(Reuters) – U.S. House Republicans plan to file a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday in an effort to obtain documents from the nation’s top law enforcement official on a botched operation to link Arizona gun sales to Mexican drug cartels.
The move, announced late on Sunday, follows the Republican-controlled House of Representative’s June vote to sanction Holder for withholding documents it says are critical to their investigation of the U.S. gun operation known as “Fast and Furious.”
“We are filing charges against Attorney General Eric Holder tomorrow,” Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said in a post on Twitter on Sunday.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the department was “always willing to work with the Committee, instead the House and the Committee have said they prefer to litigate.”
Issa could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday. He previously said he planned to file the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
The “Fast and Furious” operation intended to track weapons sold in Arizona that were suspected of being transported to Mexico for use by violent drug cartels. The Justice Department initially denied the operation allowed some guns to “walk” into Mexico but later retracted the denial.
Congressional investigators have found U.S. officials lost track of many of the weapons, two of which were found along the Arizona border with Mexico where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in late 2010.
Justice Department officials have given congressional investigators thousands of pages of documents about the operation, but the House held Holder in contempt of Congress on June 28 for his refusal to turn over others it considered critical to the probe. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Holder after he was censured.
In the absence of any other practical way to enforce its will, the House authorized a lawsuit to compel compliance.