Congress instructed the Department of Justice on Thursday to turn over all documents and communications that may be related to newly disclosed efforts by the Obama administration to handicap an investigation into the terror group Hezbollah and its Iranian benefactors, according to a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The letter represents the first salvo in a new investigation by congressional leaders into allegations senior Obama administration officials thwarted a decade-long Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into Hezbollah's illicit operations.
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The Obama administration, in what congressional insiders described to the Free Beacon as a "potentially criminal" enterprise, interfered with the DEA's investigation into Hezbollah drug activities in order to avoid angering the terror group's chief patron Iran and preserve the landmark nuclear deal.
"I've long believed that the Obama administration could not have done any more to bend over backwards to appease the Iranian regime, yet news that the Obama administration killed the investigation into a billion dollar drug ring that lined the terrorist group Hezbollah's pockets in order to save its coveted Iran deal may very well take the cake," Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) said.
"Hezbollah is a brutal terrorist group with American blood on its hands and it would be unconscionable for American policy to deliberately empower such a nefarious group," he said.
Congressional leaders have begun a formal investigation into the matter and petitioned the DOJ to hand over "all documents and communications" that may shine light on "interference with the DEA's law enforcement efforts against Hezbollah," according to a letter sent by Reps. DeSantis and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio.).
"We have a responsibility to evaluate whether these allegations are true, and if so, did the administration undermine U.S. law enforcement and compromise U.S. national security," the lawmakers wrote to Sessions, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
The lawmakers are requesting the DOJ hand over to Congress all materials relating to a DEA operation known as Project Cassandra, which Politico first reported was part of an effort to investigate Hezbollah's drug activities across Latin America.
The lawmakers also are demanding files and communications related to other Hezbollah investigations, including, but not limited to, Operation Titan, Operation Perseus, and the Iran-Hezbollah Super Facilitator Initiative, according to the letter.
DeSantis and Jordan also have requested DOJ produce documents related to key individuals linked to these investigations, including those in Hezbollah's inner circle.
Additionally, the lawmakers are seeking "all documents and communications referring or relating to the potential designation of Hezbollah as a Transnational Criminal Organization," as well as, "all documents referring or relating to efforts to prosecute targets related to Hezbollah through the" RICO Act.
DOJ must provide Congress with these communications and documents no latter than 5 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2018.
Lawmakers also have required DOJ brief them no later than Jan. 12, 2018, on the matter.
The request for information marks the first investigatory effort by lawmakers since Politico first disclosed that the Obama administration may have thwarted DEA investigations into Hezbollah as part of an effort to avoid upsetting Iran.
Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter described the Hezbollah meddling as one part of a larger Obama administration effort to overlook Iran's global terror operations.
Congress is particularly interested to learn whether key senior Obama administration officials, including former National Security Council staffer Ben Rhodes, were involved in meddling with the Hezbollah operation as part of an effort to preserve diplomatic relations with Iran and pave the way towards the nuclear deal.
The investigation by DeSantis and Jordan is being undertaken under the wider umbrella of oversight efforts into the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Iran that led to the nuclear deal.
Congressional officials and others have long maintained the Obama administration misled lawmakers and the American people about the nature of the deal in order to ensure its survival.
In addition to the latest information on the Hezbollah investigation, the Obama administration has been accused of helping Iran skirt international sanctions and providing Tehran with multiple cash infusions to ensure it remained at the bargaining table.
U.S. drug enforcement agents who spoke to Politico about the matter accused the Obama administration of derailing an investigation into Hezbollah's drug trafficking and money laundering efforts that began in 2008 under the Bush administration.
The investigation centered on Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militants who allegedly participated in the illicit drug network, which was subject to U.S. wiretaps and undercover operations.
Hezbollah is believed to have been laundering at least $200 million per month just in the United States, according to the report