Issa to Holder: ‘Fast and Furious will be your legacy’

Matthew Boyle | Investigative Reporter

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa shot back at Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, saying the DOJ’s recent claims that Holder has complied Operation Fast and Furious subpoenas are “disappointing.”

Issa called a May 3 letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole claiming that Holder has complied with the subpoenas “regurgitated misleading numbers and irrelevant internal memoranda disguised as legal opinions to make the case that the department has cooperated with the committee’s investigation.”

Issa served Holder a subpoena on Oct. 12, 2011. Holder has thus far failed to comply fully with all 22 categories of the subpoena that requires him to provide Congress with documents relating to Fast and Furious. With 13 of the categories, Holder has provided no documents. When it comes to the other nine subpoena categories, Holder is still far from compliant, as TheDC reported late last week.

In that May 3 letter, Cole said that the DOJ has provided Issa with “more than 7,600 pages of material as part of 46 separate productions of documents.”

While that may be the case, the Department of Justice has said that Holder gave up tens of thousands more pages to his own internal inspector general. Issa said those “7,600 pages shared with the committee are a small fraction” of what Holder has given to Congress.

Issa added that “other sources,” like whistle-blowers, have given his committee much more than the 7,600 pages of documents Holder has submitted.

Issa said that documents Holder has provided were “heavily redacted, to the point that the redactions were laughable. Literally.” (RELATED: House Democrats join Fast and Furious accountability efforts)

Issa then cited a segment comedian Jon Stewart did on “The Daily Show” in which Stewart described mostly-redacted documents as “prized Mondrians from his famed black period.” Mondrian was an artist who was famous for cubist paintings.

Issa compared the DOJ’s assertions of cooperation to “Waiting for Godot,” a British play in which two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly for the arrival of someone named Godot.

“For those of us on the committee, waiting for the department to move off its misguided position and produce the documents we seek has been like waiting for Godot,” Issa wrote to Holder. “Like Vladimir and Estragon, we held out hope despite mounting evidence that nothing is going to show up. We cannot wait any longer.”

The top oversight Republican also attacked the Department of Justice’s reasoning for withholding documents.

“For over a year, the department has failed to cite a single piece of legal authority or case law that supports its refusal to produce documents to Congress,” Issa wrote. “Instead, the department has the audacity to cite internal memoranda — drafted by the department’s own lawyers — to support the position that DOJ does not have to produce documents to a co-equal branch of government when they are related to ongoing criminal investigations.”

The DOJ has not cited executive privilege in any of its failures to provide documents. Issa wrote in his Thursday letter to Holder that there was at least the appearance that President Barack Obama may “assert the executive privilege” to withhold documents related to Fast and Furious in Cole’s letter to him on May 3, but it wasn’t exactly clear. Issa asked Holder to clarify whether Obama is citing executive privilege.

DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler didn’t answer when asked if Holder and Obama are going to cite executive privilege when it comes to documents in the Fast and Furious subpoena DOJ has failed to comply with.

Issa debunked the DOJ narrative that it won’t give up documents related to ongoing or open law enforcement case, too. In Cole’s letter to Issa on May 3, he said that the DOJ only provides congressional committee with access to open law enforcement files “in extraordinary cases.”

“This is in fact an extraordinary case,” Issa wrote to Holder. “Congress is investigating the Justice Department for helping arm the Sinaloa Cartel — the most powerful and dangerous drug cartel in the world. The full extent of the casualties of Fast and Furious may never be known.”

“Had department leadership not authorized the sale of arms to people working for the Sinaloa Cartel, then Congress would not need the documents specified in the subpoena to understand what went wrong,” Issa added. “Had the department not lied to gun store owners about the scope of the firearms trafficking investigation, then Congress would not need the documents specified in the subpoena to understand what went wrong. The documents we seek correlate precisely with the enormity of the department’s failure with respect to all aspects of Fast and Furious.”

Issa had a personal message for Holder about his leadership failures, too. He pointed out how with the Secret Service prostitution scandal, the agency “readily acknowledged a problem, began a thorough and extensive internal investigation, and immediately placed a dozen employees on administrative leave,” adding that “all this occurred within four days, and with Congress being briefed constantly.”

“In contrast, when faced with the Fast and Furious scandal, the Department of Justice battened down the hatches and began developing a public relations strategy,” Issa wrote to Holder. “The Fast and Furious scandal will be your legacy as attorney general.”

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