Rep. Darrell Issa, who is heading up investigations into the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, sent a scathing letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday, claiming he has stonewalled at every turn in a bid to hold up the probe.
|Rep. Darrell Issa: Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are playing political "gotcha" games. (AP Photo)
The California Republican made his accusations after Holder demanded an extension for producing internal Justice Department documents relating to the flawed scheme.
“Congress must complete its work,” Issa told Holder. “We cannot wait any longer for the department’s cooperation.”
He accused the department of being too preoccupied with damage control. “The department appears to be more concerned with protecting its image through spin control than actually cooperating with Congress,” he wrote.
Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee had given Holder a Feb. 9 deadline to produce thousands of pages of emails and other documents. Justice Department officials told him on Feb. 1 that that date was unrealistic. The following day, Holder accused Republicans of playing “political 'gotcha' games in an election year.”
But Issa insisted that the Department of Justice is the one playing games. “The attitude with respect to a legitimate congressional inquiry, which seems to have permeated the department’s ranks, is deeply disappointing,” he wrote in his letter to Holder.
“Had the department demonstrated willingness to cooperate with this investigation from the outset — instead of attempting to cover up its own internal mismanagement — this investigation likely would have concluded well before the end of 2011.
“In reality, it is the department that is playing political gotcha games instead of allowing a co-equal branch of government to perform its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch.”
Under Fast and Furious, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were told not to interfere to prevent thousands of weapons crossing the border into Mexico, where they fell into the hands of drug cartels. The guns were supposed to have been traced, with the idea that the firearms would lead authorities to cartel leaders.
However, the ATF lost track of nearly all of the weapons, which have been used in hundreds of crimes in both countries, including the murders of federal agents Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata.
Issa pointed out to Holder that complying with his committee’s subpoena is “not optional,” adding, “the failure to produce documents pursuant to a congressional subpoena is a violation of federal law.”
And he made it clear that Holder’s decision not to produce any documents that were produced after Feb. 4, 2011, was not acceptable, calling the date “entirely arbitrary.”
“By any measure, the Department has obstructed and slowed our work,” wrote Issa, saying that a year has passed since his Senate counterpart, Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, had first asked for documentation. “Since then, some documents produced to Congress have been so heavily redacted as to render them unintelligible. Other documents have been intentionally withheld for months, only to be released on the eve of testimony by department officials. Yet others . . . have been repetitive, publicly available on the Internet or non-responsive, thus wasting the limited time of Congressional staff.”
Issa insisted that he is not playing a political game, quoting the ranking minority member of his committee, Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland, as telling Terry’s family that “we will not rest until every single person responsible for this, no matter who they are, are brought to justice.”
“I applaud his resolve,” Issa wrote of Cummings. “And I want to make it clear that Congress will not give up until this accountability has been achieved.”
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