Last Friday, August 18th, Republican House members announced to the public that the Justice Department, under President Trump, would be ending former President Obama’s “Operation Choke Point” program. The program was designed to target firearms and ammunition retails by putting pressure on financial institutions to make it difficult for these retailers to stay in business. The House Republicans were responding to a letter sent by other GOP House members requesting that the program be shut down.
That letter read, in part:
[W]e request that your respective Departments and agencies issue clear and public formal policy statements repudiating Operation Choke Point and the abuses by financial regulators of the “reputation risk” guidance they developed and promulgated under Operation Choke Point’s auspices. Financial institutions should be given explicit assurance that they may serve these unfairly targeted industries just like any other legitimate businesses. Institutions should also be encouraged to restore long-standing relationships with lawful, targeted industries.
Read the full letter here.
The Assistant Attorney General, Stephen E. Boyd, responded, in part:
This responds to your letter to the Attorney General dated August 10, 2017, regarding Operation Chokepoint, a misguided initiative conducted during the previous administration. We share your view that law abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor. Enforcement decisions should always be made based on the facts and the applicable law. We are sending identical responses to the other Members who joined in your letter.
Operation Chokepoint entailed the issuance of a set of subpoenas in 2013……The Department of Justice (Department) strongly agrees with that withdrawal. All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again.
Here is the full response:
Chairman Goodlatte, Chairman Hensarling, Regulatory Reform Subcommittee Chairman Marino, Financial Institutions Subcommittee Chairman Luetkemeyer, and IP Subcommittee Chairman Issa praised the Justice Department’s decision in the joint statement below.
We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point. 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. Targeted industries, such as firearms dealers, were presumed guilty by the Obama Justice Department until proven innocent, and many businesses are still facing the repercussions of this misguided program. This is no way for law enforcement to operate and runs counter to principles enshrined in our Constitution. By ending Operation Choke Point, the Trump Justice Department has restored the Department’s responsibility to pursue lawbreakers, not legitimate businesses.
Operation Choke Point was about choking liberty, not crime. Make no mistake about that fact. Whenever the holder of the leash deems it useful to extend the length of the leash for the leash-ee, we must stop and give thanks to the great powers that be.
But lest you imagine that this is a benevolent act by the coercive enterprise, remember that it is at least possible that the real motivation behind this change in policy could be that the owners and managers of the coercive enterprise, under somewhat modified leadership, have found some economic benefit behind this shift in policy. Either way, it is a good thing that the folks who sell us our firearms and ammo might find it easier to operate in a slightly freer market than they did before the program was ended.