Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder has a choice to make as he faces contempt of Congress proceedings: he can release the Operation Fast and Furious documents he’s withholding or he can force Congress to fight the administration.
“The Attorney General is facing a real test of leadership here,” Grassley said in a statement. “He has a choice to make. He can force the department to come clean, or he can force a high-stakes political conflict between the legislative and executive branches. 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. The family of Agent Terry deserves more than what they’re getting from this administration.”
Grassley’s statement comes on the heels of House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa distributing a briefing paper laying out the case for holding Holder in contempt and a lengthy draft of the contempt citation to Democrats and Republicans on his committee Thursday morning. That’s the first formal step toward holding Holder in contempt of Congress.
Grassley praised Issa for moving forward with the first steps of contempt for Holder.
“The subpoena authority of the House Oversight Committee, and the Chairman’s willingness to use it, helped shed light on Operation Fast and Furious and the Justice Department’s desire to allow guns to walk into the hands of Mexican drug cartels,” Grassley said. “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.”
Grassley — the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — was the first member of Congress to dig into Fast and Furious. Issa joined him shortly after he started investigating and the two have jointly investigated the program since early 2011. Grassley doesn’t have as much oversight power as Issa because Republicans are the minority party in the Senate, meaning they don’t have the subpoena power that Issa does. (SEE ALSO: House GOP releases draft of Holder’s contempt of Congress citation)
Grassley was the recipient of a February 4, 2011 letter that contained what the Department of Justice has since admitted to be a false statement. In that letter, the DOJ denied that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents ever let guns walk. The DOJ has since withdrawn that false letter.