In a move that stunned members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona has cited his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
The hearing took place on Jan. 20. The official, Patrick J. Cunningham, had been subpoenaed by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to appear before the committee to respond to questions about his knowledge of and involvement in the “Fast and Furious” gun running scandal.
Chairman Issa called the assertion of Fifth Amendment rights “extremely rare.”
“The assertion of the Fifth Amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious,” said Issa. “This is the first time anyone has asserted their Fifth Amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.”
Cunningham’s attorney asserted that his client is innocent, “but he has been ensnared by the unfortunate circumstances in which he now stands between two branches of government.”
However, Chairman Issa explained that the only legally valid reason to assert the Fifth Amendment was fear that testimony would incriminate the witness in a manner that could be used in a future prosecution.
This is the latest in a long series of failures by the Department of Justice to cooperate with congressional investigations into the “Fast and Furious” scandal. It is clear that after more than a year, it is the policy of the Obama DOJ and Attorney General Eric Holder to deny Congress and the American people the truth about “Fast and Furious.”
NRA-ILA continues to call for Attorney General Holder to be fired—and for the DOJ to fully cooperate with this investigation and tell the truth about who approved and oversaw this reckless operation.