Published June 20, 2012
GOP Rep. Darrell Issa said his face-to-face meeting Tuesday with Attorney General Eric Holder failed to produce the documents requested for the congressional investigation into the Justice Department’s botched Fast and Furious gun walking operation and suggested he needs them by Wednesday morning to stop a scheduled vote to put Holder in contempt of Congress.
Issa told reporters after the roughly 20-minute meeting that Holder instead briefed them on the documents in lieu of delivering them. And he suggested he might delay the contempt vote, called for because Holder and the department have not responded to two subpoenas requesting additional information.
“The deadline will always move to the last minute,” said Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “We're not looking to hold people responsible. We're looking for document production.”
Issa also acknowledged being “disappointed” that he and Holder could not reach a deal that would stop the contempt vote.
The failed Fast and Furious operation attempted selling thousands of guns to arms dealers along the U.S.-Mexico border to trace them to leaders of drug cartels. However, many of them showed up in crime scenes, including where U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a shoot out.
Congressional investigators have been trying to determine if and when high-level Justice officials knew about problems with the operation.
Holder said Issa rejected what he thought was “an extraordinary offer.”
"We offered the documents that we thought would resolve the subpoenas,” he said. “The ball is in their court.”
The contempt vote in the oversight committee will likely pass considering Republicans outnumber Democrats 22 to 16.
GOP House leadership has given Issa the green light to proceed how he sees fit, sources told Fox News, which suggests the vote would reach the House floor.
Holder called for the Capitol Hill meeting late Monday in a possible attempt to make a deal with Issa and avoid the contempt vote.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight panel, said he after the meeting he is confident that Justice officials are not attempting a cover-up by withholding documents.
Holder’s letter stated the Justice Department "has offered a serious, good faith proposal to bring this matter to an amicable resolution in the form of a briefing based on documents that the committee could retain."
Issa had demanded to see a trove of documents on the controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation. He also wants to know who prepared a now-retracted letter from Feb. 4, 2011, in which the department claimed the U.S. did not knowingly help smuggle guns to Mexico, including those found where Terry was killed.
Issa wrote back to Holder later Monday requesting he deliver roughly 1,300 documents pertaining to the Feb. 4 letter.
The letter also stated Holder needed to deliver a description of all the documents he will not produce. Issa said the log is "essential for the committee to determine whether the department has substantially met its obligations” – a statement he repeated Tuesday after the meeting.