The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has circulated to committee members a draft of a contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., citing the "refusal" of the nation's top prosecutor to cooperate in an investigation of the botched "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation.
The 64-page draft resolution and accompanying 17-page staff briefing paper explain what Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and committee chairman, called the "reckless conduct" of the Fast and Furious investigation, the "hardships" faced by the family of a U.S. Border Patrol agent killed with a weapon purchased in the probe, how agents who blew the whistle on the operation faced retaliation, and the "carnage in Mexico" that Fast and Furious helped fuel.
Investigations by Mr. Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, found that ATF had allowed more than 2,000 weapons [-] including AK-47 assault rifles [-] to be "walked" to Mexican drug smugglers. Two Romanian-made AK-47s purchased during the probe were found at the site of the December 2010 shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, who was killed just north of the Arizona border town of Nogales.
Mr. Grassley noted on Thursday that the Justice Department and Mr. Holder initially denied gunwalking occurred, but have since withdrawn the denials and admitted that ATF whistleblowers were right to complain about the tactic. He said that despite the constitutional responsibility of Congress to conduct oversight of the executive branch, the Justice Department "stonewalled every step" of the Fast and Furious investigation. He said the department provided 80,000 pages of documents to its Office of Inspector General in connection with Fast and Furious, but only 6,000 pages of documents to Congress.
"Congressman Issa deserves credit for moving forward on contempt. The attorney general and the Justice Department are thumbing their nose at the constitutional authority provided to the legislative branch to conduct oversight," Mr. Grassley said, adding that Mr. Holder is facing a "real test of leadership."
"He can force the department to come clean, or he can force a high-stakes political conflict between the legislative and executive branches," he said. "It´s past time to hold accountable those public officials responsible for our own government´s role in walking guns into the hands of criminals."