Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder is “leading us down a path where we have no other choice” but to begin efforts to hold him in contempt of Congress because of how long the Justice Department has taken to comply with a Fast and Furious subpoena.
Chaffetz said the House Oversight Committee has sought 80,000 documents, “of which they have only given us about 7,000. We have issued a subpoena. We have bent over backwards to be patient and take time,” Chaffetz, a member of Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) Oversight Committee, said on Fox News.
“Are you ready to hold Eric Holder in contempt?” asked his interviewer.
“He is leading us down a path where we have no other choice. That’s what I’m worried about. There are other options on the table,” Chaffetz said.
“We can end this tonight if the Department of Justice will turn over these documents and hold the senior-most individuals at the Department of Justice accountable for their actions,” he added.
On Friday, it was reported by the L.A. Times that Republican House leaders had drafted a proposed contempt of Congress citation against Holder, alleging he and the Justice Department have “obstructed and slowed” the Congressional investigation into the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.
The Justice Department told POLITICO on Friday that it strongly disputed the notion that it wasn’t complying with the Congressional subpoena, pointing out that it has regularly sent documents to Congressional investigators and had provided officials for hearings, briefings and interviews. A Justice Department spokesperson further noted that Attorney General Holder has testified on the issue of Fast and Furious at least seven times in the past year.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), also a member of the Oversight Committee, threatened Thursday that if Holder didn’t fully respond to the subpoena by Memorial Day on May 28th, the contempt of Congress proceedings would begin and the Justice Department could see a cut in funding.
“I talked to Chairman Issa who as you know is a patient man but even his patience has limits. Before Memorial Day, Eric Holder will either comply or he will suffer consequences and when I say consequences I mean contempt of Congress,” said Gowdy on Fox’s “On the Record with greta Van Susteren.”
“I also want to add his appropriations bill is on the floor of the House in two weeks. Unless they want to sell paper clips and scrap metal to raise money for the Department of Justice, there will be many amendments gutting the appropriations for his department if he keeps playing this game,” Gowdy added.
Issa and other Republicans have previously threatened to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress.
In January, Issa wrote a letter to Holder, saying “this committee will have no alternative but to move forward with proceedings to hold you in contempt of Congress” if Holder and the DOJ didn’t produce documents they demanded relating to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.
In February, the Oversight Committee chairman escalated the threat further, asking the Justice Department to designate an individual to “serve as a conduit for dealing with the contempt proceedings, should the department continue to ignore the committee’s subpoena.”
Chaffetz said that despite the urgent nature of the situation the Justice Department has not fully complied with the questions of Congressional investigators.
“You have a dead U.S. Border Patrol Agent, you have thousands of weapons that were knowingly given out by the Department of Justice to the bad guys. We gave them to the criminals. We have nearly 300 dead in Mexico and a host of questions that that the Department of Justice has never, ever answered,” said the Utah Republican.
Under the Fast and Furious program, weapons were allowed to be illegally purchased in hopes of tracking gun traffickers and drug cartel leaders. But the ATF, which operates within the Justice Department, lost track of these firearms, and many were allowed to cross into Mexico.
Firearms linked to the operation were later found to have been involved in the December 2010 shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, bringing the operation to public attention.
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