Attorney General Eric Holder and top Republican committee chairman Darrell Issa are headed for a showdown over the Fast and Furious gun probe, meeting late Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to resolve the issue before a scheduled contempt vote on Wednesday.
Holder will reportedly offer some key documents in advance of the 5 p.m. meeting, in exchange for Issa calling off a vote by his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold Holder, the nation’s leading law enforcement official, in contempt of Congress.
Issa has said Holder’s Justice Department hasn’t fully cooperated with the congressional investigation of Fast and Furious, a law enforcement operation that let illegal U.S. weapons purchases wind up in Mexico. The Justice Department said it has provided more than 7,600 pages of documents.
In a letter to Issa delivered on Monday, Holder said the Justice Department “has offered a serious, good faith proposal to bring this matter to an amicable resolution in the form of a briefing based on documents that the committee could retain.
“We expect that this extraordinary accommodation will fully address the remaining concerns that you and House leadership have identified in your written and oral communications to the department over the last few weeks.”
Issa has been demanding a trove of documents on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operation, and “to know who prepared a now-retracted letter from Feb. 4, 2011, in which the Justice Department claimed the U.S. did not knowingly help smuggle guns to Mexico, including those later found at the murder scene of border agent Brian Terry,” Fox News reported.
Issa has said he believes the Justice Department is involved in a “cover-up,” claiming that high-level department officials knew about the controversial Fast and Furious tactics and perhaps even approved them, according to The Hill.
Holder has denied knowing about the tactics and has defended most of the DOJ officials around him, although the two top officials at the ATF were reassigned.
Issa responded to Holder’s letter on Monday by writing back with a proposal that Holder deliver about 1,300 documents pertaining to the Feb. 4 letter, plus a description of the documents he will not produce so that the committee can “determine whether the department has substantially met its obligations.”
But Issa is under pressure from House Speaker John Boehner to drop the Fast and Furious probe because Boehner fears it could be an election year distraction harmful to Republicans, Fox reported.
If Issa and Holder cannot come to an agreement on Tuesday, Republicans on Issa’s committee are certain to pass the contempt vote. The committee is composed of 22 Republicans and 16 Democrats.
But getting a contempt measure to a House vote could be problematical. Sources told Fox that Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor do not support the vote against Holder. As a result, some Republicans fear Issa may be forced to come to an accommodation with Holder so he doesn’t appear to walk away empty-handed.
Fast and Furious authorized the sale of nearly 2,000 guns to straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels, with the aim of tracking the guns and dismantling the illegal trafficking routes. But the ATF failed to monitor the movement of the weapons, and it’s estimated that hundreds of the guns remain in the hands of criminals.
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