By Terry Frieden
A key congressional Republican who had threatened to bring a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder if he did not comply with a demand for “Operation Fast and Furious” documents by 5 p.m. Thursday, has backed off his stated deadline.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, who has the backing of the committee’s Republican majority, has granted a Justice Department request for an extension. No new deadline was set.
The Justice Department did not dispute the committee statement.
An aide to Issa said the congressman was satisfied that Holder had shown some flexibility on the documents issue in his testimony before the committee a week earlier. However, the aide added, “They won’t have forever.”
Deputy Attorney General James Cole had informed the committee in a letter last week that it would be “impossible” to comply with the document request by Issa’s deadline.
At issue are thousands of pages of internal Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) documents from last year which the Justice Department has provided to the investigating Justice Inspector General, but which the Justice Department initially indicated are not subject to congressional review because of the constitutional separation of powers.
The House committee has led a high-profile investigation into the gun probe run by federal agents in Arizona. It was one of several Phoenix-based operations intended to track the flow of illegally purchased American guns to the Mexican cartels — but in practice, agents from ATF allowed so-called straw buyers to take weapons across the border without being intercepted.
The documents are believed to focus on internal communications as administration officials and senior law enforcement officials sought to explain the origins, and subsequent handling, of the operation.