WASHINGTON -The White House on Friday turned over documents to a House committee investigating the botched Operation Fast and Furious gun-trafficking probe, months after a federal court said executive privilege did not shield the records.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – which has been investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation for four years – said the documents were welcome, but should have been handed over long ago.
“What President (Barack) Obama and disgraced former Attorney General Eric Holder don’t get is that the American people have a fundamental right to hold our government accountable for its incompetent actions,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and a member of the House committee.
Those “incompetent actions” were the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, which operated out of its Arizona office.
Under Fast and Furious, ATF agents turned a blind eye to small-time gun traffickers in hopes of following the weapons to catch larger dealers. But of the more than 2,000 of the guns that were allowed to “walk,” hundreds were never recovered and many later ended up in the hands of drug cartels and others.
Two guns traced to Fast and Furious were later found at the scene of a December 2010 shootout near Rio Rico that killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
In an emailed statement Friday, Gosar pledged to “never stop fighting to uncover the truth behind” Terry’s death.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the oversight committee, said in a statement Friday that the Justice Department turned over “some” of the documents. But he said “the committee is entitled to the full range of documents for which it brought this lawsuit” and the ruling will help “secure those additional documents” are turned over to the committee.
“As we’ve long asserted, the committee requires and is entitled to these documents,” which Chaffetz said “are critical to the committee’s efforts to complete meaningful oversight.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when it began its investigation into the operation, echoed Chaffetz’s remarks.
Issa said in a prepared statement that he was “pleased to learn that the House of Representatives is continuing to prosecute the legal case against the president’s claim of executive privilege until all documents related to the Fast and Furious investigation have been delivered.”
In 2012, the oversight committee found then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in the investigation. Immediately after that vote, the Obama administration announced its intent to cite executive privilege to guard some of the documents, but the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the administration in January.
“Now a district court judge agrees,” Gosar said in his statement Friday. “Obama and Holder are not above the law.”