By Allan Lengel
Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo
For the second time in less than a week, Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings has publicly blasted Republican Rep. Darrell Issa over ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of many of the weapons.
The latest round started Thursday when Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley fired off a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III inquiring whether a third weapon from Operation Fast and Furious was recovered at the scene in Arizona where Border Agent Brian Terry was killed last December. The FBI has been investigating the case and had stated that only two guns were recovered and that ballistic tests were inconclusive as to whether they were used in the murder.
Thursday’s letter from Issa and Grassley to the FBI director, which was posted on ABC News’ website, stated: “Several internal emails between ATF personnel initially indicated confusion over whether there were two or three weapons being traced. Given all these circumstances, it is reasonable to ask the FBI to clarify what it has learned about how many guns were possessed by the illegal aliens shooting at our Border Patrol agents and the current location of each of those firearms.”
Rep. Issa/gov photo
The letter asked: “Does the FBI believe that a third weapon killed Agent Terry? If so, what steps has the FBI taken to locate the weapon and what is the status of the FBI’s search?”
In a press release issued Thursday, Rep. Cummings, who sits with Issa on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, blasted Issa, saying the FBI had already said there was no third weapon. Cummings earlier in the week had chastised Issa for making the same allegations about a third weapon on Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“Frankly, I am shocked that Chairman Issa would continue to spin this conspiracy theory—that the FBI is hiding a third weapon—even after his recent allegations proved false,” Cumming said on Thursday. ” Rather than acknowledging this embarrassing mistake and apologizing for making false accusations about the FBI, Chairman Issa’s letter is an unprecedented attack on the integrity and credibility of law enforcement that could seriously jeopardize the ongoing prosecution.”
Cummings’ press release Thursday continued: ”On Sunday, Issa told Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer that he suspected the FBI had recovered a third gun at the scene of the murder, but was hiding that evidence to protect a confidential informant.”
“Issa based his erroneous claim on supposed flaws in the FBI’s evidence-marking procedure. Two firearms recovered at the scene were marked ‘K2′ and ‘K3.’ Issa suggested on Sunday that a firearm labeled ‘K1′ must be missing: ‘when you have tickets that are numbered two and three and there’s no ticket one, in other words, the weapon – one weapon has a two, one has a three on it, there’s no one.’ He claimed that it is ‘weapon number one that appears to be missing.’”
After Issa’s remarks on Sunday, the Justice Department issued a statement saying: “Unfortunately, this most recent false accusation not only maligns the dedicated agents investigating the murder of Agent Terry, it mischaracterizes evidence in an ongoing case.” The Justice Department added: “According to the FBI, the item that Chairman Issa refers to as ‘K1’ is a blood sample from Agent Terry, not a firearm.”