Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Friday that Congress may have to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for the Justice Department’s slow response to a subpoena relating to the Fast and Furious gun running operation.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has sought 80,000 documents, “of which they have only given us about 7,000,” Chaffetz told Fox News, according to Politico. “We have issued a subpoena. We have bent over backward to be patient and take time.”
Asked if Congress is prepared to hold Holder in contempt, Chaffetz responded, “He is leading us down a path where we have no other choice. That’s what I’m worried about. There are other options on the table. We can end this tonight if the Department of Justice will turn over these documents and hold the senior-most individuals at the Department of Justice accountable for their actions.”
The Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press reported Friday that House Republican leaders put together a proposed contempt of Congress citation against Holder, charging that he and the Justice Department have “obstructed and slowed” the congressional inquiry into Fast and Furious.
An official of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee told the AP that a final decision on citation has not been made. The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the citation could be avoided if the Justice Department changes its stand and produces documents sought by the committee.
However, CBS News reports that House Republicans have gotten the go-ahead to prepare the contempt citation, which will accuse Holder and the Justice Department of obstructing the congressional probe.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was given a 48-page draft by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who heads the Oversight committee, CBS News reports.
"While there are very legitimate arguments to be made in favor of such an action, no decision has been made to move forward with one by the speaker or by House Republican leaders," a top Republican aide told CBS News.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., another member of the Oversight committee, told Fox News Thursday that if Holder doesn’t fully respond to the subpoena by May 28, contempt of Congress proceedings will begin.
Congressional staffers say the Oversight panel does not need approval to proceed, but the contempt resolution would eventually need a full House vote, CBS News reported. If passed, Congress could seek enforcement through federal courts or passage may be enough to push the Justice Department to comply without a court order.
The Justice Department has told Politico and CBS that it has been complying with the subpoena, and more than 6,400 pages of documents have been made available to Congress.
In Fast and Furious, U.S. agents allowed thousands of guns to flow from gun shops in Arizona into Mexico, allowing Mexican criminals to purchase the weapons guns illegally, in hopes of tracking the weapons to drug kingpins. The operation went awry and some of the guns were used in the 2010 shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
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