Rep. Issa says no proof White House withheld info in ‘Fast and Furious’ inquiry

There is no evidence that White House officials were involved in withholding information related to a congressional inquiry into the botched gun-trafficking operation known as Operation “Fast and Furious,” the Republican lawmaker leading the investigation said Sunday.

Several Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), charged last week that President Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege over documents related to the probe suggested that top administration officials were involved in withholding information.

“The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in a decision that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth,” Boehner told reporters last week.

But asked Sunday whether he had any evidence to back up those claims, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said, “No, we don’t.”

“What we’re seeking are documents that we know exist . . . that are, in fact, about Brian Terry’s murder, who knew and why people were lying about it and get to the truth. That’s all we want,” Issa said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was killed in December 2010 and investigators later found two guns connected to Fast and Furious, an operation named after the popular movie series that was run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with support from the U.S. attorney in Phoenix. As part of the operation, ATF agents purposefully did not seize more than 2,000 weapons they suspected of being purchased at Arizona gun shops by illegal buyers known as “straw purchasers.”

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has led a roughly 18-month investigation into the operation that includes dozens of interviews with Justice Department and ATF officials and public hearings, including several appearances by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

But Issa’s committee last week voted to recommend that Holder be held in contempt for withholding information from the panel. Boehner and House GOP leaders plan to hold a vote this week in the full House on the recommendations unless Holder turns over certain documents before the vote — but they have not said which day the vote will be held.

If the full House votes to find Holder in contempt, he would be the first attorney general held in contempt of Congress.

The matter would be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, a Justice Department employee, who would have to decide whether to criminally prosecute Holder, his boss.

In a series of television appearances Sunday, Issa said the House still plans to go forward with this week’s vote, because there has been no resolution.

“Even the president, and certainly all the agencies, cannot hold back information related to covering up criminal activities or talking about them,” Issa said on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s what we’re looking for here.”

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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