Entries in Fast and Furious (17)


Eric Holder’s Contempt for Contempt

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder shrugged off the House’s move to hold him in contempt last year because he didn’t respect the votes by those who chose to do so.

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview on Wednesday, ABC News’ Pierre Thomas asked Holder how he reacted when House Republicans voted with 17 Democrats to hold him in contempt of Congress last June over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.

“It’s something that I think was unfortunate,” Holder said.  “I think it’s a result of this kind of partisan sport that I think we engage in here in Washington far too often.”

Holder said the votes didn’t bother him, considering who cast them.

“But I have to tell you that for me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way,” he told ABC News.  “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.”

All but three House Republicans voted to hold Holder in contempt.  Two of them, Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., have since left Congress -- meaning Holder does (or did) not respect most of the current Republican House delegation.

Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., voted against holding Holder in contempt, and House Speaker John Boehner didn’t vote, meaning Holder’s blanket statement does not apply to those two.

At issue was Holder’s compliance with a House subpoena to turn over documents related to the ATF’s Fast and Furious program to disseminate and track guns in Mexico.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., spearheaded the crusade against Holder and the Fast and Furious program, repeatedly accusing the attorney general of obscuring facts and refusing to comply with his investigation, and insinuating that top officials at the department, including Holder, likely knew about the program before terminating it.

The Justice Department maintained that it had consistently complied with Issa’s requests and that it had produced every kind of document typically handed over under such circumstances.

Holder took another jab at Republicans when asked about the current partisan stalemate over deficit reduction and the looming automatic budget cuts, which Holder says will interfere with vital law-enforcement missions and endanger U.S. security.

When asked about how much of the blame Obama’s administration deserves, Holder said he wasn’t sure “it’s an awful lot.”

“I mean, I think this president came into office with the notion that he wanted to change how Washington does business.  I think this president has extended his hand on any number of occasions,” he said.

“And I think we’ve seen too often the opposition not being what I would call a responsible opposition party, but a part that simply is opposed to anything the president has wanted to do,” Holder said.  “And I think that has led to partisan gridlock that the American people are not satisfied with and that frankly does not serve the interests of this nation.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Falsely Claims 'Fast and Furious' Began Under Bush

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Asked about the Fast and Furious program at a forum on Thursday, President Obama falsely claimed that the program began under President George W. Bush.

“I think it’s important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration,” the president said. “When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”

In actuality, the Fast and Furious program was started in October 2009, nine months into the Obama presidency.

Previous programs involving ATF agents allowing guns to “walk” across the border so as to trace them were run during the Bush presidency, but not this particular “field-initiated program.”

The Inspector General determined Attorney General Eric Holder was immediately notified that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in the line of duty, but he was not told about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious.

ABC News learned that Holder was not made aware of that fact until sometime in 2011, after he received a letter from Senator Charles Grassley on January 27, even though Senior Justice Department officials knew about the troubling information more than a month before.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Attorney General Eric Holder Sued on Fast and Furious

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has filed a civil contempt of Congress lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder in an effort to enforce a subpoena to obtain internal Justice Department memos about the botched ATF Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation.

At Holder’s request, the White House invoked executive privilege in June on the information that Rep. Issa’s committee subpoenaed seeking internal DOJ documents after drafting a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Congress that contained inaccurate information about operations at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms.

“The Attorney General’s conception of the reach of ‘Executive privilege,’ were it to be accepted, would cripple congressional oversight of Executive branch agencies, to the very great detriment of the Nation and our constitutional structure,” the lawsuit filed Monday morning at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., asserted.

“The Committee asks this Court to reject the Attorney General’s assertion of ‘Executive privilege’ and order him forthwith to comply with the Committee’s subpoena.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., have been investigating the gun trafficking operation that resulted in the ATF Phoenix Field Office’s losing track of about 2,000 guns.

The ATF’s flawed “Fast and Furious” operation allowed firearms to “walk” across the U.S. border into Mexico in hopes of tracing the guns and locating major weapons traffickers. ATF devised the program in 2009 to try to track straw purchases of firearms where a gun is legally bought but then illegally sold to another individual.

The operation took a tragic turn when two weapons found in December 2010 at the scene of murdered U.S. Border Patrol Brian Terry were found to be linked to Fast and Furious. The guns from Fast and Furious have been linked to dozens of crimes in Mexico and Arizona as well.

