Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said late Tuesday that, barring the unexpected, he would not delay a vote scheduled for Wednesday morning on a resolution finding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
“The only offer they made involved us ending our investigation,” Issa said in a statement. “At this point, we simply do not have the documents we have repeatedly said we need to justify the postponement of a contempt vote in committee.”
Issa said he still hoped DOJ would reconsider its decision but said he wasn’t optimistic that would happen.Holder met with Issa Tuesday afternoon to try to settle a dispute about documents related to the House Oversight Committee’s Fast and Furious investigation. The committee is scheduled to vote on a resolution finding Holder in contempt of Congress at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Holder did not say whether he was in talks with House leadership about delaying the contempt vote and told reporters after the meeting Issa did not agree with the terms he proposed.
“What we asked for from the chairman was an indication that if we provided these materials that would be considered to remove the subpoenas that were extended. He has not indicted a desire to do so at this point. I hope we will change his mind,” Holder told reporters after the meeting.
Fast and Furious was an operation run by the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in which agents instructed gun dealers to sell weapons to individuals they suspected were “straw purchasers” for Mexican drug cartels. Approximately 2,000 weapons were distributed during the operation, including two weapons found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder in December 2010.
While DOJ initially denied in a Feb. 4, 2011, letter to Congress that ATF allowed guns to walk, Holder later told DOJ’s inspector general to investigate the matter and withdrew the letter last year.
Issa and Holder seemed to be heading toward a resolution to the matter over the past week. Holder offered to turn over documents produced after Feb. 4, the date of DOJ’s letter to Congress falsely claiming guns weren’t allowed to “walk.”
But it was clear ahead of Tuesday’s meeting that the duo was not on the same page. Holder’s letter said the meeting was to discuss an agreement that would include a briefing about the documents in the future; Issa said the committee would need to receive the documents before Wednesday in order to postpone the contempt vote.
Issa’s team claimed the post-Feb. 4 materials were relevant because his committee needed to know how DOJ switched its view from denying the whistle-blower allegations to admitting they were true, to look at the “reactions of top officials when confronted with evidence about gun-walking in Fast and Furious, including whether they were surprised or were already aware” and to determine 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.”
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a member of the Oversight Committee, told TPM this week that he believed Issa was more interested in getting headlines and making political points than actually investigating the matter.
“This is Congress at its worst. We have a very strong responsibility for oversight, and I support the robust use of investigatory and subpoena power, but there also has to be restraint so those powers are used for accountability and corrective action rather than political agendas,” Welch said. “This, in my view, has clearly become a political investigation.”
Late update: Deputy Attorney General James Cole, in a letter to Issa:
We had hoped that you shared our interest in bringing this matter to an amicable resolution and we regret that you rejected our extraordinary proposal to do so.
Video of Holder’s remarks to reporters is embedded below.