Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that a “factual error” in an internal Department of Justice inspector general report about Operation Fast and Furious “lets Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer off the hook” for the part he played in the gunwalking scandal.
Grassley said DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrongly trusted Breuer about how false information was included in a letter sent to Congress on Feb. 4, 2011. That letter denied the Justice Department ever allowed guns to be “walked” into Mexico and out of U.S. control.
In December 2011, the DOJ withdrew the letter that contained that false statement.
“The report accepts Breuer’s version of events, claiming that he hadn’t ‘proposed edits, commented on the drafts or otherwise indicated he had read them,’” Grassley said. ”In fact, emails show that he received drafts of the February 4 letter and commented on them before it was sent, which he later denied to Congress.”
It’s unclear if similar factual errors allowed the inspector general to conclude that Attorney General Eric Holder was aware of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious. Grassley and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa are likely to pore through the several-hundred-page report to identify any additional lapses that may exist.
“We’ll be reading the report in more detail,” Grassley said in his statement.
The report has already prompted the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, demonstrating that the DOJ in Washington had approval of, and ultimately control over, Fast and Furious. Main Justice has contended that the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona, along with local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials, were responsible.
Former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson, whom Holder promoted into senior DOJ leadership after Fast and Furious first became national news, also has resigned as a result of this report.
Grassley also said the inspector general report appears to confirm “virtually everything that Congressman Issa and I have already reported” about the scandal.
“Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters,” Grassley said. “And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General.”
“It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious,” Grassley continued. “They ignored warnings from employees, and frankly, failed to do their jobs.”
“It took the death of our own Border Patrol Agent [Brian Terry], action by a courageous whistleblower, and intense scrutiny from Congress before they even took note of what was happening under their own eyes. Even then, they wouldn’t come clean with how bad it really was until after they had sent a false letter and retracted it eight months later.”
Grassley said the time has come now “to hold people accountable” and “Attorney General Holder is out of excuses for action.”