In seeking the president’s assertion of executive privilege, Holder wrote to president Obama that the documents in question, “were not generated in the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department’s deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.”

The executive privilege claim in the investigation was the first time Obama had asserted executive privilege during his term. The House of Representatives voted  June 28 to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to release the subpoenaed documents.

The Justice Department has produced thousands of pages of materials about Fast and Furious and attempted to reach a compromise with Issa and Grassley in the days leading up to Holder’s contempt vote.

“We were always willing to work with the Committee, instead the House and the Committee have said they prefer to litigate,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said in a statement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed, “This partisan lawsuit wastes taxpayer dollars and resources, and is a distraction from the urgent business before Congress: acting to create jobs and grow our economy.”

Issa said in announcing the lawsuit, “The president’s decision was a calculated political maneuver designed to stop the release of documents until after November’s elections. After promising an unprecedented level of transparency, the president is attempting to expand the reach of executive privilege to obstruct the truth about the reckless conduct that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol Agent and countless Mexican citizens.”

The Justice Department’s inspector general is conducting a wide-ranging review of Fast and Furious and another botched ATF gun trafficking operation dubbed Wide Receiver. Unlike the congressional investigation, the Department’s inspector general has access to all Justice Department documents, including grand jury materials. The inspector general’s review is expected to be released in the next several weeks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fast and Furious Fallout: Former Deputy Director Leaving ATF

Ryan Kelly/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has left the agency in the wake of the fallout from the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal. William Hoover was no longer employed at the agency as of Aug. 1, 2012, according to an ATF spokesman. Officials declined to comment further citing the Privacy Act.
Hoover had served as the Deputy Director of the Bureau since February 2007 and was in that position during the Fast and Furious gun running scandal. Prior to being the number two at the ATF, Hoover had served as the Assistant Director for Field Operations. He joined the ATF in 1987 after having worked in Virginia at several law enforcement agencies. He had also served as special agent in charge of Boston and Washington Field Offices before going to the ATF Headquarters.
Under Fast and Furious ATF, agents recorded and tracked straw purchases of weapons which were allowed to walked across the U.S. border into Mexico and into the hands of cartel members. The ATF operation took a tragic toll when two guns linked to the operation were found near slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Dec. 14, 2010.
Hoover had been briefed on Fast and Furious by ATF Agent William Newell who had been the special agent in charge overseeing the case. In March 2010 Hoover became concerned about the number of guns involved in the case and ordered ATF agents in Phoenix to wrap the case up in 90 days.
Hoover was among five ATF officials recently named in a Congressional report responsible for the botched gun running operation. The report, released earlier this week and prepared by Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, noted of Hoover and ATF Assistant Director Mark Chait, “Assistant Director Mark Chait and his superior, Deputy Director Hoover, had several opportunities to put an end to the operation but failed to do so. Hoover knew that Newell had employed risky tactics in the past as SAC yet failed to monitor him closely. Either Hoover did not ask the right questions or simply turned a blind eye to the unavoidable reality that reckless gunwalking tactics were being used again in Fast and Furious.”
Although Hoover had ordered his agents to wrap up the investigation within 90 days in March 2010 indictments were not returned by federal grand juries until January 2011.
Hoover was reassigned to a subordinate position last October when the newly appointed Acting Director of the ATF Todd Jones shook-up senior staff positions.
Last August Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona where operation Fast and Furious was overseen resigned from the Justice Department. The assistant U.S. attorney who helped run the program, Emory Hurley, has also been reassigned from working on criminal cases and is currently assigned to the civil division at the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office. William Newell was reassigned to ATF Headquarters from overseeing the Phoenix Field Office.
The Justice Department’s Inspector General report into Fast and Furious is expected to be released in the next several weeks.

Issa's investigation into the unfolding scandal led to contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Eric Holder, who was accused of shepherding the Fast and Furious -- and hiding documents about it. Prior to the contempt vote in June, President Obama asserted executive privilege to "freeze" some of the documents Holder refused to provide to Issa's House probe.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boehner: GOP to Challenge Obama’s Executive Privilege in Civil Court

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner said on Sunday that Republicans are preparing to file a civil suit in an attempt to gain access to more information pertaining to the Justice Department’s botched drug cartel gun tracking program.

