Congressman Darrell Issa, at left, and Attorney General Eric Holder, at right.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, left, and Attorney General Eric Holder met on June 19, but they were unable to resolve the current impasse over the "Fast and Furious" investigation. Reuters

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told ABC News' This Week on Sunday that Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to produce documents on Operation Fast and Furious was clearly a cover-up.

But when asked on the same day by Fox News Sunday whether he had evidence of a specific White House cover-up, Issa responded No, we don't.

However, Issa, R-Calif., told This Week that the Obama administration and the Justice Department have used deny, delay, and recuse tactics, and warned that We [the Congress] have every right to see documents that say, did you know, when did you know, what did you know, including even the president. His comments to Fox were even harsher: Justice lied to the American people on February 4th [2011] and didn't make it right for 10 months.

Holder, cited for contempt by Issa's committee last week, now faces a potential vote in the House next week that may find him in contempt of Congress. The charge usually involves the obstruction of a legislative investigation through refusal to comply with a subpoena requiring the production of certain documents.

Yet, the Justice Department said on Wednesday it has already provided more than 7,600 pages of documents to Congress on the case and participated in more than 11 hearings, challenging the notion that they have been uncooperative.

Moreover, Holder maintains that efforts of the committee and Republican congressmen represent a political tactic targeted at shaming Democrats and Obama during a major election year. He calls the committee's demands unwarranted, unnecessary and unprecedented.

Fast and Furious was a gunwalking operation set up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2006 and 2011 to track known illegal and smuggled weapons entering Mexico for the drug cartels, with the ultimate purpose of implicating higher level cartel leaders.

However, field agents within the ATF itself have questioned the effectiveness of the tactic, which ultimately allowed the sale of some 2,000 firearms -- 700 of which were recovered by year's end of 2011. The failure to date to arrest any leading cartel figures and the death of border agent Brian Terry in mid-December 2010 from suspected gunwalked weapons have led to widespread criticisms of the operation.

Asked by the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2011, about Fast and Furious, Holder originally said he did not know about the operation until a month previous and was uncertain who first approved it. The attorney general says his office has banned the use of similar law enforcement methods since that time.

Yet, in October 2011 newly released Justice Department documents appeared to implicate Holder's knowledge of the operation since 2010, a contradiction of his May testimony.

Issa says the committee now needs further documents detailing the Justice Department's decision to claim in a February 2011 letter to Congress that the ATF never knowingly allowed the use of Fast and Furious tactics. Holder in turn claims the letter contained incorrect information inserted by accident. Issa also believes that an additional early 2011 memo drafted by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein implicates the Justice Department in having knowingly provided Congress with false information.

A meeting between Holder and Issa on the evening of June 19 failed to produce any compromises. The House Oversight and Reform Committee voted the next day 23 to 17 along party lines to place Holder in contempt, a decision which may now go to the House floor unless some deal is reached first.

However, Issa notes that the administration's release of the particular documents requested means that the vote of contempt may be delayed.

Either way, the congressman has cemented a reputation as a figure in the Republican Party with an axe to grind against the current administration. Earlier this year, Issa told Bloomberg that Obama's was the most corrupt government in history.

The president has attempted to use executive privilege to shield the documents from being given to Congress, the first time he has ever used the power since he took office. Executive privilege prevents confidential information and communications from being given to the legislative branch under the argument that doing so would jeopardize ongoing operations.

Texas Gov. and former presidential candidate Rick Perry told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that What I would favor is the president of the United States being transparent with what is going on. I mean what is so important -- what are they hiding? What has gone on that's so important that I'm going to use executive privilege to keep the United States Congress from having documents?

Republicans have harshly critizied the president's attempt to protect the Justice Department and the attorney general.

Holder, the first African-American to head the Justice Department, has been a controversial figure since his appointment in February 2009. The GOP has blasted him for actions which they describe as giving preferential treatment to minority groups, as well as other isses in the prosecution of terror suspections and state immigration cases.