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Tag: rep. elijah cummings

Dem Staff Report Says Top Justice Officials Did Not Give Green Light for Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A report issued late Monday night by the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform tries to debunk suggestions by Republicans that high level appointees at the Justice Department conceived and directed the very flawed ATF Operation Fast and Furious. It places the blame for the operation squarely on the agents in Phoenix.

“This report debunks many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories,” Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the top ranking Democrat,  wrote in a cover letter for the detailed report. “Contrary to repeated claims by some, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was a politically motivated operation conceived and directed by high-level Obama administration political appointees at the Department of Justice.”

“The documents obtained and interviews conducted by the Committee indicate that it was the latest in a series of reckless and fatally flawed operations run by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division during both the previous and current administrations,” Cummings wrote.

The report counters repeated claims by Republicans like Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif) that top ranking Justice Dept. officials gave the green light for  Fast and Furious.  Under the operation, ATF’s Phoenix office encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.  Some of the weapons surfaced at crime scenes including at the murder scene in Arizona of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  Many Republicans have called for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, to resign.

The report is expected to be met with skepticism by many Republicans and critics of ATF, which has come under intense scrutiny, and has undergone a major shakeup in management. Holder is scheduled to appear before Issa’s and Cumming’s committee on Thursday where he’s likely to get a grilling from the Republicans.

Cummings, who has sometimes been at odds with Issa over Fast and Furious, said in a press release  that the minority staff report was the result “of the Committee’s year-long investigation into the actions and circumstances that led to multiple gunwalking operations in Arizona from 2006 to 2010.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

The report concludes that the ATF Phoenix office failed to use sufficient controls to stop weapons from getting into the hands of violent criminals.

“Although this report provides a great amount of detail about what we have learned to date, it has several shortcomings,” Cummings wrote in his letter. “Despite requests from me and others, the Committee never held a hearing or even conducted an interview with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The Committee obtained documents indicating that in 2007 he was personally informed about the failure of previous law enforcement operations involving the illegal smuggling of weapons into Mexico, and that he received a proposal to expand these operations. Since the Committee failed to speak with Mr. Mukasey, we do not have the benefit of his input about why these operations were allowed to continue after he was given this information.”

“The Committee also rejected my request to hold a public hearing with Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director of ATF, the agency primarily responsible for these operations. Although Committee staff conducted an interview with Mr. Melson, the public has not had an opportunity to hear his explanations for why these operations continued for so many years without adequate oversight from ATF headquarters.”

The report states that in 2006, ATF agents in Phoenix initiated Operation Wide Receiver with the cooperation of a local gun dealer.

“For months, ATF agents watched in realtime as traffickers purchased guns and drove them across the border into Mexico,” the report states.

The report also states “that ATF’s former Acting Director, Kenneth Melson, and ATF’s Deputy Director, William Hoover, told Committee staff that gunwalking violated agency doctrine,that they did not approve it, and that they were not aware that ATF agents in Phoenix were using the tactic in Operation Fast and Furious. They also stated that, because they did not know about the use of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, they never raised it up the chain of command to senior Justice Department officials.”

The report further stated: “Former Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke told Committee staff that although he received multiple briefings on Operation Fast and Furious, he did not approve gunwalking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use.”

“He told Committee staff that, at the time he approved the proposal for a broader strategy targeting cartel leaders instead of straw purchasers, he had been informed that there was no probable cause to make any arrests and that he had been under the impression that ATF agents were working closely with Mexican officials to interdict weapons.”

The report goes on to state: “Gary Grindler, the former Acting Deputy Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, both stated that neither ATF nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office ever brought to their attention concerns about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, and that, if they had been told, they ‘would have stopped it.’”

“When allegations of gunwalking three years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver were brought to the attention of Mr. Breuer in 2010, he immediately directed his deputy to share their concerns directly with ATF’s leadership. He testified, however, that he regretted not raising these concerns directly with the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General, stating, “if I had known then what I know now, I, of course, would have told the Deputy and the Attorney General.”

“The Committee has obtained no evidence indicating that the Attorney General authorized gunwalking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public. None of the 22 witnesses interviewed by the Committee claims to have spoken with the Attorney General about the specific tactics employed in Operation Fast and Furious prior to the public controversy.”

 

Rep. Cummings Attacks Rep. Issa: Calls His Allegations About FBI and Fast and Furious “Reckless” and “Baseless”

 

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The political tension inside the Beltway over the Operation Fast and Furious appeared to escalate on Monday, one day after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) went on CBS’ Face the Nation and criticized Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and the FBI.

On Sunday, Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, tried to imply that the FBI might be hiding the fact that a third gun linked to Operation Fast and Furious may have been recovered at the murder scene last December of Border Agent Brian Terry, who was killed near the Arizona border. The flawed operation encouraged guns dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

Rep. Issa/gov photo

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)  issued a press release late Monday attacking Issa, saying there was no third gun, and then chastised him for trying to besmirch the reputation of the FBI.

The release stated:

“Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement expressing serious concerns with statements made by Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa in a Sunday interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

“During that interview, Issa irresponsibly fueled baseless speculation that the FBI tampered with evidence to conceal a third gun that he alleges was recovered at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. Issa did not disclose that the FBI had already dispelled these claims repeatedly both in public and in closed briefings with Committee staff.

Cummings stated: “It is unbelievably reckless for Chairman Issa to go on national television and repeat these baseless accusations, which attack the integrity and credibility of entire law enforcement agencies and undermine the prosecution of those responsible for Agent Terry’s death. In a closed briefing with Committee staff earlier this month, the FBI dispelled any allegation that they recovered a third gun at the scene, and the Committee has no evidence to the contrary.”

Cummings release noted that Face the Nation Host Bob Schieffer noted that “two guns connected to this operation were found at the scene of the crime,” and explained that the “FBI has said the evidence was inconclusive as to whether those guns were the ones responsible for this murder.”

Cummings noted that Schieffer then asked Issa about his claim that the FBI is withholding evidence about a third gun found at the scene:

“Are you suggesting that maybe that might be the gun, that evidence shows was the murder weapon, and for some reason the FBI has not disclosed that?”

Issa responded: “Well, we certainly want to know in some cases, as you know, there are investigations where there’s materials that people feel are very sensitive.

Issa added that “the FBI has a history in some cases of working with felons and criminals and hiding their other crimes.”

Cummings release concluded: “Issa’s statements on Sunday continue an unfortunate pattern of reckless actions, including leaking a document that had been ordered sealed by a U.S. Federal District Court, interviewing a potential trial witness in the ongoing prosecution, and publicly discussing the use of confidential informants in ongoing investigations.”

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