(LATER: Media Matters is back up now so here's the link.)
The Hill has its own slant, calling Congressman Issa's release of the Melson emails a "leak," and has this gem entitled, "At hearing about ATF program, Issa mutes witness for promoting gun law reforms."
The head of the House Oversight committee muted one of his invited witnesses on Wednesday for testifying in favor of tougher gun laws.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said an ATF official's promotion of gun reform fell "outside the scope" of the hearing and "would not be considered valid testimony."
Appearing before the panel, Peter Forcelli, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), told lawmakers that straw purchasers – those who buy guns on behalf of others – should be hit with stiffer penalties to discourage gun trafficking.
"I think perhaps a mandatory minimum one-year sentence might deter an individual from buying a gun," Forcelli said.
He was responding to a question from Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who said the current penalties are so weak that they discourage state prosecutors from pursuing straw-purchase cases. Forcelli agreed the current penalties do little to intimidate straw purchasers.
That brief exchange prompted Issa to intervene.
"We're not here to talk about proposed gun legislation," Issa said.
"I want to caution the witnesses that the scope of your testimony here is limited, and it is not about proposed legislation and the like, and under House rules would not fall within the scope of this [hearing]," Issa said. "So anecdotally you can have opinions, but ultimately it would not be considered valid testimony."
Maloney defended her line of questioning, saying she was "trying to figure out why … prosecutors often decline these gun cases."
Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the oversight panel, also questioned Issa's authority to mute Forcelli. . .
Both parties have attacked the ATF program, but gun-reform advocates have also used the controversy to argue that ATF officials need more legal tools to track guns.
"The wisdom of specific law enforcement operations against gun traffickers who funnel arms to Mexican drug cartels is worthy of close examination," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Wednesday in a statement.
"It's also critically important that we examine why our gun laws are so weak that they make trafficking so easy in the first place."
Backed by the gun lobby, most Republicans oppose any move to strengthen the nation's gun laws. Tougher restrictions, they argue, would erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.
Throughout the hearing yesterday, the Dems tried to push their gun control meme, and Forcelli was their favorite witness for accomplishing that. Issa was trying to keep the hearing from being hi-jacked off-topic. Look for more of this as the hearings progress.