Justice Dept. tries to cut Fast and Furious deal with Congress
The Department of Justice told Republican House leadership in a Tuesday letter that it hopes to reach an agreement with congressional overseers on how much information about Operation Fast and Furious it is required to hand over.
Congressional Republicans have threatened to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not fully complying with a 22-part subpoena served last October.
The letter comes amid reports that House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa has obtained evidence proving that senior Justice Department officials approved Operation Fast and Furious gunwalking tactics.
The Justice Department letter was in response to a request Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Issa sent in mid-May.
“Following the receipt of your letter, the department has had a number of constructive conversations with staff aimed at satisfying the legitimate goals of congressional oversight while, at the same time, ensuring the integrity and independence of the department’s law enforcement efforts,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to those congressional leaders on Tuesday afternoon.
Holder and the DOJ, he added, think the GOP leadership’s May 18 letter “was a helpful step toward reaching a resolution of the issues in dispute.” (RELATED: Documents prove senior Justice officials approved of Fast and Furious, Issa says)
“We are hopeful that these ongoing conversations will lead to a mutually acceptable resolution of these issues and continue to provide the kinds of information that would answer your questions,” Cole wrote. “While our staffs continue to discuss these issues, I want to reiterate that I remain available to meet with you personally.”
Boehner, Cantor, McCarthy and Issa’s mid-May letter specified “two key questions” that “remain unanswered.”
“First, who on your leadership team was informed of the reckless tactics used in the Fast & Furious prior to Agent Terry’s murder; and, second, did your leadership team mislead or misinform Congress in response to a Congressional subpoena?” the May 18 letter reads.
Cole also responded frostily to Issa’s claim to have obtained documents showing that senior Justice Department officials approved of Operation Fast and Furious.
Cole accused the committee of obtaining the documents illegally.
“This is of great concern to us,” Cole wrote. “While we are legally prohibited from commenting on the content of sealed court documents, we disagree with the chairman’s assertions.”
Issa said that the documents show that Holder and several other Department of Justice officials in the Obama administration provided “false” statements to Congress.
Follow Matthew on Twitter