DOJ kills Obama-era program targeting gun dealers

Days after top House Republicans requested that Attorney General Jeff Sessions put an end to an unfair Obama-era Justice Department program known as “Operation Choke Point,” the department confirmed in a response letter that the program is dead.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and the other GOP lawmakers said in an Aug. 10 letter that they want the department and related federal agencies to formally “repudiate” Operation Choke Point guidelines. The program attempted to discourage banks from offering financial services to “high risk” customers but was accused of unfairly going after legal businesses, including firearms dealers.

“All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in the Aug. 16-dated letter, calling it a “misguided initiative” from the prior administration.

Goodlatte and others applauded the reversal on Friday, putting out the following statement: “The Obama Administration created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses. … By ending Operation Choke Point, the Trump Justice Department has restored the Department’s responsibility to pursue lawbreakers, not legitimate businesses.”

Launched when Eric Holder was attorney general, the program attempted to discourage banks from offering financial services to “high risk” customers – a list that included short-term lenders and firearms dealers – but was accused of hurting legal businesses in those categories.

“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 GOP lawmakers wrote last week, calling for formal policy statements from several agencies to end such practices.

Breitbart News learned about the secret program approximately a year after it was launched under-the-radar in 2013 by the Obama administration. “Operation Choke Point” was “designed to destroy three sectors of the private lending industry: third party payment processors (TPPPs), payday lenders, and online lenders.” The operation was headed by political operatives and career bureaucrats at the Department of Justice, the FDIC, and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

An article in a May 2014 issue of The Washington Post revealed that the program got its name because through strangling the providers of financial services to the targeted industries, the government can “choke off” the oxygen (money) needed for these industries to survive. Without an ability to process payments, the businesses — especially online vendors — cannot survive.

In a letter to Goodlatte and other lawmakers, Boyd wrote, “We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor.”

Boyd noted that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation earlier had rescinded its list of supposedly “high-risk” merchants, and said the Justice Department “strongly agrees with that withdrawal.”

The letter from Republican members of Congress last week said that list had hurt the ability of some businesses to borrow.

The letter also said Obama administration attorneys, over the course of six months in 2013, issued as many as 60 administrative subpoenas to banks doing business with gun-related entities including payday lenders.

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