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Oversight Committee Schedules June 20 Contempt Vote over Operation Fast and Furious Documents

• Yesterday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced that the House Oversight Committee will convene to consider a contempt of Congress report for Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, June 20.

• This comes after repeated warnings to the Attorney General about the consequences of his  continued failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to the reckless conduct that occurred in Operation Fast and Furious – a failed ATF effort that allowed weapons to flow to  Mexican drug cartels in an effort to build a bigger case against a smuggling syndicate.

• The Oversight Committee recently announced that it has obtained six applications for wiretaps (for monitoring phones of suspects) from Operation Fast and Furious. These documents contain rich details about what occurred in Operation Fast and Furious. They also indicate that senior officials in the Department’s Criminal Division were given details of the operation’s reckless tactics but still approved the applications.

• Having already obtained these documents, the contempt effort will focus on the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over documents from after February 4, 2011 – the date the Justice Department first denied accusations that reckless conduct occurred in Fast and Furious. The Obama Administration has not asserted Executive Privilege or any other valid privilege over these materials. They pertain to the Justice Department’s management, the treatment of whistleblowers, and why it took the Department nearly a year to retract false denials of reckless tactics.

• The Committee continues to pursue answers because the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is still seeking answers and agents who blew the whistle on Operation on Fast and Furious now face retaliation from Justice officials who have not been held accountable. There’s been incredible damage on both sides of the border – the Mexican ambassador to the United States recently said that Operation Fast and Furious had “poisoned the wellsprings” of public opinion in Mexico.

• A finding of contempt does not place blame for what happened in Operation Fast and Furious on any individual. Contempt is the mechanism Congress uses to enforce compliance with its lawful subpoenas.

• Scheduling consideration of contempt is not altogether rare. Henry Waxman, the former Democratic Oversight Committee Chairman from 2007 through 2008, scheduled consideration of contempt proceedings twice. In a separate matter in 2008, Democrats voted to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten – both former Bush officials – in contempt (see p. 38 “Historical Perspectives on Contempt”).

• The Justice Department argues it is cooperating, but the 7,600 pages of documents it has delivered represent only a small fraction of the over 100,000 pages that it has identified as related to Operation Fast and Furious. Many of these 7,600 pages have little value – many were already public and others have been nearly completely redacted. Witnesses DOJ has made available have also refused to discuss critical aspects of what occurred.

• Chairman Issa has been very clear that the Justice Department can still avoid contempt by producing these subpoenaed post February 4 documents related to the response to Fast and Furious and allegations by whistleblowers. Today he reiterated that point stating, “If the Attorney General decides to produce these subpoenaed documents, I am confident we can reach agreement on other materials and render the process of contempt unnecessary.” Why are the post February 4, 2011, documents critically important? On February 4, 2011, the Department of Justice denied whistleblower allegations that guns in Operation Fast and Furious had been allowed to “walk” to Mexico and defended the Operation itself. Ten months later, on December 2, 2011, the Justice Department formally withdrew this denial and acknowledged that Fast and Furious was “fundamentally flawed.”

In responding to Congress, however, the Justice Department has taken the position that it will not share its internal deliberations related to Operation Fast and Furious that occurred after it denied anything inappropriate occurred on February 4, 2011. This position effectively denies Congress and the American people information about:

o The Justice Department switching its view from denying whistleblower allegations to admitting they were true.

o Hiding the identity of officials who led the charge to call whistleblowers liars and retaliate against them.

o The reactions of top officials when confronted with evidence about gunwalking in Fast and Furious, including whether they were surprised or were already aware.

o The Justice Department’s assessment of responsibility for officials who knew about reckless conduct or were negligent.

o Whether senior officials and political appointees at fault in Operation Fast and Furious were held to the same standards as lower level career employees whom the Department has primarily blamed.

While the Department of Justice claims that divulging this information would have a “chilling effect” on future internal deliberations, virtually any agency could use this bland argument on nearly any topic. Congress, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, has never recognized internal agency discussions as privileged and protected.

This claim by the Department of Justice is also at odds with a previous decision to make internal deliberations available to Congress in the midst of a 2007 investigation into the dismissals of several U.S. Attorneys.

No one disputes that the Justice Department has this critical information – the Justice Department’s flimsy rationale for withholding this information is simply about avoiding accountability for what occurred.

Click here for more information about the case for contempt


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  1. Thanks for the link to that May 3rd memo, RF. It’s going on my reading list for later this evening. It looks to be written in (mostly) plain English, without being weighed down by huge amounts of legalese, and more importantly, it looks to be a good encapsulated summary of all that has gone on.

