Under the Obama administration, Operation Choke Point was created as an “anti-fraud initiative” but was used as a political weapon to target gun retailers and businesses Democrats weren’t fond of.
On Wednesday, GOP representatives were told by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd that the administration had shut down the the program, ending a massive part of Obama’s legacy that was an “extralegal crackdown on politically disfavored groups.”
“All of the department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again,” Boyd wrote in the letter.
The letter was addressed to Jeb Hensarling and Bob Goodlatte, the chairmen of the Financial Services and Judiciary Committees, respectively. Their staffs confirmed they received the letter.
The Republicans had written last week to Attorney General Jeff Session for confirmation that the program was over so that businesses that might be targeted could breathe easy.
After the Obama Justice Department began Operation Choke Point in 2013, Hensarling and other conservatives accused them of denying the constitutional rights of businesses like gun dealers and payday lenders by targeting them for scrutiny under the program, cutting off their access to the banking system under the guise of investigating fraud and money laundering.
The GOP said companies were still wary that they could lose access to the banking system, and needed clear guidance from the Trump administration that the program wouldn’t be continued.
Now they’ve received that confirmation, although Boyd said the department would follow up on investigations that stemmed from the original program.
Boyd called Choke Point a “misguided initiative” and said that the administration shares the Republicans’ concerns about lawful businesses being scrutinized just because their activities are disfavored. He also noted, though, that some of the responses to subpoenas originally issued as part of the program uncovered criminal activity.
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