The planned civil suit comes on the heels of a letter sent by the Justice Department stating that the DOJ would not prosecute Attorney General Eric Holder following a House vote to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress.

“It’s not clear to me that the U.S. District Attorney will in fact, go down that path.  That’s why we’re going to file, in District Court, a civil suit, over the issue of executive privilege,” Boehner said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

The Obama administration, in response to a request by Holder, asserted the right to executive privilege several weeks ago, in effect blocking congressional access to documents pertaining to the affair.

Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives intentionally allowed thousands of marked guns to be sold to Mexican drug cartels as a way to track the flow of illegal guns across the border, but came under intense scrutiny after two tagged guns lost in the operation were recovered at the scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s killing in December 2010 near the Mexican border.

The program, known as Fast and Furious, was eventually shut down and disavowed, but Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to know what Holder knew and when he knew it.

“The American people have a right to know what happened,” Boehner said on Sunday.  “Brian Terry’s family has a right to know what happened here.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Justice Department Won’t Prosecute Holder for Contempt

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After Congress found the nation’s top law enforcement officer in contempt Thursday, the Department of Justice quickly wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner informing him that it will not prosecute U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for withholding documents in a congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious gun walking operation.

“The longstanding position of the Department of Justice has been and remains that we will not prosecute an Executive Branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general, wrote in a letter dated June 28 and addressed to the Speaker.

The House voted Thursday to pass a resolution which, for the first time in U.S. history, found a sitting U.S. attorney general in criminal contempt of Congress.

DOJ’s response does not come as a complete surprise. Historically when Congress votes to hold someone in contempt, the report is referred to the U.S. attorney of the District of Columbia for prosecution. But Holder’s case is unprecedented, going after the same official tasked with overseeing the department that’s charged with enforcing contempt.

The letter, which was also sent to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Reps. Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings, goes on to cite legal precedent of executive privilege claims during Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush’s administrations as justification for its refusal to prosecute Holder.

“Consistent with this uniform position and practice, the Department has determined that the Attorney General’s response to the subpoena issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform does not constitute a crime, and therefore the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” the letter concludes.

Congressional GOP sources expect the Oversight and Government Reform committee to work with the House general counsel to pursue the case in federal court with the hope that a court will ultimately compel Holder to hand over the outstanding documents.

Republicans also passed a second resolution Thursday that found Holder in civil contempt of Congress. That resolution authorizes the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas.”

Still, that process could take months or even years.

“It is regrettable that the political leadership of the Justice Department is trying to intervene in an effort to prevent the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from making an independent decision about whether to prosecute this case,” Frederick Hill, director of communications at the Oversight committee, said, reacting to the letter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Prepares for Holder Contempt Vote

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives is currently in the midst of a partisan debate on a resolution to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding certain documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation.

A vote on the criminal contempt resolution is expected by 4 p.m. this afternoon.

If the vote passes, as expected, it would mark the first time in the history of Congress that it has found a sitting U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress.

Later, the House will vote on a second civil contempt resolution, which authorizes the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce its subpoena.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Darrell Issa Writes Obama to Denounce Executive Privilege Ploy

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, has sent a letter to President Obama that challenges the president’s invocation of executive privilege as the committee seeks documents from the Department of Justice detailing the Obama administration’s role in the Fast and Furious gun walking operation. Issa first disclosed he would challenge Obama's executive privilege on Sunday's This Week with ABC News’ Jake Tapper.

In the seven-page letter dated June 25, Issa writes that the highest courts in the country have held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege “is only applicable with respect to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the President’s decision-making process, defined as those documents and communications to and from the President and his most senior advisors.”  

Issa, R-Calif, then questions Obama whether the White House was involved in a cover-up.

“Your privilege assertion means one of two things,” he writes.  “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”
Issa previously told Tapper that the letter would break down “why the president’s executive privilege claim is either overbroad or simply wrong.”  He maintains that he only broke off negotiations for the documents with Attorney General Eric Holder when the committee “got a flat refusal to give us information needed for our investigation.”

