Less than one week after the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding additional information from the Justice Department regarding the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation.
On Tuesday, Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Holder questioning who within the Justice Department knew of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) memorandum reportedly circulated one day prior to the DOJ denying allegations of sanctioned “gunwalking” to lawmakers.
Grassley alleges that his investigators contacted an ATF special agent on Feb. 2, 2011, who confirmed information provided by other ATF whistleblowers. The next day, that agent produced a memo documenting this discussion, which reportedly traveled through ATF’s chain of command.
“According to ATF personnel, the memorandum was discussed by high level ATF personnel and possibly forwarded to DOJ headquarters on February 3, 2011,” Grassley wrote. “Specifically, it has been alleged that individuals within the Deputy Attorney General’s (DAG’s) office and the Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) at the Department were aware of or actually read the memorandum before the Department’s February 4, 2011, letter was sent.”
Grassley claims the possibility of the DOJ’s awareness of the memo prior to sending the Feb. 4, 2011, “erroneous letter” to Congress “raises more questions about DOJ’s claim that faulty information from Department components inadvertently led to the false letter.
“This was direct, documented information from street level agents in a far better position to know the facts than the senior supervisory personnel whom DOJ claims to have relied upon for information about the allegations,” he added.
Grassley also alleges that discovering how high up the DOJ chain of command the memo traveled has been difficult, as the department has not made available certain individuals and has potentially withheld relevant documents.
As such, the Iowa senator is requesting that Holder gather all records relating to the Feb. 3 memo and hand those records to Congress. Grassley is also requesting names of which DOJ personnel were aware of the memo prior to the Feb. 4, 2011, documentation sent to Congress.
Grassley is giving Holder a deadline of July 17 to respond to the request. It is unclear if the attorney general will comply, however, in the wake of his June 28 contempt of Congress charge and after the Obama administration exerted executive privilege over many of the documents.
Holder has continued to insist that high-level Justice officials were unaware of the program and moved to shut it down once they learned of the operation.
Despite a subpoena for more information from House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Grassley, Holder says he has provided all relevant documentation.
The DOJ has turned over some 7,600 pages of documents, but Holder is refusing to cooperate with some aspects of the subpoena, claiming that further disclosures could jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations or legal prosecutions.
Following the House’s 255-67 vote in favor of criminal contempt charges, Holder dismissed the action as "the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided, and politically motivated, investigation during an election year."
In his first interview since the contempt vote, Holder on Tuesday accused the GOP of using him as a “proxy” for their election-year attacks on President Obama.