The Obama administration is stonewalling two lawmakers’ requests to interview a former member of the National Security staff in connection with the failed Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking program, according to a March 28 letter obtained by The Daily Caller.
California Rep. Darrell Issa and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, requested a response by April 4 to their letter, which asks for an interview with Kevin O’Reilly, that former staffer. But the White House, according to the letter, is blocking access to him.
Through staff, both Grassley and Issa confirmed to TheDC on Thursday that April 4 came and went without any response from the Obama administration.
In their letter to White House Counsel Karen Ruemmler, Grassley and Issa cited a cryptic email exchange between O’Reilly and William Newell, the special agent in charge of the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at the time Fast and Furious was implemented. The emails, their letter suggests, indicate that Newell was going around his chain of command to personally brief the White House about developments in the gun-walking program.
“You didn’t get this from me,” Newell wrote to O’Reilly in a Sept. 3, 2010 email about Fast and Furious, according to the letter from Issa and Grassley.
“Just don’t want ATF HQ to find out,” Newell wrote in am earlier email, “especially since this is what they should be doing (briefing you!).” (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, has not yet made complete copies of those emails available to reporters.
Newell testified before that committee on July 26, 2011, saying he couldn’t remember what the email exchange was about.
“To date, the White House has not complied with multiple congressional requests to interview O’Reilly,” Issa and Grassley wrote in their letter to Ruemmler. “Our staffers have had extensive discussions with lawyers in your office, who have represented that the White House does not perceive any need for us to interview O’Reilly and consequently will not make arrangements for him to speak to us.”
Speaking with Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren last week, Grassley said that while Newell and O’Reilly are friends, “it’s very, very unusual to have someone at a field office communicating directly with someone at the National Security Council.”
Grassley hinted that Newell’s poor memory about his emails with O’Reilly looked suspicious. “It’s very convenient that he’d have an absence of mind when he’s under oath in front of a congressional committee,” he said.