A new report released by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) details the U.S. Department of Justice’s management failures in the failed federal gun-walking operation known as “Fast and Furious. The latest report is the second installment in a series of three reports on the fatally flawed program. The final report is expected to be released in a matter of weeks.
The newest report places blame on five senior Justice Department officials for failing to identify “red flags” indicating the significantly flawed tactics during Fast and Furious, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel.
The report details internal DOJ emails that indicate Wilkinson discussed Holder participating in a press conference announcing the “take-down” of Operation Fast and Furious prior to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed on Dec. 15, 2010. The following email was sent from Dennis Burke, the former United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, just 12 hours before Terry was gunned down and discussed having Holder “coming out” for a press conference on Fast and Furious. Burke resigned in 2011 as the scandal spun out of control.
An attorney for Burke previously confirmed to congressional investigators that Burke was “in contact with Wilkinson about Holder’s participation in the Fast and Furious press conference and suggested it was Holder’s office that requested coming out for the press conference in the first place,” Townhall reports.
The following are quotes from the previous hearing, according to the Oversight Committee’s new report:
Q. Okay. So this email is specifically in regard to the Attorney General coming out to join you for the take-down of Fast and Furious?
However, once the Justice Department was made aware of Terry’s murder and its relation to Operation Fast and Furious, it was recommended that Holder not participate in the press conference:
When Wilkinson, who was clearly a recipient of the emails, was grilled by congressional investigators about the correspondence, he said he didn’t have “any recollection of having any such conversation with Mr. Burke”:
Q. So do you recall having any conversations with Mr. Burke at any time about why he did not believe that it was a good idea for the Attorney General to announce the investigation?
A. I . . . do not have any recollection of having any such conversation with Mr. Burke.
Q. So other than the email where he says he doesn’t think it is a good idea, you never had any indication from any source as to why he thought it wasn’t a good idea?
A. I don’t have any recollection of having any conversation with him. The problems with the investigation came to light I guess in late January 2011, and that is when I became aware of the tactics that were used.
Q. Right. I understand you don’t recall any specific conversations with him. I asked you a slightly different question and my second question was slightly different. I asked if you had any idea or any indication from any source as to why Mr. Burke communicated to you his view that he didn’t think the Attorney General should announce the investigation?
A. Not that I recall, no.
Q. Did Mr. Burke ever indicate to you that the reason that he rescinded his request for the Attorney General to come out and visit the District of Arizona was in any way related to the murder of Agent Brian Terry?
A. Again I don’t recall having any conversations or communications with Mr. Burke about this.
Holder maintains that he was not informed about Fast and Furious before Jan. 31, 2011 or the controversial gun-walking tactic. The Department of Justice Inspector General’s report did not find any information to suggest otherwise.
“The report discloses widespread management failures within the hierarchy of the Justice Department,” Issa said in a statement. “The Justice Department has yet to evaluate these management issues and implement structural changes to prevent another disaster like Operation Fast and Furious from occurring. Furthermore, the Justice Department has taken limited action against these negligent managers.”
The report asserts that both Wilkinson and Gary Grindler were informed about the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. However, no additional action, however, to properly supervise the operation was taken.
“Officials in the Justice Department saw any number of warnings and some even had the gunwalking information right in front of them, yet nothing was done to stop it,” Grassley said in his own statement. “Countless people may be murdered with these weapons, yet the Attorney General appears to be letting his employees slide by with little to no accountability. The Attorney General needs to make changes to ensure that department leadership provides oversight of the agencies they are tasked with supervising, instead of pointing fingers at somebody else.”
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