WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress doesn’t have any evidence so far of a White House cover-up involving a botched gun-tracking operation, a top Republican said Sunday, countering the House speaker’s assertion that President Barack Obama or his aides deliberately misled lawmakers.
“No we don’t,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R.-Calif., in response to a question on “Fox News Sunday” about whether lawmakers had proof now to back Speaker John Boehner’s claim about White House officials’ involvement.
“And I hope they don’t get involved. I hope this stays at Justice,” said Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The Republican-led committee voted along party lines on Wednesday to cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress for not handing over all the material demanded in Operation Fast and Furious. Earlier that day, Obama had invoked executive privilege to withhold the documents, which concern how the department learned there were problems with an Arizona probe of gun-running into Mexico.
Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the full House would vote on the matter this coming week unless there was some resolution in the meantime. He also said that Obama’s claim of executive privilege was “an admission the White House officials were involved in the decision that misled the Congress and covered up the truth.”
But Issa said Sunday that he didn’t have any evidence yet that Obama or White House aides were involved, and he made clear that his inquiry has focused, for now, on the Justice Department.
“If we can have those documents, we can postpone or cancel the contempt,” he said.
The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said he thought the two sides could reach an agreement before the House vote and he called on Boehner to “come forth and show strong leadership” by sitting down with Holder.
During the committee’s year-and-a-half-long investigation, the department has turned over 7,600 documents about the conduct of the Fast and Furious operation. The Justice Department initially told the panel that it did not use “gun-walking,” a risky investigative technique aimed at tracking weapons to high-level arms traffickers who had long eluded prosecution.
In the case of Fast and Furious, agents lost track of several hundred weapons. Two of the guns that “walked” in the operation were found at the scene of the slaying of a U.S. border agent.