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Oversight chairman angrily issues subpoenas after two ATF agents refuse to appear before Congress

Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) lost his cool and laid down the law for ATF acting director Thomas Brandon after two agents who were summoned failed to show to the hearing concerning the 2011 murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata. (Getty Images)

Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) lost his cool Thursday during a hearing with the members of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency.

After two agents who were summoned failed to show to the hearing concerning the 2011 murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, Chaffetz became frustrated and laid down the law for ATF acting director Thomas Brandon. Zapata was murdered by a hit squad in Mexico in February 2011 with weapons that the ATF had been tracking.

A report submitted March 1 revealed that the weapons involved in Zapata's death had been trafficked through Otilio Osorio, a man who built a gun-running network in North Texas with his brother Ranferi. The ATF had probable cause to arrest Osorio after the purchase of 40 firearms but failed to do so until after Zapata's murder.

The two summoned ATF agents in question — William Temple, special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division, and Ronald Turk, associate deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — were to accompany Brandon to the hearing to discuss what went wrong within the agency during the Osorio investigation that led to Zapata's death.

Chaffetz confronted Brandon on why Temple and Turk did not accompany him. Brandon replied that the two agents had decided to voluntarily ignore the summons, a decision Brandon confessed that he agreed with.

Chaffetz responded by issuing two subpoenas — one for each agent — and put it on Brandon to assist them in making it to their appointments on time. It was then that Chaffetz let loose:

These are not optional exercises. You are wasting this committee's time by allowing Mr. Turk and Mr. Temple to think anything other than when they're invited to come Congress, they will come to Congress. When I send you a notice on Thursday of last week for you to contact your department, your agency, your people, for you to contact our office last night in the five o'clock hour is totally and wholly unacceptable. There is no excuse for that, and we will not tolerate that, and if I need to issue a subpoena at the get-go, you tell me. We will do that every time, because they should have been here today.


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