Trump Justice Department ends “Operation Choke Point,” a program the Obama White House used to shut down gun shops

The Trump administration continues to wipe away the most authoritarian aspects of the Obama White House, including Friday’s dismissal of a Justice Department program that was often used to target gun retailers.

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee [pdf] the DoJ announced that it was ending all activities related to “Operation Choke Point,” which has been widely panned by Republicans, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, in the letter, described the program as “a misguided initiative conducted during the previous administration,” pledging that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ department was no longer implementing it.

“All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Choke Point are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again,” Boyd wrote.

The department further noted that it won’t engage any longer in investigations that were motivated primarily via “political preferences,” specifically stating that the DoJ would stop targeting the financial transactions of otherwise legal members of the firearms and short-term lending industries.

“The Department is committed to bringing enforcement actions only where warranted by the facts and the applicable law, without regard to political preferences,” Boyd said in his letter. “This approach honors the Department’s fundamental obligation to focus on the lawbreakers that deserve our undivided attention, and thereby protect the American public from fraud and other criminal activity.

“We reiterate that the Department will not discourage the provision of financial services to lawful industries, including businesses engaged in short-term lending and firearms-related activities,” Boyd wrote.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was glad to see the department scuttle the program while blaming the Obama administration for creating it in the first place.

“We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point,” he said, the Washington Free Beacon reported. “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,” Goodlatte said.

The news site noted further:

Gun rights activists and those in the financial service industry were equally pleased with the DOJ’s announcement. The National Rifle Association credited President Trump with rolling back the program saying it was “the latest in a long line of Trump administration successes in rolling back the failed policies of the Obama administration.” They called Operation Choke Point “unconscionable” and said it was aimed at destroying firearms-related businesses.

“On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, I want to thank President Trump and Attorney General Sessions for ending ‘Operation Choke Point,’” said Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement to the Free Beacon. (Related: One Bank’s Voicemail Says It No Longer Lends To Firearms Dealers.)

“President Obama’s blatant attempt to misuse banking laws to destroy small firearm businesses was unconscionable. We appreciate the Trump administration’s commitment to end it once and for all,” he added. “The federal government should not be allowed to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.”

The Community Financial Services Association of America recently granted a discovery request in its lawsuit against the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regarding its participation in the operation, said DoJ’s announcement was a “positive” first step. However, the group said other agencies involved now needed to be “fully stopped…”

“This illegal program has caused tremendous harm over the years to legal and licensed businesses all over the country, including many small businesses who have had to close down after losing their banking relationships,” said Dennis Shau, the head of the organization, in a statement.

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J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.

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