House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says he intends to file a lawsuit in federal court Monday against Attorney General Eric Holder for failing to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.
“We are filing charges against Attorney General Eric Holder tomorrow #fastandfurious,” tweeted Issa from his own Twitter account on Sunday night.
In June, the GOP House overwhelmingly passed resolutions holding the attorney general in contempt of Congress for not complying with a congressional subpoena to provide documents related to a botched operation that sought to track gun sales to Mexican drug gangs.
One of the House resolutions, however, granted Issa’s Oversight Committee authority to pursue a civil action against Holder.
Democrats blasted Issa on Monday, accusing the powerful chairman of wasting taxpayer resources on an “unnecessary conflict.”
“It seems clear that House Republican leaders do not want to resolve the contempt issue and prefer to generate unnecessary conflict with the administration as the election nears," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
"Unfortunately, the American public suffers as House Republicans disregard the real work that needs to be done."
Legal experts believe the case could lead to a long court battle.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the protracted legal fight could end up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and will not help solve the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. A weapon sold under Fast and Furious was found at Terry’s murder scene along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"At a time of scarce resources and record debt, the House is embarking on wasteful litigation against the Justice Department,” said Schiff.
"This litigation will do nothing to shed light on the facts of Fast and Furious, to bring the killers of Agent Brian Terry to justice, or to stem the flow of guns across the border."
The Justice Department and White House have defended the decision not to criminally prosecute Holder, saying it was longstanding practice for administrations from both parties not to prosecute officials held in contempt.
Republicans who have conducted their own investigation into Fast and Furious, though, have questioned the independence of the DOJ.
After the House voted to hold him in criminal contempt, Holder criticized the action as the latest step in a “misguided, and politically motivated, investigation during an election year.”
The Justice Department has turned over 7,600 pages of documents in response to the congressional probe, but Holder has resisted further subpoenas, claiming that additional disclosures would harm ongoing criminal investigations and legal cases.
Holder has testified before Congress that top Justice officials were unaware of the program and moved quickly to stop the operation once they were apprised of its details.
A weapon that was part of the gun-walking operation was found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent, sparking congressional inquiries.
Last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is spearheading the Senate investigation, demanded additional documents from Holder, which he says will clarify when, exactly, senior DOJ officials were first told about the operation.
This story was updated at 12:22 p.m.