    • Sure you can ignore subpoenas, happens all the time.

      I don’t see reference that this was started under the Bush administration. Will they be subpoenaed, as well? No, then this is completely political.

      • Wrong. Operation Fast and Furious was started while the Obama administration was in office in 2009. The operation you are referring to that happened under the watch of the Bush administration was named Operation Wide Receiver. The Bush administration had nothing to do with Operation Fast and Furious, which is why they aren’t being subpoenaed.

        • And the hypocrisy behind all of this, the Justice Department under Obama reviewed Operation Wide Receiver and began handing down indictments in 2010 and a total of 9 people were charged. Then the Obama administrated gets busted doing the same thing, but worse, and all people have to say is “Bush did it too!” Makes me laugh at the stupidity of people who think that one group of politicians is going to be better than the other.

  2. Holder and anyone who knew about this and didn’t speak up. Especially those who could have stopped it need to be held accountable. “fundamentally flawed” That my friends is the under statement of the century! They let contraband out of there control and disappear and they knew they had no way of tracking it. Most sting operations the person buying whatever it is gets arrested on the spot and the stuff never disappears. The Mexican government is in no agreement to hand over serial numbers or trace information regarding any firearm. So really this is our government using our tax dollars to give the drug cartel firearms!
    I think that Holder is withholding so that they can try and get through November. I have a feeling there will be high ranking heads that will role on this. To top it all off the BATF now has that gun registry thing going on for FFL dealers along the boarder. My understanding is it was done with executive order, not a normal bill entered on the hill which goes through due process and voting. The left wing nuts are trying to ignore it and say oh it is just the GOP trying to smear Holder. Uhm I am sorry but I was raised Democrat and ok yeah I am changing but none the less I am not happy at all about what has gone on.

  3. Meanwhile, in an interview back at the ranch, Holder says he’s not sure whether he’ll stay on at Justice if Obama wins. Because the job is so hard and all.

    What a sleazeball.

    • Yeah, I saw him complaining about having to testify 9 times. Must be a bitch to play golf with Big O when you’re in front of Congress so much.

  4. Hillary and other smart power progressives did not much like it when their 90% number was questioned, doubted and dis-proven. Somebody or some group decided to tweak the program in order to meet the claim. They likely eventually intended to attempt some sort of round up or series of confiscations coordinated with the Federales but the cartels likely didnt want to play along.
    Thank goodness some gun shop owners started voicing their concerns to their ATF handlers otherwise who knows where this would have led.

    • My sentiments exactly.
      This was no “sting gone wrong”, no typical “SNAFU” or ‘fustercluck’ — F&F did exactly what it was meant to do, manufacture “evidence” to support the lie “90 % of the guns in the hands of Mexican cartels are there because of our lax gun laws”.

  5. I’ll be waiting with baited breath (or is the saying bated breath) for DOJ accountability.

    Kudos to the families of the LEOs who continue to fight for justice in this scandal and for others.

  6. Holder has nothing to worry about. The B.O. in the white house will give him a pardon. He just has to hold out till November.

  7. I like part where sentor Gomer from Texas treaten defund doj of he they where not gone get documents they want from Eric Holder.

  8. OK, what happens if they find him in comtempt, and…he does nothing? Can Congress enforce it? Jail him, as a judge can?

  9. More than anything else about this right now, I hate that Holder/DOJ have started bleating, “Waaah, you’re just trying to score political points in an election year, waaaah!”

    No, jackass, this started over year ago, when it wasn’t an election year, and you’ve been stonewalling ever since. Stop making excuses and whining like a toddler.

    • No jackass, this program started under BUSH!!! Why aren’t they being subpoenaed? Because IT IS ALL POLITICAL!! The people now complaining were fully aware it was taking place. It’s all bogus!

      • I need to correct your misapprehension of my comment. I wasn’t referring to Fast & Furious starting a year ago, I was referring to the hearings starting over a year ago. You’re probably correct about me being a jackass, though, although I’m not sure how you managed to figure it out from one comment. I don’t think we know each other that well.

        On a related note, I love when we get new people around here. I’ll bet you’re one of those e-warriors that I see on all the sites that use the Facebook login to comment on their new stories. You know, the ones who go through and leave a reply under every single other person they disagree with in the comments section, so they end up leaving effectively the same response 5 or 6 times? You know, like you did here?


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