WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department and a congressional committee disagree on the pace of their talks to settle a lawsuit over congressional efforts to get records related to Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled gun-tracking operation.
In a joint filing Friday night, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee told the judge in the case that a settlement offer it received from the Justice Department this week was a "grave disappointment" and that a settlement is not possible.
"The parties are very, very far apart," lawyers for the GOP-led committee wrote. "Indeed, they are not even conceptually on the same page. After nearly four months of negotiating in good faith, the committee reluctantly has concluded — principally as a result of the department's settlement document — that the attorney general is not serious about settlement." The committee added that it didn't think court-ordered mediation would help.
President Barack Obama has invoked executive privilege and Attorney General Eric Holder has been found in contempt of the House for refusing to turn over records that might explain what led the Justice Department to reverse course, after initially denying to Congress that federal agents had used a controversial tactic called gun-walking in the failed law enforcement operation.
The department has already turned over 7,600 pages of documents on the operation itself. The continuing dispute is over documents describing how the department responded to the congressional investigation of the operation.
In the same filing Friday, the Justice Department said it disagreed with the committee's characterization of the settlement negotiations and that a settlement is still possible.
Without getting into specifics, the department said it "provided a meaningful offer to the committee to produce documents directly responsive to the committee's identified outstanding interests." The department added that mediation by a judge would be helpful.