GOP leaders said they've drafted a proposed contempt of Congress citation in which they charge Holder and the Justice Department repeatedly "obstructed and slowed" the congressional investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' flawed "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was given the green light to proceed, sources who did not want to be identified told the Times.
If adopted, the contempt resolution would be delivered to the U.S. attorney's office or perhaps sent to an independent counsel to try to force the Justice Department to give the committee tens of thousands of internal documents.
Holder and other Justice Department officials have said they are cooperating with congressional investigators. Holder said the department had responded to more than three dozen letters from members of Congress, facilitated witness interviews and either submitted or made available more than 6,400 pages of documents.
The attorney general also has cautioned about lines blurring in the separation of powers, especially since there were several "open criminal investigations and prosecutions" resulting from the Fast and Furious case.
In Operation Fast and Furious, ATF agents allowed weapons to be illegally bought and circulated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Two weapons turned up after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in southern Arizona a year ago, and many others reportedly were used in crimes in Mexico.
Issa's draft report, obtained by the Times, discusses evidence collected by the committee that contends several top Justice Department officials knew the ATF allowed about 2,500 guns to be illegally purchased in Arizona, then later "walked" to Mexican drug cartels.
"The department's refusal to work with Congress to ensure that such a mistake [as Fast and Furious] is never repeated is inexcusable and cannot stand," the draft report said. "Those responsible for allowing Fast and Furious to proceed and those who are preventing the truth about the operation from coming out must be held accountable for their actions."
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