Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement Wednesday following a House committee's vote to hold him in contempt of Congress over withholding 'Fast and Furious' documents:
“In recent months, the Justice Department has made unprecedented accommodations to respond to information requests by Chairman Issa about misguided law enforcement tactics that began in the previous administration and allowed illegal guns to be taken into Mexico. Department professionals have spent countless hours compiling and providing thousands of documents -- nearly 8,000 -- to Chairman Issa and his committee. My staff has had numerous meetings with congressional staff to try and accommodate these requests and yesterday, I met with Chairman Issa to offer additional internal Department documents and information that would satisfy what he identified as the Committee’s single outstanding question.
Unfortunately, Chairman Issa has rejected all of these efforts to reach a reasonable accommodation. Instead, he has chosen to use his authority to take an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch. This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer. It's an election-year tactic intended to distract attention -- and, as a result -- has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice: Protecting the American people.
Simply put, any claims that the Justice Department has been unresponsive to requests for information are untrue. From the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth or address the problems associated with this operation and prior ones dating back to the previous Administration.
I have spent most of my career in law enforcement and worked closely with brave agents who put their lives on the line every day. I know the sacrifices they make, so as soon as allegations of gunwalking came to my attention – and well before Chairman Issa expressed any interest in this issue -- I ordered the practice stopped. I made necessary personnel changes in the Department's leadership and instituted policy changes to ensure better oversight of significant investigations. And, I directed the Department's Inspector General to open a comprehensive investigation. That investigation is ongoing, and the American people and Congress can count on it to produce a tough, independent review of the facts.
When Chairman Issa later began his own investigation, I made it clear that the Department would cooperate with all appropriate oversight requests, while still adhering to our legal obligations to protect information involving ongoing law enforcement investigations, legally-protected grand jury material and other sensitive information whose disclosure would endanger the American people or our agents investigating open cases.
The American people deserve better. That is why, I will remain focused on, and committed to, the Justice Department’s mission to protect the rights, safety, and best interests of my fellow citizens and to stand by my brave colleagues in law enforcement."