DOJ Official Asserts Fifth Amendment Right in Refusing to Testify in Probe of Operation Fast and Furious

January 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Patrick Cunningham, the chief of the criminal division in the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office, has informed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he intends to exercise his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself next Tuesday at his deposition. Cunningham’s response, made through his lawyer, to a subpoena issued by the committee is extremely rare. More alarming is how broad Cunningham intends to rely on the Fifth Amendment. His lawyer has informed the committee that the only information Cunningham would provide is his name and title at the Department of Justice.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued the following statement:

“The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious. The former head of the ATF has previously told the committee that the Justice Department is managing its response to Operation Fast and Furious in a manner designed to protect its political appointees. This is the first time anyone has asserted their fifth amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.

“Coming a year after revelations about reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious were first brought to light, the assertion of the fifth amendment also raises questions about whether President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made a serious and adequate response to allegations raised by whistleblowers. Did Attorney General Holder really not know a senior Justice Department official fears criminal prosecution or is this just another example of him hiding important facts? The committee will continue to demand answers.”

The only legally valid reason for asserting the fifth amendment is fear that testimony could aid one’s own criminal prosecution. In his response to the Committee, Cunningham’s lawyer rejected assertions made by other senior Justice Department officials in Washington that his client held key responsibility for reckless tactics in Operation Fast and Furious and false information provided to Congress.

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Related Documents

Cunningham's response letter