News Release From the House Committee:
July 18, 2011
ATF Director: DOJ Response to Fast and Furious Investigation Intended to Protect Political Appointee.
Chairman Issa and Senator Grassley Press Attorney General Holder with Key Testimony
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley today pressed Attorney General Eric Holder about the Justice Department’s unsatisfactory responses and lack of cooperation with an investigation into the highly controversial Operation Fast and Furious. A letter sent by the two lead investigators highlighted testimony indicating internal disputes within the Justice Department and a statement from the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that the Justice Department is attempting to protect its political appointees.
“It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the Department,” ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson said of his frustration with the Justice Department’s response to the investigation in a transcribed interview.
“The Department should not be withholding what Mr. Melson described as the ‘smoking gun’ report of investigation or Mr. Melson’s emails regarding the wiretap applications,” wrote Issa and Grassley. “Mr. Melson said he reviewed the affidavits in support of the wiretap applications for the first time after the controversy became public and immediately contacted the Deputy Attorney General’s office to raise concerns about information in them that was inconsistent with the Department’s public denials. The Department should also address the serious questions raised by Mr. Melson’s testimony regarding potential informants for other agencies.”
Click here for Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley’s letter to Attorney General Holder.
The LA Times short version: Justice Department trying to shield officials in guns scandal, ATF chief says.
The Department of Justice is trying to protect its political appointees from becoming embroiled in the broadening Fast and Furious gun-tracing scandal by refusing to release an internal "smoking gun" report that acknowledges the role of top officials in the program that allowed guns to flow illegally into Mexico, according to the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Kenneth Melson, the ATF acting director, earlier this month also told congressional investigators examining the role of top officials in the ill-fated program that affidavits in support of wiretaps used in the operation are inconsistent with what Justice Department officials have said publicly.
Melson told the investigators that when he raised his concerns with the Justice Department about "institutional problems" with the Fast and Furious operation, department officials resisted his desire to share his thoughts with Congress.