The Department of Justice turned over 64,280 pages of documents related to Operation Fast and Furious on Monday– timing that Republican members believe is suspicious.
A majority of the 64,280 pages are outside the scope of executive privilege, despite President Barack Obama’s invocation of the right, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said in a press release chiding the timing of the release.
The documents pertain to Operation Fast and Furious, a sting operation started by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in October 2009. In it, ATF tracked guns sold out of Arizona gun shops. One of the weapons that was supposed to be tracked in the operation was used in the fatal December 2010 shooting of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry.
The release comes after a federal judge ruled on Aug. 20 that the DOJ must turn over documents sought by the oversight committee. The agency had withheld them after Obama asserted executive privilege to block their release the night before Attorney General Eric Holder was to be held in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for failing to turn them over.
“The sheer volume of last night’s document production — which consists entirely of documents that the Justice Department itself acknowledges are not covered by executive privilege — shows that the president and the attorney general attempted to extend the scope of the executive privilege well beyond its historical boundaries to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama administration officials,” reads the oversight committee press release.
According to the press release, around two-thirds of the released documents are “well outside the scope of Executive Privilege.”
“When Eric Holder wants to know why he was the first attorney general held in criminal contempt of Congress, he can read the judge’s order that compelled the production of 64,280 pages that he and President Obama illegitimately and illegally withheld from Congress,” Issa said in a statement.
“Since these pages still do not represent the entire universe of the documents the House of Representatives is seeking related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of the botched gun-walking scandal that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent, our court case will continue.”
Issa, who will turn over his leadership position on the committee in January, said that investigative staff will be pouring over the documents before the committee publishes them.