“Our hope is that, as to at least a lot of these documents, including the documents often referred to as 1300, that were offered to us in this deal, that at least since those were offered to us, that…we would see them,” Issa told Tapper on Sunday.  “If those documents say what Eric Holder says they say, we might, in fact, dismiss contempt in either case, but I can tell you one thing here: If we get documents that…cast some doubt or allow us to understand this, we'll at least delay contempt and continue the process.”

In the letter, Issa once again states that he is holding out hope that the DOJ will comply with his subpoena request prior to a vote on a contempt citation in the full House of Representatives that’s scheduled for Thursday.  He also calls on the administration to enumerate “the universe of documents over which [Obama] asserted executive privilege and provide the Committee with the legal justification from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel,” and he makes another run at White House documents.

"So that the Committee and the public can better understand your role, and the role of your most senior advisors, in connection with Operation Fast and Furious, please clarify the question raised by your assertion of executive privilege: To what extent were you or your most senior advisors involved in Operation Fast and Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee?" Issa demands.  "Please also identify any communications, meetings, and teleconferences between the White House and the Justice Department between February 4, 2011 and June 18, 2012, the day before the Attorney General requested that you assert executive privilege."

If a resolution is not reached, the House is expected to approve the contempt citation on Thursday in what would become the first instance of either chamber of Congress voting to hold the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress.  Last week, Issa’s committee voted along party lines to send the contempt resolution on to the full House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. Rubio Calls for AG Holder to Resign

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., became the second senator to call for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over the Fast & Furious gun-walking scandal.

“Yes, I do at this point, I do,” Rubio answered when asked at The Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning if the attorney general should go. “I think we’ve now reached a point of no return on this issue.”

Rubio said yesterday’s decision by the administration to invoke executive privilege was “the last straw,” for him.

“I don’t know how the attorney general can continue to exercise that office with any level of credibility after the decision that was made yesterday,” he said.

“I think he’s, they’ve, been given multiple opportunities to answer very legitimate questions that the Congress has. We know for a fact that something they told the Congress was not true. And now, I think it’s very legitimate for the Congress to inquire as to why we were told something that wasn’t true," Rubio said. "And they refuse to provide materials to prove that.”

Earlier this month, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, became the first senator to call for Attorney General Eric Holder to resign. Holder had been testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee where Cornyn expressed his views that the attorney general has not been honest and has been overly political.

In the House of Representatives, more than 50 Republicans that have called for Holder’s resignation.  Yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents to congressional investigators from the Fast and Furious scandal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Committee Votes Eric Holder in Contempt of Congress

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- A congressional committee voted on Wednesday to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents to congressional investigators from the Fast and Furious gun walking operation. Earlier Wednesday morning, the White House invoked executive privilege over the documents the committee subpoenaed more than eight months ago.

In a strictly party-line vote, the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform approved the citation 23 to 17, sending it on to the full House for future consideration as early as next week. Holder is not actually in contempt of Congress unless the full House approves the resolution, but he would become the first U.S. attorney general held in contempt of Congress if the vote passes.

At issue are about 1300 pages of documents from February 2011 to December 2011 that detail the Department of Justice’s communications following a DOJ letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that falsely claimed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms made every effort to stop guns from going to Mexico after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death was linked to guns from the ATF operation.  In an effort to possibly find a cover-up within the administration, Issa is seeking documents on how DOJ reacted as the gun scandal unfolded between February and December 2011.

Tuesday Holder made a last-ditch effort to avoid the contempt proceedings, making a rare visit to Capitol Hill to meet with Issa and other top lawmakers. But his offer to have the Justice Department brief the lawmakers on the information in the documents was rejected by Issa.

Members on both sides of the aisle called the need for contempt proceedings “a sad day” for Congress and the American people, and Democrats repeatedly decried what they view as a “political witch-hunt” against President Obama during an election year.

“I am astounded that today we are sitting here weighing whether to hold the attorney general of the United States, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in our country, in contempt of Congress,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said. “It shouldn't be a political witch hunt against the attorney general of our country and our president in an election year.”

But after eight months of refusal to comply with the committee’s subpoena, Republicans on the panel charged that the administration was running out the clock on Congress and said that the assertion of executive privilege opens up even more questions about who knew what and when.

The full House of Representatives is expected to consider the contempt resolution as soon as next Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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