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Congressional Republicans step up investigation of Fast and Furious gun-tracing operation

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Believing that the Operation Fast and Furious scandal reaches into the highest levels of the Justice Department, congressional Republicans are demanding the attorney general’s office turn over a sweeping trove of emails, documents and other material to determine Washington’s role in the “reckless” gun-tracing operation that allowed thousands of U.S. semiautomatic weapons to fill the arsenals of Mexican drug cartels.

“As our investigation into Operation Fast and Furious has progressed,” Republicans wrote Tuesday in a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., “we have learned that senior officials at the Department of Justice, including Senate-confirmed political appointees, were unquestionably aware of the implementation of this reckless program.

“Therefore, it is necessary to review communications between and among these senior officials.”

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The investigation is being led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

With the investigation now moving into a new phase – determining how involved top Washington officials were in the ill-fated program run out of the Phoenix area – the demand for a carte blanche copy of “emails, memoranda, briefing papers and handwritten notes” could stir a fierce political and legal fight over how much material, if any, will be turned over.

Nevertheless, as one congressional investigator said Tuesday, “We’ve got questions. Lots of questions.”

They want to see all the written communications to and from a dozen top officials. They include Holder’s top assistant, Deputy Atty. Gen. James Cole, Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny Breuer, and Gary Grindler, the former deputy attorney general now assigned to Holder’s office.

Justice Department officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they could not comment on an ongoing investigation.


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