Settlement talks have stalled in a lawsuit to enforce congressional subpoenas probing the U.S. Justice Department’s “Operation Fast and Furious” program, said an attorney for a U.S. House of Representatives committee.
The lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was brought by the House’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee and grew out of the panel’s inquiry into so-called gun walking, the practice of allowing illegal gun purchases in the U.S. in a bid to track the flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
Kerry Kircher, general counsel for the House, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a hearing today in Washington that mediation to settle the complaint would be “largely a waste of time.”
“I don’t believe it will do any good,” Kircher said. “I’m not encouraged by where the parties stand.”
Holder, citing President Barack Obama’s assertion of executive privilege, has refused to give lawmakers some of the information they’ve requested.
“We remain somewhat more optimistic,” Ian Gershengorn, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, told the judge about settlement talks. The use of a mediator is “premature,” he said.
The Republican-controlled House is seeking records of internal Justice Department discussions of a February 2011 letter to lawmakers that Holder later said mistakenly contained incorrect information.
The letter said the department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which conducted the program, hadn’t “knowingly allowed” the illegal gun purchases.
The House oversight committee cited Holder for contempt of Congress in June for failing to turn over the records.
Republicans made Holder one of their main targets in the run up to the 2012 election. More than 100 Republican lawmakers have called for Holder’s resignation for his handling of Fast and Furious, terrorism and other issues.
Holder plans to stay on through at least part of Obama’s second term, according to a White House official, who asked for anonymity because the decisions haven’t been announced.
Berman Jackson urged attorneys for both sides to keep talking.
“The pace of negotiations isn’t encouraging,” Berman Jackson said.
A hearing on the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the case is scheduled for Feb. 7.
The case is Committee on Oversight and Government Reform v. Holder, 1:12-cv-01332, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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