Congressional pressure continues to build for holding responsible the federal employees who walked thousands of weapons to Mexican cartel members.
The plot, dubbed “Gunwalker,” was first revealed when a U.S. Border Patrol Agent named Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with Mexican bandits in Arizona. Two of the weapons found at the crime scene were traced to Operation Fast and Furious, a multi-agency project that increasingly looks like an attempt to arm the Sinaloa cartel with the kind of firearms that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and other key administration figures and allies in the Democratic Party have desired to ban for years.
The number of members of Congress calling for Attorney General Eric Holder’s immediate resignation for his role in the plot has grown quickly in recent days: 29 members are now demanding it, with 12 additions on Monday. The group shares the belief that Holder was being deceptive in his May 3 testimony when he claimed he had only recently heard of Operation Fast and Furious. Documentation shows that he was sent reports about the operation on at least five occasions, and emails show that his top staffers were intimately aware of the inner workings of the gunwalking plot.
Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales has stated her belief that weapons traced back to Operation Fast and Furious are responsible for the murders of more than 200 Mexican citizens. Operation Fast and Furious was just one of at least ten gunwalking operations in five states that may have sent tens of thousands of weapons into the hands of criminals on both sides of the border.
Perhaps in an effort to dampen calls for Attorney General Holder’s resignation or firing, head of the Department of Justice Criminal Division Lanny Breuer seems ready to take the fall for the administration.
The DOJ dumped 652 pages of documents on Monday, and even “helpfully” suggested that Breuer knew of the gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious as far back as April of 2010.
Senator Charles Grassley — who along with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has been the driving forces behind the congressional investigations — was not impressed with the DOJ’s willingness to sacrifice Breuer. Grassley released the following statement in response:
There are 652 pages of documents that our investigators will scour over the next several days, beyond the few that the Justice Department pointed out. At first glance, though, the documents indicate that contrary to previous denials by the Justice Department, the criminal division has a great deal of culpability in sweeping the previous Wide Receiver strategy under the rug and then allowing the subsequent Operation Fast and Furious to continue without asking key questions.
Most importantly, officials raised very appropriate questions related to Operation Wide Receiver at the same time that many of these same officials were receiving briefings on Operation Fast and Furious. It begs the question why they didn’t ask the same important policy questions about an ongoing case being run out of the same field division.
It also appears that the impression left to Senate Judiciary Committee staff was false during a briefing by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and several others last February. Despite their denials of gun walking, it appears that senior Justice Department officials clearly knew that it had happened in Operation Wide Receiver and ignored the red flags that it was happening in Fast and Furious.
With every document that comes out, the Justice Department loses credibility and the faith of the American people.
Grassley followed up Tuesday with documentation that seems to prove the DOJ was lying when they claimed they learned about the practice of gunwalking only after Agent Terry was killed. Justice employees were discussing gunwalking that occurred in Operation Wide Receiver as early as March of 2010.
The apparent effort to sacrifice Breuer on behalf of his boss and the White House is being greeted with skepticism by many, including Ed Morrissey of Hot Air:
Congress reacted yesterday by pointing out just how far the DOJ has come since the House decided to probe the matter. Earlier this year, Justice sent a memo to investigators claiming that allegations of gunwalking were “false.” Now we have Breuer not only admitting that it occurred, but that he knew about it more than a year before Justice’s memo to Congress. That will have some in the House looking for blood when hearings resume on Fast and Furious.
But this does something else as well; it acts as a firewall for Eric Holder and the White House, at least for the moment. Breuer’s admission contains one key component — “regrets” for not having informed his superiors. Breuer appears ready to argue that the knowledge of gunwalking only went as high as his desk, and that Breuer never told Holder about the effort. That’s going to be difficult to believe, especially since we already know that the White House got extensively briefed on the matter directly from the Phoenix office. Are we to believe that Breuer didn’t get asked about this from above, or that the White House wouldn’t have asked Holder about an operation conducted in his own fiefdom? It seems unlikely that the buck stopped at Breuer’s desk, especially given the international implications of gunwalking across the border.
The evidence is mounting against DOJ, DHS, and the White House, and things only got worse when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that her department was not alerted to Operation Fast and Furious. This means that the Arms Export Control Act was morel than likely violated, and strongly suggests that the administration committed thousands of felony violations of the act in addition to the other laws that may have been broken.