Two Justice Department Officials Leave Over Damning Fast & Furious Report

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The Fast and Furious gun-running scandal reached another milestone Wednesday in the form of a scathing report released by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. 14 people, including Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer, “bore a share of responsibility for ATF’s knowing failure in both these operations to interdict firearms illegally destined for Mexico, and for doing so without adequately taking into account the danger to public safety that flowed from this risky strategy,” the report states. The report recommended the DOJ consider disciplinary action against these men. Within minutes of its release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein had resigned and former ATF chief Kenneth Melson was retiring. The report further notes that there is “no evidence that…(Attorney General Eric) Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the investigation” prior to the congressional inquiries directed at him 2011.

Yet as details emerge, it remains far from clear how accurate and/or comprehensive the report is. While IG Michael E. Horowitz focused his blame on what he characterized as a dysfunctional and poorly supervised group of Arizona-based federal ATF prosecutors and agents plagued by “a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures,” his report also noted that a member of the White House National Security staff refused to be interviewed, and that the White House itself would not produce internal documents for the investigation.

“We also sought to interview Kevin O’Reilly, an official with the White House National Security Staff, about communications he had in 2010 with Special Agent in Charge William Newell that included information about Operation Fast and Furious,” says the report. “O’Reilly declined through his personal counsel our request for an interview.” Wiliam Newell was the Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Phoenix Field Division, and the report reveals that he had communications with O’Reilly in 2010 that included information on Fast and Furious.

Efforts to get information from the White House were equally unsuccessful. “We requested from the White House any communications concerning Operation Fast and Furious during the relevant time period that were sent to or received from (a) certain ATF employees, including Special Agent in Charge Newell, and (b) certain members of the White House National Security Staff, including Kevin O’Reilly, the report states. “In response to our request, the White House informed us that the only responsive communications it had with the ATF employees were those between Newell and O’Reilly. The White House indicated that it previously produced those communications to Congress in response to a similar request, and the White House provided us with a copy of those materials.”

Yet that’s as far as it went. “The White House did not produce to us any internal White House communications, noting that ‘the White House is beyond the purview of the Inspector General’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Department of Justice programs and personnel,'” said the report.

In the context of what happened such stonewalling is remarkable. More than 2,000 guns were were allowed to be bought by suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF. Many of those weapons ended up in the hands of criminals working for Mexican drug cartels, even as federal agents lost track of their whereabouts. As a result, at least one American, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and somewhere between 200 and 300 Mexican nationals were murdered.

At the DOJ, the buck apparently stops with Deputy AG Weinstein, who the report contends was the highest-ranking official in the Department with the ability to stop the program. It claims he knew about Fast and Furious as early as 2010, when he spoke with ATF official Bill McMahon about bringing indictments for a Bush-era gun-running program called Wide Receiver. Weinstein was reportedly learned about Fast and Furious during that meeting, even as he was reportedly assured no gun-running was taking place in the new program. Months later, he helped move wiretap applications along to facilitate Fast and Furious, but claims he only read the cover-sheet of those applications. He told Fox News that while he takes issue with the report’s conclusions about him, he is resigning so as to not “distract” from the department’s work.

With respect to Fast and Furious other highlights from the report paint a picture of bureaucratic ineptitude and indifference at both the DOJ and the ATF. ATF officials in Phoenix “provided demonstrably inaccurate and conflicting information” to the DOJ as they drafted–and later retracted a–response to questions from Sen. Charles Grassley about the probe. Yet the report also notes that “the Department is ultimately responsible for representations that it makes to Congress.”  Then-ATF chief Melson “was not well served” by his subordinates, but “should have asked basic questions about the investigation, including how public safety was being protected.” Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer ostensibly failed to warn Holder or his deputy about concerns about Operation Wide Receiver, when he learned about it in 2010. Dennis Burke, the U.S. for the District of Arizona, “failed to exercise responsible oversight and failed to provide the leadership and judgment required of a United States attorney.” Burke resigned in 2011, and later admitted leaking a memo designed to smear ATF agent, John Dodson, the Fast and Furious whistleblower.

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  • Gene W 1938

    Blame who ever you wish but Eric Holder should be jailed forever for the murders he enabled with his Obama directed ploy to make gun ownership look bad with the purpose of undoing the Second Amendment. These people are Evil and must be purged from our government. Unfortunately, our RINOs live in an sinister world where human lives are meaningless and they will do nothing to harm their 'evil bretheren'

    • David Stiefel

      He should also be in jail for his role in the coverup of the Ken Trentadue torture and murder case. That makes it seem even more difficult for me to believe that Holder didn't know what was going on. And for him to have underlings that treacherous means he doesn't know how to run a tight ship; which calls into question his credentials to be Attorney General in the first place. Everyone in Obama's cabinet is either evil or incompetent.

    • TAMAKO

      NO, not jailed. He and those responsible to Agent Terri's murder need to be extradited to Mexico to face Mexican justice for all the murders those guns have perpetrated against the Mexican people too.

  • pierce

    Only 2 have quit, more should resign including the Attorney General. After all even though they screwed up, he, Eric Holder, is responsible indirectly for their actions, rather inactions. The buck stops on Holders desk.

    • Roger

      Unless they 'quit' to go to prison, the coverup continues.

  • Andy

    Anyone with half a brain can clearly see that the guilt begins with and must be tacked to the top – Obama & Holder. It may take time but this is far from over and they will pay for their crimes.

  • Atikva

    Here we have an electoral fraud (2008);
    the ACORN scandal;
    the secret service prostitution scandal;
    the Solyndra scandal;
    the intelligence leaks scandal;
    the Hillary Clinton Wikileaks Scandal;
    the Fast & Furious scandal;
    the Hillary Clinton//Huma Abedin scandal;
    the Libyan/Middle East scandal;

    and even a possible presidential eligibility fraud (?).

    And President Nixon had to resign to avoid impeachment because of what exactly?

  • guest

    The people holder put in there are extreme as he is. But its swatting roaches in there. To make a difference you need to get all of them. There is a culture of islam supporters in there. I could not decide. I would replace everyone in there with real Americans. There must be a CAIR desk in there beside Hamas' chair.

  • Lee

    And the president invoked Executive Privilege because Holder, and himself, were innocent?