Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department sought to manipulate reporters’ coverage of Operation Fast and Furious during the days preceding a November 1 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, new emails obtained by The Daily Caller indicate.
Emails between senior Justice Department officials and investigators in the office of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley show that congressional staffers leading the investigation into Operation Fast and Furious requested information about Operation Wide Receiver — a Bush administration program – and other similar cases, more than a full month before the DOJ leaked information to selected media outlets on October 31.
That Halloween document dump from the DOJ seemed calculated to depict Grassley’s investigation as partisan in nature.
The emails show Grassley staffers inquiring about the Bush administration program as early as mid-September.
“Mr. Newell told us in his interview that there were 2 or 3 cases other than Fast and Furious where there were unsuccessful controlled deliveries at the border,” wrote a Grassley investigator on September 13, to a Holder staffers handling congressional inquiries on Operation Fast and Furious. “He said these examples occurred in the 2007 to 2008 timeframe.”
Bill Newell was the lead Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent tasked to Fast and Furious.
“In one case,” the Grassley staffer wrote, “he said the guns actually crossed the border but through some miscommunication they were not interdicted on the other side by the Mexican authorities. In the other case, the trafficker did not actually cross the border, but evaded U.S. law enforcement surveillance on this side of the border.
“You indicated today that there was an effort at the Department to get an understanding of previous controlled delivery cases that might raise similar issues in Fast and Furious. Were the two cases Newell described among them? Has the Department put together a detailed timeline of the sort you had today on each of the other unsuccessful controlled delivery cases? Is something like that in the works? Has the Department received inquiries about these other cases by the OIG?”
It appears Holder’s team didn’t answer any of the investigator’s questions. Instead, the Justice Department held the information and related documents until the night before Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Those documents showed Breuer was at least partially responsible for Fast and Furious. Breuer subsequently issued a statement apologizing for not stopping the ATF agents leading Fast and Furious from implementing the same failed tactics used in Operation Wide Receiver — information he confirmed he had in April 2010.
The DOJ selectively picked which news outlets received the leaked documents, and which documents were released.
This new information comes as several of the 40 members of Congress who have openly called for greater accountability from Holder and the Justice Department plan a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
The group, including Reps. Allen West, Paul Gosar, Raul Labrador, Joe Walsh, Tim Huelskamp, Blake Farenthold, Trent Franks and Diane Black, are scheduled to gather and call for Holder’s immediate resignation.
Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania will also be there. He is the most recent member of Congress to call for Holder’s resignation.
“The Fast and Furious gunwalking scheme carried out by the Department of Justice at the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder has resulted not only in numerous violent crimes against American citizens but even the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry,” Murphy told The Daily Caller in an email Tuesday.
“Beyond the inconsistencies in Mr. Holder’s testimony before Congress about what he knew and when he knew it, this investigation raises troubling questions about his judgment and ability to remain at the helm of our nation’s top law enforcement agency. The appropriate and necessary action is for Holder to voluntarily resign. And if he doesn’t do so voluntarily, I call on the President to remove him.”
This story was updated after publication to reflect Rep. Murphy’s call for Eric Holder’s resignation, and to include a statement from his spokesman.