Gunwalker: What Will Happen When Ken Melson Testifies?
The ATF director is going to talk. Whom will he implicate?
June 28, 2011 - 7:50 am
John Solomon of the Daily Beast has revealed that the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Ken Melson, has cut a deal to testify in front of Congress about his role in Gunwalker:
The head of the embattled federal agency that combats gun trafficking has agreed to talk with Senate investigators, a potentially important breakthrough as Congress tries to determine whether higher-ups in the Obama administration knew about a controversial sting that let assault weapons flow across the border into Mexico’s drug wars.
The testimony — expected next month from Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — was brokered as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley. Grassley and his fellow Republicans were given full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses; and in return, Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees he had been blocking, according to correspondence obtained by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
Reading this, it sounds like Senator Leahy acquired the access and information that Senator Grassley wanted to obtain, and then “negotiated” with Grassley a quid pro quo whereby Grassley traded his hold for Melson’s testimony, that of other key witnesses, and ATF documentation about Gunwalker.
Acting Director Melson had come under pressure to resign since the Committee on House Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, revealed three emails on June 15 showing Melson was intimately involved with the program. There was every expectation that Melson would be forced to resign by the Obama administration — it came as a surprise to many when the acting director stated that he refused to be a “fall guy.”
Melson will instead apparently testify in July about what he knows of the program of which he was “intimately familiar,” according to Issa. If Melson does testify as Solomon reports, several possible scenarios could play out:
1. Melson takes the fall.
While the Los Angeles Times reported that Melson didn’t want to take the fall for his superiors in the Obama administration, there still will be considerable pressure upon him to take the blame for the operation. There is a chance that he will use his time in front of Congress to either stonewall the investigation or to accept responsibility for having initiated and run Gunwalker.
If Melson was going to fall on his proverbial sword and take the blame for the operation, however, he had ample time to do so over the past two weeks. This is the least likely scenario.
2. Melson implicates Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. Breuer takes the fall.
While the details of Operation Fast and Furious are still murky, it was to be run with the knowledge of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, run by Lanny Breuer. Breuer personally authorized a wiretap that was part of Gunwalker, and may have been responsible for blocking an ATF request to inform the Mexican government about the estimated 2,000 guns the operation let into their country. Breuer is no stranger to scandalous behavior, having represented President Bill Clinton during his impeachment and Sandy Berger after Berger stole classified documents from the National Archives.
Based upon what is known now about Gunwalker and Breuer’s loyalty to the Democratic Party, this appears to be the most likely scenario.