GOP House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday the chamber will likely file a lawsuit to compel the Justice Department to release more documents related to the investigation into the federal government’s Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.
Boehner, R-Ohio, said the suit could be filed within the next several weeks, following the GOP-led House approving two resolutions Thursday that put Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide additional documents to congressional investigators.
"The American people have a right to know what happened," Boehner said on CBS's “Face the Nation.”
The criminal contempt resolution opened the door for the House to call on the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the case before a grand jury. But Deputy Attorney General James Cole told Boehner in a letter Friday that the agency would not prosecute, saying Holder failing to release the documents "does not constitute a crime."
However, the second, civil contempt resolution grants the House the ability to ask a court to compel the Justice Department to hand over the documents.
President Obama has already asserted executive privilege over the documents in question.
The votes follow a 16-month investigation led by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew said on "Fox News Sunday" that the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Holder was based on a Reagan administration memo and that the House’s continued efforts are “political” and a “fishing expedition.”
The non-defunct Operation Fast and Furious was run out of an Arizona field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is under the Justice Department.
It involved putting roughly 2,000 assault guns into the hands of arms dealers, then allowing the guns to cross the U.S.-Mexico border with the expectation they would resurface at crime scenes and lead agents to organizers of Mexican drug cartels.
However, two of the weapons were found where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a 2010 shootout.
Issa has more recently focused on a February 2011 letter from the Justice Department to Congress that falsely stated ATF made “every effort” to interdict the illegally purchased guns and stop them from going into Mexico.