After days of seeking comment from NRA representatives on David Codrea's breaking story and my follow-up, I had given up getting any official reaction. However, yesterday afternoon on the way out of the NRA national meeting display floor on my way to the car, Dean Weingarten (who blogs at Gun Watch) and I ran into Chris Cox and his entourage.
I approached him, shook his hand, introduced myself, and asked him for comment on my story. He ceased smiling when he realized who I was, dropped my hand like a hot rock, flushed red in the face, and said: "I categorically deny everything that you wrote with regards to that. It's complete bullshit." I replied, "We stand by our story, and if you feel we have libeled you, you are welcome to sue me." He then turned and stalked off. He was extremely angry.
The whole thing happened totally unexpectedly, like a meeting engagement in deep jungle, and unfortunately as I leaped in and gave him no warning to begin filming, Dean had some trouble getting the camera into play. Thus we missed getting a video record of the preamble and then the camera cuts off just as I said "We stand by our story." However, the operative words of Mr. Cox were captured on this snippet below.
(Video courtesy of Dean Weingarten.)
Thus, we now have an official response from NRA. However, I repeat here what I told him then: WE STAND BY OUR STORY.
Although there was no need, I ran his reaction past some of the sources we used for the story. All of them who I was able to contact were solid in their conviction of the truth of their part of the story. In turn, I have absolute confidence in their veracity. I wouldn't have written the story if I didn't. Yet Chris Cox's categorical denial of "everything" that I wrote must be noted. It IS the official reaction we were seeking.
Of course David and I have heard such categorical denials and ad hominem attacks before to stories of ours, most notably in the wake of our first work on Fast and Furious. One friend commented to me, "Well, that tells us one thing. Whatever the deal was, it's blown up now. Cox wouldn't deny it otherwise."
We have been plain that there is much that is not yet known about the deal. Perhaps it came as a surprise to Cox personally. Perhaps Cox wasn't in the loop. It seems unlikely to me, but is within the realm of possibility. Of course, for a leader and public persona in a very responsible position such as Cox that would hardly help. If he knew and agreed to the deal, he's incompetent and stupid for having done it. If he didn't know, he's incompetent and ignorant about affairs in his own legislative shop.
We will continue to work to develop this breaking story and we invite other journalists to use their own sources to try to run down the whole truth on this. (And some of you will be amused to know that that includes Dave Workman, who I ran into working the SAF table just before the Cox encounter, shook his hand and made the same request of him. Like Fast and Furious, I told him, there's plenty of room in the pool on this one.)
In particular, I am interested to know who the GOP representatives were on this "deal with the Devil." We have some Democrat names from single sources already and these must be confirmed. We have some guesses about the GOP. We will keep digging. Cox may deny "everything" I wrote, but there are some things that are incontrovertible statements of fact:
The ATF HAS gotten its bureaucratic ass in the crack and can't get out of it without congressional help, for which they must have the cooperation of both the GOP and the NRA. Mossberg, the unwitting victim in all this, DID cease shipping parts to shotgun builders as early as the 26th of last month -- prior to the "deal." And most importantly, THERE ARE MILLIONS OF LAW-ABIDING OWNERS OF PISTOL GRIP SHOTGUNS WHO HAVE BEEN MADE INSTANT FELONS AND ARE IN POSSESSION OF WHAT THE ATF HAS RULED ARE "DESTRUCTIVE DEVICES," SUBJECTING THEM TO POSSIBLE ARREST AND PUNISHMENT TO THE TUNE OF UP TO TEN YEARS AND A QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR FINE -- ON EACH COUNT.
If there is no deal, even if our stories about the deal are completely wrong -- and they're not -- both these millions of firearm owners AND the ATF are left twisting in the wind. Congressional scrutiny of this scandal of the ATF's own making is surely going to come as even the Elmer Fudds begin to realize their legal exposure and demand it of their congresscritters. But don't expect a quick tactical retreat like the M855 debacle. The ATF is stuck between the law, their inconsistent rule making and the machine gun cases like Hollis working their way through the courts. We may in fact finally be able to get REAL ATF oversight hearings in both House and Senate over this. Who knows? Perhaps we can even get Ramsey A. Bear called as a witness.
One friend of mine with long experience on Capitol Hill estimates that there is an eighty percent chance at this point that ATF will be abolished over this, an eventuality that I am on record as opposing. If they aren't going to repeal the laws as written, then I prefer the devil I know (the ATF) rather than the bigger, more secretive and dangerous devil I don't know (the FBI or DHS) to enforce them. Time will tell.
Again, we stand by our sources and by our story. We will continue to develop it as new information comes in. Don't touch that dial. ;-)
I will have a longer post detailing my varied and wonderful experiences at the annual meeting not related to the story later today.