Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for refusing to turn over documents requested by the committee in its investigation into the Fast and Furious operation. For those unfamiliar with it, Fast and Furious was a secret operation by Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm (ATF) that allowed guns to "walk" across the border to Mexican drug cartels in the hopes of tracking the guns and catching members of the cartel. After a whistleblower came forward and disclosed the operation, it was discovered that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered with one of the Fast and Furious guns.
The documents at issue are internal communications after the Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter on February 4, 2011 Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) broadly denying that the tactics at the heart of the Fast and Furious operation were ever used. After the letter was sent, more information came forward disputing this claim and in December 2011 DOJ rescinded the letter. The documents, according to Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, would show how much the DOJ knew about Fast and Furious and would establish whether or not they lied to Congress purposefully in their February 4th letter.
Chairman Issa offered a resolution earlier this week so that the contempt vote could be at least postponed, but AG Holder would only agree to turn over the documents if Issa and the committee essentially stopped investigating Fast and Furious. The vote followed a last minute assertion of executive privilege over the documents in question by President Obama. This is an interesting turn of events because when running for office, then-Senator Obama attacked then-President George W. Bush for trying "to hide behind executive privilege."
Congressional Democrats, of course, were strongly opposed to holding the vote. But as Congressman Trey Gowdy (SC-04), "not only does Congress have the right to ask these questions, they have the fundamental duty to do so." I am pleased the committee is finally holding AG Holder accountable for lying to Congress and withholding documents that would further prove his department's involvement with Fast and Furious. And I hope they continue to push this investigation until we can get to the bottom of exactly who should be held responsible.
Operation Fast and Furious resulted in tens of thousands of guns being purposely given to drug cartels by American officials and those guns were used in countless deaths in Mexico and the United States and also used to murder a border patrol agent. This is a very serious matter. Unfortunately, the DOJ and AG Holder have continued to conceal information from Congress and the American people by refusing to turn over documents that tell who, if anyone, at DOJ knew about this operation. People absolutely must be held accountable for this operation and until DOJ turns over all the documents regarding this matter, we cannot hold everyone who participated accountable.
You know, it didn't have to come to this. AG Holder could have turned over the requested documents and cooperated. I mean, after all, he should want a resolution to this matter. He should want to know who, if anyone in his department participated in this absolute failure of an operation so he can make sure nothing like this happens again. The best way to do that is to work with Congress' investigation so we can work together to get to the bottom of what exactly happened.