During a confirmation hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, U.S. Attorney, Acting ATF Director and President Obama's nominee for permanent ATF director Todd Jones, was grilled by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley over allegations of whistleblower and employee intimidation.
"As we sit here today, there remains an open investigation by the Office of Special Counsel regarding Mr. Jones’ conduct as U.S. Attorney. Generally, when a nominee is the subject of an open investigation," Grassley said. "In this case, there are allegations of gross mismanagement and abuses of authority in Mr. Jones’ office. And there is a complaint that Mr. Jones retaliated against a whistleblower. These are serious charges, and ones that are of particular concern to me. The public interest demands resolution of these issues."
Grassley expressed frustration with the Judicary Committee moving forward with a confirmation hearing without all of the facts surrounding the Jones case and suggested the Committee open its own investigation into the matter.
" As the Chairman of this Committee knows, and as I told her yesterday, I objected to holding this hearing today and requested the hearing be postponed. As we sit here today, there remains an open investigation by the Office of Special Counsel regarding Mr. Jones’ conduct as U.S. Attorney. Generally, when a nominee is the subject of an open investigation, the Committee does not move forward until the issues are resolved. That is the sensible thing to do. When there is a pending investigation, the Committee obviously doesn’t have the full information about the nominee," Grassley said. "We are left today to take Mr. Jones’ word. We have no way to independently verify what he says or to ascertain the truth of the matter."
Jones has been accused of creating a "climate of fear" during his time as the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota according to complaints filed with the Office of the Inspector General. He has also been accused of threatening agents within the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
"It has never been my practice to engage in retaliatory employment," Jones said in response to questions about the allegations. "I have not taken any adverse actions against anyone I have worked with."
In addition to facing questions over whistleblower and employee intimidation, Jones was pressed to provide details about who has been held accountable for Operation Fast and Furious. When asked by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake what disciplinary actions have been taken against those responsible, Jones failed to provide specifics. Jones counted those who had resigned or retired as being "held accountable" for the operation.
"Some were on the disciplinary process and decided to submit their retirement," Jones said.
Retirement comes with full benefits.
Senator Grassley has requested in the past that Jones be available to his office for an interview about Fast and Furious, he declined.
Another issue of controversy surrounding the Department of Justice and ATF has been a lack of gun crime prosecutions, specifically for felons attempting to purchase guns, since 2009 when President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder took office. Tuesday, Jones claimed prosecuting these crimes was a major priority for the Department. Texas Senator Ted Cruz begged to differ.
ATF hasn't had a permanent director in seven years for multiple reasons. For the first two years of the Obama administration, a nominee for the position was not provided and therefore not confirmed. When Acting ATF Director Andrew Traver was nominated as permanent director of ATF by President Obama, he was asked to provide further information about himself and his background. That information was never provided and eventually Traver's name was withdrawn for the position. Jones was nominated by President Obama earlier this year as part of 20 new executive actions on gun control.
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