Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Attorney General Eric Holder hasn’t revealed everything he knew about a program that put illegal U.S. guns in the hands of Mexican criminals.
“He clearly knows more than he said,” Issa, a California Republican, said today on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “We need to find all the places this should have been stopped and wasn’t.”
House Republicans and Democrats have fought over the role of President Barack Obama’s administration in a law enforcement program called Operation Fast and Furious that allowed illegal U.S. gun purchases in an effort to link the weapons to Mexican drug cartels. Issa, who said Holder provided misleading testimony to his committee, subpoenaed the Justice Department on Oct. 12.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said Issa is engaging in a “witch hunt.”
“We have a situation where we’re not getting a responsible and balanced investigation,” Cummings said on “Face the Nation.” Issa has “come up with some very unfortunate statements and then he goes in search of the facts,” Cummings said.
Oct. 25 Deadline
The subpoena set an Oct. 25 deadline for the Justice Department to produce 22 categories of documents, including communications involving Holder and other top officials at the department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the White House and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.
Cummings said the Inspector General is conducting an independent investigation and it appears the program was limited to the Phoenix office of the ATF. Kenneth Melson, who stepped aside from his job running ATF, told Issa he never told Holder about the program because he didn’t know either, Cummings said.
“The supervisors in the Phoenix office never communicated with people higher up,” Cummings said. Critics “are accusing the highest law enforcement officer of the land of being an accessory to murder.”
Holder said in an Oct. 7 letter to lawmakers that his testimony that he didn’t recall knowing about the program until public controversy about it earlier this year was “truthful and accurate.”
Two of about 2,000 guns that ATF allowed to be carried away were found at the scene of the December 2010 murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona, according to a report released in June by Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Issa said there are indications there may have been a third weapon involved in the shooting, and his committee is trying to learn more.
“I’m not accusing anyone of a criminal cover-up but we have a real obligation to follow this,” Issa said.
--With assistance from Seth Stern in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Kevin Costelloe
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