(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, marking the eighth time he has appeared before Congress to testify about the ATF’s botched gun running operation. Holder faced numerous questions from members about the program but little new was learned. While Holder did not have specifics he did testify that about 800-1,200 of the 2,000 guns from Fast and Furious have been recovered.
Rep. Darrell Issa, who serves on the Judiciary Committee and chairs the House Oversight Government Reform Committee, berated Holder when it was his turn to question the attorney general.
“I want to ask you, first of all, today, have you and your attorneys produced internally the materials responsive to the subpoenas?” Issa asked.
“We believe that we have responded to the subpoenas,” Holder said.
Issa snapped, “No, Mr. Attorney General, you’re not a good witness. A good witness answers the question asked. So let’s go back again: Have you and your attorneys produced internally the materials response? In other words, have you taken the time to look up our subpoena and find out what material you have responsive to it or you simply invented a privilege that doesn’t exist?”
Holder testified that the Justice Department has processed millions of electronic records, and reviewed over 140,000 documents and produced 7,600 documents to Issa’s subpoenas.
Issa then turned to the ATF wiretaps that were provided to Issa and his investigators.
“[The wiretap applications] indicate that a number of key individuals in your administration in fact were responsible for information contained in here that clearly shows that the tactics of Fast and Furious were known. They were known and are contained in these wiretaps,” Issa told Holder.
“I have read them, and I disagree with the conclusion you’ve just reached,” Holder rebutted. Under further questioning, Holder later testified that the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at DOJ who reviewed the applications did not review all the paperwork associated with the wiretap request but relied on a summary of the wiretap application.
“They read summaries of the applications. And that is a process that has been used by this administration and by all previous administrations.”
Later in the hearing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has also reviewed the leaked secret wiretaps, asked if Holder would sit down with him to review why the attorney general had reached his conclusion that the wiretaps did not reveal certain tactics used in Fast and Furious.
“I want you to show me how you don’t come to that conclusion. And I’d like to show you why I think there’s a preponderance of evidence that would lead one to believe that yes, indeed, the Department of Justice did know about this,” Chaffetz asked of Holder.
“Well, I don’t think that, under the federal law, I have an ability to talk about,” Holder, said citing Justice Department regulations making it illegal to discuss information sealed by courts.
Later Holder explained to the committee: “We are by law prohibited from discussing or turning over the contents of wiretap-related material. There is a criminal provision that has a five-year penalty that prevents us from doing that with — and there’s also a very practical reason. There are concerns that one would have about people who are involved in these matters. You might put victims’ safety at risk. You might put at risk the success of a prosecution. Those are all the reasons why there are very tight restrictions on the provision of material connected to wiretaps.”
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