Republicans in the House are putting pressure on President Donald Trump to kill an Obama-era program that some said was unfair to gun dealers.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, and other top House Republicans penned a letter to the president on Aug. 10 that asked him to abandon the guidelines of Operation Choke Point. A program that made it tough for “high risk” businesses to do business with financial institutions like banks.
“Operation Choke Point was an Obama Administration initiative that destroyed legitimate businesses to which that Administration was ideologically opposed (e.g., firearms dealers) by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses,” the representatives wrote. “The damage from this initiative lingers, and [we] request that you take immediate corrective action.”
“Financial institutions should be given explicit assurance that they may serve these unfairly targeted industries just like any other legitimate businesses,” they wrote. “Institutions should also be encouraged to restore long-standing relationships with lawful, targeted industries.”
The letter said during one six month span in 2013 the Department of Justice, under former President Obama, issued around 60 administrative subpoenas to financial institutions who did business with gun sellers.
Among the businesses affected by the program other than gun sellers, are amusement game owners, payday lenders and pornography distributors and performers.
“In the Obama Justice Department’s view, targeted industries were guilty until proven innocent, and that was fine in its view, because the presumption of guilt was rebuttable. This theory, which underlay Operation Choke Point, turned traditional law enforcement procedure on its head. Ordinarily speaking, law enforcement moves from the specific to the general. A bad actor is identified and then gradually the net widens to capture co-conspirators or a larger criminal enterprise. OCP started by presuming a whole industry guilty until individual merchants prove their innocence,” the letter said.
The Congressmen described businesses that were destroyed by the program.
“One of the participants—a veteran and a former law enforcement professional—described how the bank came to him and said that, the government ‘came in like a bunch of thugs’ and pressured them to stop serving his small firearms business. Without access to banking services, his business faltered. He concluded, on the verge of tears, by stating that there was ‘no fix’ for what happened to him,” the letter read. “Another participant, a firearms manufacturer who had been in business over 40 years, described that he held accounts at over twenty financial institutions and within a short period of time all were terminated. Participants from other industries told of losing access to banking services as recently as April 2017. In short, the ‘de-risking’ effects of Operation Choke Point continue to reverberate.”
The letter to the president was signed by Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Rep. Tom Marino, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Rep. Goodlatte.
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