Published October 12, 2011
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a subpoena Wednesday to Attorney General Eric Holder as part of his investigation into the gun trafficking operation known as "Fast and Furious."
"Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged," the California Republican said in a statement. "The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It's time we know the whole truth."
The subpoena seeks, among other things, all communications regarding the operation from 16 top Justice officials, including Holder, his chief of staff, Gary Grindler, and the head of the department's criminal division, Lanny Breuer, as well as correspondence on specific dates to and from the former head of the ATF's Phoenix field division, William Newell.
It also asks for all documents and communications referring or relating to the murder of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata, including any correspondence outlining the details of Zapata's mission at the time he was murdered.
Zapata was killed in a drug cartel ambush on a northern Mexican highway with a gun that was purchased in a town outside Forth Worth, Texas. Three Dallas-area men -- one accused of buying the gun, his brother and their neighbor -- are facing federal weapons charges, although none related to Zapata's death.
Congressional investigators are also demanding information regarding the investigation into the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Two guns found at Terry's crime scene were linked to the failed operation that allowed more than 2,000 weapons to "walk."
The subpoena asks for correspondence that Justice Department officials had with the White House about the gun trafficking operation, as well as what information was shared by Justice officials in Mexico.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, sharply criticized Issa for sending the subpoena.
"This subpoena is a deep-sea fishing expedition and a gross abuse of the committee's authority," he said. "It demands tens of thousands of pages of highly sensitive law enforcement and national security materials that have never been requested before and are completely unrelated to Operation Fast and Furious. Rather than legitimate fact-gathering, this looks more like a political stunt."
This second subpoena follows the first one issued in March to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Asked about the development Tuesday, Holder said his department "will undoubtedly comply with them," noting that Justice officials have already sent "thousands of pages of documents up to the Hill."
But Holder wouldn't answer whether he or anyone else at the department knew about the controversial tactics.
Holder addressed the matter at the end of a press conference about an alleged Iran-tied terror plot foiled by U.S. investigators. "What I want the American people to understand is that in complying with those subpoenas and dealing with that inquiry, that will not detract us from the important business that we have here to do at the Justice Department, including matters like the one that we have announced today," Holder said.
The new subpoena follows a week of back and forth between congressional investigators and Justice Department officials of "who knew what, when." Under scrutiny was Holder's testimony from May 3 when he told Issa that he "probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
Fox News obtained documents addressed to Holder as early as nine months before that, which described the concept of Fast and Furious.
In addition to the congressional investigation being led by Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, is calling for a special counsel to look into the matter.
Fox News' William Lajeunesse and Mike Levine contributed to this report.