House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa announced plans Sunday to issue more subpoenas to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department in the ongoing Operation Fast and Furious congressional investigation.
“We want to know: what did they know and when did they know it,” Issa said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But, more specifically, we have to understand, at what level did the authorization come? It wasn’t an ATF operation — they were part of that.”
“It was a joint operation, the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] knew more than ATF knew,” Issa continued. “And, of course, these are all part of the Department of Justice, and as we’re beginning to see, and we’re not talking about Eric Holder at this moment, people at the top of Justice were well-briefed, knew about it and seemed to be in command and controlled funding of this program.”
It’s unclear if Holder and the DOJ will comply with this round of subpoenas. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler did not respond Sunday to The Daily Caller when asked if the administration will respond to Issa’s new subpoenas.
But Issa hopes they will.
“Any law enforcement person who’s been asked under oath, or not under oath, comes back and says, ‘this wasn’t the right way to do it,’” Issa told Fox News. “Well, when did they know it wasn’t the right way to do it and why did they keep doing it?”
Last week, briefing memos surfaced showing that Holder was personally informed about the details of Operation Fast and Furious as early as July 2010. Holder received at least five written briefings containing Operation Fast and Furious details last summer and was sent another detailed memo in November 2010. Emails between other top Justice Department officials show they were concerned about the consequences of allowing a significant number of guns to “walk” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels via “straw purchasers.”
Letting guns “walk” means that Justice Department officials allowed “straw purchasers” to buy weapons and sell them, without any tracking or surveillance, to Mexican drug cartels. Straw purchasers are people who could legally buy guns in the United States but were doing so with the known intention of selling them to drug cartels.
After the latest documents pertaining to the investigation were released, Holder was accused of potentially misleading Congress about his knowledge of the program. During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, Holder said multiple times during the hearing that he had only learned about Operation Fast and Furious within the last several weeks. The DOJ subsequently told CBS News that Holder learned about the operation much earlier, just not in significant detail.
In light of the seeming contradiction, three Republican congressmen have called for Holder’s immediate resignation.
On Friday, Holder pushed back against allegations that he misled Congress about his knowledge of Fast and Furious.
“Much has been made in the past few days about my congressional testimony earlier this year regarding Fast and Furious,” Holder wrote in a letter to Issa and other top members of Congress. “My testimony was truthful and accurate and I have been consistent on this point throughout. I have no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious or of hearing its name prior to the public controversy about it.”
That statement contradicts what the DOJ told CBS News last week — that Holder did know about Fast and Furious, just not the intricate details of the program. Now, Holder is again claiming he did not know about Fast and Furious, or even hear its name, prior to the public controversy that erupted over the program in the spring.
The DOJ has refused multiple requests from TheDC to explain the inconsistency.
Though details about Operation Fast and Furious were included in his weekly briefings, Holder told Congress in a letter he doesn’t always read entirety of his briefings, which are often in excess of 100 pages. In a Saturday morning interview, Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar told TheDC that Holder’s admission that he doesn’t read his briefings was “very troubling.”
“They [the memos] ought to have been [read by Holder] and this ought to have been a high priority,” Gosar said. “I don’t give anybody any kind of relay, the buck stops here.”
Issa was asked on Fox News whether he plans to subpoena Holder to testify before the House oversight committee. Issa didn’t say definitively whether he would or wouldn’t, but he did say the Judiciary Committee has offered Holder an opportunity to correct the record.
“The Judiciary Committee, on which I also serve where that question got asked, has invited him to come and clear the record,” Issa said. “Clearly he knew, when he said he didn’t know, now the question is what did he know and how is he going to explain that answer?”