The Department of Justice released more than 64,000 pages of documents related to its Operation Fast and Furious Monday night, in a move Republicans are calling both a data dump and a victory. The Obama administration had withheld the records, citing executive privilege.
The documents were redacted by several agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the State Department. But several details already have become the center of conversations, including one email in which Attorney General Eric Holder criticizes House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
In an email Holder sent on April 15, 2011, he wrote:
"Issa and his idiot cronies never gave a damn about this when all that was happening was that thousands of Mexicans were being killed with guns from our country. All they want to do — in reality — is cripple ATF and suck up to the gun lobby. Politics at its worst — maybe the media will get it."
Those thoughts came in an email thread in which Holder and members of his staff discussed efforts by Issa to subpoena a witness to testify about the failed ATF operation along the U.S.-Mexico border. The program has been blamed for providing a weapon that was used to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Holder and Republicans in the House have been fighting over the documents since at least the summer of 2012, when the House cited the attorney general for contempt.
In the court case regarding the fight, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman decided not to hold Holder in contempt — even as she denied Holder's request that she allow him to withhold the documents, as Politico reported last month.
On his Facebook page today, Issa wrote, "Judge's order compelled the production of 64,280 pages of Operation Fast and Furious documents that President Obama and the Justice Department illegally withheld from Congress."
That message was echoed on the Facebook feeds of several Republicans in Congress on Election Day; Issa's House Oversight Committee also released a statement, saying that the release of so many documents shows that the Obama administration tried to overextend the rights of executive privilege "to avoid disclosing documents that embarrass or otherwise implicate" officials.
The Justice Department says the documents show that Holder hadn't known about the doomed program before early in 2011.
Thanks to NPR's Carrie Johnson for sending some of the documents our way.