Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder is continuing to stonewall congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. This time, Holder is refusing to provide 11 of the 12 witnesses Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa have requested be made available for interviews.
“We have requested 12 Justice Department witnesses be made available for transcribed interviews,” Grassley said in a Thursday Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting. “Despite the department’s promises of good faith cooperation, only one witness has been provided so far — former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke. The department has refused to schedule interviews with any of the other 11 witnesses. That’s not the good faith cooperation I was promised, and it is unacceptable.”
Grassley and Issa are demanding to know who was involved in crafting a February 4 letter to the Department of Justice sent to Congress, which contained claims — now understood to be false — that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not allow guns to walk into Mexico.
Allowing guns to walk means that ATF agents did not interdict weapons traffickers when they had opportunities to do so, opting to track the weapons into Mexico to determine their ultimate destination. In Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of as many as 2,500 weapons, assisting criminals in hundreds of murders in Mexico and the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent. (RELATED: Murdered border patrol agent’s family says Holder ‘should accept responsibility’)
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Holder’s deputy and the head of the DOJ Criminal Division, admitted last week that the DOJ’s claims that the ATF did not allow guns to walk were false.
“It also appears from those documents that Mr. Breuer’s deputy, Jason Weinstein, knew about ATF walking guns in both operations,” Grassley said on Thursday. “Anyone who knew about gunwalking in any case, also knew that the department’s initial letter to me was false. The attorney general said the letter was based on the best information available at the time. But senior officials at headquarters, like Breuer and Weinstein, knew better.”
Grassley also said that he’s glad Holder “finally admitted that the whistleblowers were right all along about gunwalking in Fast and Furious.” But, Grassley said that isn’t enough — Holder must take responsibility for the deadly program.
“While I am pleased that the attorney general is no longer trying to deny the obvious, he did not fully own up to his responsibility,” Grassley said.