Attorney General Eric Holder is "spiking the football" with the release of the DOJ Inspector General report about Operation Fast and Furious. The report essentially lets Holder off the hook while blaming everyone else, including his second hand man Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, for the failed and lethal operation. From the IG report:
Attorney General Holder told the OIG that he did not hear of Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011, and was not aware of concerns with the tactics in the investigation until February. He said that he visited Sen. Grassley in the Senator’s office on January 31, 2011, and Sen. Grassley handed him two letters that referenced Project Gunrunner. Holder told us that he became familiar with the phrase “Fast and Furious” after visiting with Sen. Grassley.
We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed Holder about Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. Melson stated that he did not inform Holder about the investigation, and Burke said he did not recall doing so.231 Melson also stated that the Department was not involved in formulating any of the tactical decisions in the investigation. Holder said that Melson did not identify to him any problems about Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 and 2010.
Our investigation did not identify evidence that contradicted Holder’s statements to us regarding his knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious and the use of “gun walking” tactics in that investigation. As we describe below, we identified information regarding Operation Fast and Furious that reached the Office of the Attorney General in 2010 but not Attorney General Holder himself. However, we found no evidence that this information included the inappropriate tactics at issue in Operation Fast and Furious.
But what about the memos addressed directly to Holder about Fast and Furious? The IG report says they never reached his desk.
We found that the Offices of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General received 11 weekly reports in 2010 from ATF, DOJ’s Criminal Division, and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) that referred to Operation Fast and Furious by name. For example, six of seven NDIC reports included among several other entries a summary of the support that NDIC had provided Operation Fast and Furious. The summary, which was identical in six of the reports except for certain dates, stated that Celis-Acosta and the straw purchasers in Operation Fast and Furious were responsible for trafficking 1,500 firearms to Mexican drug cartels.232 Attorney General Holder told the OIG that he did not believe that he reviewed these reports at the time that his office received them and that his staff did not bring them to his attention. Former Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler stated that he had no recollection of having reviewed any weekly report concerning Operation Fast and Furious or of his staff highlighting such information for his review. We found no evidence that these weekly reports were forwarded to the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General.
Holder put out a statement just moments ago, here it is in part.
I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now:
-The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006;
-The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and
-The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it.
The last line is key, "The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it." Holder seems to have forgotten about the February 4, 2011 Fast and Furious letter edited multiple times by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, signed by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, submitted to Congress and withdrawn nine months later due to being full of false and misleading information. Holder also seems to have forgotten about the 74,000 Fast and Furious documents he has refused to hand over to Congressional investigators and his exective privilege bailout from President Obama back in June, further preventing Congress from obtaining more information. As a reminder, Holder changed his testimony about when he first found out about Fast and Furious, multiple times under oath.
UPDATE: The IG report contradicts Holder's claims senior officials made no effort to mislead Congress.
[B]y the date of its May 2 response letter, senior Department officials responsible for drafting the letter also knew or should have known that ATF had not made ‘every effort to interdict weapons purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico,’ either in Operation Fast and Furious or other firearms trafficking investigations, and that the Department's February 4 letter contained inaccuracies and could no longer be defended in its entirety …. Given that senior Department officials' confidence in the accuracy of the February 4 letter was decreasing rather than increasing as their internal review progressed, the OIG found it troubling that the Department's subsequent May 2 letter to Sen. Grassley included a substantive statement - albeit a qualified one - regarding the Fast and Furious investigation that could have been read to reaffirm the prior questioned letter …. Similarly, the report found that the Department should not have provided testimony on June 15 before the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform in a manner that created ambiguity and uncertainty regarding whether the Department was still defending its February 4 and May 2 letters.
Holder is also moving quickly to "hold people accountable" for the operation.
“Based upon the information in the OIG report and other related information, I am also announcing additional personnel changes today.
“First, Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director at ATF, has retired from the Department, effective immediately. Ken has served the Department in several important roles for over thirty years, including as a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and more recently as an advisor on forensic science issues. I want to thank him for his dedication and service to the Department over the last three decades.
“Second, those individuals within ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, whom the OIG report found to have been responsible for designing, implementing or supervising Operation Fast and Furious have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions. Consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Act, the Department is prohibited from revealing any additional information about these referrals at this time.
“Finally, I have accepted the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a longtime career prosecutor who most recently served in the Criminal Division where he led our violent and organized crime, computer crimes and intellectual property enforcement efforts. Jason has dedicated much of his career to fighting violent crime and has led highly successful efforts around the country in this effort. The American people are safer because of his work. His commitment to the Department has been unwavering, and I deeply appreciate his 15 years of distinguished service here at Main Justice as well as in Baltimore and New York.
Now that the DOJ investigation of the DOJ is complete, will Holder release the remaining 74,000 Fast and Furious documents to Congress? In the name of transparency, the answer should be yes.
Parting thought: If Holder's hands really are clean in this, why is the executive privilege necessary?