House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) Wednesday issued a subpoena to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. and other Justice Department officials over the agency's controversial gun-trafficking operation, dubbed "Operation Fast And Furious."
"Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged," said Issa in a statement. The subpoena asks for communications between Holder and DoJ officials. Issa has already issued a subpoena for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The operation, which began in November 2009, watched "straw buyers" of guns in border states hand over guns to middlemen who, in turn, transferred the guns to Mexican drug cartels. However, ATF agents let over 2,000 guns "walk," and the guns ended up at crime scenes on both sides of the border, including one where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered.
Holder testified in May that he had known about the program for only a few weeks, while Republicans say that memos show he knew of the program as early as July 2010.
Holder has said that his testimony was truthful and accurate. He said he had been briefed on the program, like dozens of others, but did not know of the more controversial aspects. "Prior to early 2011, I certainly never knew about the tactics employed in the operation," he said. After Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) suggested he was an "accessory to murder," he said, "such irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms."
UPDATE: 12:10 p.m.
On Wednesday, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, criticized Issa for issuing subpoenas to Holder and the Department of Justice, calling his action a "political stunt."
"As I have said all along, Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences," Cummings said in a statement. "The committee is right to investigate what went wrong and why, but we must do so in a fair and responsible manner."
"This subpoena is a deep-sea fishing expedition and a gross abuse of the committee’s authority. It demands tens of thousands of pages of highly sensitive law enforcement and national security materials that have never been requested before and are completely unrelated to Operation Fast and Furious," Cummings continued. "Rather than legitimate fact-gathering, this looks more like a political stunt."