In February 2011, Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer submitted a letter to Senator Charles Grassley claiming his department, which oversees the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) never knowingly allowed straw purchasers working for ruthless Mexican drug cartels to purchase thousands of guns and then openly traffic them into Mexico.
A few weeks ago, Breuer testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and admitted that he in fact knew guns were walking in Operation Fast and Furious, but claimed he failed to notify Attorney General Eric Holder about the tactic. Senator Grassley is telling Justice Department officials they can't have their cake and eat it too.
The letter which Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein participated in drafting, and which Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer was sent drafts of, stated: “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.” Weinstein knew this was clearly false because he knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver, which he brought to Breuer’s attention in April 2010. Had Breuer read this letter (he is unclear if he read it), he would have known this sentence was false as well.
Like Senator Grassley’s January 27 letter, the Justice Department’s February 4 letter applied to all of Project Gunrunner, of which both Operation Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious were a part. The Attorney General can’t simultaneously claim that Senator Grassley’s January 27 letter was too broad for him to be aware that Grassley was talking about of Fast and Furious but that their response was so narrow as to only apply to Fast and Furious, which is never specifically named in the Justice Department’s February 4 letter.
Now, in a late Friday afternoon document dump (typical of this administration), documents further show Justice Department officials deliberately misled Congress about when they knew fast and furious guns were being trafficking into Mexico and emails show ATF and DOJ officials planning to submit false information, including the claim that the bureau never walked guns, in order to save the agency from embarrassment. The facts show they did walk guns, thousands of them, on purpose.
Beth Levine, spokeperson for Senator Grassley, has released a statement regarding the latest document dump from the Obama Justice Department.
“After a first glance at today’s document dump from the Justice Department, there appears to be even more questions for Assistant Attorney General Breuer, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Weinstein and former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. The congressional investigators will continue to scour the documents over the upcoming days and will have further questions for department officials.
“In addition, the disparaging emails from Mr. Burke about Senator Grassley and his staff are disappointing from somebody who should have known much more about the gunwalking. Fortunately, it appears that Mr. Burke now realizes that the Senator and his staff have the best of intentions and work very hard to understand the facts of any investigation, including this one that involved a disastrous program where our own government illegally allowed guns to be walked and led to the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. After learning yesterday from the Justice Department that the emails would be released, Mr. Burke personally apologized to Senator Grassley’s staff for the tone and the content of the emails.”