A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner told The Daily Caller on Tuesday night that the New York Times published a false story alleging the speaker is trying to cut a deal with Attorney General Eric Holder over congressional subpoenas related to the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.
The Times reported late on Tuesday that Boehner had “opened direct negotiations with the Department of Justice aimed at resolving a dispute over subpoenaed information related to the botched gun-trafficking investigation dubbed Operation Fast and Furious.” The story ran under the headline “Boehner in talks with Justice Dept. on gun-running inquiry.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, however, said the report is not true. He alleged that it illustrated a Holder-friendly bias among some establishment media outlets.
“This story shows how the mainstream media is ignoring this scandal and covering up for the Department of Justice,” Steel wrote in an email to TheDC.
“Staff for the speaker, other leadership offices, and Chairman Issa have been encouraging Attorney General Holder’s staff to comply for weeks or months to no avail, but there have certainly been no direct talks between the speaker and attorney general, and the department is still stonewalling.”
In a blog post attacking the Times, Boehner’s office wrote that neither the newspaper nor reporter Charlie Savage reached out to Boehner’s team before publishing the story. The post also noted that the speaker’s staff sent a statement to the Times after Savage’s allegations appeared online.
The story was posted at 6:51 p.m., according to a time stamp on the Times website.
The Times story came just hours after House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa announced that his committee had obtained evidence proving that senior Justice Department officials approved the tactics used in Fast and Furious.
Specifically, Issa said his committee has “obtained copies of six wiretap applications in support of seven wire intercepts utilized during Fast and Furious.” Those documents, he said, “show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them.”
Issa explained that the documents prove that Holder and other Justice Department officials in the Obama administration provided false statements to Congress.
In a letter later on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General James Cole told Republican House leaders that the DOJ hopes to reach an agreement with congressional overseers on how much information about Operation Fast and Furious it is required to hand over. “While our staffs continue to discuss these issues, I want to reiterate that I remain available to meet with you personally,” he wrote.
But regardless of what the Times reported, Steel said no such meeting has happened — nor is one likely in the future.
In response to Issa’s revelations Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings sent Issa a letter alleging that he omitted key facts that disprove his allegations. The publicly available version of the letter, however, has been redacted to block Cummings’ argument.
UPDATE: 2:30 a.m.:
After The Daily Caller reached out to Savage for comment, pointing out how Boehner’s office said his article was false, The New York Times edited his story removing the statement Boehner’s office said was false and changing the focus of the article, while adding a quote from Boehner’s spokesman. The online version of the article contains no correction or explanation as to why Savage’s story was changed after the fact. A note tells readers the article was “updated” at 11:39 p.m.
Savage has still not returned TheDC’s request for comment on why he printed false information to begin with and why he made no effort to contact Boehner’s office to check the veracity of his unattributed claims before printing the inaccurate information.