House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) threatened Tuesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department did not provide certain documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.
In a letter to Holder, Issa wrote that “this committee will have no alternative but to move forward with proceedings to hold you in contempt of Congress” if Holder and the DOJ didn’t produce documents they demanded relating to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal
Holder has until Thursday, Feb. 9. to comply, according to Issa.
Issa accused the Justice Department of trying to “obstruct our investigation and deceive the public” by withholding documents.
“Your actions lead us to conclude that the department is actively engaged in a cover-up,” he said in a four-page letter.
The California Republican pointed to a document that the DOJ released last Friday, which indicated that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer had promoted gun-walking to Mexico on the same day that Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Congress denying that the DOJ had allowed guns to walk.
“It is inconceivable that the Department just became aware of this highly damaging document,” writes Issa, pointing out that the Oversight Committee had originally issued a subpoena on Oct. 12, 2011.
Issa outlines certain documents which the DOJ has which has not been provided to the Oversight Committee, and demands their release to the committee by Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.
“The department has worked with the committee over the last year providing numerous witnesses for interviews, officials for testimony at hearings and thousands of pages of documents and we will continue to do so,” a DOJ official told POLITICO in response to the letter.
The chairman had previously threatened to hold Holder in contempt of Congress in a December Judiciary Committee hearing, for similar reasons, but this is the first time that Issa has formalized it in a letter.
Holder is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, his sixth appearance before Congress regarding Fast and Furious in the past year.
The Democrats on the Oversight Committee have begun laying the groundwork for their strategy, and released a document Monday highlighting the fact that gun-walking had been used as far back as 2006, and was used in three previous investigations before Fast and Furious.
Under the Fast and Furious program, weapons were allowed to be illegally purchased in hopes of tracking gun traffickers and drug cartel leaders. But the ATF, which operates within the DoJ, lost track of these firearms, and many were allowed to cross into Mexico.
Firearms linked to the operation were later found to have been involved in the December 2010 shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, bringing the operation to public attention