Issa threatens contempt charges in gunwalker probe

Rep. Darrell Issa has tired of waiting for the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to respond to his subpoenas in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s probe of the ATF gunwalker scandal.  In a letter today to ATF’s director, Issa warned of contempt proceedings if the DoJ and White House continue their refusal to comply with subpoenas, and pointedly explained why the DoJ’s current investigation isn’t germane to the issue:

For the first time since Republicans took control of the House and gained the power of congressional subpoena, the Obama administration has declined to comply with a subpoena issued by top GOP oversight official Rep. Darrell Issa.

In the face of a subpoena by Issa, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provided no documents by the April 13 deadline, according to an April 20 letter from Issa to ATF’s director, Kenneth Melson.

Issa is threatening contempt proceedings if ATF does not comply.

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch sent a letter to Issa attempting to parry the subpoena by claiming that Issa’s probe would interfere with a concurrent investigation of ATF by Justice.  Issa replied that Welch failed to understand the nature of his committee’s investigation.  Issa isn’t interested in a  concurrent probe — he is investigating the DoJ’s role in the gunwalker program as well as that of the ATF.

Furthermore, both agencies are accountable to Congress and must respond to valid subpoenas.  If not, those officials obstructing Congressional investigations can face criminal sanctions.  Democrats certainly made that threat often enough in their investigation of the termination of US Attorneys in the Bush administration, and that “scandal” involved the executive branch’s decision to replace its own appointees, not gun-running by the government that resulted in murders of American security personnel.

When Barack Obama ran for office, he promised “the most transparent administration” in American history.  How exactly does refusing to comply with Congressional oversight square with that promise?

Update: The Boss Emeritus has followed this case closely and has the letter up at her site now.