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And then there is Attorney General Eric Holder. The report found that Holder was uninformed regarding ATF operation until 2011, after Terry was killed. Many media outlets were quick point out that Holder had been “exonerated” as a result. Holder was quick about tooting his own horn as well. “It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations–accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion,” Holder said in response. “I hope today’s report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed.”
The investigation still isn’t completed. This is a report compiled by the Inspector General “who is appointed by the president subject to Senate confirmation, (and) reports to the Attorney General and Congress.” In this case that means he has been tasked with investigating member of his own department, including the same boss to whom he reports. Furthermore, the investigation to which Holder refers is one he stonewalled to the point where he earned a contempt of Congress citation as a result. As for Holder being out of the loop, the report alludes the implausibility of that idea:
“We found it troubling that a case of this magnitude and that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General. We would usually expect such information to come to the Attorney General through the Office of the Deputy Attorney General … [Holder] was not told in December 2010 about the connection between the firearms found at the scene of the shooting and Operation Fast and Furious. Both Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler and Counsel to the Attorney General and Deputy Chief of Staff Wilkinson were aware of this significant and troubling information by December 17, 2010, but did not believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding this development.”
Yet the assault of credibility goes further. “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,” says the report. “We found that although [Holder’s then deputy-chief-of-staff Monty] Wilkinson forwarded to Holder during the afternoon of December 15 three emails from the US Attorney’s Office providing further details about the shooting (of Border Agent Brian Terry) and law enforcement efforts to find and arrest the suspects, he did not notify the Attorney General of the revelation that two weapons found at the murder scene were linked to a suspect in an ATF firearms trafficking investigation.”
At best, the idea that communications retarding Fast and Furious reached Holder’s–office but not Holder himself–suggests he takes an approach to his job bordering on incompetency. At worst, it suggests the DOJ employees are willing to erect a facade of “plausible deniability” around their boss. The latter scenario is buttressed by the reality that President Obama invoked executive privilege to prevent the House Oversight Committee from obtaining documents they considered critical to the investigation.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who along with Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) is leading the ongoing Congressional inquiry into the scandal, minced no words regarding the president’s action. While noting that “Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters,” he characterized Obama’s invocation of executive privilege as “merely thumbing his nose at Congress…on the eve of the contempt vote against Attorney General Holder for withholding the documents.” Regarding the report, Grassley noted that he is “glad that the OIG is joining me and Chairman Issa in urging the Justice Department to move to unseal the wiretap applications so that the American people can read them and make up their own minds.”
Yet it was Sen. Jon Cornyn (R-TX) who cut to the heart of the matter. “Today’s report contains page after page of redacted information and does not reflect well on an administration that pledged to be the most transparent in US history,” he contended. “I ask the attorney general to set aside his political allegiances and answer this simple question: don’t you think the Terry family and the American people deserves answers?”
It is hard to imagine the death of Terry, as well as hundreds of innocent Mexicans wouldn’t elicit and all-out, let-the-chip-fall-where-the-may effort to get to the bottom of this debacle. Yet judging by Holder’s self-serving response to the report, his continuing refusal to turn over critical documents, and the lapdog media’s effort to claim he was exonerated, the answer to Sen. Grassley’s question is a resounding no.
The verdict on the IG’s report? Half a report is better than nothing. The American public and Brian Terry’s family await the other half.
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