Feds hand over ‘Fast and Furious’ docs as House appeals for more

Feds hand over ‘Fast and Furious’ docs as House appeals for more
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The Obama administration on Friday handed House Republicans reams of documents about the controversial “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation even as lawmakers appealed their case to seek additional records.

After a long court case, the Department of Justice (DOJ) complied with a federal district judge's order that rejected the administration’s assertion of executive privilege over documents describing the botched operation.   

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Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzElijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight Committee, called the records “critical" to his panel's work.

“The committee has a duty to understand and shine light on what was happening inside DOJ during the time of this irresponsible operation. Yet DOJ has obstructed our investigative work for years,” Chaffetz said in a statement Friday.

“The committee, however, is entitled to the full range of documents for which it brought this lawsuit,” Chaffetz added. “Accordingly, we have appealed the District Court’s ruling in order to secure those additional documents.”

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union McConnell, GOP leaders say they won't be watching House impeachment hearing Poll: 1 in 5 US adults report trouble affording prescription drugs MORE (R-Iowa), head of the Judiciary Committee, also called for the release of the remaining documents.

“Given that even after years of stonewalling these are only a fraction of the documents that were subpoenaed by the House of Representatives, at this point, the usefulness remains to be seen," Grassley said in a statement. "I look forward to seeing what was actually produced, and what President Obama continues to refuse to be transparent about. It shouldn't have taken a lengthy court battle to get this far. The rest of the documents should be turned over so that the litigation can end and the American people can know the whole truth.”

The release of documents to the House panel narrowly met the Friday afternoon deadline imposed by a January court order dismissing the Obama administration’s executive privilege argument.

In a letter to the committee, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik indicated that the Obama administration wanted to put the matter behind it.

“[I]n light of the passage of time and other considerations, such as the department’s interests in moving past this litigation and building upon our cooperative working relationship with the committee other congressional committees, the department has decided that it is not in the executive branch’s interest to continue litigating this issue at this time,” Kadzik wrote.

Separate from the ruling on the executive privilege claim, the committee appealed other aspects of Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision, which kept documents about the Fast and Furious operation under wraps for other reasons.

Kadzik appeared to dispute the claim in his letter, saying that the material handed over by the Justice Department “fully satisfies the committee’s interest” in the issue.

The decision to hand over documents amounts to an admission of failure for the administration, which had long insisted that many of the records were not eligible for Congress's oversight.

In 2012, House Republicans sued to obtain documents about the operation after first voting to hold then-Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObama celebrates 'great night for our country' after Democrats' victories in Virginia and Kentucky After Obama-era abuses, Republican hysteria over impeachment process is absurd Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE in contempt for refusing to hand them over. 

The widely derided Fast and Furious program ran from 2009 to 2011 as a plan to track guns by purposely allowing them to move from low-level buyers up through Mexican drug cartels.

Many of the weapons eventually turned up in the hands of cartel members. One was at the site of a 2010 shootout that left a U.S. Border Patrol agent dead. Another was found in the hideout used by Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán before his arrest in January.