Emails reveal Justice Dept. regularly enlists Media Matters to spin press

“Several media outlets, including Fox News this morning, are claiming that Fast and Furious was paid for with stimulus dollars,” Gertz wrote to Schmaler. “My research suggests that this is not true, and I was hoping you’d be able to confirm that.”

Gertz added that he needed a response “by 1 p.m.” because he thought the issue was “likely to snowball if it isn’t stopped.”

In less than two hours, Schmaler responded with an answer from her “budget folks” in DOJ. “You’re right,” she told Gertz, before explaining why she thought so.

At 1:13 p.m., Gertz responded, writing, “Thanks again for your help, here’s the piece” and adding a link to his online article.

An email chain from Sept. 9, 2011, shows Gertz and Schmaler expressing concern over an upcoming Fox News segment on Fast and Furious.

“This is Vanderboegh, who broke the story in the first place and has contacts in the media and at [the House] Oversight [commission]. Any idea what it’s about?” Gertz wrote to Schmaler at 8:29 a.m. that day in an email that quoted conservative blogger Mike Vanderboegh’s website: “FOX Got ‘Em. Huge Gunwalker Story Breaking Later This Morning.”

At 9:19 a.m., Schmaler replied: “So far, no one’s got an idea … unless it’s something that’s already been out. Let’s stay in touch…”

Gertz responded at 9:25 a.m. with a guess that if it were something that had already been out, it would have been a story on Indiana gun sales.

Fox News played its tease shortly after of a segment promising new information on Fast and Furious, and at 10:18 a.m. Gertz sent the text of Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer’s tease to Schmaler.

“Also two weapons found at the scene where Border Agent Brian, uh, Terry was murdered linked to a botched federal gunrunning sting operation, and today the plot thickens once again,” Gertz quoted Hemmer as saying.

Eight minutes later, Schmaler wrote a terse “??” back to Gertz, likely indicating that she did not understand Hemmer’s statement.

Seconds after receiving Schmaler’s reply, Gertz responded, “No idea. Will let you know when the segment happens.”

Schmaler then praised Gertz for monitoring the situation: “Thanks Matt,” she replied.

In two subsequent emails, Gertz told the DOJ public affairs director what happened. The “[c]laim is [that] there was a third gun at the Terry murder scene that was covered up because it was procured by an FBI informant inside the Sinaloa cartel,” Gertz wrote to Schmaler in one message. The other email included the full text of Fox News reporter William LaJeunesse’s article on the matter.

In a Jan. 31, 2012, email chain titled “per our conversation,” Schmaler and Gertz are seen cooperating on an article attacking House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa. At 12:18 p.m. that day, Schmaler sent Gertz two paragraphs of text from Issa’s comments during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Dec. 8, 2011. Schmaler underlined a portion of the text in those paragraphs in which Issa discussed the differences between Fast and Furious and similar — but different in crucial respects — programs from the George W. Bush administration.

“The difference in the previous administration is there was coordination with the Mexican government,” Schmaler quoted Issa as saying in her email to Gertz. “They made a real effort under [Operation] Wide Receiver [in the George W. Bush administration] to pass off a small amount of weapons and track them. This program [Fast and Furious], just the opposite. Even knowing the drug cartels that were going to receive them, they simply allowed them to go to the stash house.”

Just hours after Schmaler sent Gertz that highlighted Issa quote, it appeared in a Media Matters article titled “Rep. Issa Ties Himself In Fast And Furious Knots.” Gertz wrote the piece for Media Matters Action Network’s “Political Correction” blog.

In his article, Gertz referenced a just-released Democratic House oversight committee staff report that he said concluded “there is no evidence that senior officials in the Obama Department of Justice authorized gunwalking in that case.”

Gertz chastised Issa, who had pointed out that morning on Fox News how DOJ and congressional Democrats were inconsistent about how Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer “was still a believer in Fast and Furious and programs like it” on Feb. 4, 2011.

Issa pointed out that that date was the same day the DOJ sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley falsely denying gunwalking was going on — a letter the DOJ withdrew months later.

“Note Issa’s very slippery use of the phrase ‘Fast and Furious and programs like it,'” Gertz told his readers.

Schmaler reached out to Gertz on March 12, 2012 seemingly to suggest an article attacking Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips for his public comments about Operation Fast and Furious. At the time, Phillips was pressing GOP leadership to take action on the gunwalking scandal. During a Fox News interview, Phillips said Fast and Furious “should be investigated, but we also have to remember the program itself was a partisan program.”

“This was never a law enforcement sting, as you described it earlier. This was purely a political operation,” Phillips added during the Fox segment.

“You send the guns down to Mexico, therefore you support the political narrative that the Obama administration wanted supported; that all these American guns are flooding Mexico; that they’re the cause of the violence in Mexico and therefore we need draconian gun control laws here in America. So because the whole operation itself was political, yes, by all means Congress should be all over this.”

Schmaler obtained a transcript of Phillips’ whole broadcast segment and sent it to Gertz in an 11:55 a.m. email on March 12, asking, “You see this?”