New Department of Justice documents the House Oversight Committee released Thursday morning show Attorney General Eric Holder was briefed on Operation Fast and Furious many more times than previously discovered documents suggested. They also show that Holder was given detailed information on what happened in Fast and Furious.
These new documents show Holder received information and updates on Fast and Furious in at least five weekly memos starting in July 2010 — including over four consecutive weeks last summer.
In summer 2010, Holder received briefing memos from National Drug Intelligence Center Director Michael Walther on July 5, July 12, July 19, July 26 and August 9. Each briefing memo contains the name “Operation Fast and Furious.” Each memo also contains a description of what appears to be how Operation Fast and Furious was conducted.
“This investigation, initiated in September 2009 in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Phoenix Police Department, involved a Phoenix-based firearms trafficking ring headed by Manuel Celis-Acosta,” each one of those briefings reads. “Celis-Acosta and straw purchasers are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug trafficking cartels.”
This new revelation suggests Holder may have withheld information on the gunrunning program from President Barack Obama. Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, Obama said Holder has “indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious. Certainly, I [Obama] was not [aware].”
“I think both he [Holder] and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could’ve been prevented by the United States of America,” Obama said. “He’s assigned an inspector general, and I have complete confidence in him, and in that process, to figure out who was responsible for that decision,” Obama added.
One of these newly released briefing memos — from July 5 — and a November 1, 2010 memo to Holder from Deputy Attorney General Lanny Breuer, the head of the DOJ Criminal Division, surfaced earlier this week.
In a statement on the newly released documents, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said he’s worried about Holder’s behavior as head of the U.S. Justice Department.
“Attorney General Holder has failed to give Congress and the American people an honest account of what he and other senior Justice Department officials knew about gun-walking and Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa said in the statement. “The lack of candor and honesty from our nation’s chief law enforcement officials in this matter is deeply disturbing.”
The new documents directly contradict what Holder told members of Congress at a May 3 House Judiciary Committee hearing, and what the DOJ has publicly claimed since documents surfaced earlier this week. Issa has said that Holder is either incompetent as a leader or has deliberately deceived Congress while under oath.
“I certainly believe that he either misrepresented the facts or he’s sufficiently incompetent that he didn’t know what was in his weekly briefings,” Issa told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday evening.
When the first round of documents came out earlier this week, Justice Department officials almost immediately claimed that Holder misunderstood questions from Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz at the May 3 hearing, where Holder said he had learned of Fast and Furious just a few weeks before his appearance. According to a CBS News report after those documents came out, the DOJ began claiming Holder did know of Fast and Furious, just not the details of the operation.
On Tuesday, Chaffetz told TheDC that the response from the DOJ won’t “hold any water” as Holder had several chances during the hearing — and many more since — to clarify his testimony and ensure it was accurate.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, who led the Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious with Issa, said these new documents prove Holder knew the details of the operation, debunking the latest line that’s come out of the DOJ.
“With the fairly detailed information that the attorney general read, it seems the logical question for the attorney general after reading in the memo would be ‘why haven’t we stopped them?’” Grassley said in a statement. “And if he didn’t ask the questions, why didn’t he or somebody in his office?”
A Justice Department spokesperson has not responded to TheDC’s request for comment on this latest round of documents.