House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa has formally requested Attorney General Eric Holder‘s presence before his committee on Jan. 24, 2012, in a hearing that will examine Operation Fast and Furious.
“The hearing will examine flaws in the management structure of the Justice Department as demonstrated in the genesis and implementation of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa wrote in his request to Holder. “Specifically, the hearing will focus on what senior Department officials could and should have done to put a stop to this reckless program, as well as the specific areas where failures in communication and management occurred.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Eric Holder)
Issa cites a February 4, 2011, letter Holder’s deputy Ronald Weich sent to Congress. The letter falsely stated that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) never allowed guns to “walk” to Mexico. Holder and several of his deputies have since admitted that statement was not true.
The letter, which Issa sent Thursday and released to press on Monday, shows Issa’s staff has attempted to coordinate at least “six alternate dates” in January and February for a hearing, but Holder’s team has not responded. Issa requested a response from Holder by Jan. 3 about whether he will agree to a Jan. 24 hearing date.
The letter is simply a request, and does not compel Holder to appear. But if the attorney general chooses to ignore the letter, Issa may subpoena him. A subpoena would compel Holder to testify or risk contempt of Congress proceedings.
During a Dec. 8 House Judiciary Committee hearing, Holder refused to agree to testify voluntarily when Issa asked if needed to serve him a subpoena. Holder only agreed to “consider” any of Issa’s requests.