Ranking Member Elijah Cummings and other Democrats in the minority of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have made an attempt to whitewash apparent felonies committed by the Department of Justice during Operation Fast and Furious:
Democrats looking into Operation Fast and Furious say a yearlong investigation has turned up no evidence that the flawed gun smuggling probe was conceived or directed by high-level political appointees at Justice Department headquarters.
The probe, the Democrats say, was just one of four such operations that were part of a misguided five-year-long effort, during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, in the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives against firearms trafficking along the Southwest border.
“Operation Fast and Furious was the latest in a series of fatally flawed operations run by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office,” the report from Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says.
Senator Charles Grassley, who has helped lead the investigation of the gunwalking plot, reacted angrily to the minority report:
The idea that senior political appointees have clean hands in these gunwalking scandals doesn’t pass the laugh test, especially considering we’ve seen less than 10 percent of the pages that the Justice Department has provided the Inspector General. They ignored the warning signs and failed to put a stop to it or hold anyone accountable. Lanny Breuer is a senior political appointee, and he admits to knowing about gunwalking as early as April 2010. Documents turned over late Friday night indicate he was still discussing plans to let guns cross the border with Mexican officials on the same day the Department denied to me in writing that ATF would ever let guns walk. He stood mute as this administration fought tooth and nail to keep any of this information from coming out for a year. It will take a lot more than a knee-jerk defense from their political allies in Congress to restore public trust in the leadership of the Justice Department. The American people want to see those who failed to act be held accountable.
What Cummings and his political allies intentionally avoided in their report is that the three other operations were not gunwalking operations. They were interdiction efforts that involved small-scale controlled buys done in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement. These operations were designed to lead to the arrest of straw purchasers and gun smugglers, and resulted in relatively quick arrests after smaller weapons shipments were transferred. Furthermore, the weapons were interdicted either before they left the United States, or by Mexican authorities lying in wait on the other side of the border.
Operation Fast and Furious was conducted after the ATF determined that the tactics used in these operations during the Bush administration were too risky to continue.
But instead of modifying the failed parts of the previous efforts, the Eric Holder Department of Justice instigated an entirely different and purposefully deadly plot. They introduced a gunwalking operation that moved thousands of weapons without the permission or cooperation of Mexican authorities. It is more accurately described as a DOJ-sanctioned gun-smuggling plot to arm the Sinaloa cartel.
Mexican authorities were purposefully deceived by the Justice Department. To maintain the secrecy of the plot and to avoid tipping off Mexican authorities, ATF liaisons working with the Mexican government were lied to about the operation by their supervisors.
The plot actually prevented federal agents from making arrests. In one particularly telling incident, the ATF’s Bill Newell forced John Dodson, an ATF agent, to provide the weapons to a gun smuggler with his own hands in order to “dirty him up” in hopes he wouldn’t reveal the plot he was vocally criticizing to his superiors.
We know from documentation that Newell had direct conversations with personnel in the White House’s National Security Council about Operation Fast and Furious.
We know that U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, who was responsible for overseeing the program for the Department of Justice, was the architect of Democrat gun-banning schemes dating back 23 years, including the 1994 “assault weapons ban” that sunset in 2004.
Burke’s deputy Patrick Cunningham, chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona, invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid testifying against himself, fearing criminal prosecution for his role in the gunwalking plot.