Issa issues another subpoena in probe of 'Fast and Furious'

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has subpoenaed a senior official from the U.S. Attorney's Office in his investigation of the botched gun-tracking operation "Fast and Furious."

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a subpoena for Patrick Cunningham, the chief of the Phoenix office’s criminal division within the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona. 

In a letter to Cunningham sent on Wednesday, Issa said Justice Department (DOJ) officials have suggested that Cunningham is “the most appropriate person to interview from the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding Operation Fast and Furious.” 

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“Senior Justice Department officials have recently told the committee that you relayed inaccurate and misleading information to the department in preparation for its initial response to Congress,” said Issa in the letter, which was made public on Thursday. 

Though Issa does not specify what “initial response to Congress” he is referring to, he is likely talking about a letter from DOJ sent last year to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that contained false statements about the operation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

One Republican lawmaker, Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, has suggested impeaching Attorney General Eric Holder for lying to Congress.

In that February letter, which has since been rescinded, DOJ stated that it did everything in its power to make sure that firearms do not cross the border into Mexico.

Later, it came to light that Operation Fast and Furious oversaw the sale of nearly 2,000 guns to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels. Officials did not provide surveillance for the weapons — a highly controversial and frowned upon tactic known as letting guns “walk” — which has caused many of the firearms to go missing.

In late 2010, two of the guns sold under the operation were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona miles from the border. 

Issa said that Cunningham insisted that “no unacceptable tactics were used” in Fast and Furious even after the “initial response” to Congress.

Issa has been investigating the operation and the tactics it used since March of last year. Holder and President Obama have denied ever approving or knowing about the tactics used in Fast and Furious. A separate inspector general investigation has been ongoing since March 2011 as well. 

Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa's committee in two weeks. 

The committee has been working with Cunningham’s lawyer since August to try and arrange an interview, and one had been scheduled for Thursday, according to Issa’s letter. But Cunningham canceled on Tuesday, leading the chairman to issue a subpoena.

“As a result of your recalcitrance and inflexible positions, the committee is now forced to engage in compulsory process to obtain your testimony,” Issa stated. 

Cunningham was named once before in a subpoena Issa issued in October that sought email communications between top DOJ officials. In the subpoena was a request for correspondence sent to or from Cunningham between the dates of Dec. 16 and Dec. 18, 2009, Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, 2010, and March 9 and March 14, 2011.

Cunningham joined the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona in late 2009 and worked directly under former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke. Burke, who oversaw much of the legal advice given during Operation Fast and Furious, resigned in August.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment. Requests for comment from the U.S. Attorney's office in Arizona were not immediately returned.

This story has been updated to clarify that a senior official for the U.S. Attorney's Office was subpoenaed.