The Department of Justice has ended its Obama-era Operation Chokepoint initiative, which aimed to block some businesses, including firearm dealers and payday lenders, from having access to bank loans.
The department made the revelation in response to an inquiry from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte Thursday.
In a letter to Goodlatte and ranking committee member John Conyers, Assistant Attorney General Stephen F. Boyd wrote that DOJ considers Operation Chokepoint a “misguided initiative conducted during the previous administration.”
The news was first reported by Politico.
“We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor,” Boyd wrote. “Enforcement decisions should always be made be based on facts and the applicable law.”
Operation Chokepoint was started in 2013 and involved the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) targeting certain “elevated risk” businesses.
“The FDIC subsequently rescinded its list of purportedly ‘high risk’ merchants. The Department of Justice (Department) strongly agrees with that withdrawal,” Boyd wrote. “All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over. The initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again.”
Boyd did note that some of the responses to the subpoenas did lead to discovery of other criminal activity involving particular individuals and non-bank activities.
“To the extent the Department continues to pursue those ancillary investigations, none relates to or seeks to deter lawful conduct,” Boyd stated.
The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action applauded the Justice Department’s decision to cease the Obama era initiative.
“On behalf of the NRA’s five-million members, I want to thank President Trump and Attorney General Sessions for ending ‘Operation Choke Point’,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA. “President Obama’s blatant attempt to misuse banking laws to destroy small firearm businesses was unconscionable. We appreciate the Trump administration’s commitment to end it once and for all.”
Cox went on to say, “’Operation Choke Point’ was an Obama administration initiative that encouraged federal financial regulators to harass and intimidate banks and financial institutions that had business relationships with firearm and ammunition retailers. By leaning on the banks, regulators hoped to choke off their cash flow and force them out of business. A 2015 Congressional Investigation revealed that ammunition and firearm businesses were targeted as part of this effort.”
He added, “The federal government should not be allowed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” concluded Cox. “This announcement is the latest in a long line of Trump administration successes in rolling back the failed policies of the Obama administration.”