Documents making the case for holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress were sent to congressional oversight committee members on Thursday.
The documents citing Holder's "refusal" to cooperate in an investigation of the ill-fated Fast and Furious gun-running operation were sent to every member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has circulated a 64-page draft contempt order against Holder along with a 17-page letter briefing every member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the controversial and failed gun-running operation dubbed Fast and Furious, according to a Fox News report.
"Operation Fast and Furious' outrageous tactics, the Justice Department's refusal to fully cooperate with the investigation and efforts to smear and retaliate against whistleblowers have tainted the institutional integrity of the Justice Department," Issa wrote.
A stonewalling Holder "has yet to provide a single document for 12 out of the 22 categories contained in the subpoena schedule," according to the letter.
Under Holder, U.S. officials had used the Fast and Furious program to "walk" firearms across the U.S.-Mexico border as part of an extensive anti-gunrunning probe. After the government lost track of a large portion of nearly 2,000 weapons, many of the firearms turned up at crime scenes on both sides of the border. One weapon was found at the homicide crime scene of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Issa’s letter notes that "only 567 from the operation have been recovered," which means over 1200 guns remain unaccounted for.
Issa’s communications do not mean the committee is currently citing Holder or holding the attorney general in contempt; however, the documents make the case for citing Holder with contempt should committee members decide to vote on the matter. Because of the approaching U.S. elections, the Holder scandal could become even more politically charged because President Obama has voiced his full support of the attorney general he appointed at the outset of his administration.
For his part, Holder has testified before Congress and furnished thousands of documents that answer few questions regarding his role or the role of any high-ranking members of the Justice Department in the failed gun-running operation. The Justice Department, which is responsible for overseeing such operations, has denied claims that Holder or that office has been uncooperative with the congressional investigation and listed the number of briefings and congressional hearings Holder has attended on Operation Fast and Furious and how many related documents have been submitted by his office.
On behalf of Holder, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich recently responded, "We intend to continue our rolling production schedule until we have accommodated the Committee's information needs to the fullest extent possible."
The draft order underscores the need for the oversight committee to understand several key issues about the deadly operation that has put guns into the hands of violent criminals on both sides of the border: who among the department's top brass should have known about the "reckless tactics" in Fast and Furious; how department leaders ended up figuring out the program was a bad idea; and how a special task force "failed" to share information that could have “supposedly” led to key gun-trafficking arrests.