FACT SHEET: Today’s Meeting with AG Holder about Fast and Furious Documents and Contempt

June 19, 2012

Today’s Meeting is at 5 p.m. in the Capitol

Chairman Issa, Senator Grassley, and Attorney General Holder have agreed to meet this evening at 5 p.m. in the Capitol.  The best place to stake out the meeting is the Rotunda (Members of Leadership and their staff will not be participating in the meeting).  DOJ has requested that Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Patrick Leahy also be permitted to attend.  Chairman Issa has indicated he will grant this request.  Currently, DOJ has not delivered or shown the Committee ANY of the documents it has said it is prepared to produce.  It is not clear if they will actually produce these documents to the Committee before the Wednesday vote to facilitate a postponement.

Possibility of postponement is and always has been about whether DOJ produces a described subset of documents before Wednesday’s vote 

This evening’s meeting between Chairman Issa and Attorney General Holder is NOT being done “in exchange”  for a postponement of Wednesday’s vote.  Chairman Issa has repeatedly stated over the past week that a postponement of Wednesday’s vote would only come after the delivery of a subset of Post February 4 documents that Attorney General Holder said he was prepared to produce and the Department of Justice further outlined to Committee investigators on Thursday, June 14.  The length of any postponement would depend on the amount and substance of documents delivered.

• On June 14, 2012, Attorney General Holder wrote that, “the Department is prepared to provide documents that, while outside the scope of the Committee’s interest in the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious, are responsive to how the Department’s understanding of the facts regarding that matter evolved throughout 2011 and how the Department came to withdraw its February 4, 2011, letter to Senator Grassley.”

 

• On June 15, 2012, Chairman Issa wrote to the Attorney General that, “production of the documents noted in your letter and outlined yesterday in a meeting with Committee staff would be sufficient for me to justify a postponement of the Committee’s scheduled vote on contempt to facilitate their review and discussions with the Department.  I am prepared to announce this delay once the Department produces these documents.”

• On June 18, 2012, Chairman Issa reiterated this position writing, “only the delivery of documents outlined and offered by the Department of Justice last Thursday to staff will be sufficient to justify a postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled vote.”

The Committee is not in a position to take contempt completely and permanently off the table at this evening’s meeting

• On June 15, 2012, Chairman Issa indicated to the Attorney General that documents that could justify a postponement still leave, “substantial concerns that these documents may not be sufficient to allow the Committee to complete its investigation.”

 

• On June 18, 2012, Chairman Issa reiterated this position:  “I will not be in a position tomorrow to negotiate over whether certain actions – short of full compliance – are sufficient to warrant more than a delay of contempt proceedings.”

Chairman Issa has explained what DOJ needs to do to have serious discussions about fully and finally ending contempt proceedings

On June 18, Chairman Issa explained that full information is necessary for the Committee to determine exactly what post February 4, 2011, documents the Department may not need to produce: 

“The Department has also failed to provide a log that includes descriptions of documents, the dates they were created, who created them, and individualized explanations for why the Department believes these documents should not be produced pursuant to the subpoena.  Only the Department knows what it possesses.  A full understanding of the post-February 4, 2011, documents under subpoena that the Department is not prepared to produce is essential for the Committee to determine whether the Department has substantially met its obligations.”

Chairman Issa ultimately seeks an agreement rendering contempt unnecessary

On June 13, Chairman Issa wrote to Attorney General Holder:  “I believe the interests of the Department, Congress, and those directly affected by reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious are best served by an agreement that renders the process of contempt unnecessary.”

Chairman Issa, as outlined above, has indicated that he will continue to pursue contempt if the Justice Department does not agree to produce documents they have indicated they will produce prior to the scheduled contempt vote.

House has narrowed its request to accommodate DOJ’s concerns about material gathered that could affect prosecutions

Chairman Issa has outlined the substantial efforts he and House leadership have made to accommodate the Justice Department’s wish to avoid producing materials gathered during the Fast and Furious investigation.  This has been done by narrowing the focus to subpoenaed documents created after the investigation ended and indictments had been announced.

Why are the post February 4, 2011, documents critically important?

On February 4, 2011, the Department of Justice denied whistleblower allegations that guns in Operation Fast and Furious had been allowed to “walk” to Mexico and defended the Operation itself. Ten months later, on December 2, 2011, the Justice Department formally withdrew this denial and acknowledged that Fast and Furious was “fundamentally flawed.” In responding to Congress, however, the Justice Department has taken the position that it will not share its internal deliberations related to Operation Fast and Furious that occurred after it denied anything inappropriate occurred on February 4, 2011. This position effectively denies Congress and the American people information about:

o The Justice Department switching its view from denying whistleblower allegations to admitting they were true.

 

o Hiding the identity of officials who led the charge to call whistleblowers liars and retaliate against them.

o The reactions of top officials when confronted with evidence about gunwalking in Fast and Furious, including whether they were surprised or were already aware.

o The Justice Department’s assessment of responsibility for officials who knew about reckless conduct or were negligent.

o Whether senior officials and political appointees at fault in Operation Fast and Furious were held to the same standards as lower level career employees whom the Department has primarily blamed.

While officials at the Department of Justice had earlier claimed that divulging this information would have a “chilling effect” on future internal deliberations, they have more recently expressed a greater willingness to produce this material. Congress, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, has never recognized internal agency discussions as privileged and protected.

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