception that the department is not being forthright with Congress.”
The said the Terry family “deserves to know the truth about the circumstances” that led to their son’s death, that the whistle-blowers who brought the operation to light “deserve to be protected, not intimidated, by their government,” and 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.”