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Firing Line

Issa Weighs Contempt of Congress Against Holder

by J. Scott Rupp   |  May 3rd, 2012 8
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department runs ATF, which conducted the botched Fast and Furious gun trafficking operation. Holder claims he had little knowledge of the operation and didn't know guns were permitted to "walk" across the border into Mexico.

Media reports indicate Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has drafted a resolution holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for a lack of cooperation in connection with Issa’s investigation into the botched Fast and Furious operation.


If you’re not up to speed on Fast and Furious, it was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation that directed gun shop owners in border areas to allow sales to suspected straw purchasers.


While the alleged intention of the operation was to collect evidence against straw buyers and their Mexican drug cartel connections—and track the firearms acquired in such purchases—the result was that thousands of guns crossed into Mexico and few were tracked. Some of the guns were subsequently connected to crimes, including the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and Immigration Control and Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.


Rep. Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa chairs a House committee investigating Fast and Furious. He says Attorney General Holder is not cooperating with the investigation and has drafted a resolution charging Holder with contempt of Congress.

Some gun-rights advocates have claimed that Fast and Furious was a back-door attempt at gun control—a way for the Obama administration to place the blame on the flow of guns into Mexico on U.S. civilian gun sales and thereby increase restrictions on civilian sales. And in fact the ATF did institute additional long-gun sales reporting requirements in border states; the National Shooting Sports Foundation filed an appeal in federal court to strike down the requirements.


In the course of his investigation, Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had issued subpoenas to get documents relating to Fast and Furious from the Department of Justice and was increasingly upset by what he saw as stonewalling on the part of Holder’s department.


“The Justice Department’s failure to respond appropriately to the allegations of whistleblowers and to cooperate with congressional oversight has crossed the line of appropriate conduct for a government agency,” the 17-page resolution reads, according to The Hill. “Congress now faces a moment of decision between exerting its full authority to compel an agency refusing to cooperate with congressional oversight or accepting a dangerous expansion of executive-branch authority and unilateral action allowing agencies to set their own terms for cooperating with congressional oversight.”


According to The Hill article, if Issa moves ahead with contempt proceedings, his committee would vote on the contempt resolution, which would then move to the House floor. House Republican leaders would then decide to bring it to full House vote.


The House is currently in one of its “district work periods” and doesn’t return to session until next week.

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