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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Time’s Up for Holder in Fast & Furious Dispute

WASHINGTON (CN) - Lame-duck Attorney General Eric Holder must cough up certain records on the bungled Fast and Furious gun-trafficking operation but will not be held in contempt of court, ruled a federal judge.

The ruling Monday is the latest development in the vicious saga between the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Justice Department, which has closely guarded its records on the operation that let smugglers walk guns into Mexico so that agents could try and track them to the cartels.

Though U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson gave the Attorney General until October to produce all non-privileged documents to the committee, Holder sought to delay that release pending the possibility of an appeal.

The committee moved on Oct. 2 to have Holder show cause why the court should not hold him in contempt for missing the October deadline.

Judge Jackson denied Holder's motion for a stay on Monday afternoon and ordered "him to produce to plaintiff non-privileged documents by November 3, 2014."

"The court further denies as moot plaintiff's motion for an order to show cause," she added.

The Fast and Furious program was executed by the Phoenix field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. ATF agents knowingly allowed firearms purchased illegally in the United States to be unlawfully transferred to third parties and transported into Mexico, in hopes that the guns would lead them to the cartel leaders who purchased them.

Agents ultimately lost track of thousands of guns, however, and the mission fully unraveled when some of the weapons turned up at the scene of the 2010 firefight in Arizona that resulted in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

The Republican-controlled House has been on the hunt for justice ever since, demanding records on the botched operation from Holder in oversight hearings before the Judiciary Committee.

"To date, notwithstanding the self-evidently binding nature of the court's August 20 order, the attorney general has not produced to the committee any documents in compliance with that Order; nor has he noted an appeal (even though he threatened earlier to take an interlocutory appeal if he did not receive the stay he requested ...); nor has he proffered any legitimate excuse for his non-compliance with the production aspect of the August 20 order," the Oversight Committee said in its Thursday motion.

Holder will not be raked across the coals just yet, however.

"The committee was well aware of the pendency of the motion to stay, so its filing of the contempt motion was entirely unnecessary," Jackson wrote.

Holder, the country's first black attorney general, resigned in September, garnering praise from President Barack Obama for a job well done and spite from House Republicans who regard his stepping-down as too little too late.

Holder has said he will stay on until his successor is named.

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