- Rep. Issa goes after those who prepared a letter containing false information
- Attorney General Holder says the information was not known to be false at the time
- Issa warns the Justice Department liaison he may have broken the law
One day after Attorney General Eric Holder admitted to a Senate panel the Department of Justice had sent "inaccurate" information in a letter about a controversial gun trafficking operation, a House Republican chairman pounced.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California -- who leads the House investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' "Operation Fast and Furious" -- sent a letter to a top Holder assistant demanding documents relating to the preparation of the Justice Department letter that contained the wrong information.
That February 4 letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to Sen. Charles Grassley, R- Iowa, declared that "ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico."
That was not the case in ATF's sting operation in which agents intentionally allowed known criminals to buy firearms and then leave gun shops with the weapons that were allowed to "walk" to Mexican drug cartels beyond the reach of ATF surveillance.
Two of the "lost" weapons were found at the crime scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was shot and killed last December.
Holder admitted to Grassley at a hearing Tuesday that "the information in that letter was inaccurate. ...That's something I regret."
Issa's response to Weich on Wednesday demands a complete list of individuals who helped prepare the letter to Grassley as well as all documents relating to preparation of that letter.
"Mr. Weich, as you are well aware, it is a crime to knowingly make false statements to Congress," Issa said. "As DOJ's principal liaison to Congress, we rely on you to be straight with the facts. You have not been," Issa said.
Holder insisted Tuesday that the information was not known to be false at the time. He said while it proved to be inaccurate, nobody at the Justice Department had intentionally lied to Congress.
The Holder testimony also prompted the family of Agent Brian Terry to speak out angrily, saying if Holder did not know about the flawed tactics, he should have known.
Holder acknowledged in testimony he had not apologized to or contacted the Terry family following the murder.
"Mr. Holder may choose not to apologize to the Terry family for the role that the ATF and DOJ played in the death of Brian Terry, but the attorney general should accept responsibility immediately," said the family letter released by Grassley's office. "It is without question the right thing to do," the family said.
Holder and Issa are scheduled to face off when the attorney general testifies before Issa's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on December 8.