By Jim Kouri
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives slapped Attorney General Eric Holder with a far reaching subpoena for Justice Department reports, records, logs and other documents related to the ATF’s gun smuggling scandal, Operation Fast and Furious.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced his intended issuance of the subpoena on Wednesday.
“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” said Chairman Issa.
“The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth,” stated Rep. Issa.
From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program, according to GOP lawmakers in both Houses of Congress.
These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Charles Grassley (R-NE) and Rep. Issa to defer their oversight responsibilities over its concerns over purported interference with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ and the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigations.
In fact, originally the Justice Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur at all.
When documents and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the Department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the Department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around DOJ and its political appointees.
Last month, Holder claimed that Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department. Documents discovered through the course of the investigation, however, have proved each and every one of these claims advanced by the Department to be untrue.
“It appears [Attorney General Holder’s] latest defense has reached a new low. Incredibly, in a letter from Friday [Holder] now claims that [he] was unaware of Fast and Furious because [his] staff failed to inform him of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to the Attorney General,” Issa alleged in his letter to Holder.
“At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as Attorney General. At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt,” Issa stated in his letter to Holder.
Senator Chuck Grassley and Congressman Darrell Issa on numerous occasions stated that Attorney General Eric Holder received at least five weekly memos beginning in July 2010, including four weeks in a row, describing the ill-advised strategy known as Operation Fast and Furious. The memos were to Holder from Michael Walther, the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center.
The Attorney General told Issa during a House Judiciary Committee in May 2011 that he had just learned of Fast and Furious a few weeks before. Yet, on January 31, in a previously scheduled meeting, Grassley personally handed him two letters about Fast and Furious. Grassley and Issa said they find it very troubling that Holder actually knew of Operation Fast and Furious much earlier, and in greater detail than he ever let on.
The memos specifically said that the straw buyers were “responsible for the purchase of 1500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”
“With the fairly detailed information that the Attorney General read, it seems the logical question for the Attorney General after reading in the memo would be “why haven’t we stopped them?” Grassley said. “And if he didn’t ask the questions, why didn’t he or somebody in his office?”
“Attorney General Holder has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew about gunwalking and Operation Fast and Furious. The lack of candor and honesty from our nation’s chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing,” Issa said.
Grassley and Issa have been leading the investigation into who approved the strategy to allow guns to be purchased by known straw buyers who then often transferred the firearms to Mexican Drug Cartels.