House Speaker John Boehner and his top deputies are stepping up pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder in an effort to enforce the congressional subpoena of documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious.
On Friday, Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa joined forces to fire off a letter to Holder.
“We write to express our concerns with the lack of full cooperation from the Department of Justice with the ongoing Congressional investigation into the operation known as ‘Fast & Furious’ and the related death of Border Agent Brian Terry,” the House leaders wrote to Holder.
Holder has thus far failed to comply with all 22 categories of the subpoena Issa served him in October 2011. The subpoena requires him to provide Congress with documents relating to Fast and Furious. On 13 of the categories, Holder has provided no documents. On the other nine subpoena categories, Holder is still far from compliant.
The House GOP leaders said there are “two key questions” that “remain unanswered.”
“[F]irst, 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 letter reads.
Issa says he is planning to move forward with contempt of Congress proceedings against Holder if he does not comply with the subpoena. Earlier this week, Deputy Attorney General James Cole claimed that his boss has complied with the subpoena and alleged that the potential contempt proceedings would be “unwarranted.”
In their Friday letter to Holder, though, Boehner and his deputies said they were “troubled” with the Department of Justice’s “assertions that the Executive Branch possesses the ability to determine whether inquiries from the Legislative Branch have been fully complied with.”
“As the Supreme Court has noted, each co-equal branch of our Government is supreme in their assigned area of Constitutional duties,” the GOP leaders wrote. “Thus, the question of whether the Executive Branch has sufficiently complied with a Congressional subpoena requesting specific information pursuant to Congress’ Article I responsibilities is one only the Legislative Branch can answer.”
The House GOP leaders called Fast and Furious “a fundamentally flawed operation” and insisted the DOJ “take steps to ensure that tragic mismanagement like Fast & Furious does not occur in the future.” They said that, unless Holder complies with Issa’s subpoena, “the American people cannot be confident that any remedial steps you implement will accomplish this goal.”
Boehner and his deputies also said that the Mexican government and the family of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry – who was murdered with a Fast and Furious weapon in December 2010 – should be assured that changes have been made at the DOJ.
“Beyond the horrific impact on the Terry family, there is no doubt that this operation has done serious harm to one of United States’ most important bilateral relationships,” they wrote to Holder. “It is our hope that, in finding the truth, we can both provide closure to the Terry family, begin to repair our relationship with Mexico, and take steps to make necessary changes at the Department.”
While the GOP leaders don’t use the word “contempt” in their Friday letter to Holder, they do say they’re planning to take action soon if Holder doesn’t comply with the subpoena.
“As co-equal branches of the U.S. Government, the relationship between the Legislative and Executive branches must be predicated on honest communications and cannot be clouded by allegations of obstruction,” they wrote. “If necessary, the House will act to fulfill our Constitutional obligations in the coming weeks. It is our hope that, with your cooperation, this sad chapter in the history of American law enforcement can be put behind us.”
The letter from the House GOP leadership comes after a group of Republican freshmen members on the House Judiciary Committee pushed Boehner and Cantor for a floor vote to hold Holder in contempt.
“Eric Holder was the attorney general when U.S. border patrol agent Brian Terry was killed by criminals using guns linked to Operation Fast and Furious,” the six freshmen Judiciary Committee members wrote to House GOP leadership earlier this week. “As the heads of the Department of Justice, he is responsible for all activities within the department.”
Boehner has recently become more vocal in his support for Issa’s investigation. Last week, he publicly threw his weight behind Issa’s efforts to enforce the subpoena.
“All options are on the table,” Boehner said at a press conference.
At a Wednesday lunch this week with President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders, Boehner told the president he needs to make Holder comply with the subpoena. “The speaker also asked the president to encourage the attorney general to provide the information congressional investigators have sought about the Fast and Furious operation,” a Boehner aide wrote in an email to TheDC.
It’s unclear what, if anything, Obama said in response to Boehner as the White House has refused to comment.