During a Thursday interview with Spanish-language television network Univision, President Barack Obama made at least one false statement about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal plaguing his administration.
As ABC News’ Jake Tapper noted, Obama incorrectly stated that the program began under the George W. Bush administration.
“I think it’s important to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program, begun under the previous administration,” Obama said.
But Fast and Furious began in October 2009, which Tapper pointed out is “nine months into the Obama presidency.”
White House Spokesman Eric Schultz told Tapper, “The President was referring to the flawed tactic of gun-walking, which despite Republicans efforts to politicize this issue, began under the previous Administration and it was our Attorney General who ended it.”
That Fast and Furious statement was not the only questionable one during the Univision interview. Obama suggested that an inspector general report released Wednesday cleared Holder of wrongdoing.
“When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it,” Obama also said. “We assigned an inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued — confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and that the people who did initiate this were held accountable.”
In the report, the Department of Justice inspector general determined that Attorney General Eric Holder “did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011 and was not aware of allegations of ‘gun walking’ in the investigation until February.”
But Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz also said that he probably should have known about Fast and Furious as it was implemented.
“We found, as we outlined in the report, we struggle to understand how an operation of this size, of this importance, that impacted another country like it did, could not have been briefed up to the attorney general of the United States,” Horowitz said during a Thursday House oversight committee hearing. “It should have been, in our view. It was that kind of a case.”
In addition, the IG seemed to be at odds with Obama’s statement that Holder “held accountable” those who were responsible for Fast and Furious failures. The IG found that Holder’s senior leadership team inside the DOJ knew about key parts of Fast and Furious and did not consult with Holder. So far, Holder has not disciplined many of the senior Justice officials who knew about gunwalking.
“We determined that [now former acting Deputy Attorney General Gary] Grindler learned on December 17, 2010, of the link between weapons found at the Terry murder scene and Operation Fast and Furious but did not inform the Attorney General about this information,” the IG report reads. “We believe that he should have informed the attorney general as well as made an appropriate inquiry of [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the connection. Grindler told us that he was relying on the FBI to investigate the homicide and that would include investigation of the weapons in question.”
On Jan. 3, 2011, Grindler was named Holder’s personal chief of staff — a promotion of sorts — after, according to the IG, he failed to tell his boss that knowledge he had of Fast and Furious.
Grindler remains as Holder’s chief of staff despite the IG’s criticism.