Fast and Furious update from Pete Sessions.

Pete Sessions Email LogoDear Fred:

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on House Republicans’ ongoing investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. Specifically, this update highlights the recent United States District Court ruling ordering the Department of Justice (DOJ) to submit a privileged log of withheld documents related to Operation Fast and Furious to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).

As you may know, Operation Fast and Furious, as part of Project Gunrunner, was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) operation in which whistleblowers alleged suspected straw purchasers were allowed to amass large quantities of firearms as part of long-term trafficking investigations. As a consequence, some of these firearms were allegedly “walked,” or trafficked, to gunrunners and other criminals in Mexico before ATF moved to arrest the suspects and seize all of their contraband firearms. A number of the guns tracked by the ATF were found at crime scenes on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In December 2010, two of these guns were recovered in Arizona, 11 miles from the border, at the scene of a shootout where U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot to death. Following the shooting death of Agent Terry and the February 15, 2011, murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jamie Zapata and wounding of Special Agent Victor Avila in Mexico by a firearm that was initially trafficked under Project Gunrunner, House Republicans, under Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch, launched an investigation in early 2011 of the Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious. In addition to supporting our investigation into Operation Fast and Furious and DOJ’s mishandling of it, in the previous 112th Congress, on October 14, 2011, I cosponsored H. Res. 490. This resolution, introduced in the House by Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ), expressed no confidence in Attorney General Holder, specifically due to Operation Fast and Furious and his mishandling of it.

After months of stonewalling by Attorney General Holder and his staff, and minutes before the House Oversight Committee convened to consider a resolution holding Holder in contempt of Congress, President Obama formally invoked on June 20, 2012, an eleventh hour assertion of executive privilege over some of the subpoenaed documents. Ultimately, I joined my colleagues in holding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to produce subpoenaed documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. On June 28, 2012, the House passed with my support H. Res. 711, a criminal contempt resolution, by a vote of 255-67. H. Res. 711 authorized a “criminal” referral to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia to proceed with prosecution on this matter.

Because we recognized that a prosecution of Attorney General Holder by his own DOJ for criminal contempt of Congress was unlikely, my colleagues and I supplemented H. Res. 711 with a separate resolution authorizing Chairman Issa to initiate judicial proceedings on behalf of his Committee to affirm Attorney General Holder’s obligation to comply with the Committee’s subpoena. Therefore, the House also passed with my support H. Res. 706, a civil contempt resolution, by a vote of 258-95.

As a result, on August 13, 2012, Chairman Issa filed a civil lawsuit in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to compel Attorney General Holder to produce documents related to Operation Fast and Furious subpoenaed by the Committee on October 11, 2011. This House Republican lawsuit asked the federal court to rule that President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege was invalid and compel Attorney General Holder to produce subpoenaed documents.

President Obama exceeded his authority by asserting executive privilege, after promising an unprecedented level of transparency, in order to obstruct the truth about the reckless conduct surrounding Operation Fast and Furious.

We claimed another victory in our investigation on September 30, 2013, when U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama Administration judicial appointee, denied the DOJ’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit. This ruling was a repudiation of the Obama Justice Department and congressional Democrats who argued the courts should have no role in the dispute over President Obama’s improper assertion of executive privilege to protect an attempted DOJ cover-up of Operation Fast and Furious.

As Chairman of the House Committee on Rules, I was proud to help craft the House Rules for the 113th Congress. Included in the House Rules package were special provisions that have kept in place legal obligations on Attorney General Holder and others at DOJ that have allowed our civil suit to continue. Without these provisions, DOJ could have argued that its obligation to produce subpoenaed documents pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious expired with the previous 112th Congress. I was proud to join my colleagues in passing H. Res. 5, the resolution to adopt the House Rules for the 113th Congress, on January 3, 2013, by a vote of 228-196.

On August 20, 2014, Judge Jackson ruled that the DOJ must turn over to Congress all non-privileged documents, and a complete list of privileged documents, by October 1, 2014. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will then have approximately two weeks to file specific objections to individual withheld documents in an effort to shed light on why the DOJ is hiding specific information from congressional investigators and the American people.

I am very pleased with Judge Jackson’s most recent decision. The Obama Administration has been so intent on withholding these documents that it allowed Attorney General Holder to be held in contempt, becoming the first cabinet member in history to be cited as such, instead of complying with a simple congressional subpoena. Ultimately, this ruling is another step in the right direction as my colleagues and I continue to seek the truth about Operation Fast and Furious and get to the bottom of who was behind this reckless undertaking.

While our investigation continues to move forward through our nation’s legal system, I also continue to support legislation that has similar goals in mind. In the current 113th Congress, I am an original cosponsor of H. Res. 35. Introduced in the House by Congressman Gosar, H. Res. 35 expresses no confidence in Attorney General Holder and calls for his immediate resignation. Additionally, I am an original cosponsor of H. Res. 652. Introduced in the House by Congressman Randy Weber (R-TX), H. Res. 652 condemns President Obama and the executive branch for continuous actions that violate the laws and Constitution of the United States, specifically citing Operation Fast and Furious.

As your Member of Congress, please know that I will continue to monitor this situation closely and be supportive of continued oversight and fact-finding efforts led by Chairman Issa and his Committee. I look forward to DOJ finally producing these documents. We will continue to fight for the transparency and accountability the Obama Administration has continuously refused to provide.

I hope this correspondence provides you with useful information about Operation Fast and Furious. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me or my Legislative Director, Lindsay Pitts, at 202.225.2231, or by email at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


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One Response to Fast and Furious update from Pete Sessions.

  1. Patrol Agent says:

    Fast & Furious was a DoJ sanctioned operation under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program. OCDETF is a major component of DoJ and is located within Main Justice. The top OCDETF manager is a “senior executive service” level position, the highest rank in federal civil service.

    The process for obtaining OCDETF approval and funding is quite rigorous, requiring a very detailed written proposal. In the case of F&F, the proposal was written by special agent(s) in the ATF Phoenix, AZ field office.

    Once the document is written, it goes through an ATF in-house approval process, which includes approval signatures from the group supervisor for the originating agent(s), the assistant special agent in charge, the deputy special agent in charge, and finally the Special Agent in charge (SAC), William Newell, in the case of F&F.

    Once the SAC signed his approval, the document moves to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke for F&F. All U.S. Attorney offices have in-house panels of career prosecutors that study the proposals to see if they meet with the OCDETF guidelines. Once this panel was satisfied, they referred it to Burke for his approval and signature.

    The next step in the process is for the document to be sent to the regional OCDETF office, which is supervised by career, supervisory prosecutors. They convene a meeting of all of the OCDETF member federal law enforcement agencies, of which there are nine. The designated OCDETF regional coordinators are senior career special agents, with extensive law enforcement experience. They vetted the proposal through their individual agencies to ensure there aren’t any conflicts. Once this is accomplished, the document moves to OCDETF Main Justice, where yet another panel will review the proposal in detail. It isn’t unusual for the proposing special agent(s) to be summoned before the panel for in person explanations.

    We know in the case of F&F it was approved and funded, because it ran for some eighteen months.

    How could it have been approved, if they had written about the actual tactics they implemented - letting guns walk? So they either lied in the proposal or ALL of the reviewing and approving never happened, which I seriously doubt.

    The same Mr. Burke is currently a partner in a security consulting firm (GSIS360), with the former national chief of the U.S. Border Patrol and the former director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), David Aguilar. They don’t mention in Burke’s corporate bios he was the former U.S. Attorney for Arizona and I think we all know why. They simply say Burke is a former high ranking advisor to DHS.

    Think they might be getting some nice, juicy, federal contracts!

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