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Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHAFFETZ. Madam Chair, one of the deep concerns that we have is the investigation of Fast and Furious. We have to remember that unfortunately we lost one of our Border Patrol agents who was out on patrol serving this Nation. He was killed with weapons that were distributed under a program called Fast and Furious.

This is a sad case of government gone amok, making terrible, awful, deadly decisions; the administration knowingly and willingly allowing guns to walk from gun shops--contrary to what U.S. law is--allowing nearly 2,000 weapons to be released out, knowing that these weapons would be given to the drug cartels, knowing that giving these guns to these very nefarious characters with the hope that maybe they would pop up and we would find out who's using these guns. Well, there are tragic, desperate consequences to what happened.

What should be totally unacceptable on both sides of the aisle is the idea and the notion that the Department of Justice would knowingly and willfully lie to Congress. Senator Grassley had presented the Department of Justice a letter directly to Attorney General Holder. Senator Grassley directly gave to Attorney General Holder a concern expressed in a letter that there were guns walking. It's a term, it's an expression that says we allow people to come in under straw purchasing--which is illegal--to buy guns and weapons for somebody else, and that despite what the ATF and the Department of Justice were doing, they weren't tracking these. They allowed these gun purchases to happen in these gun shops, and then they were let out in the greater Arizona area and allowed these guns to walk.

The consequences have been absolutely tragic. We have a dead Border Patrol agent, and the Mexican Government estimates nearly 300 people have died within Mexico. Very few of these weapons have been recovered. In fact, the Attorney General has testified that there will be crimes committed with these weapons in all likelihood for years to come.

What is totally and wholly unacceptable, I think, to this body and the integrity, despite Republicans and Democrats, is that the Department of Justice would knowingly and willfully present a letter back to Congress on February 4 that was so inaccurate, it was so wrong, and essentially they lied to Congress. It took months and months and months and months to get to the point where they finally had to rescind that letter, where they had to admit that this was a fundamentally flawed program at its very core.

Now, we've been seeking documents. We've been seeking information. We have issued subpoenas. We've been patient beyond belief, but we've mostly been stonewalled. That information has not been forthcoming. What this amendment simply says is that they will not be allowed to be able to use Federal funds--taxpayer dollars--to knowingly, willfully skirt the law and lie to Congress.

Now, on February 4, 2011, I want to remind Members, the Department of Justice lied to Congress about the taxes used in Fast and Furious by claiming Federal authorities make ``every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.'' They denied the allegations that the Department facilitated in the illegal sale of guns to Mexican drug cartels. But on December 2, 2011, the Department of Justice formally withdrew the February letter because it was filled with misleading, fictitious, and false statements. The December letter later went on to admit that Fast and Furious was ``a fundamentally flawed operation.''

What we're saying is you should not be able to use taxpayer funds to knowingly and willfully subvert Congress. You can't lie to Congress and use taxpayer dollars to do it. Surely that can be bipartisan in its approach.

All we ask is for the truth. In fact, there were more than a dozen--in fact,
more than two dozen Members of the Democratic Party serving in Congress who sent a letter to the White House expressing the idea and the notion that the administration should be open and forthright in providing this information to Congress, but it has not been forthcoming. It has not been accurate. In fact, it was a lie.

As we look to Brian Terry, who served this country, we owe it to him and to his family to get to the truth of what happened in Fast and Furious. And no taxpayer dollars should ever be used to knowingly and willfully lie to Congress.

We as a body, as an institution, deserve to get to the bottom of this. We have not had all these answers. On March 25, 2011, President Obama stood in an interview and told the world that they would hold somebody responsible, that Eric Holder wasn't responsible for this and that they would hold somebody responsible and make sure that it doesn't happen again. To date, Madam Chair, that has not happened. In fact, the senior management there at the Department of Justice got promotions; some of them got bonuses. Nobody's been fired at the senior levels over there. We're not just looking for somebody to get fired; we've got to make sure that it never, ever happens again.

So I would encourage Members to support this amendment. We should do so in a bipartisan way.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. CHAFFETZ. Madam Chair, I want to quote President Obama in his first remarks as President of the United States:

Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this Presidency ..... I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness ..... But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent and of holding it accountable; and I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law ..... The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.

This country should be embarrassed by what is happening in Fast and Furious. My challenge to Members on both sides of the aisle is to stand up and have the integrity to say that we have a dead U.S. agent and that we have a Department of Justice that lied to Congress. Where are the guts in this body to stand up and say we're not going to put up with that, that we're going to demand that these documents be provided to Congress? We know, because the inspector general within the Department of Justice has said, they have 80,000 documents. They've given Congress about 7,000 of those documents. This is the test of principle. This is the test of integrity. When you can't stand up and take on your own party, that's a lack of guts. This Congress has got to stand up for itself and demand that these documents be released.

I would encourage Members on both sides of the aisle, at the very least, to vote for this amendment. I can't imagine any reason why anybody would deny the passage of this amendment. We're not going to allow taxpayer dollars to be used to lie to Congress. Unfortunately, we have been lied to. That is the reason we have to offer this amendment. It's embarrassing that we have to even get to this point.

Madam Chair, Brian Terry's family expects it, and the integrity of this body demands it. Regardless of whether it's Republican or Democrat, we cannot rest until we get to the bottom of that.

You can make the case that part of this started with President Bush. We don't know what's in these documents; but with the separation of powers, it's imperative that we get to the bottom of this and that we hold people accountable--and not just the lowest level of people down at the ATF. They've been dismissed. They've been harassed. Thank goodness for those whistleblowers who stood up and did the right thing. But at the senior level, the senior people at the Department of Justice, they have not been held accountable. President Obama said in these remarks that he would. On March 25, he went on Univision and promised that they would. It has not happened.

If we get stonewalling on the other side of the aisle--without your support--we will do a disservice to this country; we will do a disservice to this body, and we will not get to the truth. I promise you, when there is a Republican President, I will stand with you and will demand the openness and transparency that this body deserves. I've done it. I've challenged my own party. Have the guts, have the fortitude, to do the right thing.

I appreciate Chairman Issa, Representative Gowdy, Mr. Gosar, Mr. Farenthold--there are so many people in this body--and I appreciate my colleague from South Carolina, who are passionate about this issue. I urge all Members to vote in favor of this amendment.


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