Dems file brief urging court to dismiss Issa’s contempt suit against Holder

Top Democrats filed an amicus brief in federal court on Wednesday in an attempt to dismiss Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder.

Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is arguing that Holder should be forced to hand over internal Justice Department documents and communications relating to a botched gun-tracking operation.

ADVERTISEMENT
On Wednesday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Oversight panel, asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the suit, contending that the committee did not exhaust its investigative resources and failed to do its job thoroughly before bringing the lawsuit against Holder.

“The committee has chosen to rush toward unnecessary conflict, in the process denying its members the opportunity to obtain relevant information available through alternative means,” wrote Cummings in the brief.

Holder and President Obama cite executive privilege in their refusal to hand over nearly 100,000 documents, which Issa subpoenaed in his 18-month-long investigation of Operation Fast and Furious. Issa led a vote against Holder earlier this year placing the nation’s top law enforcement official in contempt of Congress, which triggered the civil lawsuit. 

Cummings pointed to the committee not holding a hearing with Kenneth Melson, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which led Operation Fast and Furious from a tactical level, as an example of Issa's failure to conduct a fair and thorough investigation.

“In view of the committee's failure to take steps that would be performed by any investigatory body focused on pursuing the facts, and its failure to seize promising opportunities for accommodation and compromise, court intervention would be inappropriate, would encourage [and reward] unnecessary and premature litigation, and would threaten the delicate balance of powers implicated in disputes of this kind,” Cummings wrote.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, also signed on to the amicus brief, as did Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Towns (D-N.Y.), former chairmen of the House Oversight Committee.

“Amici believe that dismissal in this instance would not only preserve, but would strengthen the committee's ability to conduct effective oversight in the future,” they wrote.