Issa Praises Inclusion of ‘Fast and Furious’ Provisions in 113th Congress Rules Package

December 28, 2012

WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today praised the inclusion of special provisions in the proposed 113th Congress rules package that will keep in place legal obligations on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and others at the Justice Department as a result of lawful subpoenas issued in the 112th Congress.  The inclusion of these provisions in the House rules will allow the civil suit, authorized by a bipartisan vote of the House in July 2012, which seeks federal courts to compel the production of relevant subpoenaed documents to continue.  Without these provisions, the Justice Department could have argued that its obligation to produce subpoenaed documents expired with the previous Congress.

“These provisions in the 113th Congress rules package ensure that the civil suit authorized by the House of Representatives with the support of twenty-one Democratic representatives will move forward,” said Issa.  “The Justice Department has still not met its legal obligations to turn over documents showing why it waited ten months to formally retract false denials of reckless tactics in Operation Fast and Furious and why it failed to appropriately respond to whistleblower allegations.  The new Congress will be steadfast in its commitment to getting the full truth about this reckless gunwalking effort that has been linked to murders on both sides of our border with Mexico.”

In February 2011, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform commenced an investigation into a Department of Justice law enforcement operation known as Fast and Furious.  In Fast and Furious, which was operational between approximately November 2009 and January 2011, the Department of Justice knowingly allowed firearms to be purchased illegally in the United States and then transported into Mexico for the purpose of trying to establish a nexus between leaders of Mexican crime syndicates and the individuals who purchased the firearms.  In October 2011, Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa authorized and issued a subpoena which directed the Attorney General to produce documents relevant to the conduct of the operation and the response by the Department.

In December 2011, senior Department officials formally admitted that they had provided inaccurate information to Congress ten months earlier.  However, the Attorney General continued to treat the subpoena that had been served on him with the same disregard with which the Department had treated the Committee’s investigation from the outset.  Among other materials, this subpoena sought documents that would seemingly explain what top officials knew and why the Justice Department had delayed acknowledgement of reckless tactics that it had denied to Congress.  Nearly ten months after the return date for the Holder Subpoena (when the House filed suit), the Attorney General had produced approximately 4,000 pages of responsive documents.  In contrast, the Department’s Office of Inspector General has had access to more than 80,000 documents.  Of particular importance here, the Attorney General has refused to produce virtually all documents responsive to the Holder Subpoena dated or created after February 4, 2011.  This impaired Congress’ efforts to determine when the Department became aware of reckless tactics and how it responded after it had issued false denials.

Before the House of Representatives undertook a bipartisan decision to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt and authorize a civil suit, the House made multiple attempts to reach an amicable agreement.  This included multiple and unilateral efforts by the Oversight Committee to narrow the scope of documents it sought to help facilitate a potential settlement.  The Department, however, remained steadfast in its refusal to accept these proposals and would not engage in a dialogue about specific documents it was withholding and its specific reasons for doing so.  The House remains open to settling this matter outside of federal court if the Justice Department drops its objections to providing the materials at issue. 

The proposed language for the 113th Congress House rules package related to Operation Fast and Furious:

CONTINUING AUTHORITIES FOR THE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM AND THE OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL.—

(A) The House authorizes—

(i) the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the 113th Congress to act as the successor in interest to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the 112th Congress with respect to the civil action Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, United States House of Representatives v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., in his official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, filed by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in the 112th Congress pursuant to House Resolution 706; and

(ii) the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (when elected), on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Office of General Counsel to take such steps as may be appropriate to ensure continuation of such civil action, including amending the complaint as circumstances may warrant.

(B) The House authorizes the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (when elected), on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and until such committee has adopted rules pursuant to clause 2(a) of rule XI, to issue subpoenas related to the investigation into the United States Department of Justice operation known as ‘‘Fast and Furious’’ and related matters.

(C) The House authorizes the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (when elected), on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Office of General Counsel to petition to join as a party to the civil action referenced in paragraph (1), any individual subpoenaed by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the 112th Congress as part of its investigation into the United States Department of Justice operation known as ‘‘Fast and Furious’’ and related matters, or any successor to such individual, who failed to comply with such subpoena or, at the authorization of the Speaker after consultation with the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, to initiate judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of subpoenas issued to such individuals.

(D) The House authorizes the chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (when elected), on behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Office of General Counsel—

(i) to petition to join as a party to the civil action referenced in paragraph (1) any individual subpoenaed by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the 112th Congress as part of its investigation into the United States Department of Justice operation known as ‘‘Fast and Furious’’ and related matters who failed to comply with such subpoena, or any successor to such individual; and

(ii) at the authorization of the Speaker after consultation with the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, to initiate judicial proceedings concerning the enforcement of subpoenas issued to such individuals.