The Fast & Furious scandal pot may be reaching the boiling point. Attorney General Eric Holder has maintained he knew nothing about the “gun walking” operation on the southern border that put thousands of high powered weapons into the hands of the Mexican gun cartel and led to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and increased the mayhem on both sides of the border.
He would have us believe that the operation was simply a misguided adventure involving a couple of rouge officers behaving badly way out west. Holder contends that even after Agent Terry’s murder in December, 2010, the subsequent extensive press coverage, and formal inquiries for information to DOJ by Members of Congress that Fast & Furious simply didn’t register high enough on priority meter to merit any attention from the Attorney General himself, and that F&F was a minor subplot at the Department of Justice. (See previous articles here)
However, 1364 pages of documents just released to Congressional investigators tell a very different story. It’s a story of “robust internal deliberations” at the highest levels of the Justice Department to craft denials and falsify the facts of the gun running operation leading up to a formal response sent to Senator Charles Grassley on February 4, 2011. Based on the release of these new documents, the Justice Department has withdrawn the February 2011, and is now going through a tortured effort to cover their considerably messy tracks.
In a letter sent to Congress on Friday, December 2, 2012 Deputy Attorney General James Cole said, “Facts have come to light during the course of this investigation that indicate the February 4 letter contains inaccuracies.” That would be DOJ-speak for “we lied.”
“Department personnel…relied on information provided by supervisors from the components in the best position to know the relevant facts: ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona…Information provided by those supervisors was inaccurate. We understand that, in transcribed interviews with congressional investigators, the supervisors have said that they did not know at the time the letter was drafted that information they provided was inaccurate.”
According to a lengthy expose in Politico.com, “A selection of documents the Justice Department released to reporters on Friday demonstrates that U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, ATF Acting Director Ken Melson and ATF Deputy Director William Hoover vigorously urged the department to issue a forceful and broad denial of the allegations.”
Burke, who was also a former chief-of-staff to Janet Napolitano, resigned in August. Melson was “reassigned.” But, the head-rolling from this scandal is likely far from done. Politico explains that the huge volume of newly released documents “shed little light on precisely where in the federal bureaucracy the erroneous denials originated and whether the misstatements were deliberate or the product of some confusion.” Resolving those questions remains a major focus of the ongoing investigation.
One of Holder’s key deputies, Lanny Breuer, must be particularly nervous over the newly released documents. Breuer, who heads the Criminal Division at DOJ, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 1 that “I cannot say for sure whether I saw a draft of the letter that was sent to you.” The “letter” referred to was the February 4, 2011 letter that DOJ now admits was “inaccurate.” In written testimony sent to Senator Grassley, Breuer also said he had “no recollection” of seeing the letter before it was sent.
However, as the Friday dump of documents indicates, Breuer forwarded versions of the letter from his official email to his personal gmail account on three occasions: once before it was sent and twice after.
Further, Breuer’s aid Jason Weinstein was deeply involved in the drafting and redrafting of the Feb. 4 letter. On Feb. 2 expressing frustration and how difficult it was to satisfy all concerned, Weinstein sent an email to both Breuer and Burke, “The Magna Carta was easier to get done than this was.” In another email addressed to both Breuer and Weinstein as the final draft was near completion Burke wrote, “Great job by you.” Breuer replied, “Thanks, Jason, as usual great work.”
James Cole, the Deputy AG who drew the short straw and sent the letter to Congress Friday retracting the Feb. 4, 2011 Letter-of-Lies is going to have some explaining to do, as well. The documents show that his chief deputy, Lisa Monaco, expressed serious reservations about the “categorically false” claims in the Feb. 4 letter that F&F guns were used to kill Agent Terry.
“Obviously we want to be 300% sure we can make such ‘categorical’ statement” she warned, but apparently to no avail.
To some degree, these new documents are just further confirmation of what was already known. That the Fast and Furious operation, and most particularly the cover-up following Agent Terry’s assassination, involved some of the most highly placed officials at the Department of Justice. While there has been no disclosure as of yet that the new 1364 pages implicate Eric Holder himself, we reaffirm our earlier conclusion that on May 3, 2011 the Attorney General perjured himself when he testified to Congress that he had only just learned of F&F “over the last few weeks.”
Briefing memos from Holder’s closest aides including Lanny Breuer indicate Holder knew – or had an obligation to have known - of F&F as early as July, 2010, five months before Brian Terry was gunned down. Holder’s top aides have now been implicated in a cover-up plot to deny Congress, the American people, and Agent Terry’s family from knowing the truth of an ill-conceived, shameful operation that extended to the highest levels of government. And, yet, to date all Barack Obama has said of the scandal is, “I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder.” And, for the record, the “I was not aware” defense invoked by Holder and Breuer is also the defense of choice by the President, too. Time will tell.